Portuguese Jesus for a Day wins at home
by Boyd van Hoeij
07/05/2012 - The IndieLisboa Film Festival, which ended this weekend in the Portuguese capital, awarded its award for best Portuguese feature-length film to Jesus for a Day, a non-fiction work from female directors Helena Inverno and Verónica Castro.
The film, shot in and around a Trás-os-Montes jail in the north of the country, looks at the preparation for an Easter celebration that includes an outdoor staging of the Stations of the Cross by the male prisoners.
Inverno and Castro follow the inmates from the first rehearsal - "Who will play Jesus, I played him last year? - through to a few glimpses of the actual event, at night-time in what looks like a small village.
Jesus thus sketches a portrait of a religious rite focused on a poor but saintly, almost naked and very vulnerable man as executed by a bunch of fast-talking and very macho criminals (the directors wisely never identify the crimes these men have committed, essentially making them equals).
Intercut throughout the film, which was shot on HD by Inverno, are close-up shots of an antique wooden crucifix being restored, though the exact connection to the rest of the material remains tangential. More telling are small details captured in the background of wider shots, with a poster of Jesus on the inside of a cell door
Edited together without any commentary, the film is reminiscent of other works that look at male inmates tackling theatre and confronting some of life's major questions that way, including Italian documentary Balordi from Mirjam Kubescha and the recent Berlinale winner Cesare deve morire, from the Taviani brothers. But unlike those works it is set in a rural setting, adding a curious distance and a slower pace to the proceedings.
The film was produced by Luís Urbano and Sandro Aguilar for their outfit O Som e a Fúria.
Further local documentaries that were showcased at IndieLisboa include A Casa from Julio Alvez, From New York with Love from André Almeida and, in the noncompetitive IndieMusica section, My Dear Friend Chico by Joana Barra Vaz.