Midas releases Portugal – One Day at a Time
by Vitor Pinto
- Director João Canijo and actress Anabela Moreira get together to film women from the rural Portuguese region of Trás-os-Montes
Midas Filmes produced and is currently distributing Portugal – One Day at a Time [+see also:
film profile] in local theatres. This new movie by João Canijo was co-directed by actress Anabela Moreira.
Moreira spent over a year meeting people from the northern rural region of Trás-os-Montes, gaining their trust and filming stories from their daily lives. Initially, her mission was part of the research process for a new film by Canijo, which is set to focus on the Fatima pilgrims. But then the huge amount of material that Moreira gathered (over 3,000 hours’ worth) was turned into this documentary, which first screened in competition at DocLisboa last month.
Portugal – One Day at a Time is a compilation of fragmented moments experienced by local people – mostly young, middle-aged and elderly women. It predominantly focuses on a variety of their daily routines, such as classes, agricultural work, conversations with neighbours to counter the sense of loneliness, the intensive care that some of them devote to their sick relatives and so on. No narrative arc is built up to link the different stories and characters, but the film still works as both a social and a generational portrait of a “certain” Portugal, which – despite the existence of TV sets and smartphones – seems to have become stuck in another era. The style is mostly observational, with the occasional interview with people looking straight into the camera, such as a long sequence in which an old bar manager unexpectedly unveils the whole plot of a soap opera she became hooked on.
Rural Portugal has always served as an inspiration for Canijo, who has set some of his previous films in similar areas. In some of them, like Misbegotten and In the Darkness of the Night, he chose to underline the most disturbing and potentially violent aspects of small countryside communities. This time, there seems to be a more ethnographic approach, along the lines of (Be)Longing [+see also:
film profile], the movie by João Pedro Plácido that was shown in Cannes’ ACID earlier this year. However, while Plácido’s film occasionally flirted with fiction and incorporated constructed elements, Canijo and Moreira decided to leave the camera focused on real events, thus choosing to embrace a more traditional and pure form of documentary.
“People opened up their homes to us. The camera was not the most important thing in that process – it wasn’t for me, and it certainly wasn’t for them. I didn’t go there as a journalist. I have found out that people really need to be heard. I dropped the camera several times to hug them,” confessed Moreira.
Portugal – One Day at a Time is being released two years after Canijo’s É o Amor, which was shot in the Caxinas fishing community, where Moreira had already struck up a close relationship with the locals, resulting in a docudrama style.
Canijo and Moreira are now trying to finance a second documentary shot in another region and thus continue the Guide to Portugal TV series, which is a long-term project of theirs.