New Directors | New Films
Filmmaker of the Month: Pedro Magano

As we kick of the preparations for the 13th edition of FEST it is hard, if not impossible, to not look back at the long list of filmmakers that have gone through our filters and the success and hardships they've achieved and endured. As such the time has come to point a new spotlight on these young talents and present them to the world with a fresh new perspective. And so begins a path that will take us 10 months through the work and vision of 10 young filmmakers that have surely caught our eye and should be under your radar.

The talent under the spotlight in September is Portuguese newcomer Pedro Magano.



FEST 2016 witness the rise of one of Portugal's most inspired new visions, that was to take our jury's imagination by storm. The film was “Brothers” by Pedro Magano, the big winner of the Golden Lynx Award for Best Documentary Feature (trailer). In a culture frequently engulfed in nostalgia, Pedro Magano's perspective on one of Portugal most ancient spiritual quests, a religious trek along the misty and mysterious tracks of São Miguel island in the Azores, is surprisingly an exception to the rule. There is no discernible shred of the revivalist atmosphere that so often pollutes this sort of works, nor evidence of a will to indoctrinate the audience or impose any pre-defined set of values.


What appears to excite Magano in this tradition that has been taking place for over 500 years is not religion itself ,but instead an observational need focused on the physical and emotional experience of a journey that, as he himself puts it: “it is much more related to the faith of men than the faith in a deity”.


One aspect the director explored quite brilliantly in “Brothers” is certainly the characters and the Azorian landscaping, itself a character. Magano told us: “The nature of the Azores, untouchable, is almost as if it was painted by God himself. And the altruism of the people that walk for 300 km praying for everyone else” and their own nature “makes these characters very interesting and genuine”.


We shot it in 12 days. We rented a caravan and followed the pilgrims in their endless walk. It was very tiring, they begin at 4 am and only go to bed at 10 pm. The post production lasted another 7 months...It was a risky bet because we had no financial support whatsoever. We decided to do the film suddenly and in 15 days we were ready to get going with the shot. What i learnt the most with this project was that you can't leave for tomorrow what you feel you must do at that particular moment” - he added.


From a perspective of aesthetics, Magano also showed signs of a healthy search for visual discovery, mixing different techniques such as areal shots and slow motion sequences: “The areal shots were fundamental to ensure the greatness of the local landscape stood out and was in constant contrast with the pilgrims. The slow motion, on the other hand, attempted at bringing the audience into the dimension of the characters' inner journey”.


Despite such “cosmetic” confidence, when asked about if he feels he already has a personal film-making style he does not hesitate: “No, I'm just starting. In each project i reinvent myself and find new techniques. For instance, for my next film I'm looking to introduce a more philosophical approach to the narrative. It will be very different from my last feature documentary”.


Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of Magano's short yet ambitious work so far, and posture towards the art and world of film-making, is the fact that inadvertently he is swimming against the current. While most Portuguese filmmakers struggle to avoid a move towards Lisbon, where most funding and resources for film production tend to concentrate, Magano has no doubts in settling in northern Portugal, where he formed Pixbee, a production company based in a Porto suburb. “We love Porto and want to stay here. We have our own space and we've always managed to see our projects through. There is no advantage in being a young filmmaker in Portugal if you don't have a big distributor behind you. In Portugal we still lack the transparency in the distribution of public funding for film and there are too few distribution alternatives, specially for documentaries. We are on the constant lookout for new talents, wherever they come from. We believe in collaborative cinema. In fact, at the moment we are distributing a short film (“Vigilia”) by another young talent, called Ana Mariz (herself a past FEST Training Ground participant), that premiered in Indie Lisboa this year. Like this we begin new partnerships and projects, creating a sort of synergy”.


Pedro Magano is currently finishing a new documentary, “Special – Um Mar de Distância” (trailer), about the forgotten graves of Portuguese cod fisherman in Greenland and Canada during the 1960's, a production which already has a Portuguese distribution deal as well as TV broadcast agreements. He is also preparing his first fiction short film to be shot in early 2017.


The success of “Brothers” has certainly opened new doors for the young Portuguese artist whose undeniable talent and thirst to pick up the camera are surely good enough reasons to keep him constantly under our and your radar.