This year’s DocLisboa, which took place in the laid-back but rapidly gentrifying Portuguese capital from 17-27 October, had a slight, wistful but unmistakable valedictory air. After seven years at the helm, the widely-respected director of the non-fiction-oriented—but by no means documentary-only—festival, Cíntia Gil, was heading off to the challenging new pastures of Sheffield’s Doc/Fest. Her «number two,» Italian Davide Oberto, also stepped down to concentrate on his duties at the Torino Film Festival; the pair have been succeeded by a triumvirate of home-grown in-house talents. Gil, however, is renowned for her no-nonsense approach—unsentimental, and even confrontational where necessary. True to form, she personally downplayed any dewy-eyed «end of an era» talk. Better to concentrate on the films, the guests, and, most of all, the emerging talents showcased by a lively, politically engaged event well established on the Portuguese and European cultural scenes after 17 editions.
At recent DocLisboas the most fertile «patch» showcasing up-and-comers has been its «Green Years» (aka «Verdes Anos») section, dedicated to emerging names—many of them students or recent graduates of prominent film schools. 2019 was the first year in which the competitive element of this section was opened up to European productions, having previously been restricted to Portuguese projects only. Two of this year’s Green Years standouts — both world premieres — focused on politically engaged male residents of bustling European capitals. The scale and consequences of their engagement are – as so often the case – dictated and shaped by context, specifically by the relative freedom of the environment(s) in which they live.
From France, Pauline Laplace’s A Tiny Country (Un tout petit pays) is a 58-minute character-study of Patricio Salcedo, a middle-aged chap radicalised by the «Évènements» of May 1968, and staunchly retaining his anarchistic beliefs despite plying a somewhat capitalistic trade as the operator of a Parisian …
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