NEWS: HOLLOW CITY Leads “Unaccompanied Minors” Exhibit at MoMA

From the Global Lens Collection and MoMA’s Department of Film comes Global Lens filmmaker Maria Joao Ganga’s powerful exploration of innocence and Angola… 

We’re very pleased to announce that one of our most favorite curators, and educators, Anne Morra, at the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film, has put together a spectacular new film exhibit titled Unaccompanied Minors:  From Feeding the Bay to the Hollow Cityto run July 22nd-August 14th, in tandem with the Museum’s Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000 gallery exhibit.   Thirty-one short- and feature-length films are included the exhibit, at the exhibit’s core is Global Lens Collection film HOLLOW CITY :

(via Anne Morra, MoMA Department of Film) It seems to me that Maria João Ganga’s Hollow City (2004) best conflates the narrative themes that comprise the organizing principles [of Unaccompanied Minors]. Given that this film reflects contemporary geopolitical activities that are often splashed across multiple news outlets, the narrative combines reality and fiction in ways that blur boundaries of what is and is not “authentic.” The use of unfamiliar actors and a production style akin to news reportage helps Hollow City get under the viewer’s skin and extract genuine emotions—as if young Ndala were your own son’s missing friend.

A scene from Maria João Ganga’s Hollow City

The main character, an 11-year-old orphan boy named Ndala, alone in a strange city, begins a journey of discovery and survival. Orphaned by a tragedy catalyzed by adults, he must survive with no money, no home, no agency, no friends, and only a small tin toy that links him to his shattered childhood. Like Oliver Twist, Ndala falls in with a group of displaced youths surviving on the edge of society. Nearly invisible in the modern city, he is drawn to the traditional folk stories and epic tales of his ancestors that are enacted by the school children he observes from afar. Ndala, and the other unaccompanied minors in these films, are part of a disenfranchised commune, emancipated by social, political, and economic strife without their agreement or consent.

Set in the days after the Angolan revolution, Hollow City follows a military transport plane filled with orphans left by this national tragedy. Brought to Luanda by a religious mission, Ndala manages to escape from his group and wanders into the confusion of the unfamiliar and unruly city. At first Ndala is fascinated by the novelty of his surroundings, but he is still a child and fears the dark and loneliness. When he meets an older boy named Ze, Ndala soon learns about N’gunga, a boy-warrior, a character in an epic folk tale some kids at the local school are rehearsing. N’gunga is subject to many hardships, but believes that a warrior never fears challenge. Ndala soon takes this on as his mantra and bravely settles into his new, rough city life. When Ze is too busy with his own friends to pay attention to Ndala, the boy returns to the seaside, where he had met a friendly fisherman. The fisherman tells Ndala the folk story of Kiandra, a mermaid who protects the sea. Feeling stronger and braver, Ndala returns to the city and is unwittingly recruited into a home robbery by Ze’s disreputable Uncle Joka. When the robbery goes horribly wrong, Ndala, at Joka’s insistence, shoots the homeowner. As he turns to run, Ndala is distracted by a painting on the wall that reminds him of the night his family was massacred. The wounded homeowner manages to regain possession of the gun, and shoots Ndala. Is 11-year-old Ndala an innocent, a murderer, or the distressing product of the trauma and violence that enveloped him and his ruined village?  Read the entire piece about Unaccompanied Minors on INSIDE/OUT–the MoMA/MoMAPS1 blog…

HOLLOW CITY originally screened at MoMA via the Global Lens 2005 series (in January 2005).  The film was partially funded by the Initiative, and a copy of its 35mm print is preserved in MoMA’s permanent film archive, as part of an enduring partnership between The Global Film Initiative and the Museum, guided by Jytte Jensen, Curator in the Department of Film.  It is truly a rare opportunity to see this film in a theatrical setting, and on 35mm, and we encourage you all to do so–and we thank Anne and the entire MoMA Department of Film for making this possible.
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