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Dockanema honors esteemed director, Ruy Guerra

Ruy Guerra

For its 6 edition Dockanema decided to celebrate Ruy Guerra. At the Brazilian cultural centre he decided to talk about the 3 moments of his life: poet, photographer, actor, scriptwriter, editor, but above all film director, born in 1931 in the city now known as Maputo. In his youth in Maputo, he was active against Portuguese colonization and racism, which of course got him into trouble with the authorities. His father worried for his safety and decided to send him abroad.

Moment I

His passion for cinema made him consider 3 possibilities in Europe to learn filmmaking.

1/ Cinecitta – but it was for observers only

2/ Lodze film school, but you had to learn Polish for one year, then 2 years theory and then you got to practice. He was far too petulant for that.

3/ IDHEC; now known as La Femis French National Film School.

Off he went, to live the Rive Gauche bohemian life, which no doubt was a great training for future hardship as a filmmaker. After the course he remained in Paris and got involved with the Nouvelle Vague at a time when a major debate was taking place: Is there such a thing as authored cinema and can it be the 7th art, when it is produced with machines and a team of people?

Moment II

Missing speaking Portuguese and not being able to return to Mozambique, he finally decided to migrate to Brazil in ’58, passing from Nouvelle Vague to Cinema Novo, a group of Brazilian filmmakers trying to break with tradition in search of a new Brazilian identity, beyond football and Samba. This radical, political cinema became a movement but was stopped in its tracks by the violent military dictatorship when they came to power in ’64, and stayed there for the next 20 years.

Moment III

In 1975, when Mozambique became independent, he was able to return to his native country and offered to help in the creation of Mozambican cinema. He played an important role in training young filmmakers and setting up a popular network for distributing and showing films. In order to support film production in Mozambique he created Kanemo. He brought in prominent figures from the international world of film to collaborate with the National Cinema Institute.

Ruy Guerra is better known internationally for his fiction but while he was in Mozambique he produced many documentaries. His work, regardless if it is fiction or documentary, is imbued with visual poetry. The slow pacing allows the viewer to soak in every detail of the image and characteristics of the characters. His artistic output is marked by a close link between reality and fiction.

“I have a tendency to treat reality as an aspect of fiction.” he told Cahier du Cinema in 2000. He views fiction as documentary or the documentary as fiction because “reality is already fictionalized from the symbols of our world” – the representation of our world and the way we perceive it through our senses is already fiction…

‘Os Fuzis’, 1964

His two films that have won the most awards ‘Os Fuzis‘ and ‘A Queda‘, are probably the highest achievement of his vision of cinema.

It was such pity that most people who turned up to listen to him were mainly of his own generation, when he has so much to share with the up and coming filmmakers. Did the political will not just leave the government but also an entire new generation?

In order not to leave his audience with this depressing thought, he cracked a joke about wanting to live until 117, in order to have a fourth moment in his life and finish writing a novel. I hope that does not mean no more films…

Noe Mendelle

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Noe’s Letter from Maputo

Some of you may have heard of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique but I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t. It is a large country in the south of Africa, with a very long coast on the Indian Ocean and sharing many borders with South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. Not only do they share borders but also a history of wars and colonialism. Except that Mozambique was the only territory in that part of Africa colonized by Portugal, which meant independence only came once Portugal got rid of its own fascist government in 1975.

Samora Machel, President of Mozambique from 1975 until 1986

Then came the golden era of its left wing liberator, Samora Machel. Again many people wouldn’t even know his name, but he was a bigger version of Mandela, with as much of a passion for his people as he had for life. Less than 10 years later – at a time when Aparteid in South Africa was at its most threatening, and in retaliation of Mozambique’s offering political refuge to South African militants – his presidential plane crashed ‘by accident,’ leaving Mozambique a helpless widow.

This is a long introduction to talk about Dockanema, Mozambique’s annual documentary festival, but Mozambique has always had a special place in the history of cinema. After independence, Machel realized that cinema would be crucial in communicating ideas to the people, so the Institute of Cinema was created and every week films were made and distributed around the huge bush territory with ambulant cinemas. That caught the imagination of European filmmakers who took into spending time in Mozabique, such as Godard, Jean Rouche etc…To this day, France is one the main provider of finance to filmmaking here.

‘Nostalgia de la Luz’, Patricio Guzman, 2010

This year I’m honoured to be a guest of the 6th edition of Dockanema. We are talking about a low budget, no frill festival. Yet Pedro Pimenta, the director and his wonderful team managed to squat four wonderful spaces with screening facilities and cafes for people to meet and have a good selection of international films at their disposal. Not the latest, but definitely good food for thought….and this is what festivals are about: feelings and reflection, and what better opening film than ‘Nostalgia de la Luz’ by Guzman, in which he mixes astronomy and historical memory. The visiting of memory is crucial at a time when there are so many political and economic insecurities, not as a nostalgic journey but as a tool to create a forward vision.

The success of Dockanema is allowing other mini festivals and distribution networks to slowly develop in other parts of the country.

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