We are three weeks away from the beginning of another edition of IndieLisboa and the programme is closed. There are about 250 films, in total, in an edition – the 19th – in which the festival returns to its usual calendar, between the months of April and May. IndieLisboa will take place at São Jorge Cinema, Culturgest, Cinemateca Portuguesa, Cinema Ideal and Palácio Galveias, from April 28th to May 8th.
Let’s get to the news: it’s time to announce that this edition will have the most extensive National Competition in the history of the festival. In total there are 9 feature films. There are works from authors of different generations, with distinct approaches, in a proof of the current vitality of Portuguese cinema.
Thus, in the feature films, there’s Behind Those Walls, by Manuel Mozos, about the fort, the barracks, the asylum, and the walls of other spaces that imprison the madman, the criminal, the hysteric. Dry Ground Burning, by Adirley Queirós and Joana Pimenta, Léa, Chitara and Andreia have a peculiar business – they steal oil from pipelines in Ceilândia, Brasília, to turn it into gasoline that they then sell to bikers in the area. In The Kegelstatt Trio, Rita Azevedo Gomes adapts to cinema the only play by Éric Rohmer, in a kind of romantic comedy in which the theme is not marriage but “remarriage”. Super Natural, Jorge Jácome’s first feature film mixes documentary, fiction, and experimental cinema and is starred by dancers from Dançando com a Diferença, acting in exuberant natural and urban spaces in Madeira Island. In Fragile, nightlife is experienced as the last act of resistance to a world of obligations and institutions. The film by Pedro Henrique, who is also a DJ, follows a group of friends who do everything they can to postpone their return to a ‘normal’ life. Périphérique Nord explores Portuguese emigration and its materialization in an object imbued with successful ideas. In this documentary, director Paulo Carneiro travels 2000 km to meet those who left Portugal in search of a new life. The car is the starting point and a meeting point for a discussion about the symbolism of the automobile, as well as issues of identity and community. Rising Sun Blues is a first feature film that starts from the principle of sharing between Renata Ferraz and Maria Roxo, two women with different trades – sex work and film work – and who try to start a dialogue, while both film and let themselves be filmed. Journey to the Sun uses images from family archives to highlight the testimonies of children coming from Austria to Portugal in the post-World War II period. This reflection on a migration from an area marked by military confrontation to one unmarred by that same destruction makes room for dominant narratives to be confronted with first-hand experiences. Susana de Sousa Dias and Ansgar Schaefer’s film proposes a look at a past that can have resonance in the present and makes more sense than ever. It is by the Pastaza River, which travels from Ecuador to Peru, that we find the Achua community, which director Inês T. Alves visited with no intention, necessarily, of making a film. But the curiosity and independence of the children she met – fluent in fishing, cooking, or handicrafts – gave rise to Waters of Pastaza.
As with the feature films, the chosen short films bring together directors at different stages of their careers, in a mix of established and emergent filmmakers. In The Days In Our Life, Lena works in a bakery at dawn, in a supermarket the rest of the day, and nothing seems safe enough to keep her afloat. Janine Gonçalves’ film is a raw portrait about a mother’s day and the people around her. After O Meu Pijama was in the Brand New section at the 2017 edition of the festival, Maria Inês Gonçalves returns to IndieLisboa with O Banho, a short meditation on the magic and danger of taking a bath. Ico Costa, a regular presence at the festival, leaves a camera with Ailucha and Domy. What we see in Domy + Ailucha, Ket stuff! is their daily life in Inhambane, where these young Mozambicans live their youth. Blue Has No Dimensions, by Ágata de Pinho, follows Ara who believes she will disappear when she turns 28. With the date approaching, Ara searches for the most elementary sensations of existence. Pedro Cabeleira returns to IndieLisboa with the comedy of manners By Flávio. Márcia, a wannabe digital influencer, gets a date with rapper Da Reel Chullz, but has no one to leave her son with, the Flávio of the title… The generational differences between a mother and her son, added to the heritage of emigration, are the main themes of Mistida, by the Luso-Guinean Falcão Nhaga. Becoming Male in the Middle Ages follows two couples who deal with fertility problems, but not in a conventional way. Pedro Neves Marques’ film is an intimate tale about queer sexuality, bodily autonomy, reproductive desires, and the ghost of normativity.
In Boca do Inferno, IndieLisboa’s section dedicated to thematically and aesthetically disruptive films, are programmed disconcerting films, with fracturing themes. This year there are eight short films, between live action and animation, and four feature films. We highlight two: She Will, Charlotte Colbert’s directorial debut, is a #MeToo era revenge movie about a former movie star on a health retreat after a double mastectomy. Set in the Filipino immigrant community in Athens, Holy Emy crosses mysticism and realism in a film about two sisters and their mother’s supernatural healing powers. It is Araceli Lemos’ first fiction feature film. For those who prefer smaller doses of spookiness, Boca do Inferno has a section with 8 short films.
Brand New is back, the competitive section made up of a group of films by young filmmakers who are taking their first steps. This year there are 12 films. Some made their film in a school context, others made their first work alone, independently of any support, but all of them compete for the Novíssimos Betclic Award. Natural Disasters, an experimental film by Margarida Pinto da Fonseca, skillfully combines natural disasters with very human disasters. Miracle of Agualva-Cacém was filmed between March and April 2021 at the apartment of the director’s grandmother, Ricardo Guimarães, and follows the memory of a song from his childhood (‘D.Fernando’) in the Transmontano Northeast.
The Special Screenings section includes sessions such as the opening and closing films of the festival. The opening is a double bill with two films restored in the scope of the Filmar Project, of the Cinemateca Portuguesa – first, Albufeira, a short film from the 1960’s, a promotional film of tourism in the town of Algarve, showing, however, the authorial and experimental touch of António Macedo, one of the founders of the Portuguese Cinema Novo, always daring to escape the production canons. Then, Zéfiro. The film by José Álvaro de Morais walks through Lisbon as a documentary, but what it really wants is to cross the Tagus River in full fictional mode in order to explore the south bank, where it sets off on an adventure from the Alentejo to the Algarve. The narrator is Luís Miguel Cintra and the galloper is the criminal on the run from Marcello Urgeghe.
The closing session is A Viagem de Pedro, Pedro IV of Portugal and Pedro I of Brazil, the king who became known for the cry of Ipiranga and for Brazil’s independence. We find him on his way back to Portugal, from where he fled the French troops, to now dispute the Portuguese crown with his brother, Miguel. Laís Bodanzky’s film is about a man with no place in the world, between the glorious past and the uncertain present, in search of a new purpose.
In the documentary O Jovem Cunhal, João Botelho focuses on revolutionary Álvaro Cunhal, the symbol of Portuguese communism and a political giant of the 20th century. This is a detective film that examines the early years of the life of the historic leader of the Portuguese Communist Party. In between, excerpts from his own books are staged. The same director brings Alexandre O’Neill back to the cinema and, after Um Adeus Português, it is the turn of the short story Uma Coisa em Forma de Assim. Still in the Portuguese 20th century, SITA – a vida e o tempo de Sita Valles focuses on the life of the activist, anti-colonialist, and Communist Party militant. After the Portuguese revolution and an ideological split with her party, she wanted to contribute to the Angolan liberation movement (she was born in Luanda in 1951). She died at the age of 25, in 1977, in circumstances not yet fully known. Margarida Cardoso’s film brings together testimonials from political figures and portuguese society. João Trabulo’s film Lisboa, Cidade Triste e Alegre is based on the book of photography by architects Victor Palla and Costa Martins with the same name, considered to be a pioneering reference work in contemporary Portuguese photography. Um Nome para o Que Sou, by Marta Pessoa, reflects on Maria Lamas as a central figure in Portuguese feminism, based on the writing process of As Mulheres do Meu País, a work that intimately and meticulously portrays the condition of women in Portugal in the late 1940s.
The Cinema and 5L program, held in partnership with Lisboa 5L, Lisbon’s new Literary Festival, brings together five films where literature is the protagonist, whether through adaptation, interpretation, or the transformation of a text into cinema. This year there are recent films, such as Correspondências, by Rita Azevedo Gomes, and classics, such as News from Home, by Chantal Akerman.
The new films that look for inspiration and material in the heritage of cinema are in the Director’s Cut section, composed of 5 features and 2 shorts. Here, it is impossible not to highlight the screening of The History of the Civil War, by Dziga Vertov. Restored in 2021, the centennial year of the original documentary, the film follows the years after the Russian Revolution. Prism, by An van. Dienderen, Eleornore Eleornore and Rosine Mbakam – winner of the Best Feature Film Award at the last edition of the festival, with Les Prières de Delphine – starts from discussions and debates between the three directors to question the cinematic construction of whiteness and its relationship to power and privilege.
In 1982, the success of Stranger Than Paradise, Jim Jarmusch’s debut film, depended on the ability of producer Sara Driver to smuggle a copy of Cocksucker Blues, Robert Frank’s banned film, into Europe. The short film Stranger Than Rotterdam with Sara Driver is a hilarious reenactment of this story.
To close, an IndieMusic novelty – Meet me in the Bathroom, by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern, a fundamental film to understand the mood in New York before September 11th. Combining never-before-seen footage of bands like LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with intimate audio interviews, the documentary – inspired by Lizzy Goodman’s book of the same name, which in turn steals the title from a track by The Strokes – chronicles the end of rock ‘n’ roll through the bands that defined that era.
The entire program can be seen online, including previous press releases, and tickets can be purchased on Ticketline or at the festival’s box office starting on the 14th.