Aline Frazão’s beats introduce you to this film with some black and white stills of Luanda in Angola. Among them is a building with jutting window air conditioners which bears the title card with it, written in Portuguese and stylised as “ar condicionado” (“Air Conditioner”). The next shot is the inside of that building, perhaps, where we will be spending some of this film, as one of the air conditioners there is broken and it is too hot.
Turns out that the air conditioners have been “mysteriously falling” from the sky. The Radio City 80.8 FM report at the very beginning of the film, at 7 a.m., reports five air conditioners which fell down, leading to one dead and three injured. Some bureaucrat has dismissed it as a conspiracy to replace air conditioners with fans across the country.
Matacedo (José Kiteculo) is the man called to fix the air conditioner in the building. Tall, wearing a janitor’s uniform, making sure his teabag sits in the hot water for exactly three minutes, he goes about his work methodically. Zezinha (Filomena Manuel) is his compadre; a housekeeper of sorts.
As much as she could be running the place, she is replaceable, and by focusing on these characters as his protagonists, filmmaker Fradique not only breathes new life into films that have long left them as supporting characters but has also drawn the details of their lives in meticulous detail that does them justice.
Matacedo tries to get the air conditioner fixed but when the man who is supposed to fix it doesn’t answer, he takes a break. Plays a board game with what looks like a chessboard but beer caps as tokens. He goes about his errands, and takes a nap. Meanwhile, Zezinha’s boss is heating up, and so is she. It’s 4 p.m.
It was interesting to see Fradique quote a novel as contemporary as Ondjaki’s “Transparent City” (translated by Stephen Henighan, Biblioasis, 2018) in his introduction to this film for MUBI: “It was a building, maybe a world to have a world it’s enough to have people and emotions, the emotions, raining down inside people’s bodies, spill into dreams, people may be no more than ambling dreams of melted emotions in the blood contained by the skins of our oh-so-human bodies, we can call that world ‘life’.”
As an air conditioner falls down when Matacedo is taking a bath, the dream has spilled into reality. Frazão’s sound makes a repair shop with broken television sets feel like saturated Hamleys, and Eduardo Kroptokine’s images help us see those emotions in the brilliant performances of Kiteculo, Manuel, and David Caracol (as Mr Mino).
The burden of history is seen in the characters and the lives that they have lived though it is never explicitly stated except for the lyrics of a song and perhaps the rationale behind some of Mr Mino’s actions and behaviour. Be it in films as old as Sarah Maldoror’s “Sambizanga” (1972), which trailed the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or the one as recent as this one, the past has a way of making its presence felt.
The introduction makes it clear that Fradique was thinking of the independence, and how his mentors were a part of that movement in Angola. I surrendered to the dream, the emotions, and the people in Fradique’s “Air Conditioner.” I wanted to spend some more time with Zezinha because the film opened with her and she is an absolute delight to spend time with. Her sheer reactions to some of the events that transpire around her are prize-winning. Acting is reacting, they say. Sometimes, so is living.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.