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Here in Lisbon: One film, four directors, the same indie spirit


- Dominga Sotomayor, Denis Côté, Gabriel Abrantes and Marie Losier accepted the challenge set by IndieLisboa to shoot a film set in the Portuguese capital

Here in Lisbon: One film, four directors, the same indie spirit
Carloto Cotta in a scene from Gabriel Abrantes’ Freud und Friends

In 2013, after ten years of showing films, IndieLisboa decided to produce one. It was an enterprising decision, which took two years to accomplish, and the result of it was unveiled last Friday during the second evening of the festival’s 12th edition. The concept of the project was based on a simple premise: inviting four directors to shoot a film set in Lisbon and not allowing them to discuss their respective ideas with each other. Then, the four entries would be put together in a single film entitled Here in Lisbon. The invited directors included two previous IndieLisboa winners, France’s Marie Losier and Chile’s Dominga Sotomayor, as well as two regulars at the festival: Canada’s Denis Côté and Portugal’s Gabriel Abrantes.

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Fear not: Here in Lisbon is everything but a film-postcard sent from the Portuguese capital, unlike other films that have gathered together different filmmakers and have been shot in other mythical cities… The “indie” spirit of the festival is largely evident in it, and the directors’ creative freedom – indeed the movie’s greatest achievement – has led to a broad mix of genres and styles.

The first entry, Sotomayor’s Los Barcos, follows a Chilean actress (Francisca Castillo) travelling to Lisbon to introduce a film at a festival. The following day, instead of visiting Lisbon’s typical neighbourhoods, she takes the boat to the other side of the river and gets stuck in Almada, the old fishery neighbourhood. There, she meets a local (João Canijo), and the two of them develop an unexpected connection, which the film never totally unveils, as Sotomayor clearly prefers to invest in the “lost in translation” sort of feeling, rather than exploring the characters’ motivations. Some hints are there, and it is up to the viewer to build up part of the plot in his or her own mind.

Côté’s Excursions follows two tour guides, Claudia and Martinho, whose paths are about to cross during a noise-jazz concert. Combining sequences filmed during their day jobs with other scenes depicting (or pretending to depict) aspects of their personal lives, Excursions is a docudrama portraying Lisbon as a multicultural city, which leaves behind its traditional fado and historic roots to embrace other influences and cultures.

Arguably the most audacious segment of Here in Lisbon, Freud und Friends confirms Abrantes as one of Portugal’s most inventive talents. The film is conceived as a TV show (Freud und Friends) centred on the project being carried out by a scientist (Sónia Balacó), who wants to analyse the subconscious mind of her boyfriend (a goofy alter ego of Abrantes, played by the director himself). The TV show then gives way to another plot, set in Abrantes’ subconscious, in which he sees himself looking like actor Carloto Cotta and being harassed by his girlfriend’s sister. None of this has anything to do with Lisbon, apart from the adverts during the breaks, which turn typical Belem pastry into sunscreen for Portuguese macho men and mock Woody Allen’s films shot in European cities – as it is now the Portuguese capital’s turn.

Finally, Losier’s L’oiseau de la nuit is an experimental film starring Lisbon transvestite Deborah Krystal (To Die Like a Man [+see also:
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) and explores the iconic character’s several metamorphoses into a mermaid, a female bird, a female lion and so on... The dreamlike film also stars directors João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui Guerra da Mata and Carlos Conceição.

Initially supported by the Lisbon City Hall, the whole production process of Here in Lisbon was tumultuous and faced financial restrictions; it could only be wrapped with private investment and through the support of NOS, which will handle the film’s theatrical distribution later this year. 

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