ApordocDoc LisboaLisbon DocsPanoramaDoc's Kingdom                                                                                                    

home         about        2018        archive       album       dear doc                              International Seminar on Documentary Film

year by year


Programme ...
Transcription of the debates ...
Film stills ...
Auxiliary texts ...
Who made it ...
Download catalogue ...

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.
2005 edition

Transcription of the debates

Fifth debate, after the film by Susana de Sousa Dias


Film shown before the debate:
Natureza Morta, Susana Sousa Dias

Susana Sousa Dias (SSD)
José Manuel Costa (JMC)
Margarida Cardoso (MC)

JOSÉ MANUEL COSTA: I am here most of all to say a couple things about the selection of this film. We are opening a door here to a path that previously hasn’t been dealt with at Doc’s Kingdom, and that we won’t deal with at length, which is work based on archive footage. We knew that in screening Susana’s film we would open up this discussion; we are studying the possibility of doing more consistent work in this area in a future seminar.
On the other hand, besides the issue of the specificity, of the materiality of this work using archive footage, this film deals with the topic of memory, which intersects with other films in this year’s seminar. Maybe it’s important to say the following to our foreign friends: in the days preceding the opening of Doc’s Kingdom, two people who influenced Portuguese history after the 25th of April died, Vasco Gonçalves and Álvaro Cunhal. I think that it’s difficult for the Portuguese people who lived through this period to participate in this discussion without having this on their minds. This film, in some way, brings up the theme of the memory of the Estado Novo in Portugal, and therefore in this too it mixes with this year’s experiences.
When I say that we are opening a door in bringing this film here, it is because we are aware that the issue of work based on archive footage has, over the last years, turned into an enormous field which, probably, is no less than the beginning of something greater still, that has evolved very quickly and which has almost transformed into a genre in itself. Susana’s film, while obviously not being the first film in Portugal of this kind (and we have another person on the panel who has already worked extensively with archive footage), seemed to be distinctive within this area; if not within the international panorama, certainly within the Portuguese panorama. Or rather, it can be seen that the making of this film reveals contact with other experiences that have been coming to light over the last few years, and one of them is obviously the very consistent careers of the couple Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi. But the work of Gustav Deuscht comes to mind, for example, as well as the work of various others who have created new paths and who are intentionally evoked by the film. In Portugal it seemed to us to be a film in which there is some kind of turning point in relation to this kind of work.
When I think of archive footage in Portugal, I always remember that the first person who began to work with this in Portuguese cinema (in the field of documentary, following the 25th of April) was Rui Simões in the first of his two feature films made at the time, Deus, Pátria, Autoridade [1976], in which he rehearsed, in an ironic way, the image-manipulation of the Estado Novo, of the previous regime in Portugal. Curiously, this side of the film (which was difficult at the time due to the compete lack of tradition and references relating to all of the new forms of documentary, a film that, as with many others, tried to mix a great number of references and did so enthusiastically, at a time when everything had yet to be said in cinema), was completely abandoned afterwards. That is, there were many militant documentaries but there were very few people who worked with this in the following years.
Little by little, the most recent made work with archival material came to be developed. For example, the work of Margarida [Cardoso] was important at this level, and there are many reasons for having invited her to analyze this film with us and to put forward some ideas for its discussion. I think that her work as a director of fiction and documentary intersects with this film in multiple ways. It intersects with the work’s fictional dimension, in relation to the memory of the Estado Novo, in relation to the colonial world. And also because Margarida has a film that developed these two things simultaneously: the film about the film archives in Mozambique [Kuxa Kanema, 2003] in which the subject is necessarily double, and also being a story of the independence of Mozambique, it cannot avoid being a story of colonial relations.

MARGARIDA CARDOSO: I liked Susana’s film very much. For the first time in Portugal I saw a film that is an expression of what I too am in search of, of what is in my work and a little in Susana’s previous work as well, and which is an issue for people of my generation: to question a past that, as you saw in the footage (which is very eloquent), is a past that is difficult to discern, that combines the ridiculous with violence... Colonial times affected me greatly (I was in Africa, my father was a soldier), and I never managed to understand them very clearly. All of my work leads in this direction of trying to question history. Susana’s work is a very strong expression of that, in the sense of seeing the images from a different point of view, from a personal angle, through something I sometimes did: the manipulation of the images on other levels as well (this word “manipulation” seems a little strange, but that’s what it really is).
I found Susana’s film very interesting on the level of content, but what called my attention was the manipulation of time: not at faster speeds, but through the extension of time, in which we can grasp an image. I think that it’s only in a couple of moments that the film shuns this: in the tracking shot where we see the photographs of the people from the PIDE archive and in the dissolve effects. Aside from this, the film is very coherent, especially with this issue of time. A little while ago José Manuel spoke to me of someone who had manipulated Godard’s film Contempt [1963], condensing it to one minute. This made me wonder whether to extend time was emphasize or to “stuff with content”, and whether to make things quicker and more difficult to understand was to “empty them” of this content. This film also makes us reflect on the way in which at present we are given images through television and through cinema: manipulation in the sense of things happening without us really noticing them.
The film is also a reflection on the issue of archive footage. There are people that have prejudices in relation to this kind of material, because it’s often used as if it was factual and historical truth. I don’t think there is any of this in these images; there is, as Susana managed to show, a human truth, the truth that is almost the ambiguity and the subjectivity of these images. This is very apparent in the film: the intrinsic truth of these images from the archive, but which also exists in those images that are not pre-existing, that we film. This is the specificity of the documentary: sometimes what appears in the filmed image escapes us and everyone in that moment – and appears afterwards, in the documentary much more than in fiction.
Often we say that history, from the moment in which there are images, was completely constructed; history came to be much more subjective and to have a different nature, which I think is much more interesting. We say too that today we know more because we see images, or that because we have images, we can know more. But knowing more does not imply the truth. It’s enough to look at soccer: sometimes, when you want to know if people are in an offside position, you never reach any conclusion, because there is an angle that we can’t see. Therefore there isn’t this truth, there is a great subjectivity.
Another question for Susana, and that I pose myself when I was working with archive material: the more the images lacked original concepts, the more truth they had when they appeared at a speed in which we could see them. For example, the image of the jeep, from behind, with the mirror... this image is very aesthetic. And when aesthetics exists, or there is a very strong concept... It was as if we were to use Leni Riefenstahl’s footage to do what you did. Maybe it was impossible. It’s a question that came up a lot in my work.

EDUARDA DIONÍSIO: I liked the film very much. Obviously I have a very different relationship with it from that of the majority of the people who are here. And so everything that I say has to be... You need to make allowances. Just as I too make allowance for other things.
It wasn’t exactly about the film that I was going to speak, but of things that you can speak about after having seen this film. And there are mostly three things.
One: I dislike, I hate, the slow motion (this kind of manipulation of time) and I hate dissolves. It’s something visceral, of my own. I don’t like them, because I think that we are also manipulating whoever is watching. But here I completely “swallowed” them, because I think they make some sense. They aren’t called special effects any more, because special effects are weirder than this; dissolves are normal (for me they are still “special” because I’m an old-fashioned person). And I think that two things are funny: one is that the slow motion makes us see things that we otherwise wouldn’t see, and so it has a function, something it doesn’t normally have when it’s done just for its own sake. The other is the treatment of the 25th of April being the same as treatment of the period before the 25th of April. I like it. But I accept that other people don’t. I think that these choices have a lot to do with the choice of slow motion and of the other special effect, the sound, which has an enchanting factor that from the start I also don’t appreciate, but I also “swallowed” that – I am contradicting myself in saying that I liked it.
The second thing is that I think the things that were said about this morning’s film [Birth of Seanéma, Sasithorn Ariyavicha], to which I am a thousand times more distant, could apply to this film. That is, I would like it if whoever made the comments on this morning’s film could see whether, in relation to this film (which is made out of archive footage and not from the filmmaker’s own research, it isn’t composed of material that the director created himself over four years), the issues of textures, of memory, of experimentation, and most of all of the draft (because this is probably a draft of something that will be continued) could apply in the same way, or not, being two films that seem to be opposing each other. This is more of a challenge for whoever spoke about this.
The third thing has to do with the question of the filmography based on archives, and it’s an issue that is very much in fashion today: copyright. In a general way artists defend themselves by thinking that, if they have copyright, they are more important. And films like this, and a filmography based on this, can only exist, I think, without copyright. Or rather, this is what allows you to work with everything. Making films with archive footage has to do with intellectual property. You pay, but not to the man who made that material, you pay the television network that owns it. If you make a minute-long Contempt, you either paid a man to ruin what he made, or he consented to you doing it, or else you didn’t pay and you are breaking the law, etc.

SUSANA SOUSA DIAS: The issue of copyright is in fact extremely complex when we work with archive material. In the film there was material from PIDE, from RTP, from ANIM, from the army, and I had to seek people out to get the copyright. There were enormous albums with photographs of prisoners that didn’t include names, and you couldn’t turn the photographs over to see who they were. Aside from the people that somebody recognized, there wasn’t any way of knowing who the others were. Otherwise, there were the statements, the written documents, the names, but you didn’t know to which face they belonged. It’s very easy to deal with political prisoners that everyone knows, the public figures, and get authorizations, but it’s difficult to seek out the rural people, the homeless, the mass of anonymous people who were imprisoned and who were forgotten by history. This was one of the serious problems that I had in making the film.
I can move on to another issue: history or the story. I tried to go for the small details, apparently insignificant things, and things that aren’t usually visible in the image. I did a lot of research in the archives, I had a lot of material. By the way, the final edit was 72 minutes long, but it only has 12 minutes of archive footage, and it was extraordinarily difficult to get to these 12 minutes. Hence the use of slow motion. The only way that I could show what was in these images in fact was through this effect.
The question of effects has been raised. Why is it that I used slow motion? Why is it that I used the fades outs? Why is it that I didn’t use more effects? Margarida said that there are only two moments in which two distinct things appear: a zoom out and the cross fades. In fact, this was one of my principles, and it was extremely rigorous. Archive material is very powerful, but also very fragile. It is a very delicate job to work with archive images, especially when they have to do with our history. The truth of the image was spoken of here. What is the truth of an image? I had to have limits, beacons, so as not to lose a certain rigour. Because it is extremely easy to manipulate an image. Therefore, as principles, I put formal rules into effect: the issue of the slow motion, to be able to show something (the backgrounds of the images, the details, things that are extremely fleeting), the reframing and the fade outs. For me the fade outs not only have to do with the separation of images that are part of different contexts, but also with the question of memory itself.
Obviously the memory of the 25th of April is very present in me. I was 12 years old, I wasn’t there on the 25th of April, but I was there on the 1st of May, I went on the literacy campaigns and I was in the countryside. Therefore it was a very intense experience, and all of a sudden, to make this film, the 25th of April became almost... a nostalgic situation. It was the past. It was a revolution that took place. This material speaks to us about a past, but it also speaks to us about a present.

REGINA GUIMARÃES: It’s very difficult to summarize my feelings in relation to this film. A first thing that it occurs to me is that, compared to this morning’s film (now that Eduarda spoke about this and I felt it concerned me), I think that the slow motion is the construction of memory. No memory functions in slow motion, obviously. Memory functions in flashes. Proust spoke very well about this when he spoke of this rubbish of the cup of tea and the madeleine. Memory, in any case, functions in relation to a basis of forgetting. From forgetting, we remember something. Therefore what you show is a constructed memory. From this point, what shocks me in your film is that there is a memory of oppression that is aestheticized. There is an aestheticization of oppression, and I have a lot of trouble swallowing this. An aestheticization that is also connected to a reading which is completely induced by the soundtrack, which introduces a dramatic side that I am not going to bring up here to comment on, because I think Adorno wrote very well about it.
Another thing, now a little less important, that shocked me in the film: if this is a systematization of a work made about the past, I don’t understand the function of the images of Salazar, because I don’t think they correspond completely to Salazar’s style. Salazar – I lived through fascism and remember this directly – was an extremely plain figure, who never played so much on the cult of personality, although he did the minimum, the parades and stuff. And also you don’t see images of what it was exactly to get people together to go to Lisbon for these parades. It seems to me that the film is very much from the point of view of the capital. There is absolutely nothing about the provinces, other than overseas provinces.
And something else that was extremely shocking for me is that it seems like the presence in Africa only has a purely war-like existence, or more or less philanthropic in those ridiculous images of the children drinking milk. You don’t see the economic warfare. There is nothing of the economic war that took place in the Portuguese colonies. So I ask if those images don’t exist.

SSD: I am not making a film about history. This is one of the central issues, as well as the question of memory. History and memory are always constructions. I am dealing with facts of the past, but what is a fact of the past? It isn’t something immutable, fixed — that is an epistemological myth. History is always a mediation between the past and the present. When I go to work on and with historical material, I will always count on the movement that goes from the present to the past. This was clearly acknowledged. I am not going to make an historical film; I am going to make a film that is perhaps going to be something more personal, hence the absence of words, the work with the images. What it is that the production of images by the dictatorship can show us concerning the reverse of that same dictatorship? This was one of the initial points.
Didi-Huberman has a phrase that is an extreme formula: “to see or to know”. That is, if we know something about images, there is always something in the seeing that is lost. On the contrary, if we only see, without knowing, there is a stable world, and an organization that is lost. And this was very clear in the options that I took: to see or to know. And I clearly took the path of seeing, that obviously also imposes conditions. There is a whole series of questions that I can’t deal with. The issue that you raised would be impossible from the outset, it wouldn’t even be within the horizon of the film that I proposed to make, because what I really wanted to do was work with images of the dictatorship. There was only footage filmed by elements sympathetic to the dictatorship (other than rushes that were never used in final edits). At any rate, it was extremely difficult. I tried to find in the images – which conveyed an image of the dictatorship, of the regime – symptoms that they had destroyed this very image that was being conveyed. It was work that involved minute detail and successive layers. This also relates to the issue that Margarida raised: the truth of the image. An image is always over-determined, it doesn’t have a univocal relationship with the real. I worked in these areas, not imposing a single interpretation, but trying to open things up to eventual readings.

CATARINA MOURÃO: I’m glad that you are on the side of seeing. This is what is strong in your film. What also impresses me is that you manage to find a balance (not a compromise, which always looks like something that determines what you do) between your seeing and our seeing, that is, between manipulation and space for other things. And in this I think that the slow motion has a very strong role, because, as Margarida said, to what extent is slow motion not this extension of content? I thought it was funny that, when you manipulate, you amplify and create new framings and use this slow motion. You are creating more grain, and it almost seems as if you are trying to find a truth beyond this grain, as if you were trying to see more and more. Of course it is always a completely subjective experience, but I liked it a lot.

PIERRE-MARIE GOULET: I wanted to comment on one thing (it isn’t a criticism): the oppressor, the dictatorship has access to the image and to representation. The resistance or the oppressed, because of the obvious reason of being clandestine, doesn’t have access to that image. Therefore the portraits that one sees of the resistance, that is the image the dictatorship gives us. The member of the resistance, the oppressed, didn’t have the possibility, I suppose, to put himself in the image. It would be mad to be underground and film oneself or film clandestine meetings. Therefore there is something amazing here: when one is oppressed, the image that one can show of oneself can only come from the oppressor. Then one can think about what might happen in that moment: what is the space in which we ourselves can make images, in relation to an oppression...

ERIC BURTHERET: To complete a little what Pierre-Marie just said, what really struck me is that in all of the propaganda images, no-one ever looks at the camera. Those who participate in the propaganda play the game. And so they act as if the camera wasn’t there. On the other hand, whenever one deals with the victims (I am not talking about the photos), for example the Africans, there, all of a sudden, there are people who look at us. The images look at us. And in a more ambiguous way, but very beautiful, that’s what we see in the photos: people who look at us. To go back to what you said, it’s true that nowadays there is another much softer, dominant ideology, a much softer tyranny than that of television, which enters into people’s lives. The more images we have, the less images we have that look at us.

JOANA FRAZÃO: I was with a group of people watching the film and it reminded us very much of a film (I don’t know if it’s one or many) by Santiago Alvarez, which is also made with archive footage, about the war in Vietnam [79 Springs, 1969]. And it reminded because of the contrast. Because in Alvarez there is... In Alvarez the image is dirty. And this has to do with the work with film (with the work with scratches, which makes the image less legible), with the aggressiveness of the editing and with the sound, which is also added on. And I think that this dirtiness is justified, because it’s in accordance with the event. It seems to me that this doesn’t happen in this film. Because there is a... I don’t have anything against manipulation, or against effects (despite not liking the slow motion either, or the fades), but I feel that here this doesn’t destroy the image made by the oppressor. The slow-motion camera doesn’t allow us to see; I think that, on the contrary, what it does is to aestheticize, as Regina was saying. Therefore, I think the memory that results from this isn’t a productive memory, it’s a nostalgic memory, which for me doesn’t have much use. Because I see those images, with that sound and those fades all the time, and the only thing I can think of is, “Those people died, this is already the past.” It doesn’t do much for me aside from that.

SSD: I don’t have an answer for that. I worked on the assumption that the film would be open to various interpretations, so I didn’t try to impose a reading aimed, with all the good and bad things that brings along. I perfectly accept what you are saying. It’s an opinion. I tried not to aestheticize the image, in fact. And I also tried to work with the issue of the degradation of the film itself. I didn’t look for the cleanest, the most beautiful, most perfect image. No. I found images on the way, through the meanings that I wanted to reveal in the film, that I intended to reveal. I didn’t choose the most perfect images in technical or aesthetic terms.

CARLOS RUIZ CARMONA: There is something in your images that really caught my eye, which is the ghost. You are showing these people as if it was a horror film or something like that, but in a ghostly way, the photographs have the look of something from the past. One of the things that I feel – and I don’t know if here in Portugal it’s like this, so it’s a question that I raise in general – is that there is a certain kind of amnesia. Or rather, we are a product of the past, of an emotional and psychological inheritance that passes from parents to children. What does salazarism, and these 48 years of oppression, without hope, mean? It’s an inheritance that is present in the younger generations as well as in yours. I think that this carries on, with more or less awareness of the kind of content, which is emotional and psychological in my understanding. In Spain it’s very present and I feel it in myself. And I ask if it’s something that led you to experiment with the images, in search of something, to create this ghostly appearance that is a little bit incomprehensible. What does this inheritance mean, in our lives and in out future, in the way we feel in our depression? Does this make sense for you?

SSD: Yes, it makes complete sense. I think there are a number of things that have been falling into obscurity. Despite everything, there is a certain amnesia nowadays in relation to the past. But I think that for our generation, Margarida’s and mine (for the younger people, they will have to say something for themselves), there is... I mean to say, we are a generation of transition. All of my primary schooling took place following the dictates of salazarism. I never went to the ex-colonies, but they are impregnated in my memory. It’s extraordinary. And anyone of our age has this. There is quite a burden, in fact, and we lived through the 25th of April when we were very young. For me, as I already said, it was an extremely striking experience. All of a sudden, Portugal changed: the contact with people, the happiness in the streets. It was extraordinary. You never forget that. It is an experience that you carry with you for the rest of your life. And therefore the question is to see what’s behind it, what happened. Let’s see it again. Basically that’s it.

IVO FERREIRA: I would like you to speak a little about the choices for the sound, because it seems to oscillate between a fantastic effect and illustration, and I couldn’t tell which had been the choice in the end.

SSD: I spent a lot of time in search of the narrative structure and of a way of telling the film. In fact, I spent a lot of time in search of the film. I found the images of the political prisoners in the PIDE archive in 2000. I used them in the other film, but I wanted to create a more intense work with them, but I didn’t really know what kind of work. In 2002, I began to think about the film and the script more intensely, and I searched a lot: “Will I or won’t I have interviews; will I or won’t I have off-screen commentary; what am I going to do?” Afterwards I felt that I had lost the film, and one night I heard a number of songs of my brother’s (the music in the film is from my brother, who is a composer) and all of a sudden that music, which was extremely spatialized, gave me the key to the structure of the film. In hearing it, I thought that I could construct a film following this arrangement.
Early on, when I wrote the project, I always spoke of rooms: the church, Salazar’s room, and I began to “spatially” organize all of the images with the music. The work with the film’s composer was curious. I began with a number of his songs to make the soundtrack, but sometimes used the same effects that I had used with the images, a sound slow-motion, and I superimposed various tracks as well. I edited the film and gave it to my brother, who recomposed the sound and made a soundtrack. The soundtrack came back to me, I went back and edited the sound and the images, and it went on like this for a year. The work was up and down, between sound and image. But the determining factor with the sound was precisely to find the structure. In the original score the notion of space and of the door as a form of transition was very present. This became a little diluted, even if it is there, but to mark spaces between various images that belong to different contexts. I didn’t want to subvert the meaning of the images and for that it was important to have a structure that created – and many times this was done with the sound – a break between one image and the next.

ERIKA KRAMER: I find this discussion very helpful and rich. And a film of archive, of a country, interests me very much: how Portugal sees that now, in history. It’s helpful for me to think about how I saw the film. What I appreciated in watching it… I’m interested in the slowing down because I’m able to read much better. And suddenly the word “read” is in my mind, and I think reading slows you down. It’s another kind of image than a visual one, when we read. And what I realised is that by reading the people slowly, they became depersonalised. And by depersonalising the image, the history of Portugal is lifted up to a place where I felt a little vertigo, a little bit destabilised, because very often I was seeing Salazar, this sort of – what you said – empty face. Just a simple image, and I could only see Bush. I could only see the creation of something horrible for me. What I’ve lived as a foreigner in relationship to Portugal over 30 years, seeing things move and watching my own country deconstruct. And people becoming depersonalized. I identified very much with portraits of… I could have been one of those people, in my lifetime. So they were personal to me, they were not depersonalized. I found my place among those people, which had numbers and columns. The police tried to dehumanize us, but the fact is that we were very personal to each other. When I came this morning to see this film, I thought, “why do I want to see this film now?”, and then there was the experience of living with it, and what it brought up for me, which was very rich and important in terms of here and now, in politics and reflection on society. History is very important to give us tools for the actions we take in our lives and in our future. So these films are really very precious, and I appreciate your choices and the way you speak about them. Thank you.

PARTICIPANT: I had a very strong impression this morning, and you have just confirmed it: in fact, these events, this oppression, you have lived them through the history of your grand-parents, of your parents, inside your mother’s womb, and I really had the impression, and perhaps I am imagining, of having lived all of these events through the filter of a mother’s womb. I believe that the aesthetic choices you made, particularly those relating to sound, are, from that point of view, very, very justified. So I think that when you are criticized, in the end, for these aesthetic choices, because they were the most justified for you... This was how you lived things. Were you conscious of this or is it that I...?

SSD: No!

ALICE ROHRWACHER: I, on the contrary, felt very closed-in by the sound. I felt that the sound only had one interpretation, that it restricted my liberty to interpret the images.

CATARINA ALVES COSTA: We are talking about the most basic thing in cinema: the triangle between the images, the person who manipulates them, and the one who sees them. It’s interesting to see how each person reacts to the film. The film manages to do something that is the function of cinema: produce an interpretation of things, giving space to whoever sees it. When a moment ago Susana said that you either know or you see, and when at the same time she said that she didn’t want to take the images out of context, there isn’t a contradiction. She is giving us a profoundly ideological and marked film, and either we enter into her view and identify ourselves with it or not. And this is a question that is raised by the archives. Archives are produced with a purpose, but then there’s everything else behind that: the people who are there by chance, and their gaze. It’s this gaze that suddenly becomes of interest, it isn’t the rest: the gaze of a person who is behind another person and who you only see because the image is static. That’s what we are looking at. This is very interesting, because in removing this context of the production of the archive image itself, Susana is giving us an enormous liberty to look and to learn. I liked the film very much because I went inside it and inside the gaze that Susana produced. But I accept that one doesn’t. I think that the film is very open. Although it’s very ideological, at the same time it allows these two things: a process of identification through the eyes of the director and a possibility of interpreting and learning about the images.
Susana once said to me, “Sometimes I saw things that the others didn’t see. And I realized that I couldn’t use this, because nobody else would see what I was seeing.” This is very interesting, because there is still what each of us sees – and he or she is the only one in the room that does. Nobody else saw it. And it has to do precisely with the fact of us working with history. There are people from different generations here that are going to see and feel different things.

SSD: Concerning what Erika referred to, Arlette Farge, a French historian, said that an archive can say everything and its opposite. It’s as if you were working on a razor’s edge: you can fall to one side or the other. What I intended was exactly to maintain this openness in the reading, to not impose a specific reading; so that people of different ages and nationalities would be able to resonate with these images and connect them to their own memories. It was always part of my idea to keep the film open enough, so that this could happen. I might have managed to do this or not.

REGINA GUIMARÃES: I have been waiting a very long time to say two or three unfashionable things. First: despite everything, I think that Marx’s definition of truth, the adequacy of the means to the ends, is still a good one. And this isn’t something as fluid as facts, obviously. Second: the contradiction between seeing and knowing is a sad consequence of Judaic-Christian obscurantism. The third thing: nobody builds from the present to the past when memory is constructed. An idea of the past is always constructed from an idea of the future. That’s why I allowed myself to make some remarks on the question of Salazar’s style. It’s very important for us to understand why it is that Salazar’s style lasted for 48 years, for God’s sake! We won’t get there by avoiding this question.
It seems to me that the film doesn’t help undo the myth of our colonial presence, which would have been better than others, and it’s not known exactly why – supposedly we are less racist, more miscegenated. I think that films are always ideas of the future, because the present is something that doesn’t exist. And the only part of memory that we can construct are ideas of the past. This is evidently fluid, but that doesn’t take away its truth. Because truth isn’t something definitive. Truth is what allowed Columbus to discover America by making a mistake, right? Do you see?

JMC: I have two or three remarks about things that have been said since the beginning. In relation to what Eduarda said about the ownership of the images: today, work with archive material isn’t work on non-fiction archives, on news and, in our case, on the archives of the Estado Novo anymore (in this film it still is, but in general this isn’t what we are talking about). There are very complicated issues relating to work with archive material and that have to do with ownership. One of the things that is obvious for me is that, at this moment, we have arrived at a point in which every image creator should be aware that the images they are creating are going to be permanently recycled by everyone in all the ages to come. And that we are not only making an archive of our memory of the Estado Novo, we are producing images that, in our lifetime, in the lifetime of their creator, will already be recycled by others if the possibility exists, if he allows it. But this raises many questions, because, despite the restrictions, there is a kind of ethical freedom that we feel in the manipulation of these kinds of images, which changes completely when we speak of great works of art or of the works that are being produced today. That is, where is this leading to?
I wanted to say something about the relationship with this morning’s film [Birth of Seanéma, Sasithorn Ariyavicha]. I think that we are on completely different ground: here we are on the field of cinema. In the first place, the material is archive material itself. We thought it would be interesting to screen the two films, in order to underline the contrasts. Some very superficial things that can appear to be common to both (the more experimental side, the black and white) are only ways of hiding a profound difference. Here, the work with archive material means taking that material and exerting violence on it, producing meaning in that process. It’s a body combat, a confrontation with a material that is the film itself.
There are things that I like very much: the way the gaze is filmed (there is another difference between the two films: the importance of the gaze, of the eyes of the people, of the expressions, of the angles, and how the film works with this), but it’s a meaning that she searches for in the manipulation and forcing of the images (there are gazes that she looks for that were never completely thought out because they are there at the back, and that are worked with in that progressive closeness). I like very much what I call the raccord of the fire, that raccord of the gaze towards the fire, and then I suppose that napalm is used as well.
I don’t like so much, for example, the way in which the image of Fátima is inserted at the end, before the 25th of April, because I think that it’s one of the few moments of the film in which you border on cliché. Fátima isn’t a cliché before. The shot of the highway with the women walking, for me, is not completely clichéd. The crawling at the end, before the 25th of April, is a cliché for me. I didn’t feel this dimension in the rest of the film. When I got to that part, I stopped. I think that there is something not completely resolved in this final part, which is a little more conventional. Maybe the whole ending of the film, I don’t know.
Also the question of the sound isn’t completely resolved for me. But there it’s a question that I am trying to resolve in my head, and that I can’t.
I don’t think that the film is an effect. I think that to manipulate archive material, like using slow motion, is a violence on these images that can produce meaning, as we said a moment ago. The person I mentioned before was Enrico Ghezi, who did these experiments on RAI 3 in a completely free way, but saying that even when you reduce Contempt to one minute you are still looking for something, you are going to butcher the work completely but, because there is a subject there, something is still revealed. It’s this body combat taken to the extreme. A prori, It doesn’t at all occur to me say that’s an effect. I am also extremely sensitive to the slow motion and to many other effects in cinema that in general I can’t stand, and here it seems to be something else. As for the music, I don’t know.

CARLOS RUIZ CARMONA: I don’t know what the problem is that people have with the slow motion, the effects and archive material. If someone has an idea, wants to convey something and does it with sincerity, in the best way that they can, I don’t know what the problem is with using slow motion. There are many effects that are used for their own sakes, not with sincerity, but to manipulate. Slow motion is something that is greatly exploited. But to me it doesn’t seem to be a problem. The manipulation of the archives exists, and archives are there for this reason, to be used. I see Susana’s film, allow myself to be influenced by the images, I create something else and this is an exchange, an evolution, we learn, we build up, and we grow.

SERGIO TRÉFAUT: I always sleep in archive films. There are those films by [Peter] Forgács with archives, in which I sleep. After a while, I find them all completely soporific. Above all when they are exclusively archival. I was really fascinated by this film. You had a capacity to handle the spectator’s attention between the sound and the use of the shots that impressed me. Each shot is great and magnificent! It’s true that those photographs are strong, but you chose the strongest ones and knew how to film them very well. The way you handled people’s fascination impressed me greatly.
I already knew an earlier version of the film – which I saw on a television screen, with a different soundtrack, edited in a different way, and that I had related to with a certain distance. I had felt that it was something closer to the universe of exhibitions, but here I didn’t feel that at all. I continue to feel that it isn’t a film for television, but it also isn’t a film that could easily be put in a theatre, being screened five times a day for two months. This film’s place corresponds to that of contemporary opera. The place for this film, for me, would be the São Carlos Theatre or the CCB. It’s quite spectacular, and capable of managing senses and emotions with an enormous mastery and I don’t see anything, in what could be the contemporary opera in Portugal, that would be as strong as this.

SSD: I am speechless!

Doc's Kingdom  |  Casa do Cinema, Rua da Rosa, 277, 2º - 1200-385 Lisboa, Portugal  |  +351 218 883 093  |  docskingdom@docskingdom.org