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- 18.5.2015 9:33 -

Jorge Mourinha: On Eye Opening

The names of the possible future winners of the 8th edition of the Doc Alliance Selection Award are already circulating across festivals and media. The luckiest of the nominated directors will receive the award on August 8, 2015 in Locarno. However, the important decision about the award winner is not brought by luck but rather by the jury comprised of seven leading European film critics. We are introducing the first one of them, Portuguese representative of Público Daily Jorge Mourinha!

Dear Jorge, it is our pleasure to welcome you on the DAFilms.com portal. First of all let me express our gratitude for your participation in the jury of the 8th edition of the international documentary competition Doc Alliance Selection Award and thus for your support of young emerging talents in the field of documentary cinema.

My pleasure, Andrea!

The competition is based on a collaboration of 7 key European documentary film festivals which create a platform known as Doc Alliance. Each festival nominates one juror from its country and one film regardless of the country of origin. You have been nominated by the Portuguese festival Doclisboa. Why have you accepted the invitation? Why do you consider it important to participate in the jury?

Well for starters a big thank you to Doclisboa for the absolutely remarkable role they've been playing here in Portugal for 12 years now. I remember interviewing one of the festival's former directors, Sérgio Tréfaut, and in that interview he said that one of the intentions behind Doclisboa was to be a sort of public-service event that would open people's eyes to things they wouldn't otherwise be able to see and enrich their worldview. In many ways Doclisboa did that for me. I've been following the festival professionally for the past ten years and it's been an eye-opening, enriching experience that has allowed me to discover some of the finest filmmakers at work in the world right now. So when they invited me I thought this was a great opportunity to in some little way thank them for the incredible work they've been doing. I tend to politely decline every invitation I have so far received to be part of a jury but the opportunity to in some way help to bring worthwhile documentaries to a wider audience all over the world clinched this one for me.

Do you see any common link among this year’s nominated films? Do they have something in common regarding topics, genre or style of filmmaking? How would you define the group of nominated films?

One of the aspects of documentary filmmaking – probably the most traditional and classical – is to have it be a very special type of witness to events happening right now in the world around us. It's clear to me that this year's crop of selections suggests that such an idea of the witness-documentary, of the topical current-issues film, is again in the ascendance. Not having seen most of them yet, I'm curious to see how they will treat their chosen subjects. It's also curious to point out that the Portuguese selection is the one battling against the grain, so to speak.

You have a long-time experience of being a journalist in Portugal. You are a film critic of Público (daily newspaper) among many other media. What kind of space is offered to the topics of film and documentary film in Portuguese media?

I'm proud to say that Público is one of the few outlets where you can still see regular in-depth arts and culture reporting in a country where the media space devoted to arts, and film by consequence, is shrinking more and more. In a country where the box-office is continuously shrinking every year and American blockbusters seem to have the upper hand, it's a good sign that media outlets as a whole still make a point to speak of other, non-blockbuster films reaching screens or of the many festivals happening in the country, but there's only so much that the media can do when the audiences aren't there and the distributors and exhibitors tend to be more motivated by the short-term need for financial revenue than by a mid- to long-term strategy to keep the market alive and healthy. It's good that a few distributors and exhibitors believe there is an audience for documentary film and persist bullishly in releasing documentaries commercially. This week alone, we have three reaching theaters: Johannes Holzhausen's The Great Museum, Ulrich Seidl's In the Basement, Frederick Wiseman's National Gallery.

The last two winning films of the Doc Alliance Selection Award come from Portugal ( Captivity by André Gil Mata in 2013 and The Quest of the Schooner Creoula by André Valentim Almeida ). How do you reflect the contemporary Portuguese documentary scene? Do you follow any new trends or significant progress there?

As I'm sure you've heard, Portuguese filmmaking – whether fiction or documentary, feature or short film – has been struggling with financing issues, as the entire state-based system has been torn down and rebuilt. So a lot of the films that have been made are what I'd call “no-budget”, very personal pictures that are directly connected to the director's own experience. But even before the system collapsed, it's interesting to see that there is an intensely personal dimension to much of Portuguese documentary filmmaking, a sense of personal journal or video diary: I'm thinking of Gonçalo Tocha's It's the Earth, Not the Moon or Joaquim Pinto's What Now? Remind Me. So I think that both Captivity and The Quest of the Schooner Creoula are actually pretty good examples of the current “mainstream”, so to speak, of Portuguese documentary film, of a very personal cinema that finds ways to make do with what it's got and tries to use the personal to reach a wider, universal audience, though I like Almeida's film much better than Mata's. The IndieLisboa festival has just wrapped up here and in competition they did have a couple of documentaries that ran in that direction as well, one of them being another absolutely fantastic example of that personal-into-universal thing - Catarina Mourão's The Wolf's Lair, which builds on her own family history to create a wonderfully layered excursion into Portuguese history.

Outside the DAS Award, what are the films that have attracted most of your attention this year? Could you provide us with any titles we should not miss?

Again, Catarina Mourão's The Wolf's Lair premiered at Rotterdam I think and it's a gorgeous piece of filmmaking that deserves to break out in a way Gonçalo Tocha's or Joaquim Pinto's films did. I was also extremely impressed by Jean-Gabriel Périot's A German Youth – it's a remarkable work of archival research and editing that creates a very thought-provoking picture about the relationship between art and politics, and André Novais Oliveira' She'll Be Back by Thursday for its ingenious melding of documentary and fiction.

Thank you for your precious time, Jorge. We look forward to the winner of the DAS Award 2015 a lot!

My pleasure, Andrea. Speak soon :-)

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