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(Re)imagining African Independence

Film, Visual Arts and the Fall of the Portuguese Empire


Maria do Carmo Piçarra and Teresa Castro

The fortieth anniversary of the independence of the African countries colonized by Portugal presents a valuable opportunity to reassess how colonialism has been «imagined» through the medium of the moving image. The essays collected in this volume investigate Portuguese colonialism and its filmic and audio-visual imaginaries both during and after the Estado Novo regime, examining political propaganda films shot during the liberation wars and exploring the questions and debates these generate. The book also highlights common aspects in the emergence of a national cinema in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. By reanimating (and decolonizing) the archive, it represents an important contribution to Portuguese colonial history, as well as to the history of cinema and the visual arts.

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10 In-Between Memory and History: Artists’ Films and the Portuguese Colonial Archive (Teresa Castro)


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10  In-Between Memory and History: Artists’ Films and the Portuguese Colonial Archive

In recent years, a growing number of Portuguese artists and filmmakers have been undertaking what could be described as more or less poetic explorations of some very specific aspects of Portugal’s recent colonial past. A few of these films – such as Filipa César’s The Embassy (2011) and Andreia Sobreira’s 1971–1974 (I Am in Mozambique) (2011) – have focused on photographic albums relating to the colonial period, while others, such as Manuel Santos Maia’s alheava-film (2006–2007) or Raquel Schefer’s Avó [Granny] (Muidumbe) (2009) and Nshajo (O Jogo) [The Game] (2011), choose to delve into home movies and amateur archival film. Other films, such as Salomé Lamas’ No Man’s Land (2012), have preferred to ignore archival footage and historical documents and to concentrate instead on the testimonial stance of a character (in this case, a supposedly former mercenary). If Lamas’ film is rather unique (very few Portuguese non-fiction films have been so exclusively and rigorously built around the paradoxes of bearing witness), speech plays an essential role in all of the films mentioned so far. Even in Daniel Barroca’s Soldier Playing with Dead Lizard (2008), a sound video-installation where words seem conspicuously absent, the oral testimony constitutes an important layer, albeit repressed.

Despite their different strategies and results, to which I will come later on, all these films and videos seem to be symptomatic of a...

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