Caminhos do Cinema Português XI
2004, by Mari Roald Bern, Norway
“Caminos do Cinema Português”(CCP) means “The Paths of the Portuguese Cinema”. I do not have the background, or knowledge, to give a description of streams and steps taken in Portuguese film. I would, however, try to situate this festival in a broader perspective.
Johan Galtung, a Norwegian philosopher has written “the world will never be the same again after the terrible attack on the economic USA, the military USA, and on human beings like all of us on September 11 2001 (…) To prevent a slide into a large war with enormous, widespread suffering, the USA, everybody, should not rush to action. We need deep self-reflection, identifying the conflicts, solving them and reconciliation. Dialogue and global education to understand how others think, and to respect other cultures, not debate to defeat others with stronger arguments (…) Democracy is not only the right to vote where governments truly represent their people's aspirations. It is also the possibility to frequently express ideas and grievances and to be heard” I see CCP as a concrete action taken by students in a local setting, but with a clear national, and thereafter global importance. I believe the festival is a valuable contribution to the Portuguese society, in artistic, social and cultural terms.
Coimbra is the old capital of Beira, known chiefly for its history and for the famous university, which was founded (1292) by King Diniz in Lisbon but was moved temporarily to Coimbra in 1308 and permanently in 1540. The “Oxford of Portugal” or Portuguese Athens was a calm and lively context. The main purpose of CCP is to present and promote recent Portuguese cinematography; documentaries, animation and feature productions. The festival opens the scene for debutants and wants to provide attention and engage a broader public to the Portuguese cinema.
Two of the most obvious issues in life; love and death were certainly represented in the program. “A Ferida” by Margarida Leitão and “Outono” by Paulo Cesar Fajardo are both touching and silent short films about death. An amusing first encounter with the rich family-in-law “Uma Comédia Infeliz” by Artur Serra Araújo, and the brutal pain of love sorrow in “Serial Killer” by João Costa Menezes.
Films such as “Agostino da Silva- Um pensamento Vivo” (Joao Rodrigo Mattos) that were an enriching film about a philosopher, and “Amanhã” by Solveig Nordlund are important documents about the political situation and development Portugal has gone through. A contemporary global issue as AIDS was revealed in a new and old perspective in “Part time” (Jorge Queiroga)
Portugese art on the local and international scene were pictured in interesting and with various approaches in three documentaries. “Outras Frases” by Jorge Antonio, whose film leads us through Angolan dancer and choreographer Ana Clara Guerra Marques pedagogic and artistic work against the background of the recent Angolan social and political history. “Um Quadro de Rosas” by Miguel Ribeiro portrays Emidio Aleixo, an anonymous painter devoted to roses and with ideas and interpretations about the world we live in. “Ana Hatherly- A Mão Intelligente” by Luis Alves de Matos provides the spectator an insight and understanding to the works of Ana Hatherly, a central force in the “Experimental Poetry” which rose in Portugal during the 1960’s, and proclaimed the need for linguistic research.
Some beautiful moments where one could just lean back and simply enjoy were “Burdiao” (Pedro Sena Nunes), the exellent animation “Abraco do Vento” (José Miguel Ribeiro) the sweet animation “O Zé dos Passaros” by Silvino Fernandes and Paulo Sousa, and a lovely nine minute postcard from Guinnea Bissau, “Desocultar” by Luis Margalhau.
“A Filha” (Solveig Nordlund) is a harsh observation of the western world’s need for money and individual accomplishment. The main characters, a successful TV producer and a young girl who wants to be a TV star are enrolled in a psychological and surreal action, when incest, greed and images are mixed in an awfully frightening mess. The apparently close link to our society, where Reality TV and huge fortunes within the median sector, made me perceive it as a disgusting and important film.
The International Federation of Film Societies (IFFS) was represented by a jury consisting of three nationalities; Portuguese, French and Norwegian, hence; Carlos Coelho, Julien Basdevant and myself. The selection for the IFFS jury was limited to films with English or French subtitles. The Don Quijote Price went to “Entre Duas Terras” by Muriel Jaquerod and Eduardo Saraiva Pereira. There were three major motivations for the prize; an insight to Portuguese culture, a relevance concerning present national and international politics, last, but also central was the cinematographic quality and value. “Entre Duas Terras” is a documentary describing the complications and challenges the inhabitants of Aldeia da Luz meet when their village is going to be flooded by the dam of Alqueva. A new village will be rebuilt some kilometres further ahead; the engineers are faced with complex problems, such as replacing the cemetery, guarding the social structure of buildings, and pure human emotions. The film paints a credible image of the social web and human relations in a village walking on the edge between past and future, the rural individual versus political and economic powers.
We perceived the Don Quijote prize as a way to contribute to the promotion of a film, whilst it may also be an encouragement towards an expanded consciousness concerning Portuguese cinema and culture in general. The IFFS jury finds this film important as a contribution in the debate concerning development and progress. Goals of economic development have deep social and cultural impacts. Being a local issue, it raises and describes questions of global relevance.
The IFFS jury gave also some extra attention to “Beijo” directed by Ana Margarida Cunha, by giving it “The special mention” The film deals with homosexuality and love in an easy and energetic way. This is her debut film, and we considered her entrance in the Portuguese cinematographic environment promising.
Portuguese cinema has a reputation of being very slow, with beautiful pictures; hitherto I had the impression that quite a high number of people would just call it “boring”, more out of prejudice than actually experiencing the development and newcomers. Maybe it was a bit awkward to start an article about a film festival quoting a Norwegian. I will now quote one from India, Amartya Sen: “ The main hope of harmony in the contemporary world lies not in any imagined uniformity, but in the plurality of our identities, which cut across each other and work against sharp divisions around one uniquely hardened line of impenetrable division. The political leaders who dispute the clash of civilisations, but think and act in terms of a unique partitioning of humanity into "the Western world," "the Muslim world," "the Hindu world," and so on, make the world not only more divisive, but also much more flammable”. I believe the CCP is working for the safeguard of pluralism. The Portuguese people deserve a voice in the darkness of the cinema halls. And I would like to hear this voice more often in Norway as well.
The Centre for Cinematographic Studies linked to the Academical Association of Coimbra organizes “Caminhos do Cinema Portugues”. The voluntary working staffs were always professional and helpful. Talking with them, the members of the IFFS jury, the members of the official jury and other attendants to the festival, I felt as if I was part of something bigger, and more important than usual. Movies have become a beating heart of our culture. Film is one of the art forms that most directly portray the mentality of our times. Rather than simplistic analysis and interpretations, which often conceal more than they reveal, what is needed today is for people to work, critically, creatively, and constructively to go to the roots of the political, economic, and social crises affecting our communities. In this context all the work done voluntarily in film societies are valuable to such an extent that it should not be measured in terms of money. Nor should the greatness of a film or a festival be based on its profits. Let a thousand dialogues flourish, within every community, every country, and every part of the world, inviting opinions and perspectives. Only people can change the world, the future of the world is more than ever in the hands of the only source of legitimacy: people everywhere.