Ivo M Ferreira • Director of Empire Hotel
“Empire Hotel is a Macau film about Portugal”
by Vassilis Economou
- Macau-based Portuguese director Ivo M Ferreira discussed his latest film Empire Hotel with us at the third International Film Festival & Awards‧Macao
The third International Film Festival & Awards‧Macao (IFFAM), saw the local premiere of Macau-based Portuguese director Ivo M Ferreira’s fourth feature, Empire Hotel [+see also:
interview: Ivo M Ferreira
film profile], a neo-noir thriller that takes place entirely in the city. After its premiere, we discussed Ferreira’s approach to Macau with the director himself, as well as its historical background and the aftermath of the end of the Portuguese Empire.
Cineuropa: Why did you decide to set Empire Hotel in Macau? What drew you back here?
Ivo M Ferreira: I didn’t come back, I’ve always been in and out of this city. All my previous films included segments shot in Macau, so I created a fragmented puzzle of the stories that took place in the same area. My debut, Em Volta (2002) up to my recent short films all had elements of Macau in them, so if you put these parts together, they somehow create Empire Hotel. I’m not doing anything new in a practical sense, it’s just a summary of atmospheres and ideas that I already had.
Is your film a recollection of your experiences?
It is in a way, but not a realistic depiction of them, just a world that I created to reconstruct this atmosphere. I was very young when I first arrived in Macau, and I stayed in a guest house, in the same area where my film is shot. It took me three weeks to understand that all the nice girls in the other rooms were sex workers. I was naïve enough to observe what was happening around me. I think this is a good example of being in a place and not understanding what is going on. That was how I saw Macau, and how I experienced it.
Does the neo-noir aesthetic justify this approach?
Actually, this was the way that the area “asked” to be filmed as I already had an aesthetical idea of how to bring this particular place into the film. The location justified the artistic approach, almost imposed it. I never thought twice about how it should look, it was like this from the beginning. It was an effortless procedure because all I had to do was follow the nature of the neighbourhood.
As in your previous films, is there any historical background – are you narrating Portugal’s relationship with Macau?
Of course, all my films are about the end of the Melancholic Empire. When it was mentioned that Empire Hotel is a Portuguese film about Macau, I wasn’t happy. Then my producer, Luís Urbano, said that it is actually a Macau film about Portugal and I think that’s more accurate. The Hotel should be viewed metaphorically – that’s how the local community viewed the Portuguese presence. We were checking in and out constantly, we were impolite to the place because we were just passing through but still felt like we owned it. But this is not a film about the past, it’s more of a dystopic approach and a glimpse towards the future, as I want to see the evolution of the city. I overlook the changes but at the same time want to focus on the bit I know best.
How easy is it to deal with this ever-changing city?
I’m trying to follow the remains of the Melancholic Empire. Macau represented the last piece of it and the only one that remained untouched after the Carnation Revolution. When Portugal withdrew from its African colonies, many of the colonists returned to Portugal, where they had the worst experience of their lives, so they decided to come to Macau. The majority of these people belonged to the Estado Novo fascist ideology, so they were very arrogant living here. The Portuguese community was notorious, but despite that, the city actually allowed them to integrate, and their Chinese lives went on to conquer their Portuguese “heritage”.
How did the local audience react to Empire Hotel?
When you are in Macau, you have the “power” to decide what Macau is, and I’m here for a long time. So, I had to persuade everyone that this was not a realistic picture of the city, but something I invented. I was so happy that the Chinese and Macanese communities enjoyed the film and mentioned its importance for the city.
Will you continue to follow the fall of the Portuguese Empire?
I’m now writing my new film Projecto Global and it is my biggest project ever, my first idea for a film since I started. It was presented last year at IFFAM’s Project Market. It is about a political movement in Portugal in the ‘80s – a response to the counter-revolution of 25 November 1975, which rattled the country with a wave of bombings, robberies, executions and threats.
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