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Review: Lucefece: Where there is no vision, the people will perish


- Ricardo Leite whisks us away on an alchemical trip that delves deep into his mind and vision, showing us a world we can all share

Review: Lucefece: Where there is no vision, the people will perish

After a world premiere at Doclisboa, Lucefece: Where there is no vision, the people will perish travelled all the way up to the city of Porto, winning the Award for Best Film in the Cinema Falado section of Porto/Post/Doc (see the news). It feels only right to use the idea of a journey here, as it is inherently connected to the film’s core: a cinematic route to self-discovery, both individual and, inevitably, collective.

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Ricardo Leite’s film delves into several aspects of his biography: from his memories to past and present relationships with his family members. One can sense a deeply tragic tone from a lot of what is shared: his sister Patrícia’s death from cancer and his father’s incarceration for killing two men, amongst other events. These crucial pieces of the puzzle might allow us, as an audience, to grasp what could constitute Leite’s life, which he grants us access to in a very courageous and vulnerable way.

In a film where images are a vehicle in their own right, but are also enriched by narration, we are able to connect with these particular stories in a more direct way through voices. A specific scene with Patrícia’s notebook where written notes of doctor’s appointments (and her own comments) are carefully turned, page by page, leads us to a place of tragedy and, subsequently, grief, where we’re guided by Ricardo’s voice. His father’s life is shared through phone conversations: while in the beginning he doesn’t pick up, we slowly get to know more about his life, about him and about the relationship between them.

If we get in touch with different chapters in the director’s life and those of the ones around him, we are also presented with chapters in humankind’s history. Thanks to a thorough process of digging through archives, we are presented with images of a collective past: from both sides of the space race to the Portuguese Colonial War – and many other images of wars all around the world, both distant and more current – as well as the Carnation Revolution, and even discussions on post-revolution-era public television about art and audiences.

There is plenty of food for thought, with materials that are presented with surgical accuracy thanks to the masterful editing by Eloy Enciso, who intersperses the film with archival, public-domain images and footage made by Leite over the past two decades, in 8 and 16 mm. This is film that was developed by Leite – or “the alchemist”, as he calls himself – using non-chemical processes (involving mint, coffee and other ingredients). We even get a chance to see part of the process in the movie itself, in one of the pleasing “meta” moments, but overall, we can feel this physicality of the film enhancing the experience on offer: that of being in a capsule of timelessness, along with all its ghosts.

While listening to a soundtrack with more experimental (encompassing both melodic and discordant) tones, one witnesses the metamorphosis that can occur with a cinematic approach that feels both grounded and ethereal, both mythical and factual. The film blossoms with a unique identity, expanding beyond its frames with a broad vision of the world and beyond. It is through this materiality and temporality that we get a sense of something that is referred to near the end of the film: an eternal return, the snake biting its own tail. We therefore gladly join “the alchemist” on his path and leave the theatre more mindful of our collective journeys. A certain sense of clarity in the mist arises with this movie, which feels poetic and urgent, showing us where we’ve all been, where we are now and where we might end up again (but don’t want to). Nevertheless, the destination is not yet set in stone, so let’s just keep walking.

Lucefece: Where there is no vision, the people will perish is a Portuguese production by Red Desert Films.

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