«We believe in the higher potential of the in-person encounters»

DOCLISBOA / Co-Director Miguel Ribeiro on the challenges, trends, and current Doclisboa experience.

The 19th Doclisboa takes from 21 – 31 October 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Doclisboa wants to question the present of film, bringing along its history and assuming cinema as a mode of freedom. By refusing the categorization of film practice, it searches for the new problematics that cinematic image implies, in its multiple ways of engagement with the contemporary. Doclisboa tries to be a place to imagine reality through new modes of perception, reflection, and possible new forms of action.

Modern Times Review spoke with Doclisboa Co-Director Miguel Ribeiro on the challenges, trends, and current Doclisboa experience.

After nearly 2 years of pandemic-affected event organizing, what did you continue to find difficult in setting up the 2021 event? What did you learn from 2020 to implement this year?
Until quite recently, the whole edition was prepared with a certain level of uncertainty. Restrictive measures are now easy in Portugal and mobility is again possible from a wide range of territories, which is amazing and it will be an even more open and collective festival than we could anticipate some months ago. That’s something we are very happy about. Many filmmakers and colleagues are coming to Lisbon and there’s very good energy to it.

Regarding the 2020 changes that we kept and intend to keep for future editions, there is the online version of Nebulae (our industry space). The way digital tools helped more people to connect and take advantage of the possibilities offered by Nebulae made it an even more diverse and inclusive space last year. There are more restrictions for mobility than the pandemic-related ones – busy schedules, financial capacity, to name a few. We believe in the higher potential of the in-person encounters, we all thrive for that and the physical space of Nebulae is being prepared with great enthusiasm. In parallel, knowing that everyone will be able to join even if they cannot come to Lisbon is something that will definitely benefit the quality of the programme.

Although some 100+ films are programmed, is this number still a decrease from past years. If so, is this decrease pandemic related?
No, this is something that by the time we closed the programme we were already sure that we could bring back the usual size of the festival in regards to the number of films screened. We are screening 249 films of all lengths and they are organized according to the usual sections.

What sort of criteria make up a «Doclisboa» film? From a programming perspective, what are you looking for?
We are very interested in films that are built from an attentive act, films that engage freely with the world while convoking cinema for this. Every year we try to build a window through films that come from an engagement with what they bring along and don’t refuse risk when looking at and reflecting about.

This is also something we investigate in the history of cinema to build dialogues between films that are being made today and films from past times. This year, we are presenting full retrospectives of two filmmakers who have always been unafraid of seeing in imagination and desire a place where one can try a different perspective – Cecilia Mangini and Ulrike Ottinger are two great examples of what we see as inspiring in film.

We are very interested in films that are built from an attentive act, films that engage freely with the world while convoking cinema for this.

How do you balance the programme throughout individual sections? Of course, many sections have been part of the festival for a long time, but what purpose does each serve regarding the wider festival experience?
We see the sections in the festival as possibilities. Each one of them designs their own ideas but we expect borders to be diffuse and anyone who visits different sections of the festival will be creating their own maps and possibilities.

In New Visions we build broader dialogues between contemporary filmmaking and films from the past, we experiment with our own programming practice and we also invite others to programme. This year, we have 2 invited directors – Edgar Pêra and Michael Pilz – and each one is presenting a new film of theirs and programming another session within the festival. We also invited Mathilde Rouxel, that was at Doclisboa accompanying the retrospective of Jocelyne Saab in 2019, to build a programme of films directed by Egyptian female filmmakers from the 70s until today. It is a very open space within the festival.

In From Earth to the Moon, we map our times through powerful engaged films. In Heart Beat, there’s a celebration of all artistic forms. In Cinema of Urgency, this year we invited collectives to programme a session to debate issues they dedicate their activism – there is Cacerola Collective (Colombia) and a screening dedicated to police violence during the recent national strike, FreeSZFE (Hungary) and a screening dedicated to the right for public university, and União Audiovisual (Portugal) and a screening dedicated to raising awareness to the precariousness and lack of protection for cultural workers during the recent pandemic.

We see the sections in the festival as possibilities.

For you, was there a seminal documentary, or perhaps filmmaker/filmography that kick-started your interest in the documentary genre?
What inspires me in the documentary genre is not so much thinking of it as a genre, but in a way of being in relation with the world in its complexity. I think that filmmakers who are curious and film freely while refusing categories are the ones that made me love cinema and broadened my gaze. That’s very much how we look at documentary cinema in Doclisboa, and that’s probably why every year so many are slightly confused by us screening many films that could be considered fiction if we really want to organize films by labels. To name some filmmakers that taught me a lot about freedom, I could mention Jonas Mekas, Chantal Akerman and João Cesar Monteiro… but there are so many more.

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