Brothers: Eat, pray, walk
by Vitor Pinto
- Pedro Magano’s debut documentary is in competition at the FEST – New Directors/New Films Festival
The Azores, one of Portugal’s most fascinating regions, is slowly but surely featuring more and more in recent local film productions. After the documentary Fish Tail [+see also:
film profile] by Joaquim Pinto and Nuno Leonel and, more recently, Luis Filipe Rocha’s crime drama Grey and Black [+see also:
film profile], the 12th FEST – New Directors/New Films Festival has presented Pedro Magano’s documentary Brothers, which was shot on the island of São Miguel, in competition. The film, which follows a group of male pilgrims throughout their journey, is a tour de force for Pixbee, a Maia-based production outfit with a corporate profile now venturing into the film sector with documentaries and short-film projects.
“We read an article about this tradition of groups of pilgrims on the Azores, which is largely unknown outside the islands, and we decided to take our chances there,” Magano told Cineuropa. “Initially, it was meant to be a short film, but we had so much interesting material that we ended up embracing a larger project.”
Fifty-four men, of all ages, travel across the island on foot, and pray for themselves and for the locals they meet along the way. “It is very intense, as these men leave at 4 am and go to sleep at 10 pm. And they get a lot of blisters in the process,” recalled Magano, whose skeleton crew followed them for 11 days, trying to capture their altruistic attitude without ever interfering or forcing any kind of intimacy with the group: “We wanted to paint a purely observational portrait. Therefore, we decided not to shoot any interviews or give these men a background story.”
But even observational projects need a narrative arc, and Magano found his in Patricio, a young blond boy who joined the pilgrimage for the second year in a row, and whose photogenic presence stands out among the others. In some sequences, the beautiful lighting bestows a sort of divine aura upon Patricio, thus depicting in more spiritual tones the way the boy seems to experience the whole process.
“On a technical level,” continues Magano, “I wasn’t opposed to taking a slow-motion camera. During their journey, they hear or feel something divine, I suppose… It’s nature on the Azores, perhaps, and the decision to use slow-motion shots is related to that. At some point, as viewers, we ought to experience a different dimension, too. We also had a stabiliser and a drone, which we used to capture the amazing landscapes. The use of the drone also allowed me to emphasise the scale of those men and the nature surrounding them – there is an esoteric element in there.”
With Brothers already touring the festival circuit (prior to FEST, it was shown at the Visions du Réel market, and it will soon be part of the Melgaço International Documentary Film Festival), Magano and producer Liliana Lasprilla are currently wrapping another, three-year documentary project, Special - An Ocean Away from Home, which was shot in Portugal and Canada. They are definitely a pair to keep a close eye on!