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From: Robert Koehler <roberthkoehler@gmail.com>
Date: April 23, 2010 4:48:19 AM PDT
Subject: Indie Lisboa–Day 1

While writing at my hotel room desk, CNN International begins airing the live edition of Thursday night’s second UK election debate. The Liberal Democrat’s Dickensian-sounding Nick Clegg, who shot to international prominence after he blew away Labour’s Gordon Brown and the Tories’ David Cameron in the first debate. Clegg held his own well enough; he won most late Thursday polls among viewers. Gordon Brown tried and failed to bounce back, while David Cameron continues to be dull. Cameron is your typical Tory in a younger package, but any American viewer can’t help but be struck at how Cameron’s conservatism would be drummed out of today’s GOP as “socialist”–so rightward is the GOP shift that the standard-bearer of its British counterpart is far to its left. Cameron reminds that no major party in the world’s major industrialized nations is as rightwing as America’s Republicans….

Opening night of Indie Lisboa at the Sao Jorge movie palace, as the crowd assembles to watch Joao Canijo’s ironic found-footage film, “Lusitania Fantasy.” Note the open-air balcony, and the wall-sized banner on the side of Lisbon’s oldest operating cinema, a home to eclectic, non-commercial programming during the year.

The Sao Jorge movie palace fills as opening ceremonies begin, with Indie Lisboa’s iconic image projected on the screen–along the ubiquitous crow mascot beamed onto the walls adjacent to the screen curtain. There was no red carpet–take note, American festivals. Director Joao Canijo’s opening remarks at the podium (flooded here in lights) elicited a loud and supportive reaction from the audience. My friend and chief critic of the weekly paper Expresso, Francisco Ferreira, will be providing me with a general translation/summation of Canijo’s remarks, which he says were highly critical of the current state of Portuguese cinema. The crowd clearly concurred….

Several one-sheets of films in the Indie Lisboa lineup in a glass case in the Sao Jorge lobby. On the left is a poster for Canijo’s “Lusitania Fantasy,” Indie Lisboa’s opening night film, while in the center is the poster for Javier Rebollo’s superb “Woman without Piano,” in the international competition here. I programmed “Woman without Piano” in Los Angeles last year.

One of two different three-sheets in the Sao Jorge cinema’s entry lobby of Joao Canijo’s week-received opening night film, “Lusitania Fantasy.” Note the poster’s deliberately anachronistic design, which is of a piece with the film’s cinematic strategy, to assemble found footage from the wartime 1940s that recorded the elaborate rituals, celebrations, events and actions by Portugal’s fascist Salazar dictatorship which attempted to promote a nostalgia for Portugal’s former worldwide dominance with a pathetic form of nationalist romanticism. Canijo’s film is rife with bemused irony, not anger, a tone unthinkable from any comparable film which may be made in a found-footage mode from filmmakers in other countries still struggling with their dark pasts, from Germany to Greece to Argentina to the U.S.

A few blocks away from the Sao Jorge and around the corner from my hotel is the Portuguese Cinematheque, whose lovely facade and elegant illuminated sign truly touched me in the late-night hours. The place exudes a sense of being a palace of cinephilia. Upcoming screenings this week include Antonioni’s “Professione: Reporter” and Walsh’s “The Revolt of Mamie Stover,” starring the great Agnes Moorehead.

Sure–and more to come