From the 1950s onwards, the work of António Campos (1922-1999) took a unique path in Portuguese film history. He directed a series of documentaries and fiction films, experimenting with the conventions of film genres, working mostly on the margins of traditional modes of production. For years difficult to access and relegated to the fringes of Portuguese cinema history, his profoundly original work has finally been restored and made available, allowing us to recognise his contribution.
Campos’s films were marked early on by an interest in theatre, poetry and literature. His first amateur films, made in the late 1950s, were adapted from short stories, portraits of the harshness of life in rural communities. In 1965, he directed The Invention of Love, based on a poem of the same name, a film censored for depicting the country’s oppressive reality. His subsequent work reflects these early films’ artistic freedom, creativity and social commitment. In the following decades, Campos made films about traditional arts and crafts and documented the landscape, people and customs of the central region of Portugal, where he was from and which became his chosen cinematic territory. He made original documentary films documenting rural Portugal in the throes of profound change and several feature-length fiction films dealing with the same themes.
This programme presents his work in the UK, focusing on some of Campos’s most important documentary work from the 1960s and 1970s, including a selection of his shorts. Two films from the 1970s, Vilarinho da Furnas (1971) and Talking About Rio de Onor (1974), are tributes to ancestral forms of communal living and rural labour under threat. People of Praia da Vieira (1975) is one of the most original films in Portuguese cinema and a striking document of the post-revolutionary moment in the country. The film alternates fictional and non-fictional registers, using images from his earlier films and approaching a fishing community’s history and daily life through interviews, literary texts and re-enactments. Campos’s documentary approach is entirely rooted in the present moment of the places and people he films, seeking, on the one hand, to preserve an image of what remains of traditional ways of working and living and, on the other, to reflect on the future of these communities and what makes them unique.
Programmed by Ricardo Matos Cabo and Raquel Morais.
Chagall – Shortly the Moon, the Full Moon, Will Show Up + Talking About Rio de Onor + Introduction
Thu 16 November 18:45, ICA
Falamos de Rio de Onor (Talking About Rio de Onor) is a chronicle about a remote border village in the northeastern region of Trás-os-Montes in Portugal, a country on the verge of revolution. The film focuses on agro-pastoral communitarianism’s remaining traits that characterise the village’s labour relations and the changes brought about by emigration and modernisation. Campos said: “… when certain situations no longer exist or are about to disappear, there’s no need to dig up a painful past. Rather, we must create a solid present to articulate the future”.
The screening opens with a short montage of images taken from details of Marc Chagall’s paintings, one of a series of films Campos made in the 1960s about art and exhibitions.
Chagall – Breve a Lua, Lua Cheia, Vai Aparecer (Chagall – Shortly the Moon, the Full Moon, Will Show Up)
Portugal, 1966, 10 min., 16mm (on DCP), colour, sound
Falamos de Rio de Onor (Talking About Rio de Onor)
Portugal, 1974, 63 min., 16mm (on DCP), colour and b&w, sound, Portuguese with English subtitles
Portraits of those on the banks of the River Lis + Vilarinho das Furnas + Introduction
Sun 19 November, 17.00, ICA
In Vilarinho das Furnas, Campos documented the last months of a small and isolated village in northern Portugal, which would soon be flooded by the waters of a new hydroelectric dam. The subsistence of this village depended for decades on a communal form of autonomous organisation and commoning. The same water that irrigated their fields would soon cover their homes. Aware of this situation, Campos wanted to make this film to preserve an image of Vilarinho. Campos filmed for eighteen months, recording the stories of the people as they slowly opened up to him and filming the place and daily activities with great rigour. The film is a political tribute to the site and the resistance of those who lived there.
Portraits of those on the banks of the River Lis is a short visual experiment about the people living and working on the banks of the River Lis in the centre of Portugal. This region would become one of the major themes and motives in Campos’s work.
Retratos dos das Margens do Rio Lis (Portraits of those on the banks of the River Lis)
Portugal, 1965, 10 min., 16mm (on DCP), colour, silent
Vilarinho das Furnas
Portugal, 1971, 77 min., 16mm, b&w, Portuguese with English subtitles
Painted Walls of the Portuguese Revolution + People of Praia da Vieira + Introduction
Thu 23 November, 18.30, ICA
People of Praia da Vieira is one of Campos’s most original films. It illustrates the life of a fishing community in the central region of Portugal, an area very familiar to the director. The film shows aspects of the communities’ migration from the sea to the Tagus River in search of calmer waters and their occupation of the riverbanks of the Ribatejo marshes, where they built small villages on stilts by the water’s edge. The film uses footage from Campos’s early amateur fictional films from the late 1950s and 1960s, as well as other narrative devices, to tell the story of the place. The film diverts from a rigid ethnographical portrait and instead discovers a new way to approach the reality of these people living in post-revolutionary Portugal.
The screening will open with another of Campos’s short films, Painted Walls of the Portuguese Revolution. After the revolution of 25 April 1974, the walls of the city of Lisbon became a means of celebrating and transmitting revolutionary ideals and slogans. The voice of the painter António Domingues praises these works. They were commissioned and produced by the Artists’ Unit of the Portuguese Communist Party.
Paredes Pintadas da Revolução Portuguesa (Painted Walls of the Portuguese Revolution)
Portugal, 1966, 10 min., 16mm (on DCP), colour, sound
Gente da Praia da Vieira (People of Praia da Vieira)
Portugal, 1974, 63 min., 16mm, colour and b&w, sound, Portuguese with English subtitles
Retratos dos das Margens do Rio Lis and Chagall – Breve a Lua, Lua Cheia, Vai Aparecer:
Digitisation by Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema.
Vilarinho das Furnas and Gente da Praia da Vieira:
Digitisation by Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema, under the frame of the FILMar project, part of the European Financial Mechanism EEA Grants 2020-2024.
Falamos de Rio de Onor and Paredes Pintadas da Revolução Portuguesa:
Digitisation by Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema, under the scope of the Recovery and Resilience Plan—a measure integrated into the Next Generation EU program.