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About the 2005 edition
Rural life, landscape, memory: we offer them as the subject matter(s) of cinema – and we therefore suggest that they also be translated, right from the start, through themes such as gaze, interaction (confronting the camera), movement, work upon space, and work upon time.
Along the way we will open doors upon other worlds, both large and small, which offer prospects for future debates: initiation to images, archival images, and the territory of cinema within the territory of images.
As a conclusion, before our final assessment, we would also encourage a return to some of the themes which extend throughout a number of the brightest examples of Portuguese cinema.
Transcription of the debates
Second debate, after the films by Maya Rosa and by Giuseppe Morandi
15th JUNE, WEDNESDAY
Filmes shown before the debate:
No Jardim do Mundo, Maya Rosa
I Paisan, Giuseppe Morandi
Catarina Alves Costa (CAC)
Maya Rosa (MR)
Giuseppe Morandi (GM)
Eduarda Dionísio (ED)
CATARINA ALVES COSTA: We have here Maya Rosa, Giuseppe Morandi, and Eduarda Dionísio, who we invited because she is one of the people most strongly connected to Morandi, who himself has been invited several times to come and show his work here in Portugal by the association Abril em Maio.
To follow, we are going to see Encounters, a work in progress by Pierre-Marie Goulet, a version of around half an hour made especially to be screened here. In this case there won’t be a discussion, it’s only to rouse curiosity in relation to the film he is making.
I suggest that we begin with Maya’s film [In the Garden of the World], which seems to be marked by the idea of someone who, while having some kind relationship with that subject, arrives from the outside and goes in search of a world that in the past would have been theirs. I also feel that the people are speaking to someone from a different generation; they tell stories about the past, namely from before the 25th of April, and in dealing with somebody younger they do this in a special way.
Maya also makes use of the speech of the Alentejo’s popular poets, which incorporates narrative – they are poems with a beginning, middle and end, that tell a story. I think that it would have been interesting if this were the only way that people spoke, because when there is the other, more informative speech, we feel a sort of loss.
The Alentejo was always, in cinema and in Portuguese documentary filmmaking, very connected to the issue of the revolution – the occupations, the cooperatives. I would like it if you could talk a little about whether these films from the past, from the time of the 25th of April, inspired you, if you relate to them in some way.
I would like to bring into the discussion the question of Maya being an outsider, because I think that this is where the film places itself. While Maya’s voice isn’t there, there is a presence that is questioning us, there is a search for people’s stories, and you feel this in the film.
MAYA ROSA: There are many questions in one, but I will begin by telling my story. I lived in Portugal for six years. I went to primary school in Évora, where I met some of the people from the film. I went to France when I was ten, but returned regularly. Alentejo’s history was always in my head; it is recounted (today not so much as before), but as many people are illiterate, I had the idea that this history was going to disappear without leaving any trace. For me it was important to preserve these words. As popular poetry is one of the ways through which illiterate people capture the past, I thought that it was part of this history. On the other hand, I wanted people to give their account of lives of suffering with the dictatorship and of revolt with the revolution. Today the younger people are not very interested, and I wanted to capture this. I think that, when you come from elsewhere, you feel a stronger need to do it. I know that there are many written works that bring together Alentejo’s poetry, but there are not quite so many films on the subject. I know that Pierre-Marie Goulet deals with song, which is something else. I didn’t deal with song, but instead with poetry. I also wanted to include testimonies because the poetry and people’s way of speaking mix – which is always very poetic, even when not in verse.
CAC: There is that scene in which the man is talking about something that they read for him from the newspaper and his description doesn’t seem anything like a newspaper reading, because he begins to describe a person speaking, “And so he said, and looked at the ground”; here we feel that there is a poetic discourse which frees itself and goes on from there.
MR: It’s important to know that Alentejo’s popular poetry is always presented with an introduction and a conclusion, that are not versified. There is a mixture of different kinds of speech, and sometimes you can’t easily tell what is the poem and what isn’t. When I present the film in France, people always ask what the boundary is between poetry and dialogue, normal conversation, which is difficult to perceive when you are a foreigner.
CAC: In your film it seems that the landscape is used a lot to counterbalance speech. The landscape’s aridity and emptying, in opposition to people’s speech, which is characterized by fullness. How did you begin to film? Was there an element of enchantment in looking at the landscape or was it immediately something to do with the people?
There is also the idea of a world that is going end (which is present in the films that we saw here in the first two days, and tomorrow we will continue with the idea of the dam). This urgency often leads people to film the elderly, ignoring younger popular poets – I don’t know if they exist, but I imagine they do.
MR: I didn’t begin with the landscape, I began with the people. Initially I wanted each frame to be inhabited by one person, who would normally be standing or working. The landscape comes afterwards, in the middle of the film, when the main character appears. It’s almost a desert landscape. You see few people like this in the middle of the Alentejo, like there were in the past, when they harvested. What you see now in the countryside are the machines, the landscape isn’t so inhabited anymore. I wanted this opposition between the inhabited shot and the deserted shot.
The films of the past... There is a film that inspired me a lot: Torre Bela, by Thomas Harland [and Jacques d’Anthony, 1975]. It takes place in the Ribatejo and through direct cinema shows the occupation of a large property. It begins with the landowner speaking and afterwards it shows how the workers occupy the land, try to live in a community and try to set up a cooperative. It was a film that greatly inspired me to go in search of these stories. When the older people spoke, the past and the suffering always came along, always... And many of the poems dealt with that reality. I therefore decided to concentrate on this period. Actually, the period of the cooperatives was very brief. People didn’t really explore this model. Many are disillusioned and don’t even speak about the subject. Rather they speak about a period in which they suffered and of the disappearance of a certain way of life.
About the younger poets, they exist, but it’s important to know that popular poetry in the Alentejo, a traditional oral form, has its origins in the fact that people didn’t write. These poets have hundreds of poems in their memory and can tell any one of them whenever they want, just searching their memories. And now many of Alentejo’s poets write, so there isn’t this urgency [for me] to record [that].
BRAM RELOUW: I think I understand why you didn’t, but did you even consider using footage of how it used to be? Going to the archives and have in between some pictures of how it was under the dictatorship or just after the revolution? And how did you find the people that are in the film?
MR: It was my choice not to use archive footage in the film. I wanted the word to be the medium for remembering the past. I wanted it to be an interview film.
How did I choose the people? I knew some of them, from when I was a child. For example, there is a neighbour of mine, who is with the sheep and painting the house. I knew other people from travelling all over the Alentejo. The work took a long time: seeing people, talking to them, conducting interviews four, five times on the same subject. It was in this way that the film was made. Some people I met purely by chance; others are well-known in the Alentejo: like the poet António Maria Coelho (who has already died and who speaks about the work on the birds). He is an old miner, from Aljustrel. I went to see him because his name is in all of the anthologies of Alentejo’s popular poetry.
LUCIANA FINA: In watching your film, I thought of the film by Sérgio Tréfaut [Another Country, 2000] which traces the history of images filmed by foreigners in Portugal, and where the capacity for communication – and above all of verbalization of the experience of revolution in the countryside – reached extraordinary heights, to afterwards be compared with the present, when the word now seems to no longer exist, to be negated by an impossibility and an incapacity. It functioned in the relationship between archive images, filmed during the revolution, and the present. It was a film that made me extremely sad, because it ended with the word negated. Through your film there was a rebirth of the word, through poetry. I thank you for having brought the word back after the revolution, in the present day. Thank you.
CAC: I will now give my colleague here on the stage a chance to speak about this, but also to discuss the films of Giuseppe Morandi.
EDUARDA DIONÍSIO: When you asked me to come here I was very pleased because, without being from the area of cinema, I could contribute in some way to make the debate more fruitful. But it’s complicated for me, because I would love to speak for four or five hours and I will probably only speak for five minutes, because it’s Giuseppe who should speak and not me. It’s also likely that Giuseppe doesn’t think the same things are important. It’s not only because I am here with Morandi and you that I feel this contentment, it’s also because it relates to Abril em Maio, an association which since 1996 has been working with Morandi, with his friends, and with the association to which he belongs (the Lega di Cultura di Piadena) and which put on two large exhibitions in Lisbon this year: one corresponding to I Paisan and the other of something more modern in him, which was Ventunesima Estate.
Despite having later shown these same films at Abril em Maio and having brought people along to discuss them, until now people from cinema – aside from big names that were associated with their diffusion – hadn’t shown interest in getting to know this work, which for them seemed to be something not made as cinema, but that was instead like a fish out of water. It is greatly satisfying to see people approaching an object, a construction, something completely original, when for almost ten years there was not, on the part of people working with images, great interest in getting to know it, in discussing it, or even in understanding if this was a model or an exception (I think that it isn’t a model, it’s an exception, and we can discuss this).
Precisely because I am a fish out of water I would first like to speak about other things and then get to the films. But after having seen them again here, I am tempted to begin with the films and then arrive at the other things, even because talking about the films will clarify a series of questions that were put forward this morning: whether one chooses or not, how does one choose, if the rural world is ending. (It is, I think; when those films were made, in fifty-something, El Pasturin is a world that is ending. So this isn’t exactly something of the present day.)
But before I wanted to say that Giuseppe Morandi made these films (and is making another film that is more important from the point of view of production and the industry), but he isn’t a filmmaker. That is, he is a filmmaker, but he is also a photographer, a writer with many published books, and was also a typist for the Municipal Council of Piadena (he continues to work there voluntarily). And above all he was a founder and worked for many years (and this has to do with the chronological gap that there is in this cassette, that is called a film, but there are many, of different periods and types, with different techniques, etc.) in the Lega di Cultura di Piadena. Giuseppe doesn’t exist without it and it doesn’t exist without Giuseppe. And, well, he is also a person and a very original one. There is a collective person inside this completely outside of the norm and exceptional person.
I brought some books of Alentejo’s popular poetry and books of Giuseppe’s (that are in dialect and this is important for understanding the films). He didn’t limit himself to speaking about the countryside and rural people and he usually laughs a lot because, at the moment, people are always looking for things from I Paisan when he is dealing with the present, immigrants, India, women, etc. This is a catalogue that we made, this is a very interesting book about the wall of Piadena, here are more things, but this is just to create a setting, because I like agitprop.
I will take up the conversation we had in Abril em Maio in 2002, for which, by chance, José Manuel Costa was invited, but he unfortunately couldn’t go, and Giuseppe also couldn’t go (we already knew that he couldn’t go because he was taking photos in India, not dealing with rural people from 300 years ago and the world ending and all of those things). The people who came to discuss the films were Micio [Gianfranco Azzali] (one of these men who you saw handling the cows, who is a few months younger than me, and with whom I talk a lot and who knows much more about the world, despite not having graduated like me a few years ago) and Jorge Silva Melo.
Jorge Silva Melo spoke about three or four subjects in Morandi’s films that I would like to repeat here (because I have a bit of a transmission job, right? I am not a filmmaker, or film analyst; I hear and see things, but obviously do not have any authority to speak about films). And as Giuseppe never answered him, Giuseppe doesn’t even know what he said, and as José Manuel Costa wasn’t there, I brought a cheat sheet so as to not waste too much of your time, and I will be the vessel of transmission for what was said there in 2002 (three years have gone by, but pretend it is the following day. These things relating to time are even fun, to have the present and the past, cinema, etc.).
Jorge Silva Melo began by trying to move Morandi’s films away from the issue of ethnology, where they easily fit. The meeting was called “Does Popular Culture still exist?” and it was neither about Morandi nor about cinema; there was a very large series of activities, and one of the activities was to show these films, raising this issue (for me it isn’t clear that it exists in the same way that it did when those popular poets did those things). What he insisted on was that it was Morandi’s art that interested him, and not the ethnological documents. Any ethnologist has a source there, a huge one, but this wasn’t what interested us, nor what interested him, and probably also in a documentary meeting it’s possible that it’s more than that, it’s beyond that.
Jorge Silva Melo said that Morandi’s originality wasn’t to film gestures that existed when he filmed (otherwise he couldn’t have filmed them) but that have now disappeared – which would be the said anthropological part – it was to film in a way that had already disappeared. And this is extremely interesting, because the already-having-disappeared does not mean that something cannot be taken up again, or that it doesn’t teach people, or have them look at the world in another way. And for him (and for me, but I am putting on the voice of the owner, because I like to), this other way that disappeared is for him to never put himself in the positions that they taught us in school (and the issue of the point of view is very important, as we saw this morning). And Jorge Silva Melo phrased it exactly like this: “that is, he doesn’t put himself in the position from which one has a better view.” He puts himself somewhere next to the characters, and I think that this is the big difference in relation to a series of videos that we have seen and will continue to see here (and it could be that others do the same thing): this point where the camera is set, which is the place where the person is, from which come points of view that are physical, technical and of the mind.
And what happens is that things also don’t have, for the same reason, the hierarchy of painting. Faces don’t exist there, or exist by accident, if they were found in the location where he placed himself, which was next to the other people who were there. And that’s why there are no characters, there are no individualized people, that’s why the face – which, let’s say, is that which says everything – doesn’t found a hierarchy, and that’s why he’s perfectly able to film people almost always from behind (and by the way Maya Rosa also did a little of this, which is not worrying about filming people’s backs), and to cut them in such a way that their heads disappear, are split, and what you see (and this is what is of interest for that work, because we’re dealing with work, and production, etc.) it’s the shoulder, the foot, etc. The body is cut in ways that are not those taught in film schools.
To look at these films in this way tells us much more than seeing whether people in Piadena still live in this way or not (it’s obvious that people don’t live in this way). And we can go even further and analyze other films that were already analyzed, comparing them to this.
I would like to add two or three things more, which take us to other things that aren’t the films. The sound. I think that it isn’t necessary (and today the discussion was very much about this) that there are words, that the person mentions the idea, for there to be thought, a vision of the world, and for us to be able to reflect on things. These films are silent, the sound is added later, or sound is recorded separately. (I’m not talking about the last one, which has a very curious situation with sound, all the meaning comes from the sound. I think it’s impossible not to see this, because the images are almost what Giuseppe said he would never do in his life, which is to film stones. He films stones, but these stones are of people, and the people are in the sound, and this is something that I haven’t seen in any other place.) The sound is very interesting because it’s natural sound, but not from the moment which is being filmed! That is, it’s natural sound that is transmitted, that is transported to a place.
I wanted to bring up Peter Kammerer, of whom I will speak in a little while because I think that it’s fundamental that people know the stories. (Why is it that there are geniuses? Because there are others who aren’t, and who help them to be geniuses, and this has to do with Camões and all of this.) They made an experiment at the Lega di Cultura di Piadina: they turned on a recorder in a house, from morning to night, which recorded everything: the sound of a door that closed, a tap opening, a person sneezing, everything in the same way. The sounds in these films have a lot to do with that practice and way of looking at the world, of acting in the world, of recording the world (because they don’t resort to those things that one buys, and that have the [sound of the] train with the whistle blowing – you put the train in that place; there wasn’t the little bird in the end – you put the little bird in). The sound was recorded in the same way as the image, but probably at another time. And afterwards they will meet, and this is very visible in the last film, which has another logic, other techniques. Therefore I think the issue of the sound is an analysis. It’s possible that later he [Giuseppe Morandi] will say that I only talk nonsense. I didn’t talk to him about this, but he’s free to say that.
Another issue is the dates of the films. It’s very strange: there are two films from ‘50, which are a block. Afterwards there are lots of films from sixty-something. The film from ‘64 is there at a turning point, but afterwards it’s ‘66, ‘67. Then there is a gap until ‘91. (And there it’s already a different technique, there is colour, everything is done differently, like people normally do things nowadays, therefore the last film is more normal, minus the exception which comes with the sound, in my understanding.) And this gap is the Lega di Cultura di Piadina working; it’s going to put on exhibitions of photography, of these films, etc. It’s impossible to look at these films as a normal career. This isn’t a career. But he didn’t stop here, in the last image that we saw. At the moment he is making a huge film that Marco Müller commissioned, of which he can speak afterwards.
Another thing that is very interesting is the question of the choices, which was raised today too. Here there are choices. And if the bigger choice isn’t probably made in the edit (because there are technical reasons for these eight minutes, there is a price and there is money, which is less true now, etc.), I think that the issue of what you choose to see (besides the choice of the place from which you see and that you already know is not that of the school) comes from the connections of the Lega di Cultura di Piadena with the intelligentsia, with the intellectuals, which is absolutely like no other. It’s an exception (I don’t think that there is another one, it could be that there are similar ones, in other ways, but there isn’t another).
Morandi began to photograph because Mário Lodi (who isn’t a photographer, he’s a pedagogue in other kinds of work) placed a camera in his hands. He never wanted to have a camera of his own. (His comment this morning concerning the issue of property, and of these paisan [peasants] being the opposite of the paysans [from Profils paysans: l’approche and Profils paysans: le quotidien, Raymond Depardon] had to do with this – we think that they are the same thing, because it seems like a translation, but the paysans are property owners, while these ones are salaried workers, and some weren’t even or didn’t even manage to be that.) Other people always lend the camera to him. At the same time, Gianni Bosio (another very important intellectual involved with ethnographic fieldwork) gives him a magnétophone, a hand-held tape recorder. They are pieces of equipment loaned by people from the intelligentsia of a certain period (from which, by the way, the Lega cuts itself off, because it cuts itself off the Communist Party). This doesn’t have anything to do with neorealism, even though the people are there; and there is a very strong connection to the cinema-cinema, because Pasolini is a reference for Giuseppe Morandi (it’s good to know that: this is documentary and Pasolini isn’t, but maybe they have something to do with each other). Incidentally, the first films, El Pasturin and Morire d’estate (the ones I like most), have little narratives running through them, that later on don’t exist any more. He has a very curious and personal relationship with Bertolucci (1900  was filmed in Micio’s house; when I was there parts of the sets were still there!), but there is a very large schism in the way he films.
GM: Everything that Eduarda said is true. I made these films mainly to give an image, some dignity and a name to those people who were the protagonists of life of my district of the Po, in Piadena. In a certain way, it was a challenge because my father was one of these people. He was a paisan, who were the lowest category in the working hierarchy of the forties and fifties, but who were the real protagonists of life. I was always on the side of those who lose, of those who don’t win, and I continue to be, namely of those I consider to be the new paisan: the immigrants, the Indians, the Senegalese, the Romanians, the Ukrainians that live there now, and about whom I did my most recent photographic work, La mia Africa. There was an exhibition in Cremona and people were waiting to see elephants and lions. When they realized that it was not exoticism but rather the Piadena of its inhabitants and immigrants, they became quite annoyed. They wanted exoticism, but for me, what interests me is the human.
LUCIANA FINA: Some sounds are captured during the filming, others come from the [Instituto Ernesto] de Martino archive. At what point did the sounds reach the images in this version?
GM: Most of the films did not have sound when I made them. The first one, El Pasturin, was only given a soundtrack in ‘99, before it was presented at the Venice Film Festival. Morire d’estate was shot in ‘57 and given a soundtrack in the sixties. The films made in ‘66, ‘67 have natural sound because Micio, president of the Lega di Cultura, recorded the killing of the pig, the duck, the horse, in synch. The last film, Il Calderon, was given sound with recordings from thirty years ago that were placed on top of images filmed in the present day, to show how work and the rituals of the agricultural workers from back then do not exist any more.
REGINA GUIMARÃES: Eduarda spoke about Giuseppe’s choices with the camera. For me, fundamentally, there are two ways of working with a camera: one in which the camera will confirm what you think you know about the real, and the other in which the camera will discover, in all of the senses of the word discover. And Giuseppe’s camera is a camera of discovery. This is very old and tends to disappear, because the marvel of the cinema as a form of knowledge of the world tends to disappear. The overwhelming majority of films made are completely academic. Even if people don’t go to school, they learn with television, in commercials or with any other kind of shit. Today we had a unique meeting. I can only think about great meetings with great filmmakers. This is really a unique meeting because this is a way of filming; I don’t know whether it disappeared or not, but for me it corresponds to this very rare thing that is the camera of discovery. And it’s completely different, compared to Depardon as much as to Maya Rosa’s film, in which the camera serves as a guarantee, perhaps a veristic one, in the sense that Barthes understood this collapse of the sense of reality.
GM: I thank you for your comments. In the sixties, I sent the photographs from I Paisan to Cesare Zavattini, who told me: “They are fine photographs, taken with the mind and the heart, but I don’t know how to give you suggestions for publishing them. In the Turin Club? I don’t know.”
The project I Paisan had its origins in a book, Un Paese, published by Zavattini with the great American photographer [Paul] Strand, who documented Luzzara, Zavattini’s village, which Strand had photographed. I wanted to photograph I Paisan with something more: the mind and the heart are important, but it’s also necessary to have consciousness of the situation, of the life of the people that we are going to photograph. Because it isn’t the photographer who produces and creates the image: the image is the result of an agreement between the person who takes the photo and the person who is photographed. I began by photographing them to the side, in profile, because I was ashamed to photograph them front-on, and also because they were very suspicious, and I didn’t want them to think that I was taking advantage of them. And when they perceived that in reality, my intention was to document their lives, I moved on to photographing them from the front. I believe that the images are a product, a result of my relationship with the paisan. When we don’t have consciousness of the situation of the person we are photographing, very funny things happen. I will give an example.
In Bertolucci’s 1900 there is a scene in which Depardieu climbs some stairs with a bag of wheat that weighs 90 kilos. He climbs the stairs with the bag on his back and then stops in the middle to flirt with Stephania Sandreli. It’s obvious that Bertolucci didn’t know that the bags weighed 90 kilos, because a paisan would never have stopped in the middle of the stairs to flirt with a girl! He would have arrived at the top of the stairs, emptied the bag and, on the way back down, stopped to flirt. They are small details that reveal the level of consciousness of the condition. Here, of the weight of the sack.
MR: I wanted to reply to Regina about the form of the films. I don’t think that exploration cinema has ended. There are many people making exploratory films for the simple reason that video now allows this, and there are many young people doing it. It’s just that they aren’t in festivals and they aren’t produced. This is a reality and it should be said. There are many things that are made all over the place, with new means, new ways of thinking as well, but that aren’t shown. In my film I wanted to show people standing still, looking at their faces and listening to what they were saying.
I have a question for Morandi, precisely about this difference between the photography he does – that is very facial, where you see the faces – and the cinema, which is much more arbitrary in the way that it positions itself in space.
GM: It’s true that today there are young people who film in a number of different ways. My films sat in a shoebox for 40 years, until Marco Müller arrived with Giuseppe Bertolucci and took them out of the box and screened them for us in the Cineteca di Bologna; afterwards they were transferred to video.
In relation to the question of the front or profile, it’s true that there are these differences that reside in the different relationship, in the knowledge that you have of the subject. It’s only when you know a person that you can photograph them front-on. The image is built on knowledge, with the heart, but at the base there is always a relationship with the subject. Afterwards what counts and what is meaningful is the use that you make of that image. You shouldn’t make personal use of it, but a use that serves the person who produced the image as much as the subject of the image. And which serves to make a condition, a situation known. It’s not only the person who takes the photograph or makes the film, but all of the people who are there, who collaborate and who appear. What really matters, in fact, is the use you make of the image.
SAGUENAIL: I would like to say to Maya Rosa in advance that I am terribly sorry, but I almost left the screening of her film – because I quickly realized that, on one hand, the static shot could be a new academicism in which (and this is more serious for me), the shot can even be enough in itself; it doesn’t need a shot following or a shot before, it says everything that matters, in some way. But above all it’s a film that I would call hellish, in the sense in which the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I also think that this is what Regina, in some way, thinks. I didn’t leave.
We can compare: you show the killing of a pig, Giuseppe shows a number of killings of different animals. The killing of the pig that you are showing is clean, it doesn’t tell us anything about the situation of the person who performs it, it becomes aesthetic, they remove the tripe in the cleanest way. I have filmed a number of them, so I can say that it usually isn’t as clean as this. Giuseppe is filming so close that it isn’t even aesthetic, not even exactly anthropological, it’s from the point of view of the person who practices it. And this point of view can be shocking for us. It seems to me that films made in this way enter into dialogue with a series of others, the fact that they don’t abide to cinematic conventions will allow this dialogue. For example, not only obviously with the hanging rooster in Land Without Bread  by Buñuel, I was also thinking of Rouch, because filming to the front and to the side was spoken about. Rouch, after The Mad Masters , where he was aware that, in some way, he had always filmed from the outside, insisted many times on the necessity of returning to film a trance and of finding the protocol that would allow it not to be the gaze of someone who doesn’t participate. And it’s from Tambours de pierre  on that he begins to theorize and systematize the method that he found. And it seems to me that this idea of the relationship with what is filmed is fundamental. Giuseppe can only do this because he knows it very well, he’s in the middle of it. In some way you are completely outside, you return to distant places from your childhood that are... I am speaking because I feel this problem, I am always, from the beginning, from the outside. I live in Portugal, I put my feet down here for the first time 20 years ago, I don’t have any local cultural references. But the aestheticism, the picturesque would always be an escape, would always be a denaturalization, the opposite of the possibility of penetrating things. I think that Giuseppe also manages... In relation to the last film, I thought of Boltanski’s film about the apartment in the Rue de Vaugirard [L’appartement de la Rue Vaugirard, 1973]. In some way, the experiences of memory end up finding similar solutions. I wanted to give my thanks for all of this.
MR: As Rouch said, this is an invéritable boucherie [laughs]! Rouch is one of my teachers, and I like him and his work immensely. When you are speaking to people, respecting them and filming them, a real relationship is created. I showed the film to the people, who were very pleased to see their words as clear as this, with a dignity and a lucidity that allowed the audience to see what happens in the Alentejo, and giving all of this presence to the people – and not to the filmmaker or the crew, because we were completely at their service. It was what I did, I don’t think that I created some picturesque coverage of the Alentejo for Elle Magazine; I really think that I didn’t, and they know it, I think.
I am quite disappointed to see that today there are only cinéphiles in the room, there is nobody from the Alentejo. We are in Serpa. I looked forward to this audience as well, because it’s there that there is real feedback, that is very intense. I’ve seen rooms full of Alentejanos almost crying and very moved, because there is real importance given to the people who are filmed, and not to my work as a filmmaker. Morandi was saying that, for example, he didn’t know people, but he must know them because they are people from his village. For me they are always telling me that I am an outsider, but I was with these people for a whole year, seeing them on an almost daily basis, speaking to them, living with them. I think it’s a little unfair this thing of being an outsider, because I was inside, I was there for one, two years, and they have given me a lot.
SAGUENAIL: Forgive me, but I think that you don’t see this in the film. Be careful with emotions in people see themselves on the screen; it’s very easy to obtain this emotion because the image, and even the word, is always being confiscated and negated. There is a lack of recordings, of images of these people. This is true. And when I say good intentions, I am not at all thinking that you wanted to promote yourself with this film. What I am saying is that, unfortunately, from my point of view, the film isn’t... Too often the film is at the level of an advertising dépliant. Forgive me.
IVO FERREIRA: I would like to ask Giuseppe a question. It seemed to me that in the last shot of the film, from 1991, there is a piece of music, a march from the liberation army. Is it possible that it is this piece of music? Tell me if it isn’t, and I would like you to comment.
GM: At the beginning of the film, you see something written on the wall, “Down with war, long live peace, all workers united for world peace.” It was written in the fifties by workers and salaried agricultural labourers against Italy’s entry into NATO. And you hear the International. Afterwards you see places where people used to work with the sounds of 30 years ago, which shows that now the same things are not happening in the same places. For example, now there are no cows, no chickens; where there were cows, now there is mushroom cultivation; now there is no corn, but you still hear the things that were said when the corn was placed in the sacks. The only one without sound is the house of the boss, of the chief, of the master, who isn’t there any more and therefore doesn’t order anyone around any more. And afterwards a question remains: what will the future be like? The future to which they aspired was a different society, a socialist society. But the future is the freeway, consumer goods, cars. And the music you hear is the workers’ anthem, and it’s there to say that what the workers gained is the their little car, the washing machine, these things.
KEES BAKKER: I want to go back to the previous discussion. I can understand your hesitation, but I don’t agree completely, because although both films show the killing of a pig, they have totally different functions. Like Giuseppe said, one of his films is wholly dedicated to the killing of the pig, to the people who handled it, to give them a name and dignity. I think Maya’s film is to show a tradition. Someone comes and says, “what you’re doing is illegal”. It shows the change of the situation nowadays, regarding the killing of pigs in that way. And apart from the change of methods and from what is accepted by law and what is not, in Maya’s film those people have, for their traditions and memory, the experience of how they lived and did things before. So in that sense the killing of the pig has a completely different function from the one in Giuseppe’s film, and so it should be valid in a different way. Giuseppe’s film made me think about Blood of the Beasts, by George Franju .
PARTICIPANT: That’s a validation I don’t agree with [laughter]… The function is not to give dignity to the people, but to make us, spectators, understand that there is the killing of the pig, that there are traditions. But it’s also part of the context of her film, in which there is change in society, tradition and memory, experiences, present day and future… So there’s really a different relation between the whole story of Maya’s film and that particular scene in Giuseppe’s film. It’s very difficult to make a comparison like that.
JMC: We have to be very quick, because we still have to watch Pierre-Marie’s material. As Eduarda said at the beginning, I would love to speak for hours about this, but certainly we will continue to talk about these films over the next few days. I would love to talk about a shot of Maya’s, but I will just say which one it is: it’s the shot of the two women with the chickens. I like it very much. Possibly more than others in the film. It’s a shame that it doesn’t go on longer, I don’t know if it was cut in the edit (I gather that it must have been).
Telegraphically, in relation to Giuseppe Morandi’s films, I think that in fact there is a radical difference in the physical, literal point of view, from the place where the camera is. It isn’t a question of the rejection of the aesthetic, it’s a rejection of the picturesque, or an alternative in relation to the picturesque. One of the films wasn’t spoken of here, one that has an absolutely overwhelming aesthetic effect for me, in which he films his own land and places Neapolitan song over it, using music with exactly the same concrete side to it that he uses with the sound track, like a material that is worked in the same way as the image, always in parallel with it. I thought that this film, especially the final part, with the panning shots of the river and the music, was absolutely overwhelming. I think that in all of his cinema there is a criterion of productivity, or rather, each film exists (and this is the refusal of the picturesque) because he wants to show something, a gesture, that he uses in its productivity, completely refusing to contextualize it in another way. It isn’t there to be part of another story, it’s there because he wants to show that gesture. I ask myself a lot about this jump between the films of the sixties and that last film, but I think that it’s this exercise of filming very much based on productivity that allows him to reach that last film and manage to be so concrete, to create such a great synthesis, which I think is absolutely admirable. Of the films that we saw (and in this aspect I think that the anthology made, I suppose with the direct involvement of the Bologna Cinémathèque, is an anthology that isn’t an innocent one in this respect), all of a sudden there is a jump to that last film which has all of the working methods that appear in the previous one: this work with the soundtrack on one hand, with the images on the other, but arriving at a point of concentration to the degree that it’s a kind of history of the century that ended. The whole film, from the first to the last image (he spoke of the graffiti, of the painting from 1950), is a little bit like what Bertolucci must have wanted to do with 1900. I think that in the beginning the film transports us to 1900 and then it takes us to the end of the 20th century, it’s the whole of the history of this century in there. And I return to my idea from a moment ago: it’s by showing less that you show more. There is so much in that film precisely because it’s in an absolute concentration, in a synthesis.
CAC: Unfortunately we are going to have to end this conversation. We will move on to Pierre-Marie Goulet’s film, a work in progress as I explained a little while ago.
JMC: Sorry Catarina. A moment ago, Alentejo’s popular poets were mentioned. I think that Pierre-Marie will talk about this, but it can’t be left unsaid that while we were talking a number of very important people entered the room who are going to appear in the film and also, I suppose, in the excerpt. I don’t know if Pierre-Marie is already here, but I think they should be presented because this is also a commentary, an answer to Maya.
PMG: This isn’t the film Encounters, they are just working fragments. I will only present 30 minutes. Maybe they won’t end up like this in the edit; they are just paths that I am exploring at this point. I gave in to pressure from José Manuel, who absolutely wanted to show some material. It isn’t a film. I hope to maybe finish the film for the next edition of Doc’s Kingdom. I also want to say that present in the room are some people who are very important for the film that you are going to see now, and they are Dona Virginia and Senhor Agostinho. Dona Virginia is a poet, a singer, and her husband helps her with this. And also two other people: António Cunha, who followed the whole process of the film and who is also the author of the photographs that are on the first floor, and Teresa Garcia, who has participated since the beginning, since the film Polifonias . What you are going to see is something that came out from the computer this evening, there is no mixing, there is no colour correction, and besides the sound in this room is very bad. I ask forgiveness for the quality. Thank you.