The courage in art, the overload of digitalisation in the world, and a nostalgia for a more human time of simple emotions - these were the themes that permeated the vast majority of the selection for the National Grand Prix at the 17th edition of FEST, all of it with a Portuguese imprint.
Directors, producers, actors, and members of all film disciplines flocked to Casino de Espinho’s film theatre between Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th to celebrate the communal experience of cinema and to extend on the 22 works in competition.
“We don’t want the film to be holding the audience’s hand, telling them how to feel”, were the words of Lucas Elliot Eberl who, alongside the Portuguese Edgar Morais, directed one of the headliner films and recipient of an honorary mention by the festival’s jury. Filmed in Los Angeles, We Won’t Forget is an exercise in uncomfortable cinema, and a think-piece and criticism of the surveillance society under which we live, where any episode can end up being filmed and permanently registered online.
This saturation and worry over the digital world was a recurrent theme in the line-up. Alberto Seixas, director of Hunting Day, confessed that the choice to shoot on Super8 film came from a need to break free from the rising digitalisation of today’s images. In Annexus, Claudia Moreno deconstructs the commodification of the female subject by a visual, consumerist society.
Even so, the pandemic did, on the other hand, emphasise the benefits that technology can bring. Sobrevoo by Rúben Sevivas, Uma Mulher Com Uma Câmara by Tiago Iúri, and Como Gado by Matilde Calado were all projects born out of the isolation of quarantine and the feat of filmmaking within four walls, with minimum equipment.
Perhaps also due to the extreme situation of the last year and a half, nostalgia filled a big part of the films in competition. In O Voo das Mantas, Bruno Carnide unites past, present, and future generations in an exercise inspired by his own family life. Tália by Pedro Cruz and David Gomes and Mulher Como Árvore, by the quintet of directors D. Cajías, H. Faria, F. Ferreira, C. Tortosa e A. Miguel, document the lives of two women from Portugal and Spain’s countryside, that fight increasing loneliness and the disappearance of tradition. This latter title was also given an honourable mention at the National Grand Prix competition.
Likewise, the animation short Casa 52, with great emphasis on past times and familial bonds, and from Espinho in its totality, directed by locals Helena Bernardes and Margarida Rocha, brought emotion to the theatre room. Just like this title, that has Espinho as its protagonist, Musgo by Alexandre Guimarães and Gonçalo L. Almeida likewise centred the Trás-Os-Montes region, and the big winner of this competition, Miraflores by Rodrigo Braz Teixeira, offers a raw yet humoristic exploration of this Oeiras neighbourhood.
Miraflores convinced the jury at FEST with a script of great emotional urgency and an intelligent mix of gross comedy with more subtle and unexpected humour. The brilliantly captured images of the Miraflores neighbourhood under the sun and the intimate shots of the various characters completed this awarded film.
Article written by Francisca Tinoco.
Photographs by Emily Romero and Vitória Moleirinho.