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Miguel Ribeiro • Co-director, Doclisboa

"We felt like we could contribute with this idea of rebuilding a community of cinemagoers"


- We caught up with Doclisboa co-director Miguel Ribeiro to discuss the radical change it has made to its structure in the face of the pandemic

Miguel Ribeiro • Co-director, Doclisboa

We talked to Miguel Ribeiro, co-director of Doclisboa, which has made what is probably the most radical change in the face of the pandemic of all the festivals: it will take place in six "moments" across six months, presenting different films to audiences in Lisbon cinemas during each of the segments. The first “moment” is happening right now, from 22 October-1 November.

Cineuropa: How did you come up with this concept?
Miguel Ribeiro:
It came from a process of reflection among the Doclisboa team. We asked ourselves, “With so many restrictions and uncertainties, what are the fundaments of Doclisboa? What is it that we stand for? At a time when the idea of gathering and being together is in so much flux and being questioned, how can a festival best contribute to the ecosystem and to the community?” So instead of having 300 screenings in 11 days, now we have 200 films in six months. So, we thought this would be a chance to see whether we could make an even bigger change to the festival experience. Instead of audiences watching different films as it would be in a traditional set-up, and talking about these different narratives, everybody will be watching the same films in a programme that is totally differently organised, and we will have these memories of what we have seen resurface again during the debates and discussions.

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All of the films in our five main sections – Movements, Spaces of Intimacy, So Many Stories Left Untold, Archives of the Present, and Where I'm Coming from, Where I'm Going to – will have one screening each, and each programme happens over the course of one week of one month. This way, you can follow the whole programme, and the curatorial idea behind this lies very much in the inner dialogues between the films and between the programmes. We conceived the festival as a voyage, a movement along these programme sections that are thematically succeeding one another.

You probably also bore in mind the fact that the cinema network is struggling everywhere.
We knew that the theatres themselves and the idea of cinemagoing would be highly fragile after the lockdown. We felt like we could contribute with this idea of rebuilding a community of cinemagoers as a group of people who watch and discuss films. This is why we insisted on ensuring that every theatre gets equipped with video-conferencing tools so that after each film, we can hold a discussion between the filmmaker and the audience.

Also, we wanted to show support for the amazing work being done by cinemas to implement all of these health-and-safety measures so that the audience is able to participate. This is something we want to give visibility to – the fact that you can go back to the cinema. By doing it this way, we also remain open to what might happen in the world in the next six months, what might happen locally, and maybe we will understand that we can reframe some things that we can't even imagine right now.

How did the team adapt to this approach and decide to go through with doing a festival for six months instead of 11 days?
We have a crazy team, it's really inspiring. It really came about with no fear at all, with a sort of call to action: this is what we want to do. And then we thought about how to make it possible. Of course, doing a festival that has 12 screenings in a month doesn’t involve the same level of energy as having 300 screenings in 11 days. But it also stemmed from this idea of working more closely with the films. When you have 12 screenings in a week, you also have a team that's highly dedicated to each and every film, and it allows us to have more time to start thinking about what the future will be. We really want to jump in with an open mind and see what it brings us.

What about your industry section, Nebulae?
From 22 October-1 November, our industry space, Nebulae, will be taking place entirely online, and there are many activities open to both the industry professionals and the audience. We are engaging the industry with the entirety of the programme already – even the films we will be showing in January or February. Industry professionals – programmers, journalists, distributors and so on – have access to all of the films from the start, so this is the work we are doing to promote these films.

In addition, we have an online programme that is complementary to the Body of Work programme that we will present in Lisbon. So in the cinemas, we are showing contemporary films that debate work and labour practices, whereas online, we have a historical programme of films spanning the century, by filmmakers who were thinking of how societies organise themselves around work. This programme will be accessible worldwide, and I would like to invite everyone to join in and take part in the open activities.

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