One of the attractions of this lovely city is its rich cultural life within such a small size. Cinema is celebrated with many internationally recognised film festivals, of which DocLisboa and Leffest are two of the longest running. It is impossible to summarize, so here is my personal selection.
Lisbon has a run of film festivals in the autumn, including the Mediterranean, French and Italian festivals, but October/November is the high point, when the DocLisboa festival of documentary film, now in its 16th year, is followed a few days later by the 10th edition of the
Since then we have had a short Festival of Music in Cinema, the 7th edition of the Mostra de Cinema da America Latina which started on Dec. 8th, followed by Afro-Brazilian Experiences.
DocLisboa numbers increased to 26,000 visitors this year and the programme was more extensive programme. Over 11 days 259 films from 41 countries were screened, including 46 world premieres.
Over 10 days Leffest had 21,500 visitors and 231 films were screened in 10 venues. And Lisbon has been chosen as capital of Ibero-American Culture for 2017. All the festival websites have English as well as Portuguese or Spanish pages.
Music, history, identity
Calabria by Pierre-Francois Sauter, which won the City of Lisbon Award, is the story of two emigrants, one Portuguese and the other a Romanian singer and guitarist living in Switzerland, who have the job of transporting the body of another immigrant worker back to his village in southern Italy.
The two men’s reflections on life and the emotional singing of the guitarist provide the thread of continuity.
Luke Fowler’s film, The poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper and the deluded followers of Joanna Southcott looks at the daily routine of famous left-wing historian E.P.Thompson during the years when he taught evening classes in Yorkshire. The Prisma interview with Luke Fowler has already been published.
A retrospective of work by controversial British director Peter Watkins included The Gladiators, Punishment Park and La Commune (1999).
Watkins stopped working in the UK after the BBC commissioned and then suppressed his film about nuclear war.
Music from Fonko to Funky
This year the Heart Beat category included – Bowie, Man with a 100 faces, Esto es q lo hay: Chronicle of a Cuban poetry, and the new film Fonko, narrated by Neneh Cherry and the recorded voice of Fela Kuti, as a musical journey across Africa. Unlike many music docs, it doesn’t dodge the political issues, showing in fact the political dimensions of music.
I am the Blues (2015) by Daniel Cross takes the audience on a journey through Louisiana and Mississipi to meet the surviving blues men still playing, many of them in their 70s and 80s, some living in relative comfort others in poverty.
The film is a visit, not a staged show, and we hear the old boys talking frankly and simply about their lives and music.
Both films focus on the highly pornographic lyrics of Favela Funk music, and the very young audiences who dance to it inside these communities. Macho lyrics similar to those of Gangsta Rap, but simpler, and counterpointed by others where girls sing about boys in similar terms.
The so-called ‘playboy’ is viewed with contempt, as someone who comes from a rich family and puts on the style for a few hours before retreating to safety.
An extraordinary view of part of a world, the legal parties, where you can film without accidentally catching the face of a criminal and paying the price, and where Pikachu, is a 15-year old singer who drives the audiences wild with his explicit lyrics, while declaring that he himself is a virgin.
Rocco (2016) tells the story of Rocco Siffredi, one of Italy’s best-known porn stars, on his retirement aged 40, reflecting on the decision to make as much money as possible to lift his family out of poverty, as well as the way the internet has affected the porn industry.
A major part of the programme this year was taken up by an exhaustive retrospective of the of Godard’s films, and another section of retrospectives on Jerzy Skolimowski, Teresa Villaverde, and Emir Kusturica.
Among the contemporary films was Future Perfect, whose director Nele Wohlatz spoke to the Prisma in November: Learning to say “I” in broken Spanish.
Several other films in Official Selection were quite depressing, including Dogs, by Serbian director Bogdan Mirica, which tells the story of the bloody conflicts arising when a man inherits a piece of land from his grandfather who was a local mafia leader.
The biggest success, which took two prizes was The Last Family by Jan Matuszyński, the true story of one of Poland’s most famous painters, who obsessively films every incident of their family life, a story which includes the death of his wife and his mother, the suicide of his son, and finally his own murder.
Next week: Lisbon Cinema (2): Politics past and present
(Traducción de Lidia Pintos Medina)