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João Salaviza’s Montanha now on screens


- João Salaviza’s directorial début is a clear continuation of the universe that the 31-year old director previously explored in his award-winning short-films

João Salaviza’s Montanha now on screens
David Mourato in Montanha

This week ten theatres are showcasing the feature debut by Portuguese director João Salaviza, Montanha [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: João Salaviza
film profile
. The movie, distributed by Midas Filmes, is much awaited, as Salaviza is considered one of the country's most promising filmmakers.

Already a prize-winner in Cannes and Berlin for the two shorts Arena (2009) and Rafa (2012), 31-year old Salaviza has finally ventured in to the feature-length format. Content-wise, however, Montanha is no counterpoint to his past, but rather a clear continuation of the director’s universe.

Focusing once again on a teenage lead character and setting the plot against the background of a Lisbon neighbourhood, Salaviza’s latest film follows 14-year old David (played by amateur actor David Mourato) throughout the summer, a period in which he has to deal with his grandfather’s imminent death, his absent mother and the beginning of a love story. It all turns out to be a bit too much for the young lad, as he tackles the steep mountain that is adolescence. Salaviza films this ascent from a distance, focusing on the physical changes and the confusion that derives from being a teenager.

David is a melting-pot of emotions: potentially explosive but also slightly melancholic, tender but slightly lost, still young but forced to face his loneliness. Next to him, actor Rodrigo Perdigão goes back to his character from short-film Rafa and newcomer Cheyenne Domingues plays a teenage girl who hesitates between the two friends but doesn't say no to some fun in the meantime. The adult cast includes Carloto Cotto – who also played part in Arena – and Maria João Pinho, one of Portugal’s finest actresses who, unlike her frantic character in the 2014 film Os Maias [+see also:
film review
film profile
– for which she won a Sophia Award – manages an impressively contained performance here. The dialogues between Pinho’s character and David are short and can do nothing to strengthen the bounds of the mother-and-son relationship. The tone of Montanha is sad, but then again so are the times in which David is growing.

Montanha was first unveiled at the end of September at the Venice Film Festival and recently won a prize in Montpellier (more here). The next step for Salaviza is a trip to Brazil, where he will be living in the State of Tocatins with the Krahô, an indigenous community of less than 2,000 inhabitants, who will be the subject of the director’s upcoming project.

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