10/25/2018.- On Thursday, October 2, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes taught a master class at the Aula Mergelina of the University of Valladolid within the 63rd Valladolid International Film Festival. During the class, Gomes talked about how he took his first steps in the film industry working as a critic. However, he did not like it, because he aspired to be a director. «I never wanted to be a film critic, it happened by accident. One of my friends was a journalist, and after the film critic who worked in her newspaper left she offered me the position. I worked there for four years, and had a reputation for being overcritical, so I made a few enemies», he explained to the audience. After that, he started shooting a short film because he «still wanted to be a film director». Although he admits it was not a good project, «the ‘critics’ comments were good, because they were less demanding than me», he said laughing, and stressed the importance of having been a film fan since he was a child.
One of the most relevant moments of his career, he added, was the beginning of the Curtas Vila do Conde short film festival in 1993. This was the first time these small film projects were given grants in the country. «Starting to film is difficult. This contest created the conditions for the Portuguese Film and Audiovisual Institute to start funding short films, and I was part of the generation that benefited from that opportunity», he said.
Gomes, author of four feature films, talked about the difficulties he went through when he recorded his first film, Our beloved month of August. «The producer told me there was no money and it was better to wait a year in order to get it. But after a few days I thought that was silly, because in the cinema industry if you wait you lose money. What I did was start filming without a script. I lived there (in villages from the Portuguese interior), filmed for several weeks, and then edited it», he continued. In that sense, the director defended the importance of taking advantage of the resources at hand, inventing your way through, because «you can’t fight the world».
The Portuguese director believes that all films are political and insisted that there is always a connection between the way in which everyone sees the world and the way they film. However, he also explained that he doesn’t really like «that militant cinema that has a very clear idea about what social relations need to be like, because it is spectators who must form their own idea. Who am I to tell them what it should be like?» he wondered. Therefore, Gomes believes that it is much healthier for a film to bring about different opinions and sensations in the audience — «cinema can only be like that, it can’t aspire to please everyone», he added.
Gomes also said that the inspiration for his second film, Taboo, was a daily story related to the neighbours of «a very dear aunt of mine who always wants to help everyone», because it is precisely those simple stories that the author prefers.
He also spoke about his latest film, Arabian Nights, which is divided into three volumes and portrays the complicated economic crisis that Portugal has suffered by mixing elements of reality and fiction. «The situation was worse every day and I had to shoot in the country, I had to invent a way to capture what was happening, but I am not a journalist. Therefore, I had to do it by using fiction», hence the character of a modern Scheherazade. In this case, he received funding to make the film, and spent a whole year devoted to filming and investigating with three journalists. «The result was six and a half hours of film. It was like Noah’s ark, where I tried to squeeze in as many animals as possible», he explained to the audience.
In addition to participating in Seminci this year with the feature films Our beloved month of August and Taboo, included in the cycle dedicated to Portugal, Gomes presides the international jury in the current 63rd edition.