Short Films for Long Days

8 April 2020
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In this moment of responsible seclusion and social isolation, in which the world we know seems temporarily suspended, one of the things we miss at this time might be, among many others, the possibility of visiting a film theatre and letting ourselves be taken away by the prospect of a movie. While we wait for the return to normal days, it seems important to keep in touch with this habit, even if now in a virtual way. Agência – Portuguese Short Film Agency has carried out an initiative with the title “Short Films for Long Days” to precisely help close the distance to the cinema as place of community and sharing, presenting several short films by Portuguese authors in a virtual space.

Curtas Vila do Conde is associating itself with this initiative with a program that celebrates the short film format and presents some of Curtas' productions over the past few years, from international authors (titles that will be made available in the first week of the cycle) and national authors (films made available in the second week), thus enabling the (re)discovery of these works. These films count as an important feature a connection to the northern region of Portugal, and some of them even have a direct relationship with Vila do Conde, where they were filmed. This program makes it possible to discover not only part of the recent history of the festival, but also the region where it takes place.

Curtas recently announced the postponement of this year's edition to a new date, from the 3rd to the 11th of October, and this will be a way of keeping the festival's audience connected to Curtas' films, while we wait for news. The films will be placed online in this space [https://vimeo.com/showcase/short-films-for-long-days], and the different titles will be released in the coming days, joining the list. Thus, we hope to contribute in some way to reduce the longing for cinema and keep the conversations around the films, even if not outside the auditorium, so that we can all be closer.

“The Dockworker's Dream” by Bill Morrison:
"In 2015, Curtas Vila do Conde brought together filmmaker Bill Morrison and the band Lambchop for an unprecedented project of a film-concert, created from the director's research in the ANIM’s archives. The visual and sound result of this initiative and the success of the concert led to the production of a short film. Kurt Vagner took the opportunity to explore, in a long song entitled ""The Hustle"", krautrock sounds and vintage electronics hitherto barely visible in Lambchop’s discography. The film was also an important feature in the promotion of the album “FLOTUS”." (Miguel Dias)


"Night Without Distance” by Lois Patiño:

"Filmed in the hills of Gerês, on the border between Portugal and Galicia, “Noite Sem Distância” seems to be situated between two worlds, on the border between the lingering description of a practice that has been repeated since forever and a strange sensory and hypnotic dream. The representation of the passage of time is precisely one of the central themes of Patiño's filmography, which here portrays a night just like so many others, in which contraband traveled through that region, as a succession of several moments that are expanded, removing its specificity of time and thus creating a timeless, almost sacred, serene beauty. The use of a negative image filter gives the film a transcendental and illusory aspect, but it also serves to transform the characters into indistinct figures, as if ghosts-witnesses of nature, figures that blend and intertwine with the elements around them or “traces of souls in the landscape”, as Teixeira de Pascoaes wrote in the poem quoted at the beginning of the film. A journey from the real to the poetic, this is also a small fable about the resistance of memory." (João Araújo)

 

This film was produced by Curtas Vila do Conde within the scope of the CAMPUS project, an audiovisual training program in university in partnership with several Portuguese universities in the Porto area, which promoted workshops and masterclasses with important names in contemporary cinema (national and international) and resulted in the production of films like this, with the filmmakers working with a team composed of university students.

"Fernando Who Received A Bird From The Sea” by Helvécio Marins Jr. and Felipe Bragança:
"A beautiful and candid parable about preconceived ideas and unlikely friendships, Fernando Que Ganhou um Pássaro do Mar", filmed between Bairro das Fontainhas, in Porto, and Rio Janeiro, tells us the correspondence between two uknown friends, which begins when Fernando, in Porto, receives a bird sent across the ocean. This exchange of letters, which is actually a monologue at the beginning, reveals a game of mirrors, in the sense that it begins by revealing reflected ideas, possibilities of what we imagine to be on the other side. It is 2013 and Fernando, unemployed, divides his time between a small apartment with few conditions and the café on the corner, while he complains, by letter, of the bird that does not seem to be a great gift but that helps to alleviate the loneliness. Fernando imagines a paradisiacal Brazil, with its hot water beaches, mermaids and indians in their palaces, and that is exactly what we see on the other side, the fantasy idea of a Brazil imagined in the eyes of a Portuguese at a distance. Only later is this image reversed to represent contemporary Brazil, where money and poverty flow at the same time, creating huge gaps. Suddenly the palace turns into a house similar to that of Fontainhas, and the metaphor, hidden in the beginning, becomes evident: with the approximation between the two starting points, we realize that the two are after all closer than they could imagine." (João Araújo)



The film, which had its international debut in the Forum section of the Berlinale, is a production by Curtas Metragens CRL, in co-production with Duas Mariola, which thus established a bridge between emerging structures in film production in Portugal and Brazil, in the context of a sharp crisis in Europe and film production in Portugal. 

“The Miracle of Saint Anthony” by Sergei Loznitsa:
"miracle (noun):
1. Supernatural fact opposite to the laws of Nature. 2. Portent, wonder, prodigy.
The blessing of animals that takes place every year in mid-June, in the village of Santo António de Mixões da Serra, in Gerês, a tradition according to which local farmers take their animals to the Church, seems in everything to be contrary to the laws of nature, with a religious mass dedicated to these animals. At least once, animals are also entitled to participate in the cult, side by side with the saints, and the unusual spectacle of a procession of horses being blessed is a small visual marvel. Sergei Loznitsa, an ukrainian director who alternates between documentary and fiction and often seeks a balance between the two, is one of the authors with most presences in the international competition of Curtas, and awarded in 1999 for the film “Life Autumn” and in 2001 for “Polustanok”. More interested in people and their customs than in the enunciated miracle, Loznitsa returns to explore through a curious look the possibilities of a film focused on anonymous faces, a crowd of devotees who thus gain prominence. Accompanying this ritual in a solemn way, this is a sincere portrait of how an ancestral tradition is still celebrated today, bringing the community and its animals together in the streets of this mountain village." (João Araújo)
 

This film was produced by Curtas Vila do Conde under ESTALEIRO, a continuous platform for cultural programming between 2010 and 2012, which aimed to create a hub of creativity, bringing together creators and audiences at different times. During these two years, ESTALEIRO produced several films, organized workshops and exhibitions, and provided several concerts in the city of Vila do Conde.

"Vila do Conde Extended" by Miguel Clara Vasconcelos:
"Following the exhibition of his film "O Triângulo Dourado", awarded for best film in the national Short Film Competition in 2014, Miguel Clara Vasconcelos proposed us a production whose base would be composed of found footage and amateur films in super 8 or 16mm, shot in Vila do Conde, interspersed with a fictional part filmed today. Our enthusiasm was total: for some years we had been talking about a project of research and digitalization of material with images of the city, forgotten reels of film somewhere in attics and old trunks, but still without a concrete destination. Miguel's idea was the motivation to start this project, which took the form of an artistic residency to be explored in two ways: a film, which would be called "Vila do Conde Espraiada", and an exhibition in the form of an audiovisual installation, integrated in the program of the Solar - Galeria de Arte Cinemática, and which was assembled in Centro de Memória, called "Onde o Coração Se Esconde", in a double reference to two great writers with a connection to the city, José Régio and Ruy Belo. According to the director, "the memory of Vila do Conde is also the memory of my mother. When she passed away, I had a vertigo. The time spent in that town seemed to disappear abruptly, to escape, to die in me. In the 2014 edition of Curtas, I realized that it was urgent to work on this sensitive, magical matter, which is childhood and which was for me Vila do Conde".

 
"Vila do Conde Espraiada" reappropriates these small films to, from then on, build a narrative based on the revisiting of childhood and youth memories, especially of the 1980s. It is a fictional autobiography, alternating images from the present (fiction) and the past (documentary), where the right option to shoot in 16mm strengthened the cohesion between the images. Also, the thread of the narration is quite captivating: the recording of a tape cassette, in the form of a love letter with songs in the middle, for a girlfriend who is far away. The words and the images create, in a poetic language that we already found in other works of the author, an emotional attachment that mixes the love story with the memories of dispersed events, some important, others apparently insignificant, but they are the ones that make us what we are today, and that can never be dissociated from a certain place, a certain city or landscape. In a remarkable way, the film still integrates the political commentary of a time full of convulsions, not renouncing to the point of view of a child's understanding, and improved by the use the archival footage of the political graffiti that were common at that time in all Portuguese cities. One of the happiest ideas in the film is the relation between rich and poor children (who for Miguel as a child were the "boys of the avenue" and the "boys of the wasteland", since they lived in huts that could be seen in the wasteland at the back of the garden of his house).  In addition to the political freedom recently gained, there is also an idea of lost freedom, that of childhood. It could be just an adventure on a bicycle ride beyond the road sign indicating the entrance to Vila do Conde, or an impenetrable event in a camping tent outside the city limits. Or, as the director/narrator says, "the freedom of children lies in not understanding a lot of things, not sacrificing themselves for money or suffering from love"." (Miguel Dias).  

"A River Through the Mountains" by José Magro
“No man can enter the same river twice, because when you enter again you will not find the same waters, and the man himself is no longer the same. The aphorism is Greek, but it applies to the main character of this film shot in the Chinese city of Hancheng, about a man in a process of personal discovery. This is a story about this man, very young and still looking to find love in his life, as he wanders through the rainy streets of the city as if he were roaming a river to which he would not return the same, transformed by each previous encounter. We listen to his thoughts, his memories and impressions about different feelings, about the different aspects that love can represent for him, obsessed with the idea of something he hasn't yet found. A delicate and melancholy portrait of an instant in a long sentimental journey, and even with some humor in the way it plays with some precepts of what is expected from a film about romance, always under the sway of a careful and insightful gaze. As the song we hear during the film says: “living in a kind of daydream”.” (João Araújo) 


"The Glory Of Filmmaking In Portugal" by Manuel Mozos
Starting from a historical fact at least curious - a letter that José Régio wrote to Alberto Serpa, expressing his interest in founding a production company to start making cinema -, in The Glory of Filmmaking in Portugal, Manuel Mozos rehearses a fake documentary where he reconstructs a possible involvement in film art of one of the most important Portuguese intellectuals, José Régio. With an exemplary screenplay by Eduardo Brito, the film actually materializes what could have been one of the most curious cinematographic experiences of Portuguese cinema. A historically fabled exercise, but one that, for that very reason, leaves us to navigate the possible alternative chronologies of History. (Daniel Ribas)



This film was produced by Curtas Metragens CRL, in the context of its Campus program, involving students from film schools in Porto. 

"Mahjong" by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata:
"The ESTALEIRO project worked as a continuous platform for cultural programming between 2010 and 2012, which aimed to create a hub of creativity in Vila do Conde. During this period, ESTALEIRO produced several films, organized workshops and exhibitions, and provided several concerts in the city. The film production proposed to some directors different perspectives about the region, and the duo João Pedro Rodrigues/João Rui Guerra da Mata appropriated the Industrial Area of Varziela, in Vila do Conde. This is where the most significant Chinese community in northern Portugal resides, offering an opportunity for the authors to continue their Asian-inspired films, where "Mahjong" echoes, above all, with "A Última Vez Que Vi Macau". In both films, the initial documentary look is soon abandoning any pretensions of a realistic portrait of a space, giving way to a plot marked by the film culture of its authors, which plays with recognizable codes of film genres, especially film noir and suspense. In "Mahjong", these elements appear filtered by hypnotic delusions and by a dissonant tension that seems to want to mislead the spectator all the time. What seems to be an investigation close to crime films, gives way to a parallel reality, where mannequins take the place of human beings, where birds and flowers are made of plastic. Spectral illusions of enigmatic women and the night in that industrial desert of identical streets increase the mystery, which long sequences at the wheel of a car deepen, sometimes being reminiscent of "Vertigo". Luís Fernandes' excellent soundtrack, also with Hitchcockian echoes, underlines this metaphysical and meta-filmic search. More than looking for the cardinal points of a story where, in the good tradition of film noir, the secrets to be revealed are more relevant than the fragile convictions of the spectator, we embark on this stimulating and aesthetically dazzling narrative as in a game, joining the available elements as sets of mahjong stones.” (Miguel Dias)



“A Road As a Street" by Graça Castanheira:
Starting from Álvaro Domingues' iconic book, with the same title, this film seeks to map the concept advanced by the geographer: the idea that national roads are configured to be places of dialogue between salespeople and travelers. The range of visual resources used by these houses turns the road into a suggestive street, establishing its own aesthetic, eminently kitsch. The poetry of A Rua da Estrada is at the crossroads between a consumer culture and a homogeneous mischaracterization of the long kilometers of national roads. This film was produced by Curtas Metragens CRL, in the context of its Campus program, involving students from film schools in Porto. (Daniel Ribas)



"Starting on March 17th, in the midst of a state of emergency, the “Short Films for Long Days“ initiative, from Agência - Portuguese Short Film Agency, to which Curtas Vila do Conde later associated itself with a special program, ran until the past May 19th. In these two months, 22 films by leading authors, mostly Portuguese but also with some foreign participations, were made available online free of charge, and reached over 25 thousand views, a significant number that reflects the demand for cultural objects in a period of mandatory confinement.
At a time when we are asked to stay at home, culture asserts itself as an essential asset, whether it be literature, music or cinema, it helps to keep us connected to the world. It is a way to escape the routine in troubled times, a company to ease the passage of time and reduce distances in times of social isolation. It is vital to make this valuable recognition of culture, and in this specific case of cinema, in the form of the films that were posted online, so that everyone who was at home could have contact with a central part of Portuguese culture, which has been distinguished and awarded throughout the world. We would like to thank all those who have generously contributed their films to this initiative, always considering that a film is also the result of a common effort by a team of directors, editors, producers, scriptwriters, actors, directors and technicians of photography or sound, illustrators, colorists, translators, decorators, electricians, among others. This is a sector that constantly lives in a situation of instability and precarious labor, whose important contribution to the common well-being must be recognized and supported by all, because it is important to know that when we need culture, it is there for everyone." (João Araújo)

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