The Portuguese film scene is living a golden moment at international festivals, which is not always reflected in commercial movie theatres. Their groundbreaking proposals, merging reality and fantasy, have become a lesson on how to confront the economic crisis through imagination and craft. Cinema Jove wants to recognize this young and brilliant generation of filmmakers by giving the Luna de València award to its most emblematic example, director Miguel Gomes (1972, Lisbon, Portugal).
“Gomes is one of the most personal, restless and revolutionary voices of contemporary filmmaking. His presence at the festival adds great quality to the programing, because his films move beyond narrative productions to become works of art,” considers director of Cinema Jove, Carlos Madrid.
The Filmoteca has programmed a complete cycle that includes the six feature films he has directed so far, as well as two short films selected by the director himself: A Christmas Inventory (2000), inspired by personal memories of Christmas dinners in Portugal during the 80s, and Cantico das criaturas [Canticle of the Creatures] (2006), where he updated, in a musical journey, the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.
A film inside a film
The Lisbon-born artist worked as a film critic from 1996 to 2000. At the beginning of the 21st century, he released a collection of eccentric and refreshing short films that were selected at numerous festivals such as those in Locarno, Rotterdam, Buenos Aires and Vienna. Those early pieces displayed the key elements of his filmmaking: his visual, stylized and sensual approach to storytelling that merged documentary style and fiction; his inspiration from musicals and silent films with a playful perspective, where dialogues become as relevant as music; and, lastly, stories that are fragmented into two or more parts.
His debut in feature films took place in 2004 with the musical comedy The Face you Deserve, where he used traditional fairy tale characters to sarcastically portray the process of maturing into adult life.
In 2008 he premiered Our Beloved Month of August at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, where he surprised the critics by blurring the lines between reality and fiction in a summer tale that is, at a time, a love triangle and a playful example of a film inside a film. His participation in this prestigious section opened the door to over 40 festivals, where he received many awards.
His following film, Tabú (2012), was also widely recognized and received the Alfred Bauer and FIPRESCI Awards at the Berlinale, as well as the Best Film Award at the Festivals of Gante and Cartagena de Indias. In this film, the Portuguese director recalled Murnau’s 1923 classic about the southern seas to tell an impossible love story framed in the context of colonial Africa.
“I am interested in common stories as well as fantastic ones, and I like to take elements from one into the other, even if it strengthens contradictions. What bores me of a large part of contemporary filmmaking is that it appears to be a score with a single note, played repeatedly,” stated Gomes during the premiere of the film in Buenos Aires.
Ambitious Arabian Nights
Cinephiles definitely surrendered to the Portuguese artist’s work in 2015, with the premiere of his metadiscursive trilogy Arabian Nights. The three films include a total of six hours that can be watched independently. Their titles are The Restless One, The Desolate One and The Enchanted One. As a group, they shed a sharp critical view on the political, economic and social crisis Portugal suffers, through the rewriting of traditional Middle eastern tales.
Throughout the story, parade bankers who have abused Viagra, exploding whales, escaping sirens, ghost dogs, forest fires, rural traditions in crisis, criticism to the health system, praises to Benfica, survivors with no jobs, Chinese immigrants cohabiting with Portuguese police people…
“I more worried about filming what interests me at a certain moment in my life than about perfection,” explains Gomes, who is currently preparing his next film, Selvajara, where he adapts the novel of Rio de Janeiro author Euclides da Cunha, Los sertones. His new filmic experiment will display a bloody episode of history that took place in 1897 between the inhabitants of small village Canudos and the armada of the young Brazilian republic.