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Caminhos do Cinema Português XVI (CCP), 18th – 26th of April 2009. By Joep Aarts, Bergen Film Society, Norway.

The CCP is the only festival of national Portuguese cinema and is located in Coimbra, a charming small town in the heart of Portugal. The programme covers around fifty entries from the last year and has both documentaries, feature films, short films and animations. The festival crew consists mainly of students, who organize the festival on a voluntary basis.

Since the focus of the festival lies on recent Portuguese productions, one cannot expect the quality of all the movies to be on the same level as in international film festivals. Many of the films were shot on digital video, and had a homemade feeling about them. Some of the films were directly poor. Unfortunately, many of the films lacked subtitles, often without notice beforehand. It would have a great advantage to be able to understand some Portuguese, also because the main language of the festival and its participants was Portuguese.

However, what the festival lacked in quality films, it compensated with enthusiasm and a nice atmosphere. The organization had a typical southern European charm, not too strict, but welcoming nevertheless. The friendly crew, mostly students, were genuinely concerned with the wellbeing of the jury members and the door to the festival office was always open. Every afternoon and evening, the jury members, festival staff and some invited guests, had the possibility of enjoying their meals together. There were also organized some social activities, as for example a guided tour through the city. And since the screenings mostly started after five o’clock pm, there was enough time to explore Coimbra.

The jury work was quite complicated, partly because of the aforementioned mix of film genres. It’s not an easy job comparing for example a one-minute animation with a two-hour long documentary. Nevertheless, the jury had to select a winner. This year the jury consisted of Christl Grunwald-Merz from Germany, Joăo Currais from Portugal and me. We gave the Don Quijote Prize to “Guisado de Galinha” by Joana Toste, a five-minute short animation film. According to the jury, this film had a playful touch on Portuguese clichés and communicated a message about both a Portuguese and a more universal identity. This film will therefore appeal to both Portuguese and other audiences, which should be one of the main goals of a film rewarded with the Don Quijote Award. The jury gave a special mention to “Corpo Todo” by Pedro Sena, a beautiful documentary with a strong social appeal about the training of a group of handicapped people to a dance performance.

All in all, the CCP offers a friendly atmosphere, an exciting taste of Portugal and some interesting films. I recommend it to everyone interested in exploring something different.