Jogo de Damas: Patrícia Sequeira and the girls
by Vitor Pinto
- TV director Patrícia Sequeira’s debut film presents five women coming to terms with the death of their best friend
Five friends are together in a country house, on the eve of the funeral of their friend Marta – a night on which their long-time friendship will be put to the test. If this vaguely brings to mind Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 film The Big Chill, it is probably no coincidence. The difference is that in Jogo de Damas [+see also:
film profile] – now showing in Portuguese theatres – the five friends are women, played by five actresses who co-developed their roles in close cooperation with director Patrícia Sequeira and writer Filipa Leal.
Sequeira – one of Portugal’s most widely recognised TV directors, acclaimed for her series produced by SP Televisão – is now making the leap from the small to the big screen with a project that attempts to find its territory (and therefore define its identity) somewhere between an indie/experimental production and a movie with obvious popular appeal, thanks to the all-star cast, comprising Rita Blanco, Maria João Luís, Ana Padrão, Ana Nave and Fátima Belo. They are all celebrated figures from the local TV and theatre scenes – although Blanco also has an established career in film.
Jogo de Damas is the result of a collaborative process. Sequeira and her girls got together duringa four-day brainstorming residency in a country house – the same one that was later used as the shooting location. There, they shared personal experiences, moulded their characters and defined some of the storylines. Writer Leal came on board soon after to put the whole jigsaw together and finish off the narrative arc of the film with some of her own insights.
Initially dark and tense – featuring dialogue that sometimes sounds too literature-driven and existentialist in the mouths of characters on the verge of exploding – the film's tone lightens as wine bottles are opened and marijuana gets smoked. Predictably, the five women all have skeletons in the closet, which are unveiled as the night unfolds. The dead friend herself, Marta, never appears in flashbacks, but her unseen presence is a ghost that dictates the characters' bonds and scars throughout the night – particularly when Padrão’s character reads Marta’s farewell letter aloud.
The dramatic talent unsurprisingly towers above the technical side of the film, but Sequeira’s discreet and elegant camerawork – often using fixed shots and close-ups – also attracts attention, revealing a level of ambition and security that will hopefully be expanded in the future in more solid – and perhaps less auteur-driven – film projects.
With a low budget of €140,000, Jogo de Damas was co-produced by RI Films and Master Dream, with the support of SP Televisão. Paulo Branco’s Leopardo Filmes is handling the theatrical distribution.