Capitão Falcão to open IndieLisboa tonight
by Vitor Pinto
- João Leitão’s film turns history upside down, converting a fascist soldier into a national superhero
IndieLisboa is kicking off tonight and, for the first time in the 12 years of the festival, the opening film is Portuguese. The chosen one is João Leitão’s new feature, Capitão Falcão [+see also:
film profile] (lit. “Captain Hawk”), featuring a fascist soldier turned into a superhero in order to defend the dictatorial regime against dissidents. With the clear intention of turning history upside down, transforming villains into heroes and vice-versa, the film is a challenge to moviegoers, urging them to think about Portugal’s contemporary history while laughing with the film’s hilarious plot and dialogues.
The opening credits present cartoon images from the history of Portugal – from the country’s first king to the so-called “New State”, the dictatorship period led by António de Oliveira Salazar. It is 1958, and a young man (Gonçalo Waddington) stands out among the other trainee soldiers owing to his nimbleness and bravery. He is about to become Captain Hawk, a man who, ten years later, is already seen as the ultimate national superhero – or at least the dictator’s favourite – for his undeniable capacity to defend the honour of the motherland.
In real life, in 1968, Salazar was forced to step down from his position as President of the Council for health reasons, to be replaced by Marcelo Caetano, who led the country until the Carnation Revolution. In the film, in 1968, Salazar (played magnificently by José Pinto) still seems able to run the country with an iron fist, and he is not willing to surrender to a new wave of threats, which include a group of “comuninjas” (communists who also happen to be ninjas), feminist women burning bras and a group of five colourful Captains of April (in an ironic reference to those who led the revolution in 1974).
As if the plot was not ingenious enough, Captain Hawk is never alone: Batman had Robin, and he has his “Partridge Kid”. Played by David Chan Cordeiro, Partridge has a flair for martial arts. He is also a master of disguise and remains mysteriously silent most of the time.
With an ironic script built around the classic clichés opposing fascists and communists, the film presents some hilarious dialogues and sequences, which gives the cast – Waddington in particular – the opportunity to explore an over-the-top register that is totally in line with the film’s excessive aesthetics. The style of the Hawk-Partridge duo undoubtedly evokes the 1960s Batman TV series, but that allusion is just the tip of the iceberg, as the film seems to have been conceived as a huge cocktail of visual references, such as – besides superhero duos – the Flash Gordon character Ming the Merciless, the cartoon Inspector Gadget, prison movies and many martial-arts films (never before has Portuguese cinema seen fight sequences like these).
Salazar is probably rolling over in his grave (as the film is unexpectedly provocative towards the dictator at the end), but we, as viewers, certainly enjoy the politically incorrect style of the film and its daring nature.
The screening of Capitão Falcão at IndieLisboa is happening at the same time as its theatrical release in more than 50 theatres, handled by NOS Lusomundo Audiovisuais. Could it be a box-office hit in the making?
Celebrating its 12th anniversary, IndieLisboa is offering an edition with a restructured set of sections (read more) and will present, among many other titles, Here in Lisboa, a film produced by the festival itself, which brings together four stories directed by Dominga Sotomayor, Denis Côté, Gabriel Abrantes and Marie Losier (read the production article). The Independent Heroes for this year are US director Whit Stillman and French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love, whose latest film, Eden [+see also:
interview: Charles Gillibert
interview: Mia Hansen-Løve
film profile], is screening at the weekend, along with a retrospective of her work.
Besides Capitão Falcão, other highly anticipated Portuguese titles on the line-up include the documentaries The Wolf’s Lair by Catarina Mourão and Gypsophilia by Margarida Leitão, both of which were conceived as essays on the theme of family memories; Márcio Laranjeira’s feature debut, A Girl of Her Age, a docudrama starring Mariana Sampaio and Alexander David; and Fish Tail [+see also:
film profile] by Joaquim Pinto and Nuno Leonel, which was presented at the latest Berlinale and is now screening in Portugal for the first time. Also highly anticipated is Susana Nobre’s Provas, Exorcismos, a title competing in the IndieLisboa shorts section and which is part of the upcoming Directors’ Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival (read more).
While the Portuguese opening film at this year’s IndieLisboa is audacious but openly commercially orientated, the rest of the Portuguese contingent unquestionably consists of solid, arthouse-driven entries. Let the show begin!