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UTOPIA – UK Portuguese Film Festival – Women and Film

The countdown to Utopia – the 6th UK Portuguese Film Festival has officially begun. The festival returns November 17 to 22, 2015 featuring a surprising selection of great cinema playing in three exceptional venues across London.

2015 marks the departure of renowned and acclaimed director Manoel de Oliveira, who died at the age of 106. Believed to be the oldest active filmmaker de Oliveira had a career that spanned nine decades from the silent era to the present. Two gems from Oliveira’s extensive filmography were specially selected as a humble tribute to celebrate the author´s immense oeuvre. His final 2012 feature Gebo and the shadow (Gebo et l’ombre), a French-Portuguese co-production adapted from Raul Brandão’s 1923 The Hunchback and His Shadow, which was shown at the 69th Venice International Film Festival and deals with grief and anxiety. According to Oliveira himself, despite the play remaining largely unknown outside Portugal, it was a key influence on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the difference here the ´Godot´ figure as a prodigal son’s absence discussed by his father, mother (Claudia Cardinale) and wife. Je rentre a la maison (I am going home), starring Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich is the other pick from Oliveira’s filmography to be shown at the festival. Voted one of the 10 best pictures of 2001 by Les Cahiers du Cinéma, the film gave Oliveira a Palme d’Or nomination at the Cannes Film Festival 2001. These two very special screenings at Ciné Lumière are a rare opportunity to watch the late Manoel de Oliveira on the big screen. Oliveira’s outstanding work will undoubtedly remain an inspiration to generations to come.

In addition to celebrating such an emblematic figure of Portuguese and worldwide auteur cinema, the 2015 festival program focuses on the theme of Women and Film, aiming to bring to international attention strong contemporary works by female filmmakers. Charismatic Marta Pessoa will be attending the festival to present her poignant documentary on a topic that, 50 years since the beginning of the Portuguese colonial war in Africa (1961-1974), is still as delicate as it has always been. Who goes to War portrays the women who lived through and took part in the war in many different and relevant ways. The director will also be taking part in a debate on ‘the invisibility of women in film and in history’, together with major specialists in film, gender and history at Birkbeck University of London.

The festival returns once again to the ICA to première Catarina Ruivo’s Second Hand and Margarida Cardoso’s Yvone Kane. The latter a co-production between Brazil, Mozambique and Portugal. These two thought-provoking films are part of the celebration of Portuguese female directors; both rare artistic objects and exceptionally strong cinematic narratives. Countering an industry that is dominated by male directors, the festival takes the challenge of contributing to  finding an answer to the crucial question of how the work of these talented women filmmakers has remained largely unseen and unacknowledged, both internationally and at home.

Once again in partnership with TAP airlines, the festival is offering two return flights to Portugal. The winners will be announced by Christmas. The Portuguese Embassy in the United Kingdom and Instituto Camões in Portugal support the event. The full festival listings can be found at: http://www.utopiafestival.org.uk/

A tribute to Manoel de Oliveira
TUE 17 | 8.40PM
(Je Rentre À La Maison)

France/Portugal 2001 Dir. Manoel de Oliveira 90’
With Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich

This tender and touching story centres on Gilbert Valence, a stage actor, whose life is stricken with tragedy when he is informed that his family has been killed in a road accident. He takes great pleasure in comforting and taking care of his surviving grandson who has lost his parents in the accident. (in French & English with English subtitles)

FRI 20 | 6.30PM
(Gebo et l’ombre)

France/Portugal 2012 Dir. Manoel de Oliveira 95’
With Michael Lonsdale, Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau

Despite his age and general weariness, Gebo keeps on working as an accountant to provide for his family. He lives with his wife, Doroteia, and his daughter-in-law, Sofia, but it is the absence of João, son and husband, that worries them. Gebo seems to be hiding something, especially to Doroteia, who is anxiously waiting to see her son again. All of a sudden, João arrives and everything changes.  (in French with English subtitles)

THU 19 | 8.50PM

(Em Segunda Mão)

Portugal 2012 Dir. Catarina Ruivo 110’

This is the last we will see of the late Pedro Hestnes in a film, one of the most charismatic Portuguese actors of his generation. Pedro Hestnes was first brought to the spotlight as Vicente in Blood (1989), the first feature of internationally renowned Portuguese director Pedro Costa. In Second Hand, Pedro Hestnes plays an emblematic, if discontented, writer of erotic pulp fiction, who finds himself trapped in a film noir story. The film depicts landscapes and architecture with a truly artistic sensibility in strikingly beautiful shots. The story, a complex thriller, is also enriched by the characters portrayed by João Grosso and Luis Miguel Cintra. This is a unique opportunity to see in London the work of upcoming filmmaker Catarina Ruivo.

SUN 22 | 2PM

Portugal 2014 Dir. Margarida Cardoso 117’

Margarida Cardoso and Beatriz Batarda collaborate again after the award-winning The Murmuring Coast (2004) in a fascinating feature shot on location in Mozambique. Following the death of her child, Rita (Beatriz Batarda) returns to the African country where her mother (played by the Brazilian actress Irene Ravache) still lives, now as a doctor and former political activist trying to fight her colonial ghosts and sickness. As they both search for redemption and try to salvage their relationship, Rita decides to investigate the life of Yvone Kane, an ex-guerrilla fighter and political activist whose death has always remained a mystery. A truly cinematic film and a rare portrayal of the role of women in african politics. Unforgettable.

BIRKBECK COLLEGE (University of London | School of Arts)
SAT 21 | 2.15PM
(Quem Vai À Guerra)


Portugal 2011 Dir. Marta Pessoa 130’

Forty years after its abrupt conclusion, Portugal´s colonial war is still a sensitive and opaque topic, with narratives built mostly around male protagonism, as if only the men had been veterans of war  and only they became its victims. A country at war: could anyone not be affected by it? The unexpected stories this documentary has pieced together, along with the charismatic personalities of its storytellers, trigger in us the desire to know more about the history of the colonial war and about the role of women in it. Who Goes to War? is told by those who were left behind to wait, those who surprisingly chose to stay on the war front with their husbands and those who ran onward to rescue the soldiers from the front lines. This film is an unveiling of women´s role in colonial history while, at the same time, a rare insight by a woman filmmaker on the topic of war.

SAT 21 | 4.30PM
ROUNDTABLE: On The Invisibility of Women in Film and History followed by a Q&A

An must-see debate, where major specialists in film, gender and history debate, together with the director of ‘Who goes to war?’ Marta Pessoa, the invisibility of women in film and in the histories of colonialism and war. The debate will open up to questions from the audience after the round table.


ICA (standard £11, members £7, concessions £8)
Ciné Lumière (standard £11, members £7, concessions £8)
Birkbeck College (free entrance)