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Daniel Ribas • Director, Porto/Post/Doc

“Archives contain very rich material that allows us to re-write history”

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- Festival director Daniel Ribas tells Cineuropa about the importance of archives and memory at the fourth edition of Porto/Post/Doc, unspooling until 3 December

Daniel Ribas  • Director, Porto/Post/Doc
(© Renato Cruz Santos)

The Porto/Post/Doc: Film & Media Festival is back from 27 November-3 December, celebrating four years of bringing documentary films – with all their ever-mutating formats, hybrid content and challenging themes – to Portugal’s second-biggest city. Cineuropa caught up with festival director Daniel Ribas to find out what’s in store this year.

Cineuropa: Porto/Post/Doc is turning four. How did the festival go about establishing itself locally in this time frame, particularly against a socio-political backdrop that seems more receptive to cultural projects than in previous years?
Daniel Ribas:
In 2014, the festival was born of a need (a need that has been confirmed in the meantime) to bring films back to downtown Porto. For many years, film exhibition was focused on shopping malls, and people got out of the habit of seeing films in a local neighbourhood theatre. That’s why we have created a monthly programme, in parallel with the festival, which we provocatively called “Há Filmes na Baixa!” (lit. “There Are Films Downtown!”). Four years later, we believe it was worth it. We have witnessed the emergence of a wave of both new and old audiences that are returning to the downtown venues. Our regular screenings have become important events, attracting a faithful audience. As for the festival, it has seen sustainable growth. It has doubled the total number of attendees since its first edition. In 2016, we welcomed over 12,000 people. Obviously, this has only been possible because there was a local political will – and private sponsoring – which made the festival financially sustainable. Porto City Hall is a strategic partner, and Vinhos Verdes is our main private sponsor.

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Why did you choose the theme “Archive and Memory” for this year? What are the main programming themes?
Film is over 100 years old now. Images shot during this period occupy a huge amount of space in family and institutional archives. It is very rich material that allows us to re-write history. That’s the aspect of archives we want to focus on: we want to underline that the use of this type of “found” footage has been essential to contemporary documentary. The passing of time and all of the social transformations associated with it are essential to enable us to understand what is happening nowadays. Moreover, a festival also saves a place for memory. It is up to us to bring certain auteurs into the spotlight, like French filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch, born 100 years ago, whose films have been digitally restored recently. The Rouch retrospective will unveil essential films in terms of the history of cinema – movies that are also strongly related to the philosophy of Porto/Post/Doc: they take risks and challenge predefined boundaries.

How much space have you left for European productions in your selection this year?
For us, it is particularly important to guarantee the presence of European cinema because it is part of our universe of references: auteur-driven cinema hassome remarkable and very varied things to offer. In this context, I could mention the focus on Czech director Miroslav Janek. After showing the work of Jana Ševčíková in 2016, we are continuing our focus on Czech cinema, now programming works by an auteur who has been committed to lifting the lid on some of the most despised communities, providing them with visibility. His work is simultaneously engaged and poetic. We also focus on Swiss cinema. Peter Mettler has a very particular body of work; he has an essayist style, and his films are aesthetically impressive. Besides this, Franz Treichler, one of The Young Gods, will present an audiovisual performance alongside Mettler. That’s a way for us to open up to new models of exhibition.

Why has a festival “of the real” (despite its flirtations with fiction) opened up to utterly fictional productions? Two examples are the opening film, Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, and the excellent retrospective of the films by Portuguese duo André Santos and Marco Leão.
Being a festival “of the real” is, for us, a provocative attitude. Reality is full of contradictions, and cinema is the outcome of that latent ambivalence. In a world full of images and fake news, bringing back reality means promoting films that are strongly marked by the whims of a changing world. Therefore, for us, it is not crucial whether a film is a documentary or a fiction; it is more important for the movie to assume a truth about its own world, or for it to uncover our humanity. For us, this is “the real”, which can be found in Coppola’s film – it happens to be a historical picture, but it converses with the present – and in the retrospective of Santos and Leão’s work. Their films are bristling with an internal power in which fiction is a device to get closer to the reality of vivid and human characters.

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