«We return with a deepened desire to share»

PORTO/POST/DOC / Festival Director Dario Oliveira on the challenges, programme and new additions Porto/Post/Doc experience.

Porto/Post/Doc takes from 20 – 30 November 2021 in Porto, Portugal.

As a meeting point for creators, audience and industry professionals, Porto/Post/Doc aims to foster film culture, screening new forms of contemporary cinema. With an eclectic philosophy, ranging from the International Competition and parallel programmes, the festival occupies several venues of Porto, a historic and cosmopolitan city, the centre of a vibrant community and nightlife.

Modern Times Review spoke with Porto/Post/Doc Festival Director Dario Oliveira on the challenges, programme and new additions Porto/Post/Docs experience.

This year, the 2021 Porto/Post/Doc will return to a more «normal» version of itself. Over the past edition+, what is something that the pandemic era festival landscape forced you to learn and adapt to? Are there any aspects of the festival landscape that you feel have changed forever as a result of the pandemic?
First of all, we learned a lot about how to bring different communities across the city and country with a double festival back in 2020, in cinemas and online. We will maintain this double option for this edition.

On the other hand, as we return to the cinemas in downtown Porto, we return with a deepened desire to share, on the one hand, a rich and varied programme of films across the four regular Competition sections and the thematic programme and, on the other, a desire to inhabit the cinema space together again. The Fórum do Real and Call to Action will also return to create a public space of discussion and reflection where the local community and the guests of the festival can come together to debate key creative, social and political concerns.

Our programme this year is a resolute attempt to align the festival with the concerns that drive global discussions around the climate crisis, with our thematic programme being at the heart of this. Entitled «Ideas to Postpone the End of the World», it is a programme that simply could not be postponed beyond 2021. The programme was conceived during the pandemic in between (digital) conversations between myself and the indigenous leader and writer Ailton Krenak. Counting on his generosity, we brought together ideas, themes and films, between Porto and the Krenak reserve (from where Ailton cannot leave in order to protect his community). In this reality, like so many others, I was shut up at home in Porto with Ailton in the middle of the Amazon, dreaming of a face-to-face meeting at the festival. We moved forward at the pace that the pandemic allowed, with no certainty of what a physical, collective edition of the festival might look like.

We are delighted, then, to be able to welcome audiences for in-person events once again, and in addition to our usual festival venues (Rivoli, Passos Manuel, Planetário and Casa Comum), we will welcome two new ones: a recently reopened neighbourhood cinema, Sala Estúdio Perpétuo, with a focus on new Portuguese documentary and School Trip screenings, and the AGEAS Coliseum for the closing night with the video installation and musical performance As Filhas do Fogo by Pedro Costa and the Músicos do Tejo.

Music will also accompany our opening night with the screening of Leitão de Barros’ classic of Portuguese silent cinema, the docufiction Maria do Mar with a live, original score by Bernardo Sassetti, and interpreted by Pedro Burmester and the Lisbon Sinfonietta Orchestra.

Porto/Post/Doc is also pleased to bring together two young filmmakers, Basir Mahmood and Theo Anthony, who by the strength and originality of their creative voices we feel will cause quite an impact on the participants and the public at the festival.

Over eleven days, a marathon of films and encounters between the public and filmmakers, journalists and activists will take place in Porto. At the heart of these encounters, we hope will be conversations about what people discovered in the cinema and saw on screen: films for audiences attentive to the themes of our time, and curious to watch new Portuguese and international cinema; films that are defiant, challenging, poetic. The festival continues to champion films that express themselves politically and aesthetically, that draw from both documentary and fictional registers, and which force us to look at the world anew.

The need to think, above all, in community and to resist individuality is one of the great dilemmas of our time; a dilemma we hope to begin to discuss and address with a series of conversations labelled Call to Action, which highlights this and other pressing issues.

Finally, for professionals in the industry, we have begun a new collaboration with Filmaporto – Film Commission and the new Batalha Film Center with the production project ‘Working Class Heroes’ that we believe will enrich and reinforce the film heritage and industry in the city and the region in the near future.

Our programme this year is a resolute attempt to align the festival with the concerns that drive global discussions around the climate crisis

Our editor in chief Truls Lie will participate in a very interesting discussion as part of the festivals Ideas for Postponing the End of the World theme. Can you please describe the theme, why you felt it appropriate for the 2021 festival, and a bit about the events that will reinforce it?
With the ambition that the times impose, the central theme of this year’s festival turns its attention to the global reality of 2021, and the social, political, cultural, ideological and environmental urgencies that underpin it. With our lives at risk of becoming a living nightmare, we focus on the right of everyone to a future that includes the idea of happiness. The season’s title is taken from the renowned Brazilian activist and indigenous leader Ailton Krenak’s book of the same name – an adaptation of the lectures he gave between 2017 and 2019, in which he critiques the idea of humanity as something separate from nature. Krenak urges us, instead, to find a new and inclusive paradigm, one that privileges collective action, humanism and ancestral knowledge that can correct the political errors of the day and restore our connection to the natural world.

The film programme encompasses both old and new perspectives, and gestures towards alternative ideas to the logic of consumerism, which constantly seeks to annihilate difference and limit our ways of thinking about our existence and that of future generations. We set out on an urgent mission to raise awareness, trusting in each other and in minds open to change, moving away from catastrophist visions, aiming instead, at finding solutions.

Between documentary and fiction, this selection of films proposes challenging ideas that will make us all want more from our lives and to recover that which is systematically refused to us in times of rampant (dis)information.

Each film takes us on a guided tour: with the recovery of ancestral practices in A ultima floresta by Luiz Bolognesi; or, a prospective look at contemporary society and scientific knowledge, in Who We Were by Marc Bauder. Some answers or an outline of ideas can be traced in the examples within the programme; films that are directly or indirectly related to the climate crisis and that examine the human condition in relation to nature – as is the case with Jennifer Baichwal’s Anthropocene: The Human Epoch. The programme also includes «anti-establishment» films that carve out a course towards a more sustainable life on Earth; and films that document innovative and groundbreaking artistic practices, such as Marta Rodríguez’s 1981 docu-fiction masterpiece Nuestra voz de Tierra, memória y futuro, made in collaboration with the indigenous Coconuco farmers in Colombia.

Films with the potential to challenge opinions and catalyse collective and individual thinking, and can go some way in helping to build political and social change. This is an opportunity to look, in the light of a new consciousness, at concepts such as «Freedom», «Land» and «Community.» Three themes that inform, alongside the films, the motto of this year’s edition of Forúm do Real. Unfolding over the course of the festival, the Forúm will include three panels of invited guests that will discuss innovative, creative and disruptive routes forward and alternative ways of looking at our world – as it is now, but also as it could be.

Films with the potential to challenge opinions and catalyse collective and individual thinking, and can go some way in helping to build political and social change.

In 2021 the Porto/Post/Doc:Film & Media Festival will inaugurate a new discussion space, the Call to Action forum.
Here there will be discussions on urgent contemporary issues: the defence of nature, solutions for a healthy life, activist narratives, gender freedom, identity politics, among others.

Participants will include independent journalism platforms, groups of young activists, filmmakers and professionals from various fields who have made a difference in the investigation of current issues. Among several guests, we will have the participation of the indigenous leader and activist, Ailton Krenak, the teacher Elsa Cerqueira, the Gerador Platform, the youngsters from the Student Climate Strike Group, Constança Carvalho Homem, a programmer at the Queer Porto/Lisbon Festival, and the magazine Divergente.

The three panels will take as their point of departure several of the films included in the 2021 programme. This new Forum is conceived as a meeting point for the most active and reactive sectors of the local and national community, amplifying the festival’s commitment to the fight for social justice and sustainability.

Access to these panels is free and the sessions will also be streamed on the festival’s social networks.

Your 10-film international competition has just been announced. Can you explain a bit about what you are looking for in the film’s that will feature in the International Competition? How are these films chosen?
In 2021, the main competition of the festival returns with ten feature films, all with their national premiere in Porto. Drawing from both documentary and fiction registers, this set of films, produced between 2020 and 2021, takes us on a transnational journey across contemporary social, political and creative landscapes.

We feel the urgency of the Ideas to Postpone the End of the World as a priority and the selection commission make like a statement using this selection of recent productions, reflecting this priority. A real theme that a lot of filmmakers around the globe are working on. It’s the big challenge for everybody and that’s why some of these recent films on competition are about similar questions.

There are also retrospectives on Theo Anthony and Basir Mahmood. Why these two artists feature for the 2021 festival?
When, in early 2021, Theo Anthony’s new film All Light, Everywhere premiered in the US documentary competition at the Sundance film festival, critics hailed it as a powerful essay-film about video surveillance and the use of body cameras by the police force in the US. Traversing a long historical timeline, Anthony grounds his film in a guided tour of the Arizona-based company Axon Enterprise, the largest supplier of body cameras to the US police force. Axon also owns and operates the server that stores the astronomical amount of body-cam footage, as well as the artificial intelligence systems that analyse the footage and which, like all human creation, are not without their flaws. With this masterful, collage-like rumination on the shared histories of cameras, weapons, policing and justice, the young 32-year-old filmmaker cemented his status as a major new artistic voice in the North-American documentary sphere.

Anthony’s feature film debut came in 2016 with Rat Film, which premiered at the Locarno Film Festival. In this visionary debut, the director investigates Baltimore’s rodent infestation and uncovers its political roots, creating an essay film that touches upon the city’s racial problems, urban planning, state influence on segregation and the precarious living conditions of poorer and racialised communities in the US.

With Rat Film, Anthony inaugurated a narrative style defined by a deeply contagious intelligence that would become his trademark. His ability to articulate and combine historical, urbanistic and legal data and statistics into a filmic object that never loses its grip on the spectator is startling. His expansive approach manages to connect theoretical ideas to the lives and concerns of the people Anthony sees and meets. Pulsating with creative energy, imaginative juxtapositions and deep analytical focus, Rat Film also features an experimental soundtrack by Dan Deacon.

However, it would be his short 2019 film Subject to Review, commissioned (and broadcast) by the ESPN sports television channel, that would establish Anthony as a nonfiction auteur. Shown at dozens of festivals, including the New York Film Festival, where it premiered, the film – «innocently» concerned with the use of the «Hawk Eye» instant replay system in professional tennis – turned out to be an electrifying parable about the limits of the perception of reality and, as such, the limits of justice.

It can thus be said that the short but brilliant work that Theo Anthony has developed so far has the depth and complexity of a Harun Farocki, a Chris Marker or Jean-Luc Godard, with the playful accessibility of a Ken Burns. Across his filmography, Anthony demonstrates a keen interest in probing the complexity of an ‘objective’ point of view, revealing the bias of vision, including his own.

In a cinema room, its doors open, the viewer can come and go as they please: can choose to enter or to exit, to sit or to stand, to lie-down or to walk away. Projected on the screen, in a continuous loop, is a selection of six works by the Pakistani artist Basir Mahmood, created through his nearly decade-long practice. This is a Cinema Space for Air to Enter and Circulate, that is, an airy space, open to any and all conversations with «the other».

Over the last ten years, a number of recurrences and obsessions have informed and defined Mahmood’s work, which becomes evident here in this 70-minute loop. The first of these is the way in which the camera’s intervention alters the «real», imposing a sense of staging and a feeling of discomfort to the gestures. Then there is the artist’s interest in the banality of everyday actions (peeling a piece of fruit, putting on a suit, walking backwards and forwards, sitting on a chair), and which their constant repetition raises to an almost iconographic dimension. But Basir also works on the political subtext, whether in the cultural clash between East and West, the role of farce in electoral dramaturgy or the dominant role of masculinity and the gender violence associated with it. Finally, another singular trope in the Pakistani artist’s work is his relationship with the history of his country’s own cinema, and the ruins of Lollywood (Pakistan’s Hollywood, which in the 1970s was the fourth-largest film industry in the world, and today is reduced to television by-products).

This is a filmography dedicated to exploring the limits of perception of reality by a film camera. Notions of posing for the camera and (self-)representation are present, as is the discomfort and apathy before an outside gaze and how the rendering of gesture can crystallise this. But always through a semi-opaque lens that obfuscates more than it reveals, and produces mysterious images and situations, whose secret is only revealed in an overall image, that is, in the coherence and unity of Basir Mahmood’s oeuvre.

What is an aspect of the festival that you are particularly looking forward to in 2021?
As the perfect last chapter of this year program about our times, we will show an original installation performance about emigration, As Filhas do Fogo is an interdisciplinary show conceived by director Pedro Costa in collaboration with the baroque music group Os Músicos do Tejo. At the intersection of cinema, theatre and music, As Filhas do Fogo follows the escape of three young sisters from a devastating volcano eruption in Cape Verde to their arrival at a European port. It is here that they wander, hand in hand, conjuring up their fears through music and song. Not a soul receives them. The show covers their days and nights, the misery, the darkness of the alleys and the invisible life of so many migrants.

The other aspect that we all are investing a lot is something that we begin two years ago and didn’t happen last year for pandemic reasons, the Industry section, in partnership with Filmaporto – Film Commission, will host Industry Screenings for projects from producers and directors from Porto and Northern Portugal. These sessions are aimed at national and international programmers and film professionals, with the main objective of increasing the opportunities for promotion, distribution and internationalization of national work. The selected producers and directors will have the opportunity to present their works and meet with film professionals in attendance.

The Working Class Heroes project aims at supporting audiovisual production in the city of Porto, using local technicians and stories of the city. For the first time, an invitation was launched to emerging filmmakers whose line of work corresponds to the philosophy of the festival. The objectives: to make possible the development and production of new cinematographic works; to create an archive of film pieces that bring the filmmakers’ voices closer to the local territory and the community, seeking to create a portrait of Porto, from different points of view, year after year.

The final work will be a film (fiction, animation, essay, documentary or experimental work) about the working community of Porto, to be directed and produced during a residency of the filmmaker in the city of Porto, to take place in the year 2023.
The first stage of the project will be launched in 2021, with an invitation to three directors to be revealed in this presentation.

In collaboration with DocLisboa, the festival presents the 5th edition of the Arché Development Lab. Four participants have been selected with projects at different stages of production. Directors and producers have the opportunity to work with a tutor to deepen the themes and reflect on the strategies to be implemented in the film. The programme also includes a pitching session for film professionals attending the festival.

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