Curtas de Vila do Conde 2014

Seventeen titles were shown in the national competition section of the 22nd Vila do Conde Short Film Festival (5-13 July 2014). The selection proves that local production is alive and kicking, putting up a strong resistance at a time of crisis, and eager to challenge genres and preconceived formats. Ukbar Filmes and Bando à Parte, besides the already habitué O Som e a Fúria, are among the production outfits backing the new talents of Portuguese cinema. These are Cineuropa’s favourite seven short films of this year’s competition:

Hospedaria (Inn) by Pedro Neves
Production: Red Desert
Director Pedro Neves (Água Fria) presented the interesting experimental documentary Inn, in which he films an abandoned hotel located in downtown Porto. Its 14 bedrooms once hosted families, prostitutes and short-term guests. Now everyone is gone, but remnants of their presence remain: unmade beds, old furniture and all manner of objects such as toys, ladders, posters and clothes. Neves’ camera focuses on the spaces and their details, filming a world that no longer exists but still trying to inhabit it once again through sound. Each visual frame comes together with an audio recreation of what might have potentially happened there: arguments, sex, domestic violence and so on. All actors are off-screen. The whole film was shot indoors except for its last sequence, which is a static view of Porto’s buildings and rooftops, as if echoes of that particular inn were now spread all over town.

Le Boudin by Salomé Lamas
Production: Salomé Lamas
Salomé Lamas was awarded at Vila do Conde in 2012 with her documentary A Comunidade and at DocLisboa that same year with her portrait of a legionnaire in No Man’s Land. She now continues the exploitation of that same theme in her new short, Le Boudin. The film combines the testimonies of two legionnaires. Sixteen-year-old German Elias Gleisser assures us he did not enlist himself in the French Foreign Legion: “Someone enlisted him” instead. He recounts his experiences, facing the camera – Lamas’ questions were cut out, but it is possible to have a stab at them. Gleisser’s testimony is mixed with that of a Portuguese legionnaire, Nuno Fialho. We know nothing about this second individual apart from his experiences of killing. As for the rest, Lamas leaves it all to our imagination. Fialho is never filmed; we simply hear the slow pace of his speech and we picture him as being old and sick. Inevitably, even though he has escaped, we wonder if Gleisser’s path will be similar to Fialho’s. Disturbing and minimalistic, the film leaves no room for judgement.

Levantamento (Survey) by Jacinto Lucas Pires
Production: Take it Easy
Mostly known as a writer, Jacinto Lucas Pires came up with a fragmented script for a poetic, film-lover’s project featuring nothing but a man and a woman – and an old house under reconstruction. Actor and theatre director Tiago Rodrigues and actress Paula Diogo star as a sort of fictional extension of their own personas and interact with each other in a choreography of cinematic references, which evoke Jean-Luc Godard and Federico Fellini. A love letter to cinema expressed in experimental tones.

Os Sonâmbulos (The Sleepwalkers) by Patrick Mendes
Production: O Som e Fúria
Featuring a dystopia, an automated world in which a factory feeds on its own work force, Patrick Mendes’ film stands as an obvious metaphor of the neo-capitalistic attitude towards employees and its inhuman vision of the work force. According to Mendes while he was introducing the film in Vila do Conde, Os Sonâmbulos was his own creative reaction to a long period of unemployment he experienced in 2013.

Miami by Simao Cayatte
Production: Ukbar Filmes
Getting famous is Raquel’s biggest goal in life. Sick of being refused in auditions, the suburban teenage girl embarks on a more radical plan to get there: killing one of her schoolmates, and deliberately being caught. Based on a short story, which is inspired by a real life event, Miami’s theme might be over treated these days (in cinema, TV and reality shows) but the film still manages to stand out as one of the most accomplished titles of this year’s competition. With a concise and well-structured narrative, Cayatte’s draws the portrait of a dangerous obsession and allows young actress Alba Baptista to deliver a powerful performance.

Fortunato – D’Aqui Até S. Torcato by Joao Rodrigues
Production: Bando à parte
Described by director Joao Rodrigues as a “a mini-rural epic of 22 minutes”, Fortunato – D’Aqui Até S. Torcato is a tragic-comic road movie following a man in search of a solution for his financial problems. On his way up the mountain to meet “The Master”, Mr. Fortunato will find himself involved in folk traditions, which Rodrigues chooses to shoot in satiric tones. Actor Ivo Bastos finds the perfect comic timing for his lead character, swinging between despair, hope and innocence. The end is a bit of a turn-off though.

Taprobana by Gabriel Abrantes
Production: Mutual Respect Productions
Often refereed to as Portugal’s biggest poet, Luís Vaz de Camoes had a troubled life whose several phases were always object of doubt among historians. Camoes might now be turning over in his grave as director Gabriel Abrantes evokes his exile in Goa, depicting a hedonistic man engaging in a coprophagic and drug-addicted lifestyle. Partially shot in Sri Lanka, Abrantes’ film takes advantage of luxurious landscapes and wild animals to convey the exotic retreat of Camoes. Ironic and daring, the film will upset the most moderate minds but will certainly please those allowing themselves to embrace the director’s exhilarating creative freedom and inventive plot.

13 July 2014, by Vitor Pinto