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Film Festival Film #9: The Great Kilapy

The Great Kilapy is an Angolan film — a period piece with surprisingly good production values. It takes place in the final years of the Portuguese rule of Angola, and the costumes, locations and vehicles do a great job of transporting us to the mid-sixties. The film has a framing sequence that takes place in the present day where an older Portuguese man tells the story of “The Great Kilapy” to his children (“kilapy” is a Kimbundu word for “fraud” or “swindle”).

João Fraga is a mixed-race Angolan man living in Lisbon in 1965 at the start of the film. He has a suave demeanor and knows how to make women fall for him. He’s also good at financial legerdemain — some of his friends call him “Mr. Engineer” because he knows how to engineer a scheme or two. Lisbon is good to him: he enjoys the party life, and his primary lover is the daughter of a Minister who slips him a respectable stipend and keeps him attired in tailored suits. He really only has two big problems in his life. First, he’s not “a one-woman man” (and poly doesn’t seem to have been invented yet) which inevitably leads to broken hearts and angry break-ups. Second, a large number of his friends and former schoolmates have fallen in with the MPLA and the Security Police are confident that he’s also involved. For his part, João is sympathetic to the pro-independence MPLA but is too busy womanizing and funding his big-spending lifestyle to be politically active.

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