Screen stars: Rescuing Angola’s stunning historic cinemas

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by The Spaces, a digital publication exploring new ways to live and work.

CNN  — 

Angola isn’t exactly the Hollywood of Africa – that honor belongs to Nigeria – but the country is a surprising hotbed of 20th century cinematic treasures. By 1970 there were 50 theaters for a population of just 5.9 million people.

From the late colonial modernist structures of the 1930s, to the open-air cine-esplandas that sprung up in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, these structures served as more than just places to catch the latest flick – they were vibrant meeting points for the local communities.

Many have now fallen into disrepair, but the cinemas scattered across Angola still offer a comment on the African nation’s past. Some are even being restored as part of an ongoing project by the Goethe-Institut to celebrate and preserve the cultural heritage of Angola, as it continues to rebuild its identity after the civil war.

Actor and director Miguel Hurst – the former director of the Angolan Institute of Cinema, Audiovisual and Multimedia – initiated the project back in 2011. He has now released a book, titled Angola Cinemas, in collaboration with photographer Walter Fernandes.

Read more about what fueled Walter Fernandes’ cinematic adventure at The Spaces.

‘Angola Cinemas’ is out now, co-published by Steidl and the Goethe-Institut Angola.