A man driving his car, which is also his workplace, makes a U-turn, deciding to go dancing before he goes home. He sprays cologne and changes hats in his cab before entering the red-lit club. “Just one dance,” he tells his ex-lover. She obliges for a few minutes before she must preserve herself and walk away.
A student waiting to be registered at a Brooklyn high school is sitting next to her father. She puts in her wireless earbuds. With the enclosure and rush of an up-tempo soundscape, she enters her own world, one of explosion, beat, and bass, then is pulled back out of it by a dance-night flyer given to her by “some hot New York dude,” as her friend back home will tease her via text message later.
A woman lies naked in her bed that does not feel like her bed, next to the pastel roses her husband gave her. In the soft daylight, she lingers in the fraudulent breeze of a window air-conditioning unit before pulling up the sheet to her ears and looking to her husband’s body for a little bit of warmth. He turns away.
These quietly lush scenes are from the Tanzanian and American writer-director Ekwa Msangi’s tender Farewell Amor (2020), a collective portrait of an Angolan family reuniting in New York City after being on two different continents for seventeen years. The father has been living alone in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn; his daughter and wife, whom he now barely knows, have finally gotten visas enabling them to come to the United States. Msangi’s quietly triumphant drama slides between pleasure and alienation as it follows the family’s easing their way into this new life to see if it fits, hesitant about their familialness. Time has not stood still. He has made a life. They were left behind, anticipating this future—reunion and the American dream—that has finally arrived. Left behind, they also had lives, and found new modes of survival unfamiliar to him. The mother found religion. The daughter’s whole childhood passed in Tanzania during the separation, and she is now a teenager, with her own social circle, tastes, and interests—especially kuduro dancing. The source of the film’s drama will be the family’s continued seeking: Will they find one another? Dance will be one language they use to try to answer that question, as well as a language Msangi uses to animate her themes of movement and shifting intimacy.
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