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The Journey of Cape Verde

After the April 1995 eruption of Mt. Fogo, Portugal-based cinematographer Guenny K. Pires felt compelled to shoot a film capturing the unique rhythms, flavor and diversity of his homeland -- to definitively answer the question of what it means to be Cape Verdean. Pires' good intentions are unassailable; his talents, however, are not.

After the April 1995 eruption of Mt. Fogo, Portugal-based cinematographer Guenny K. Pires felt compelled to shoot a film capturing the unique rhythms, flavor and diversity of his homeland — to definitively answer the question of what it means to be Cape Verdean. Pires’ good intentions are unassailable; his talents, however, are not. The result may be a labor of love, but it is also a work of excruciating incoherence, haphazardly shot and edited, with nary a single unifying theme or connective idea presenting itself in the course of 83 interminable minutes.

Tracking down seemingly every Cape Verde native from the islands themselves to cities like Lisbon and Rotterdam, years-in-the-making docu is the product of abundant research and legwork — and since almost every person is identified by name, it has the feel of a meticulously footnoted research paper with no central thesis. Pires clearly is attempting to spin a multicultural mosaic, but fewer subjects and a tighter focus would have improved the effort considerably. Beyond its washed-out digital imagery and a few stock observations (by the looks of it, Cape Verdeans really love to cook, dance and play music), pic has no special insights into cultural identity that haven’t been said about a thousand other cultures already.

The Journey of Cape Verde

Production: Produced, directed, written by Guenny K. Pires.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Pires; editor, Rui A. Lopes da Silva; sound, Pires. Reviewed at Pan-African Film and Arts Festival, Feb. 13, 2005. Running time: 83 MIN.

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