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Freddy Ilanga: Che’s Swahili Translator  cover photo

Freddy Ilanga: Che’s Swahili Translator 2009


Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Producer n/a
Directed by Katrin Hansing
DVD, color, 88 min.

College - General Adult
Area Studies, Biography, History, Immigration, Latin America, Politics, Postcolonialism

Date Entered: 04/02/2015

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Che Guevara, one of the 20th century’s most iconic figures, spent several months in Africa during the mid-1960s. Part of an unsuccessful expeditionary force hoping to train Congolese rebels to overthrow a recently installed pro-western regime, Guevara was assigned a teenage boy to act as his interpreter. When the Cubans left Africa, young Freddy Ilanga followed, although not completely by choice. For the next 40 years, he lived and worked in Havana, training as a pediatric neurosurgeon, marrying and raising two children. He lost touch with his mother and siblings–each assuming the other had been killed in the violence that periodically rocks the Great Lakes region of East Africa. In 2003, a sister-in-law located Ilanga through an internet search and plans were made for a reunion and homecoming.

In this short film, anthropologist and Cuban scholar Hansing interviews Ilanga in his Havana home and neighborhood. Set against the backdrop of tumultuous world events, this brief oral history is at its core a personal narrative of displacement, exile and separation. Although the technical production is unexceptional, Ilanga’s story more than make up for minor flaws in sound editing. It is impossible to walk away from this film without wanting to more about the events and people that influenced Ilanga’s life.