The Blue Eyes of Yonta
(Udju Azul di Yonta)

Screening on Film
Directed by Flora Gomes.
With Maysa Marta, Pedro Dias, Antonio Simao Medes.
Portugal/Guinea-Bissau/France/UK/Switzerland, 1992, 35mm, color, 90 min.
Portuguese and Kriolu with English subtitles.

Gomes’ second film is a bold follow-up to Mortu Nega that extends its critical scrutiny of post-liberation Guinea-Bissau through a poignantly nuanced story of ardent dreams fractured across different generations. The eponymous heroine of The Blue Eyes of Yonta is a spirited young woman smitten with an old family friend, a hero of the revolution falling on hard times as he struggles to keep his business afloat and stay true to his ideals despite the corrosive pressures of the black market. Yonta’s romantic yearning too easily leads her to misinterpret the love letter written by a naïve graduate student who is himself enraptured by the sway of European culture and learning. Gomes subtly uses this triangle of misguided, projected love—for country and for amorous partner—to critique the romantic illusions of post-revolution Guinea-Bissau while also evoking a rich tableau of everyday life and everyday hardships. The Blue Eyes of Yonta is guided by an even more symbolically charged ambition than Mortu Nega, a design made clear both in the film’s remarkable Felliniesque closing, as well as its opening scene following a gang of young boys racing inner tubes each branded with important dates and figures in the history of Guinea-Bissau. The Blue Eyes of Yonta makes clear Gomes’ talent as both an intuitively astute chronicler of history in the making and a weaver of powerful nuanced allegories of nation and community. – HG


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