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Luanda’s Downbeat, Appropriately Low-tech Science Fiction

Angola’s capital Luanda is afflicted by a strange plague of air conditioning units falling from buildings, as if they are committing suicide. Security guard Matacedo (José Kiteculo) is tasked with heading out into the street to recover an AC for his sweltering boss, some kind of city bigwig, hectored by his housemaid Zézinha (Filomena Manuel). Director Fradique does pick at a vein of social commentary – the cooling crisis notably affects the poor more than the rich – but it is just one minor element in a swirling, enigmatic experience. There’s something both comfortingly dissociated and warmly engaged about Air Conditioner, as it lulls Matacedo along on his quest to composer Aline Frazão’s superb, melancholy score, making the film a kind of dreamscape elegy to Luanda. The tech may be on the blink, but this striking debut makes humanity seem like a beautiful malfunction.