Vol VIII, Issue 4 (Fall 2001): Conversations on AIDS



Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor

Walton Brown-Foster
Copy Editor

Haines Brown


Olayemi Akinwumi

Zenebworke Bissrat

Paulus Gerdes

Mosebjane Malatsi
(South Africa)

Alfred Zack-Williams
(Sierra Leone)


Tennyson Darko
Asst. Dir. ITS, CCSU

Peter K. LeMaire
Professor, CCSU

Bernice A. LeMaire
Website Designer

For more information concerning AfricaUpdate
Prof. Gloria Emeagwali
CCSU History Dept.
1615 Stanley Street
New Britian, CT 06050
Tel: 860-832-2815




Table of Contents

Editorial: Conversations on AIDS

    This issue initiates a two-part series on AIDS and Africa. We begin with an illuminating discussion on Aids research, bio-engineering and the origin-of-aids controversy. Dr. Victoria Harden, Director of the DeWitts Center at the National Institutes of Health, Bethsheda, Maryland  refutes the charge that the AIDS virus was man‑ made and that it was a product of laboratory research. She points out that documents related to the Special Virus Cancer Program are on file in the Library of the National Institute of Health and that by the mid- 1970s no direct link between a virus and a malignancy had been shown. Dr. Harden points out that, to her knowledge, the Special Virus Program had no links to biological warfare.
    Boyd Graves, an AIDS activist and veteran of the US army provides a rejoinder to this and by so doing adds to the debate. His argument is that the U.S. quest for an immune suppressing virus was a driving factor behind the creation of the AIDS virus.
    He argues that Dr. Robert Gallo was able to isolate a retro-virus a decade before the public knew about it. Graves alleges that the Federal Government spent $550 million dollars on the program between 1964 and 1978. The Hershey Medical Center hosted annual meetings on this program, according to Graves.
  In the next issue, we would explore other relevant issues related to  the AIDS pandemic and Africa. In this series on AIDS and Africa we explore various dimensions of the subject and hope to highlight a growing body of conventional and non-conventional literature on the subject.
    This issue of AfricaUpdate also includes the second part of the article by Desmond Wiggins on the issue of circumcision and Islam. In the previous issue of AfricaUpdate the focus was on Pharaonic Egyptian origins of the practice and the extent to which communities outside and within Africa adopted this practice. Desmond Higgins identifies several haddits related to circumcision as well a fatwa. He gives examples of deliberations from various parts of the continent.
We thank the various contributors to this issue of AfricaUpdate.

Gloria Emeagwali, Chief Editor

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Conversations on AIDS

By Dr. Victoria Harden, National Institutes of Health


From the early 1980s, there were allegations that the AIDS virus had been manufactured in the laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, home of U.S. military biological warfare research during WWII and the Cold War and now also home to the Frederick Cancer Research Facility (FCRF) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the lead institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) working on AIDS, spent a lot of time running down the source of these allegations and answering inquiries about them. Their Public Affairs Office probably has additional information about various versions of this "origin of AIDS" story (301- 496-5717). The recent publication of the book, The River again raised questions about the link between laboratory research and the emergence of AIDS, although that author suggested that the connection was accidental, not intentional. A recent testing of the remaining polio vaccine in which HIV was supposedly a contaminant proved negative. This left the argument as "Maybe there were vaccine lots contaminated with HIV which no longer exist," which placed the entire matter into the field of speculation.

The Special Virus Cancer Program of the NCI was an initiative launched by Congress in 1963 to search for a causative link between a virus and leukemia. In 1968 other cancers were added in the search for viral etiological agents. A special building (Building 41, still being used) was constructed on the NIH campus in Bethesda to reassure people in neighborhoods nearby NIH that the viruses under investigation would not escape and infect them. To my knowledge, the program had no connection to biological warfare work. It was not secret. No viruses were "developed."

The program became part of the National Cancer Plan of 1971, which increased funds for all research activities relating to cancer. By the mid 1970s, no direct link between a virus and any malignancy had been shown, and the scientific community was questioning the way funds were allocated for the program. A committee of the National Academy of Sciences chaird by Norton D. Zinder issued a report critical of the size of the program and the use of contract funds for extension of work by intramural investigators. By 1980, funding was withdrawn and the program ended.

One article on this program is F. J. Rauscher, Jr., and M. B. Shimkin, "Viral Oncology," in DeWitt Stetten, Jr., and William Carrigan, eds., NIH: An Account of Research in Its Laboratories and Clinics (NY: Academic Press, 1984), pp. 350-367, discussion of this program, 360-365.

Dr. Carl Baker, former NCI director, has also just completed a memoir about the program that should be published in the next year or so. He conducted some 33 interviews of former participants in the course of his research.

These interviews and documents relating to the Special Virus Cancer Program are on file in the NIH History Office and freely available to anyone to use (contact me for more information). The National Cancer Institute has an even more extensive collection of materials about the program. The National Library of Medicine no doubt does, also.


Dr. Victoria Harden is Director of the De Witts Museum of Medical Research, National Institutes of Health, Betheshda, Maryland.

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Excerpts from: AIDS Origin Question

By Boyd E. Graves, J.D.

I am responding to an e-mail [from Dr. Harden] that states "no viruses were developed" in the Special Virus program. The program's flowchart ("research logic") proves the United States was seeking to create an immune suppressing virus. Dr. Alan Cantwell agrees that the United States, according to the logic of the flowchart, bioengineered and produced "immune-suppressing" viruses in large quantities.

It is our position this secret federal virus development program needs to be independently reviewed for the secrets it holds in our current fight with a "special" virus, AIDS.

The AIDS virus is "special" because it has an affinity to a blood deficiency marker. The Special Virus program of the United States created and proliferated AIDS as a way to bring "eugenic order" to Africa, consistent with PL91-213 3/16/70.

Any independent review of the flowchart and 15 progress reports of this secret Manhattan project will definitively conclude the AIDS pandemic is a direct outflow. Ultimately, the flowchart document find will be revered as one of the greatest document finds.

Your agency did not respond to my January abstract, "A SPECIAL ABSTRACT ON THE MEDICAL ETIOLOGY OF AIDS."

The endnotes of this paper contradict the current history conclusions of your agency. Please go to my website: http://stateorigin.sun-city.net. I would be happy to forward you those 15 endnotes and phone numbers of many of the experts who have reviewed the flowchart or written books on the secret program.

Dr. Robert Gallo does isolate a retrovirus in the program nearly ten years before it is announced! This discovery is kept secret to allow the program to continue to move toward a "contagious cancer" that "selectively kills." See pages 104-106, Progress Report #8, (1971). Dr. Gallo "excludes his role" as a "Project Officer" for the AIDS project in his autobiography. Additionally in 1971, "n-demethyl-rifampicin" is identified as an "inhibitor" of the Special Virus.

We will hand-deliver petition signatures to the Surgeon General for a review of this secret virus development program. We will ask that Congresswoman Tubbs Jones refer the 3000 signature petitions we left with her to Dr. Satcher. The Special Virus program spent $550 million dollars between 1964 and 1978.

The relationship between AIDS and VISNA was established through the program, and it is clear the AIDS virus does indeed have a mycoplasma trigger for neoplastic transformation. The "wasting" in humans is identical to the "wasting" in sheep.

We believe we are entitled to have a conference on the true origin of AIDS in conjunction with the flowchart and progress reports of the Special Virus program of the United States of America.

Please provide us the mechanism to allow our research to be included in the true history of racial genetic engineering of the United States of America. According to former President Richard Nixon, the "order" to depopulate Africa extends only until the end of the 20th Century. See, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. VI, pg. 734, 3/16/70.

It does appear that "finally" John Bailar and Iwan Morus are willing to step to the public podium and debate a secret virus program akin to "Manhattan." Our collective effort will deactivate this weapon. The Special Virus program met every year at Hershey Medical Center, hosted by Dr. Fred Rapp.

Boyd E. Graves, J.D.


The Common Cause

Medical Research Foundation



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Islamic Texts and Circumcision*

By Desmond Wiggins, University of South Australia

In regard to female circumcision the Qur'an is again of no value as a textual source. Some Muslims attempt to establish a foundation for male circumcision from the Qur'an based on somewhat questionable exegesis even in the minds of many Islamic scholars. However, my research has failed to find any Muslim who attempts to support "female circumcision" from the Qur'an.

In fact proponents of the "Qur'an-only" philosophy maintain that because "female circumcision" is not mentioned in the Qur'an, it has no place in Islam and hence is not a religious rite. But as I have already mentioned, their acceptance of male circumcision on the basis I have shown makes their argument incongruous.

There is, however, support for "female circumcision" in the extra-Qur'anic sources. The most frequently quoted passage in support of "female circumcision" is a report of a conversation between Muhammad and Um 'Atiyyah which appears in Abu Dawud (Book 41, Number 5251). Um 'Atiyyah is reported as an exciser of female slaves who had immigrated with Muhammad. On one occasion Muhammad allegedly asked her if she kept practicing her profession, to which she responded in the affirmative. Then she added: "unless it is forbidden and you order me to stop doing it." Muhammad replied: "yes, it is allowed."

Muhammad then gave Um 'Atiyyah specific instructions on the methodology for female circumcision (Aldeeb, 1994, p. 6), explaining to her that his method of "female circumcision" would bring radiance to the face of the woman.

There is some dispute as to the strength of this particular tradition, but it does appear in one of the "six undisputed, authentic hadith collections, that is in the Sunan of Abu Dawud (Chapter 1888)" (Muslim Women's League, 1999, p. 3). Further authenticity is given to the saying by virtue of the fact that it is quoted by al-Hakim and al-Baihaqi on the authority of al-Dhaahhak ibn Qais (al-Sabbagh, 1998, p. 17).

Another well-known Ahaddith is that of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He relates in his Musnad (5:75) from Abu al- Malih ibn, Usama's father, that Muhammad said: "circumcision is sunna for men and an honorable quality for women'. In Nuh Keller's translation of al-Misri's Reliance of the Traveller, (p. 59) it states that circumcision is obligatory for females. Umar Barakat maintains this obligation is for females as well as males ("What is the Origin of Circumcision," n.d., p. 2).

A third Ahaddith that is accepted as having strong authenticity states: "if the two circumcision organs meet, gsul or grand ablution, becomes obligatory." This saying is cited in Malik, Muslim, al-Tirmithi and Ibn Majah in their respective anthologies and is also located in other collections of the Haddith (al-Sabbagh, 1998, p. 38). When commenting on the chapter entitled "Ghusl" in al Bukhari, no. 291, Ibn Hajar remarks that the term "two uncircumcised parts" refers to the circumcised genitals of the female and male.

Sunnah.org, an online Muslim website, comments on this Haddith:


from 'A'isha: The Prophet (s) said: "If the two circumcised parts (i.e. male and female genitals) have been in touch with one another,

ghusl (major ablution) is necessary." Tirmidhi narrated it and said it is fair and sound (hasan sahih-Tahara #108-109). Also related by Ahmad and Nisa'i. It has come through other narrators and in other versions: see 'Kashf al- khafa' under the hadith: "idha iltaqa al-khitanan fa qad wajaba al-ghusl".

The preceding Haddith are not the only resources that give credibility to "female circumcision" being legitimate in traditional Islam. As previously stated, "traditional Islam" utilises many elements to arrive at an understanding of Allah's will and Muhammad's continuing guidance-one such element is the proclaiming of a fatwa.

In regard to female circumcision, a fatwa (no. 380/63) was issued on 11 September, 1950, which states: "the circumcision of females is an Islamic ritual that the sunna has ordained, and that the scholars of Islam have acknowledged as being legitimate...we say it is sunna, so as to strengthen its accountability" (The Legal Research Center for Human Rights, Cairo - b).

This concept is demonstrated by the account of Ahmed Amin (cited in Bouhdiba, 1985, p. 174) of a tribe in southern Sudan which wished to convert to Islam en bloc. The tribe had no hesitation in contacting the Islamic University of El Azhar-in Egypt-"for information concerning the doctrine, practice and laws of Islam."

Trimingham aptly comments: "Islam was a religious culture...its religious institutions, its morality and law...were one" (1980, p. 1). It should be remembered that when Islamic religion was brought into Africa, its rules and regulations were assimilated into the local indigenous religions. The result is a particular practice of Islam indigenous to each area, but still part of the world wide religious tradition of Islam. This concept is consistent with other world religions, such as Catholicism, which passes religious decrees in Rome, but those decrees are accepted in that religion in various degrees world wide.

In 1994 Sheik Ali Gad al-Haq issued a fatwa giving female circumcision legitimacy as a requirement of Islam (Lampert, 1996, p. 1). Islamic scholars such as Dr Saeed Mohammed Ahmad Thabet understand this ruling from Islam's "high religious authorities" means that "female circumcision is purely Islamic, like male circumcision" (Lampert, 1996, p. 1).

The Jurisprudence Research Committee and the Council of Islamic Research issued a third fatwa of importance in establishing the legitimacy of female circumcision in Islam on 24 November, 1994. This fatwa concluded that female circumcision is legitimate in Islam and should not be prohibited (The Legal Research Center for Human Rights, Cairo - b).

Sheik Mohammed Mutwali Sharawi, a leading cleric, also issued a decree advocating that female circumcision is a requirement of Islam. Sheik Sharawi died on June 17, 1998, but his teachings and decrees earned him high acclaim in Islam. During his time as a cleric, Sheik Sharawi angered feminists and human rights activists because of his strong support and rulings that female circumcision should be practiced in Islam (Nasrawi, 1998, p. 1). The 43rd Sheik of Al Azhar, Mohammed Al Sayed Tantawi, declared thirteen days into his reign that "female circumcision" is useful for men and women, improving the woman's appearance and giving more pleasure to the man (Youssef, n.d., 3).

In the excerpts from the law suit filed by Dr. Mounir Fawzi, professor of gynecology at Ain Shams University Medical School, Fawzi comments that the former [now deceased] Grand Imam Sheik of Al Azhar Gad Ali Haq, "has proven the Shari'a basis of this [female] circumcision in a research paper published in Al Azhar magazine on October 1994" (The Legal Research Center for Human Rights, Cairo). The paper's ruling was that on the basis of Sharia texts and scholarly interpretations, circumcision is obligatory for males and females (The Legal Research Center for Human Rights, Cairo - b). In another place in the lawsuit excerpts, the fiqh of Abi Hanifa and Malik are quoted: "male circumcision is sunna...and for women is for their dignity, and if people in a certain town have agreed to prevent it, the Imam should fight against them because it is Islamic duty."

One final element for authenticating female circumcision is the argument from the norm: that is, the calling upon established custom. This approach is an acceptable method of establishing what constitutes a source of Islamic law and is used by al-Sukkari to strengthen the foundation of "female circumcision" (Aldeeb, 1994, p. 7).

One of the fundamentals of Islamic law is that what is not prohibited is allowed (Ahmad, 2000, p. 2; Al-Sukkari) and it is better to apply the norm than to give it up (Aldeeb, 1994, p. 7).

The establishing of "female circumcision" based on law is very relevant to the practice of "female circumcision" in Islamic Africa because Islam made its impact on Africa as a legal culture, with laws governing the lives and beliefs of people.

Trimingham comments: "Islamic culture [was] only adopted in part. Islam made its impact [on Africa] as a legal culture" (1980, p. 3).

Further, the "Negro Islamic mentality, that is the clerical outlook, tends to be severely legal" (Trimingham, 1980, p. 68).


Though many more resources could be cited the above data is sufficient to allow for the conclusion that there is support for "female circumcision" in "traditional Islam." However, it is not the Qur'an that offers this support either for male or female circumcision.


Ahmad, I. 2000, "Female Genital Mutilation: An Islamic Perspective,"
pp. 1-3.  Pamphlet 1. Minaret of Freedom Institute: Bethesda. [Online accessed 27 March, 2000]. URL: http://www.minaret.org/fgm-pamphlet.htm.

Al-Faruqi, L. 1998, "Islamic Traditions and the Feminist Movement," pp. 1-8. [Online accessed 9 November, 2000]. URL: http://www.islam101.com/women/feminism.html.

Al-F'aruqi, L. n.d., "Women in Qur'anic Society." [Online accessed 9 August, 1999]. URL: http://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/women-society.htm.

Al-Hishimi, M. 1999, The Ideal Muslimah: The True Islamic Personality of the Muslim Woman as Defined in the Qur'an and Sunnah, International Islamic Publishing House, Saudi Arabia. [Online accessed 28 October, 2000]. URL: http://www.wefound.org/texts/Ideal_Muslims.../Ideal% Muslimah%20and%20her%20self.htm.

Al-Timimi, A. n.d., "Islam? Elevation of Women's Status," a paper delivered to McGill University, pp. 1-12. [Online accessed 31 October, 2000]. URL: http:www.islaam.com/sunnah/women.htm.

1998, "Muslims' Genitalia in the Hands of the Clergy: Religious Arguments About Male and Female Circumcision." [Online accessed 22 March, 1999]. URL: http://members.xoom.com/_XOOM/nonviolence/sam*/article01.htm (9 articles in total 01-09).

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Ammar, N. n.d., "On Being a Muslim Woman: Laws and Practices." [Online accessed 9 August, 1999]. URL: http://www.consultation.org/consultation.ammar.htm.

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Bulbeck, C. 1998, Re-Orienting Western Feminisms, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

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Emeagwali, G. 1996, "Female Circumcision in Africa," AfricaUpdate, vol. 3, no. 2. [Online accessed: 2 March, 1999]. URL: http://www.ccsu.edu/Afstudy/upd3-2.html.

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Horan, D. 1997, "The Miserable Tradition of Female Circumcision," World News, September 28. [Online accessed, 25 January, 1999]. URL: http://www.oneworld.org/ips2/sep/circum.html

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Jamaat-e-Islami. n.d., "Fundamentalism and Islamic Movement." [Online accessed 3 March, 1998]. URL: http://www.jamaat.org/qa/fundamentals.html.

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* Desmond Wiggins holds a MA in Religious Studies from the University of South Australia. The first part of this article was published in AfricaUpdate, Vol. VIII, no. 3 (Summer 2001)

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Nigerian Cinema Revisited

By Gloria Emeagwali, C.C.S.U.

An interview with Mike Abiola, Chief Executive of Afro-Hollywood and Director of Pace Television, London. The interview took place at the headquarters of Afro-Hollywood, HolIes House, London.


Gloria Emeagwali: We have heard of the boom in Nigerian video films. When was the turning point?

Mike Abiola: 1993/4

G.E.: Who are the high profile Nigerian film producers?

M.A.: Well these include Tunde Kelani of Mainframe Productions, Amaka Igwe of Moving Movies, Tade Ogidan of Ogidi Productions. They document the culture for posterity in authentic classical Yoruba and Igbo dialect.

G.E.: What makes these stand out?

M.A.: Well they use the latest technology and do proper research for their scripts. They win most of the awards.

G.E.: Which is the most popular type of production? Is it political?

M.A.: No. Films based on everyday happenings on a theme that is well put together with good popular actors and actresses to deliver the film story. Nigerian viewers depend on the stars acting in the film and the producers. Anything made by Mainframe does well.

Examples of successful Nigerian film on video include Femi Lasode's Sango (1998), Freedom (1999); Tade Ogindan's Hostages (1998), Diamonds Ring (1999); Amaka Igwe's Forever (1998) and Violated (1997) and Ogidi's Release (1998).

G.E.: What are the major themes?

M.A.: The themes vary but include philosophy, religion, spirituality etc.

For example in Ti-Oluwa-li-ile The Earth is the Lord's, the focus is on religion and culture.

The sale of the ancestral land to speculators leads to intervention by ancestral spirits.

Amaka and Ogidan tend to focus on contemporary issues. The theme of Tunde Kelani's Saworoide Brass Bells, is historical, dating to the 1950's and 1960's.

G.E.: In the Sahelian region, in Mali and Burkina Faso, for example, actors and actresses are not really turned into celebrities. Is Nigeria different?

M.A.: Yes, indeed. Nigerians do celebrate their actors and actresses. We do something here in London to honor outstanding actors and actresses in the Afro-Hollywood awards and Parade of Stars. Most Nigerians make the effort to attend and see their favorite stars get autographs, take photographs and so on. Nigerians celebrate their actors and actresses. They shower them with gifts. As early as 2:00 A.M. one morning I received a call by someone trying to find about their favorite star.

G.E.: In a previous interview I asked about the sudden boom in film production. Do you have any thoughts on this?

M.A.: Well, the downturn in the economy made it difficult to import foreign films. Most distributors of Indian and Chinese film saw problems repatriating money abroad. In 1993/4 during the political and economic crisis, it dawned on film practitioners that the vacuum could be filled. Some of those trained in film school saw the video as a medium as undesirable.

Some of the people who decided to take the bulls by the horns were in fact formally trained as apprentices to Nigerian pioneers, although not necessarily in Western institutions. Some armed themselves with their camcorders and recorders hiring at times camera men who covered social events and parties, and improvising on scripts in the process.

Stage actors were asked to improvise. Some had been trained by veteran Yoruba actors such as Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, and Kole Ogunsola. As demand grew so, too, more people got involved. Producers of videos in English and Igbo soon got more involved.

[The first in the series of interviews was published in Africa Update, Spring 2000 issue]

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Africa Online

By Haines Brown, C.C.S.U., Emeritus

Telecenters are a controversial method to combat Africa's digital divide. They raise the questions to what practical use if any people might put such a resource and whether the technical requirements of a telecenter might be overwhelming.

Some answer may come from the Kwa-Kukuza digital village in South Africa. The Kwa-Dukuza area includes over 90 schools that serves 60,000 students.

Computers can bring new resources to education and better prepare students for the jobs of the future. Furthermore, a necessary foundation is laid for the introduction of distance learning and other forms of computer mediated education. The small business persons who make use of the telecenters are also able to acquire and implement useful business applications.

However, supporting these telecenters is challenging. Because the experiment presumes a market model instead of social planification,

wide bandwidth becomes prohibitively expensive, and users experience slow downloads at the expense of educational objectives.

Also, the Windows operating system tends to be unstable and insecure, which requires a move to Windows 2000, although it too is subject to viruses and regular upgrade costs. In China and Western Europe, where there is in addition to these concerns a fear of U.S. snooping thanks to Microsoft backdoors or the FBI's culling private data from BadTrans worms or directly with the Magic Lantern viral snooper, people are beginning to turn to the superior and much less expensive Linux operating system.

Information for this article came in part from "News Update," a free newsletter on African Internet content and infrastructure produced by Balancing act (http://www.balancingact-africa.com/index.html)

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Abderrahmane Sissako's Rostov Luanda

Charley Harbach, Hist 476, CCSU

If you want to have your heart touched by the personal histories of many ordinary people who suffered through the struggles for Angolan independence, then take the time to see Abderrahmane Sissako's movie, Rostov Luanda. The imagery is powerful and the personal stories compelling. However, whoever described the movie as a "simplistic, monotonous, and luso-centric travelogue that omits the major issues surrounding the Angolan paradox" was right on target.

Almost every person Sissako comes into contact with offers their personal history of the war for independence and how it affected their families and themselves. Many of them had little or no political awareness of the situation and, if they did, they really didn't care about it.

Sissako missed many opportunities to address the real issues of the war and the reasons for what has happening to the people he came into contact with. He could have touched on the Portuguese policy to divide and rule, in which they divided families to decrease their urge to resist Portuguese control. He also could have related the Portuguese policy of forced settlement of convicts in Angola to explain why the Portuguese settlers were poor and illiterate.

Basically, the movie is a travelogue of interviews conducted with ordinary Angolans while he searched for a lost friend. It does not reveal any of the issues between the Portuguese, the MPLA, the FNLA, UNITA, Cuba, Russia or the United States. If you are looking for an in-depth look at the major players and the political wrangling associated with the struggle for Angolan independence, find another movie.

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