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Uncovering family secrets in The Wolf's Lair


- Catarina Mourão paints a portrait of her family by means of an investigation centred on the figure of her grandfather, author Tomaz de Figueiredo

Uncovering family secrets in The Wolf's Lair

Following Pelas Sombras (2010), Catarina Mourão is back at IndieLisboa to present her latest documentary, The Wolf’s Lair [+see also:
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, in the national competition. The movie is a personal project in which the director reveals stories about her family by means of an investigation centred on her grandfather, Tomaz de Figueiredo. Figueiredo was an author during the dictatorship era, whose name was immortalised through various street names across the country, but is today all but forgotten. Even his granddaughter, the director, did not know the majority of his body of work, and she hadn't even read his best-known novel, The Wolf's Lair. But one day, spurred on by a remark made by a relative, Mourão was searching through the archives of the national public television station when she came across an interview with her grandfather, dating from 1968, and this footage gave her the motivation to get to know her family's past a little better.

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Mourão has created an essay about memory – and the tricks it plays on us – in order to untie the knot of mystery surrounding the figure of her grandfather. Blending archive images of Salazar-era Portugal with old family films and photographs, The Wolf's Lair conveys a large part of its narrative arc through interviews with Maria Rosa, the director's mother. It is a rather cathartic process, as the youngest of the author's three children was also the one who had been deprived of her father's presence ever since her childhood. Figueiredo, who struck a balance between literature and other areas of work, spent long periods of time away from home and was admitted to a mental hospital more than once. The reasons for those absences resulted in the daughter's coldness towards her father, something that is impossible to make amends for today, more than 40 years later…

But perhaps even more interesting than delving into the dramas of a family is the delicate and effective way in which Mourão frames those dramas in a wider context, that of a country stifled by the dictatorship. From the influence of religion on an upper-class upbringing that left no room for being different, which her mother experienced, to the parallel investigations into her uncle's resistance in the past, the director manages to let her film take on a social dimension that rises above that of being a mere personal portrait. From a distance, it gives us a glimpse of a Portugal that no longer exists, but which left behind a legacy of frustration for many of those who lived through it. Fortunately, the final scene of the movie, which incorporates the new generation of the family, seems to point to the path towards overcoming the past, and towards the peaceful integration of that past into a brighter present.

The Wolf's Lair is a Laranja Azul production that forms part of the promotional catalogue of the recently founded Portugal Film.

(Translated from Spanish)

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