A 6.ª edição do Frames Portuguese Film Festival lança a luz sobre o colectivo. O Frames Collective é uma edição em que se procura redefinir a ideia de grupo através do cinema. O À pala de Walsh, parceiro do festival desde a sua raiz, agradece à organização esta oportunidade de estar associado mais uma vez a este festival em crescimento, que se baseia na afirmação do cinema português na Suécia. Abaixo publica-se as folhas de sala que serão distribuídas em cada sessão e que foram redigidas por esta equipa walshiana: Carlos Natálio, João Araújo e Ricardo Vieira Lisboa. Os textos foram revistos por André Spencer, Cláudia Velhas e Vera Salgado Guita. Trevliga föreställningar!
The 5th edition of Frames Portuguese Film Festival casts the light on the collective. Frames Collective is an edition that aims at redefining the idea of group through cinema. À pala de Walsh, partner of this festival since its beginning, wants to thank the Frames crew this opportunity of being part of a growing film festival that promotes Portuguese cinema in Sweden. Below we are publishing the reviews that were handed out on each screening and that were written by this walshian team: Carlos Natálio, João Araújo and Ricardo Vieira Lisboa. The texts were revised by André Spencer, Claudia Velhas and Vera Salgado Guita. Trevliga föreställningar!
Volta à Terra (2014) by João Pedro Plácido
Writer Agustina Bessa-Luís had this to say about painter Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and her work: “What affects the essence, like beauty or power-based on knowledge, is banished by the art of painting. Hence it surprises and even scandalizes the expression of the art of our time. But she [Vieira da Silva] simply seeks to untangle herself from the inherent perfection of things in themselves, which clouds their essence”. Volta à Terra (2014), the debut of Portuguese cinematographer João Pedro Plácido, tends in fact towards beauty. The intimate relationship between the camera and the people of Uz, the portrait of a country and its interior, the way caring for the fields turns into a prison, a torn love story between staying and going abroad. Seemingly, this description could refer to the Portuguese reality of the 1960’s, when there was an exodus to foreign lands due to the very difficult conditions of life during the Estado Novo dictatorship (especially in the interior regions). Today, however, the picturesque image of the interior makes us believe that there are no such difficulties and beauty goes hand in hand with happiness, when in fact everything has been converted into merchandise.
Therefore, in this eye that observes the world as a beautiful bucolic landscape, there is an ideological programme. A programme that seems to want to infect that same beauty with everything it tends to hide. The beautiful image is usually the consequence of an automatism, a look that lets things unnoticed. But Plácido, in his walk through rurality (given the fact that it is a documental gaze), achieves the prowess of finding the human despite the beautiful and also far from the typical alternative, the ethnographic approach. In Volta à Terra he films people above all else (in a country, Portugal) and it is them who give the best the film has to offer. For this reason, one cannot forget a phone conversation at the top of the mountain between stones and sheep, where a boy hears the breaking of his own heart. It is beautiful for sure, but it is also intimate, true, and in some ways deeply sober because it would be impossible to show a heartbreak through the sterility of an idealized image. It is only possible to pierce the membrane of bucolic harmony when one reaches out and hears the others: it is through this rip that one discovers the essence of beauty.
Ricardo Vieira Lisboa
Chuva é Cantoria na Aldeia dos Mortos (2018) by Renée Nader Messora and João Salaviza
Chuva é Cantoria na Aldeia dos Mortos was made together with a Brazilian indigenous community, the Krahô, and adapted local stories and rituals. Especially that of a young man from the village who began to be haunted by the spirit of his late father, seeing himself obliged to conclude his mourning ritual. This spectral presence leads Ihjãc, the protagonist, to flee the village to the nearest town where he encounters “civilized” bureaucracy and video games at the café. One of the most curious sequences of the film happens during his stay in the town. It is filled with comic gags that are linked to a mutual incomprehension between worlds, languages, cultures and customs.
Yet Chuva é Cantoria na Aldeia dos Mortos is always in tension. One that is paradoxically related to its extreme proximity to the subject-community and the desire to make a cinematographic object that represents the Krahô well and, at the same time, represents the filmmakers’ cinephilia. The filmmakers admit that they tried to avoid the “anthropological treatise” by making some concessions, especially in regards to the fidelity of the translation of the indigenous language, but on the other hand, like the portraying of the funeral rituals, they chose to preserve the chronology of events, even against the narrative’s rhythm. The film then inhabits a limbo between the desire for cinema and the desire for fidelity, as if fighting with itself. The first few minutes are particularly important in the way they seem to expose this “process of intentions” in a clear but symbolic way. In a sort of bluish Day for Night (the classic studio cinema technique!) we perceive a male figure through the vegetation, in fixed, almost abstract, shots of the dark forest, sometimes imperceptible. Then the camera begins a movement that follows his body, until it descends and fixes itself on his backwhere the moon is projected, filtered by the tracery of leaves and tall trees. His back turns into a canvas, the body turns into a screen, the medium projected on the man and the man projecting himself in the medium. Tension and symbiosis at the Tocantins’ cerrado.
Ricardo Vieira Lisboa
Infância, Adolescência, Juventude (2018) by Rúben Gonçalves
This film is Rúben Gonçalves’s directorial debut. He has previously worked as an editor in some short films and in the feature film Verão Danado (2017), by Pedro Cabeleira, which acts as the eye of the hurricane for a new generation of Portuguese cinema. Infância, Adolescência, Juventude is a tryptic documentary, as the title suggests, about the Portuguese School of Dance – A space where skills and passions are put to the test. Gonçalves follows three fundamental moments of the school process: the selection and the first apprenticeships; the end of the 9th grade, when a decision has to be made; and the end of high school, with the discovery of the stage. Three movements that find in each individual the reflection of different moments of growth and learning. One of the first aspects of the film that attracts the most is exactly the way students are able to convey, in conversations with each other (the breaks, the exercises in English class, etc.), all the internal conflict that inhabits them: is dance a hobby or a craft for them? This dilemma is the core of the film’s storyline, since the question is phrased and answered individually by each student in the three decisive moments that the director chose to focus on. The successive answers (which lead them to the end of that educational moment) are the way to surpass each of the three phases that the title consists of. Childhood is left when one takes on a talent, adolescence arrives when one explores his or her aptitude, and one invests in the youth when dedicating him or herself to an art.
However, one of the most powerful sequences is the opening. An overview on the darkness behind the scenes, so dark that it almost becomes abstract, and in which dissonant movements and random sounds a quasi-surreal atmosphere is built. We will understand later that this scene portrays the anxiety before the stage “debut” of the finalist students. A swirl of emotions that Gonçalves captured in its chaotic purity. Hence starting at the end is exactly the beginning of a goal. Students at this School of Dance come with one goal in mind. Some leave the race, others fall tired along the way, others still follow a different track, and those who reach the target are finally faced with the realization of a dream that seemed impossible. It is this realistic dream that the director builds in this amazing scene. A dream filled with sore feet, cramps, sweat and bruises.
Ricardo Vieira Lisboa
Fátima (2017) de João Canijo
Every year during May all roads in Portugal lead to Fátima, a small town of religious importance situated in the middle of the country. It’s a common sight: thousands of people, wearing their high visibility vests, walking to that place of worship as a ritual of self-sacrifice, a penance to test their faith and repay whatever personal pledge they may have made during that year.
With this film, João Canijo follows a small group of women on their way to Fátima from their northern hometown, some doing it year after year, some for the first time. Canijo focuses on their different personalities, how they try to deal with this challenge that is as much physical as it is psychological, negotiating with the harsh conditions, the weather and the winding down of their spirits. This journey is presented in a naturalistic, reality based style that Canijo has explored in his latest films. For example, in Sangue do Meu Sangue (2011), the cast spent some time living in their characters’ conditions, taking their jobs, before filming, as a way to prepare. With his next film, É o Amor (2013) Canijo went even further in a collaboration with actress Anabela Moreira. The actress joined a group of women, non-professional actors playing themselves, who either worked on the fish docks or waited for their husbands, with Moreira taking on the role of someone equal to one these women, diluting herself in her part.
With Fátima he took an even further step toward the direction and depiction of realism. In an interview about the film Canijo stated that “it is not possible to represent a pilgrimage without doing it”. So joined again by Anabela Moreira and some other actresses Canijo works with (such as Rita Blanco, Cleia Almeida and Teresa Madruga), he filmed the cast of eleven women as they went on a real pilgrimage for nine days and endured the same conditions as real pilgrims. This approach seems to bring the cast and their roles together, blurring the line between actor and character, while at the same time accentuating the differences among the group and among these women. The characters’ normal lives back home are thus temporarily suspended, but their problems are always on the brink of coming back to the surface as the group is constantly on the verge of disintegration, with each successive challenge disturbing their supposedly peaceful religious journey. The film then works in two ways: first, as a work about the dynamics of a group, the inter-relations that are formed, power shifts and signs of solidarity; at the same time, as a documentary on a group of actresses giving themselves into an extreme experience, not distant from their characters. The director – who is himself a non-believer – doesn’t seem as interested in the religious considerations of this journey as much as he is in observing the cast, their creative inputs, and giving testimony of the strong nature of these women. It’s his (and the film’s) act of faith, following these women into redemption.
A Fábrica de Nada (2017) de Pedro Pinho
Pedro Pinto’s omnibus-structured A Fábrica de Nada has been placed, a bit too hastily, alongside a number of recent films that tried to address the Portuguese economic crisis of 2010-2014. I speak of works such as As Mil e Uma Noites (2015) by Miguel Gomes, São Jorge (2016) by Marco Martins, or Colo (2016) by Teresa Villaverde. Although we can trace some hints of these sensible years in the film, its origins and aim are simply different. Based on a Judith Herzberg homonymous play and on the veridical experience of “Fateleva” – a Portuguese elevator factory that was run by its own workers, in a self-management experience between 1975 and 2006 – the film addresses the universal question of collapsing notion and structure of factory labor, due to technological impact. Portuguese film and theatre director Jorge Silva Melo, credited with the original idea, and Pedro Pinto and his crew from the production company Terratreme (Tiago Hespanha, Luísa Homem, Leonor Noivo) undertook the task of collectively writing the script. Their aim was to problematize and actualize the question of the occupation of factories. In this sense we can trace two more influences: the films by the Dziga Vertov Group as well as the cooperative experiences of Portuguese filmmakers in the 70’s and find different and artistic ways to re-invent the performative power of labor.
In a way, the bold gesture of A Fábrica de Nadais trying to fill the “nothing” of “old” work with multiple different and new proposals, which function as the major power of a collective work. That is the reason why heterogeneity plays a key element here and in this “cinematic onion”, one can find many layers. A left-wing sensibility (bien sûr), a presence of the real workers that sing and dance in the factory space, emulating such different moments in cinema history, from Vincente Minnelli’s musicals, to Brecht’s aesthetics or even Bjork’s Dancer in the Dark. We also have “pauses” for a politically philosophical talk with Anselm Jappe (a philosopher that works upon the heritage of traditional critical theory); moments of dardennian social realism, when we follow the character Zé (in Portugal, a diminutive of a very common name, José) through industrial landscapes of the capital’s outskirts; or impressionist and documental sequences of erotic and punk release that capture the joy and desperation of the bohemian Lisbon nights. As a collective work, A Fábrica de Nada is not afraid of exposing its own artificiality, its own hesitations, rhythms and cracks. These are all hypotheses for re-inventing the notion of work in a film that wanders through politics, music, representation plays, funny moments, the sublime and the ordinary. Along this bumpy ride, the spectator is converted too in a machine for many feelings, often contradictory. And that gives us an empowering feeling of freedom.