Documentary Terra Pesada Reveals Mozambique’s Heavy Metal Community

The documentary "Terra Pesada" follows around the growing heavy metal scene in Maputo, Mozambique. Self-proclaimed metal fan Leslie Bornstein served as director of the film and is now spearheading a crowdfunding camapign to bring the story to a larger audience.

In the documentary Terra Pesada, seasoned journalist and filmmaker Leslie Bornstein explores the world of young Mozambican heavy metal musicians on a quest to make their voices heard.

A self-proclaimed metal aficionado, she discovered this community while visiting a friend in Mozambique following a long-lasting illness. About a week into her trip, a concert flyer promoting the local band Evil Angels instantly tipped off Bornstein about the musical subculture.  

“I knew we were in the right place when I saw a pickup truck with Slayer written across the back window,” she told “I walked in and immediately felt at home.”

Though she had attended the performance as a concert goer, Bornstein was so compelled to spend the remainder of her trip documenting the young heavy metal community and hearing their thoughts on politics and HIV/AIDS, as well as their hopes and dreams.

Africa might not be the first continent that comes to mind when thinking of this predominantly white genre, but the deficiency of heavy metal bands on the continent is due to an economical lacking, not disinterest, Bornstein insisted.

“It’s not cultural,” she said. “The reason you don’t see metal from Africa and many other poor societies is that there’s no electricity. Without electricity, there’s no metal.”

The filmmaker spoke with to shed some light on her foray into this dynamic Mozambican music scene, the status of the documentary and the shocking discoveries she came across while filming. How many people are on the Terra Pesada team or did you work on the project alone?

Leslie Bornstein: I worked totally alone on the first trip. Between my first and second trips, Stino and Frankie — [two of the characters in the film] — emailed me that they wanted to be my assistants when I came back. So, I bought a second camera setup. It’s almost impossible to shoot music with only one camera. The deal was, whoever wasn’t onstage would man the second camera at concerts. Though often, once the music started, moshing took precedence over filming. By my third and fourth trips to Mozambique, the novelty had pretty much worn off, and they would recruit others for the second camera, which didn’t always end well.

What were some of your most surprising discoveries made while exploring the heavy metal scene in Mozambique?

At this point in life, very little surprises me. I was most impressed by how talented the Mozambican metal kids were, by how seriously they took their music and by how knowledgeable they were. They all played several instruments and several genres of music as well. I was also impressed by their resourcefulness and fearless mastery of technology. They know hardware and software. They build their own computers. They aren’t afraid to take anything apart to see how it works.

This is the first generation of Mozambicans to grow up in peace. They are the first to have the luxury of being rebellious, disaffected youth. Like metal kids the world over, except maybe Germany and the Scandinavian countries, they hold onto their outsider status while fighting for acceptance. It’s interesting how much they value education and believe that getting a good education will lead to a better life.

My biggest surprise was when I came back to the States. I thought everyone would love this as much as I did and that I’d have no problem finding support. After all, our president’s father was from Africa. 

You’ve launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise more funds for Terra Pesada. How exactly will you be using the funds?

So far the entire project, including four trips to Mozambique and purchasing all the equipment, has been self-funded using rapidly diminishing savings and credit cards. The money raised through RocketHub would be used to pay translators, hire a desperately needed assistant so that I can actually work on the film and hire at least one Portuguese-speaking editor, preferably with a good sense of story, who can look at the footage thoroughly. I obviously need a lot more than that.

Ultimately I would like to be able to give instruments and equipment to the metal musicians and the rehearsal spaces; set up a scholarship fund to pay for the continuing educations of the metal kids, whatever they’d like to pursue; and to bring some of the bands here to play. The dream would be to have a Mozambican metal band open for an American band that had had the most influence, such as Slipknot or Cannibal Corpse.

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(Photo: Courtesy of Wiley Flo Productions Inc.)

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