Synopsis by Mark Deming
The physical and emotional toll of Angola's civil war -- a conflict which spanned nearly four decades -- sets the stage for this powerful drama. Vitorio (Oumar Makena Diop) volunteered for the army when he was a 15-year-old seminary student. Twenty years later, he lost his leg in an explosion only a few months before the war finally ground to a halt, and after a long stay in a military hospital, Vitorio was finally given an artificial leg and released. However, after returning home to Luanda, Vitorio learns no one wants to give a thirtysomething veteran with no work experience a job, and he ends up living on the street, where his medals and his leg are soon stolen by ruffians. Vitorio strikes up a friendship with another one of society's outcasts, Maria Barbara (Maria Ceica), a prostitute who has lost her son and hopes to find him by appearing on a television program which daily broadcasts the pleas of family members. Meanwhile, the streets of Luanda are also home to Manu (Milton Coelho), a ten-year-old boy who has become a petty thief as he searches for his father, refusing to believe he could have been killed in the war. And Joana (Patricia Bull) is a schoolteacher whose faith in her nation has been shattered by the war; realizing Manu's intelligence, she attempts to tutor the boy, and having encountered Vitorio, she tries to find a new leg for the tragic veteran. The Hero was the first feature-length drama from filmmaker Zeze Gamboa; the film received its American premiere at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.