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Yvone Kane: the past is a foreign land


- Director Margarida Cardoso and actress Beatriz Batarda together again in a family drama with political contours and filmed in Africa

Yvone Kane: the past is a foreign land
Beatriz Batarda in a scene from Yvone Kane

In her new movie, Yvone Kane [+see also:
film profile
, Portuguese director Margarida Cardoso returns to Africa to tell the story of two women haunted by ghosts of death. And, basing her story on the two women, she also illustrates the history of an imaginary country, eclipsed by its post-colonial history.

The two women are mother and daughter, but they’re also an example of how blood ties don’t always mean emotional closeness. Sara (played by experienced Brazilian actress Irene Ravache) is a white doctor, a former fighter, who fought and supported an African revolution quite similar to the Cuban revolution. Her friend Yvone Kane is a local women’s Che Guevara, mythologized after his assassination. Sara’s political commitment cost her traditional family life. She sent her children to Portugal and she stayed in Africa ever since. Today her struggle is not political; it’s a fight against terminal cancer. Her daughter Rita (Portuguese Beatriz Batarda) is a journalist who will be investigating the death of Yvone Kane. For this reason, she will return to her childhood country and to her mother’s home. While the ghost of death hovers over Sara; Rita is faced with the ghost of the recent death of her daughter.

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Drawing inspiration from these personal stories, Cardoso – who also wrote the screenplay for the movie – decided not to focus exclusively on a feminine and feminist family drama. She has a broader objective: to assemble, like a puzzle, the fragments of a nameless country, that is also overshadowed by death and by the legacy of war.

That legacy has left a rupture between the locals and the colonizers; racism remains, full integration is impossible and Sara’s character is the clearest example of this. This is the portrait of a country that can be read as a mirror of human tragedy and of potentially overcoming that tragedy, which Cardoso films with fascination but also maintaining a certain distance; a distance that turns out to be effective in conveying the feeling of surprise and astonishment experienced by the characters and, consequentially, by the viewer.

Like The Murmuring Coast, which in 2004 had previously brought together the Cardoso-Batarda duo, Yvone Kane was mainly filmed in Mozambique. There, João Ribeiro’s careful photography took advantage of the landscape and environment, by capturing its beauty and highlighting the more tragic contours. The most striking example of this is the hotel in which Rita’s character settles at the end of the movie; a symbol of dispossession and reconstruction.

Yvone Kane is a co-production between Portugal (Filmes do Tejo II) and Brazil (MPC & Associados). Following its world premiere in the summer, at a special screening in the Gulbenlkian Foundation, in Lisbon, Yvone Kane was screened last week in competition in the Black Nights Film Festival, in Tallin. In just a few days time it will be shown at the 18th Santa Maria da Feira Portuguese-Brazilian Film Festival. Commercial distribution in Portuguese theatres is forecasted for February 2015.

(Translated from Spanish)

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