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Arrested History: New Portuguese Cinema

November 13, 2013 - November 17, 2013


Portuguese cinema has long been noted for its formal audacity and inventiveness. Yet it is only recently that filmmakers have begun to interrogate the dark period of Portuguese history that “ended” in 1974, after four decades of dictatorship and the Colonial War. The films highlighted in this series consider these historic events and their ongoing ramifications with intelligence and imagination, often straddling fiction and documentary forms.

In films by Susana de Sousa Dias, Miguel Gomes, Salomé Lamas, and João Pedro Rodrigues, history is investigated and performed: soldiers and former political prisoners provide testimony, others are questioned about the past, and fact and fiction intermingle as memory does its work. Likewise, when records of the past are examined—personal and state-produced photos, propaganda films, historical documents, the remnants of buildings—they provide glimpses into recent history, but may also reveal how the state stages that history. This awareness is underscored by many of the filmmakers’ references to cinema and its construction. Fiction seeps into reality and reality into fiction, and both are seen as ways of seizing upon truths about Portugal’s changing society.

We are delighted that filmmakers Susana de Sousa Dias and João Pedro Rodrigues will join us at screenings of their films, in conversation with Nuno Lisboa, who is codirector of Doc’s Kingdom Seminar and teaches at Escola Superior de Artes e Design, Caldas da Rainha.

Kathy Geritz, Film Curator

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
7:00 p.m. 48
Susana de Sousa Dias (Portugal, 2009). Susana de Sousa Dias and Nuno Lisboa in conversation. De Sousa Dias’s remarkable, hypnotic film is composed of photographs taken upon the arrest of political prisoners during the forty-eight years of the Portuguese dictatorial regime. (93 mins)

Thursday, November 14, 2013
7:00 p.m. No Man’s Land
Salomé Lamas (Portugal, 2012). (Terra de ninguém). Introduced by Nuno Lisboa. A former mercenary in Mozambique, Spain, and El Salvador sits in an abandoned building, and tells the story of his life. “That you don’t need more than one riveting talking head and a little intelligence to make a terrific docu is amply demonstrated by No Man’s Land” (Variety). With Andreia Sobreira’s short 1971–74. (110 mins)

Saturday, November 16, 2013
6:00 p.m. Tabu
Miguel Gomes (Portugal, 2012). Introduced by Natalia Brizuela. This mysterious work shifts from modern-day Lisbon to a Portuguese colony in Africa in the 1960s, from life lived to life remembered. “One of the most original and inventive—as well as trenchantly political and painfully romantic—movies of recent years” (Richard Brody, The New Yorker). (118 mins)

Saturday, November 16, 2013
8:30 p.m. The Last Time I Saw Macao
João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui Guerra da Mata (Portugal/France, 2012). (A última vez que vi Macau). João Pedro Rodrigues and Johnny Ray Huston in conversation. Guerra da Mata and Rodrigues refer to their genre-shifting tribute to both multicultural Macao and von Sternberg’s Macao as “an investigation disguised as a film noir.” “The Last Time is a movie to both get lost and to delight in” (Slant). (85 mins)

Sunday, November 17, 2013
3:30 p.m. Ruins
Manuel Mozos (Portugal, 2009). (Ruínas). U.S. Premiere! Mozos’s fugue film captures the decaying beauty of the Portuguese landscape, as seen in contemplative long takes of ruined buildings and voiceover narration of documents from different eras. Awarded best Portuguese film at IndieLisboa, 2009. (60 mins)

Sunday, November 17, 2013
5:00 p.m. Still Life
Susana de Sousa Dias (Portugal, 2005). (Natureza morta). Susana de Sousa Dias, João Pedro Rodrigues, and Nuno Lisboa in conversation. In her poetic first film, de Sousa Dias delves into a fascinating array of archival images from the period of the Salazar dictatorship. With Rodrigues’s new short The King’s Body. (102 mins)

Curated by Natalia Brizuela, Catarina Gama, and Kathy Geritz. Presented with support from Camões, Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua; Consulate General of Portugal, San Francisco; UC Berkeley’s Portuguese Studies Program; and Luso-American Foundation, and in conjunction with the UC Berkeley conference Cinematic Times, which will be held on Friday, November 15, and Saturday, November 16. Research made possible by an Andrew W. Mellon Research Grant awarded to Brizuela.