Miguel Ribeiro, Glenda Balucani

Source: Doclisboa

L-R: Miguel Ribeiro, Glenda Balucani

Doclisboa is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The festival opened on October 6 with Lucretia Martel’s short film North Terminal, and will close on October 16 with Love-Lights from local directors Acácio de Almeida and Marie Carré.

The international competition is comprised some titles that are close to installation pieces such as Mónica de Miranda’s The Island  which was originally commissioned as a visual arts project by the Autograph Gallery in London and deals with the legacy of colonialism in Portugal. 

Others are far grittier. João Rosas’ Death Of A City looks at Lisbon during a property boom from the perspective of construction workers.

Meanwhile, Rosa Coutinho Cabral’s Rosa’s House was made in the build-up to the director’s eviction from the house in which she had been living for many years

Festival director Miguel Ribeiro has been involved in the event for a large part of its history. He started as a volunteer in 2011, joined the festival in 2012 and worked his way up the programming team.

He now oversees the event which this year is showcasing an impressive 281 films.

Glenda Balucani, the market director in charge of the industry programme Nebulae, has also had a very long association with Doclisboa; this is her 10th edition. Balucani has witnessed the creation of such industry events as the Arché Creative Lab and of Nebulae itself.

As the Nebulae swings into gear this week, Ribeiro and Balucani talk to Screen about this year’s edition. 

Why did you chose Lucrecia Martel’s short film North Terminal as your opening title?
MR: This film was a capsule for all that we wanted to reverberate and resonate as an energy at the festival. It is film built out of the encounter between different musicians from different backgrounds [in Argentina] who show in a cathartic way their life and hopes and desires through music. That’s  also why we  invited Lula Pena, a Portuguese  singer-songwriter, to do a performance at the beginning of the festival. It was very much secret before the event…she developed a performance act with real life shot footage of a plant that she was playing to and that has this reaction to sound.

Music is quite a key part of the programme, with the Heart Beat section which has, for example, Mathieu Amalric’s films with musician John Zorn.
MR Heart Beat is a section which has this festivity and celebration. The proposition for this section has always been to celebrate creation and to celebrate art. It’s a triangle in which you have the spectators, the artist one admires and the filmmaker who makes a film about their relationship.

In Nebulae, how do you strike the balance between the more practical industry activities, for example pitching and coproduction, and the discussions and debates?
GB: I wouldn’t describe Nebulae as a coproduction market. Beside the coproduction and helping projects to find financing, we also have a lot of opportunities for training and debate. In the Constellations programme, which is our masterclasses and round table programme, we have some activities that dialogue directly with the main programme of Doclisboa such as the debate about Women In Film, Women At Work [in partnership with the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work].

We also have actives that are mostly related to training. For example, young directors are part of the ‘green years’ programme. There are masterclasses about how to pitch a project [Let’s Pitch, with Adam Paplinski and Katarzyna Szarecka (Pitch the Doc)] and challenges in distribution and production.

What have you learned and retained for industry section Nebulae from the pandemic period?
GB: Nebulae started in 2019 so we only had one on-site edition and then switched to online/hybrid last year. This is the first year we are coming back to a full onsite edition. Even if the onsite experience brings a different energy and so on, what we have learned from the online is that we can shorten distances even more. Some [participants in Nebulae online during the pandemic] are actually coming to Lisbon this year. 

In the festival line-up, how strong are the films from Portuguese directors? 
MR:  There is a diversity of approaches and a freedom to use cinema widely that you see in the 12 films in the Portuguese competition. We also have Portuguese films premiering in different sections of the festival. In the Heart Beat section, we have Margot [by Catarina Alves Costa], a very experienced filmmaker who comes from ethnography cinema…it’s a time-crossing experiment with the images of the Makonde people [in Mozambique] captured years ago.

In Heart Beat, you can also see The King’s Voyage [by João Pedro Moreira] which is a collaborative dialogue between a filmmaker and a musician [Rui Reininho] and about the universe of his latest album. It’s the same in sections like New Visions where you have the premiere of the new film by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata, Where Is The Street, that was also screened in Locarno [about Paulo Rocha’s 1963 classic The Green Year] and discloses a whole history of Lisbon. For us, it is very important that the Portuguese selection makes visible this vitality and diversity.

How has the Portuguese exhibition sector bounced back after the pandemic and are Portuguese documentaries like the ones in your programme being seen in cinemas?
MR: Even before the lower audience numbers [because of Covid], we had a prior problem - the very small amount of cinemas. Lisbon has two cinemas that are not inside a multiplex. We are aware that it’s a really rare opportunity for Portuguese audiences to see some of the films we show. We take that also as a responsibility when building this programme. Then, Doclisboa through the year does a series of extensions [extra screening events] in other areas of Portugal, many times in alternative venues that are not professional cinemas. Some [of the other films in the programme] will get distribution and some will find their way through the streaming services.

GB: What we are trying to do [with Nebulae] is invite key players in the film industry. We always try to invite exhibitors to attend our activities. For example, this year we’ve established a partnership and are offering a discount on accreditation to an association of exhibitors from France. We always try to create common ground and a common space with the festival, film producers and exhibitors.

How do you make Doclisboa stand out in the packed autumn calendar?
GB: With DokLeipzig, we’ve together created a double accreditation. It’s the first year that we’re not taking place at the same time. The idea was to create something that would give access to both festivals. We thought why don’t we give them [industry delegates] the chance to attend both festivals and both industry programmes offering them a discount. It’s €170 to attend both. It’s a good example of the way we would like to keep working together in future.

How has the festival evolved since it started 20 years ago?
MR: The fact that so many people from so many different backgrounds came together to build this festival and continue building it shows the strength of Doclisboa. When there is so much doubt about what a documentary is today and how to define it, that also becomes a characteristic of documentary festivals. [But] it’s not so much about the format of the films we are showing. On the contrary, it’s continually seeing the world through the films we are showing. We are - with our eyes, ears and hearts - open to the transformation of the world.