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Fado Camané: music as a collaborative process


- Bruno de Almeida’s latest film opened DocLisboa's Heart Beat sidebar last Friday

Fado Camané: music as a collaborative process

Fado music is certainly no foreign concept for Bruno de Almeida. In 2000, the Portuguese director shot The Art of Amália, based on the life and work of mythical fado singer Amália Rodrigues. In 2008, he followed singer Camané during the recording sessions of his album Sempre de Mim. Now, six years later, the result of that collaboration can finally be seen. Last Friday evening, Fado Camané [+see also:
film profile
opened the Heart Beat section of the 12th DocLisboa (see the news).

A singer and his entourage focused on their creative process: this is what de Almeida decided to shoot in black and white, and exclusively indoors. To do so, he deliberately chose an austere directing style for a film in which the only aesthetic boldness allowed is the sporadic use of split screen. Assuming the guise of a discreet yet amplified making-of, Fado Camané is a film that celebrates music as a collaborative process, bringing it close, for that same reason, to cinematic creation.

Camané is filmed in several recording sequences, working under the direction of José Mário Branco, a famous songwriter and the musical director of the project (he was also the subject of another documentary, Mudar de Vida by Pedro Fidalgo and Nelson Guerreiro, seen at the latest IndieLisboa), and Manuela de Freitas, Branco’s wife and the co-writer of some of the lyrics.

Branco directs Camané as a filmmaker would direct an actor, underlining rhythmical improvements and pointing out ways he could reach the ideal intensity with which to say/sing the lyrics. Camané does several takes as he seeks to get the final version for his new songs. Inspiration comes to him from unexpected sources such as Charlie Chaplin’s song Smile (from the film Modern Times) and Al Pacino’s mute scream in The Godfather III, at the moment when he finds out his daughter (Sofia Coppola) has been killed. It’s cinema contaminating fado, thus enhancing its already dramatic nature.

The involvement of the trio Camané-Branco-Freitas – shared from a distance by musicians and technicians – establishes the narrative arc of a documentary in which de Almeida wanted, in his own words, “to be turned into a little fly in the studio”. Director Pedro Costa had already done something similar (in black and white, too) when he followed actress-turned-singer Jeanne Balibar in the studio in what would later become the Cannes 2009 entry Change Nothing [+see also:
film review
film profile
. But unlike Costa, who was distant and contemplative, de Almeida rejects the exclusivity of an observational style and decides to interrupt the natural narrative flow with extracts from an interview that Camané did with a daily newspaper; he also includes the singer’s views on his own art, filmed in a post-album recording meeting.

Fado Camané is an ICA-supported film co-produced by BA Filmes and the Museum of Fado. NOS Audiovisuais is handling the theatrical distribution from 23 October, hoping to seduce audiences with the timid charm of one of Portugal’s most celebrated voices.

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