The first complex retrospective of Portuguese documentarist Catarina Mourão represents a unique chance to get to know the personality of a filmmaker not only through her film language but also through her everyday speech. Read a special online interview with our virtual director guest!
The first complex retrospective of Portuguese documentarist Catarina Mourão represents a unique chance to get to know the personality of a filmmaker not only through her film language but also through her everyday speech. DAFilms.com, which presents a collection of Mourão’s films from January 20 to February 2, 2014, has made an interview with Catarina; online, of course.
Why have you decided to make films? How did you start?
This is always a hard question. I suppose I was always into film since I was a kid, and although I never believed I would dedicate my life to filmmaking, I spent hours in the cinema rooms. Later after a law degree which was a real nightmare for me, I finally followed my instinct and went to film school. After film school I made my first documentary Out of Water and soon after The Lady of Chandor. I took such pleasure and fulfilment in the whole challenge, that film making became a life obsession. And because film making is such a complex process, in all its dimensions, and that I tend to work very much on my own trying to find the right filmic and production approach for each project, making films almost becomes a way of living.
Why do you work with documentary films? What is so special for you about it?
When I began making films, documentary seemed to be a freer form of filmic expression, with less rules and dogmas than fiction film, especially in the way it was crafted. I like to adapt the way I work to each project. I was fascinated by the way film could treat my encounter with what was out there. I did not feel the urge to control everything that was being shot, I was very much into this idea of creating the right conditions for things to happen in front of the camera, things that I did not always anticipate. Documentary seemed to welcome this approach, this way of working with “reality”. I’m not sure if "documentary" is the right word for what I do, but if documentary means filming what makes me tick in a closer awareness to what surrounds me, then it suits me.
Which topics are the most important in your films? Probably memory or time, or something else?
I don’t think topics really distinguish my films. I have filmed children, old people, institutions, creative processes. Maybe the common denominator to them all is microcosms. I like to film in limited spaces in order to dig in and really get under the skin of the characters and their relationship with the space around them. This issue of time and memory permeates all my films. What I try to do is translate the inner conflicts people have related to their memories and their attempts to create harmony between past and present, in images. I use space and images to create visual metaphors to speak about peoples’ inner worlds.
You are one of the founders of Apordoc, Portuguese Documentary Association. What was the reason for founding it and how is the project?
In the late 1990’s in Portugal Documentary was a word stuck between television and propaganda films after the revolution. The idea that Documentary was Cinema, despite its specificity was still questionable for many people. As a symptom of this, if directors wanted to apply for funding at the Portuguese Film Institute they had to apply within the competition for short films. At the time it was really important to defend a creative Documentary open to experimentation and new approaches but within a context that would respect its specificity. The Association was initially a group of people who loved documentary and wanted to watch and discuss films. Slowly it became a pressure group to promote Creative Documentary among viewers and institutions. As the group became bigger and embraced new goals we felt the need to turn into a proper association. Nowadays Apordoc organizes very important events related to Documentary, namely the International Film Festival, DocLisboa, the seminar Docs Kingdom, but also Lisbon Docs the pitching forum and many other events related to Documentary. Thanks to Apordoc and everyone involved Documentary is no longer a UFO Unidentifiable Cinematic Object in the cinema landscape in Portugal. Still it is far from being a closed concept, this is of course its beauty.
Your retrospective is presented online. What do you think about the future of Video on Demand?
I am really happy with this retrospective online. It’s a great way to show people all around my work along the years, and not just one single film. As a viewer I have watched many films through this system. I don’t think it replaces the viewing in a theatre cinema room which for me is still a really strong experience, but it definitely allows a space for different cinematographie’s and points of view which were difficult to access before.
Dear Catarina, thank you for your time and interesting answers. We are very happy to have your films in our online catalogue as well as to present amazingly vivid Portugal documentary scene.
Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.