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Fractions of reality: essayism in Portuguese speaking cinemas


Since the middle of the 80s two tendencies associated with filmmakers of a distinct handwriting can be singled out in World Cinema: new realism and the essay-film. Next to directors of international prestige such as Jean-Luc Godard, Abbas Kiarostami, Harun Farocki, Apichatpong Weeresethakul and Gus van Sant, names of equal importance from the Lusophone world can be added: the Portuguese Manoel de Oliveira, João César Monteiro and Pedro Costa, the Brazilians Beto Brant, José Padilha, Eduardo Coutinho and João Moreira Salles, Flora Gomes from Guinea-Bissau and Ruy Duarte de Carvalho from Angola, among others. All these filmmakers pay attention to the multiple impacts of late capitalism, take in consideration the direct or indirect legacy of colonialism, or consider the presence of other power formations. In terms of esthetics, their films establish a strong relation with reality, while, at the same time, they question the possibility of representing it. Their spectators are confronted with very personal and non-conclusive visions of the current ethics, which more often than not are instigated by the possibilities of digital media. Scholarship's attention towards the two tendencies that share an essayistic approach has either produced books on new realism (Nagib & Mello, 2009) or on the essay-film (Rascaroli, 2009). However, even though they share certain characteristics - of which the transgression between fiction and reality, as well as a disbelieve in the objectivity of representation are the most significant - the two tendencies have never been studied in context, much less in relation to Portuguese speaking films. This project is designed to fill this gap and aims to defend the existence of a third genre, the cinematographic or filmic essay, by studying it in the works of Lusophone filmmakers (from Brazil, Portugal and the PALOP) whose cultures and histories of cinema, it might be argued, are based on a strong essayist tradition. As such, the project aspires to clarify the role of these filmmakers within World Cinema, as well as inquire to what point it is possible to speak of an important phenomenon in the Lusophone world, that is, if there is in fact a significant group of essayistic films that demonstrate different ethics and aesthetics in order to present the fractioned reality of our contemporary world. (AU)

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