Portuguese filmmaker João Pedro Rodrigues visiting Cinematik

18. August 2019

The International Film Festival Cinematik draws its attention to Portuguese cinema in the section Portugal Magnified. And from Portugal comes this years main guest, award-winning director and screenwriter João Pedro Rodrigues. Cinematik pays homage to the filmmaker, whose films are regularly presented by the most prestigious festivals in the world, in a separate section Respect. The audience will be able to see all five feature films from his filmography. João Pedro Rodrigues has accepted a personal invitation to the 14th Cinematik, whose visitors will be able to participate in his master class as a part of the program.

João Pedro Rodrigues was born in 1966 in Lisbon. At first he studied biology and longed to become an ornithologist. Eventually, however, he was lured from this intention by his love for film, which he studied at the Lisbon Film School. He started with experimental short films, and he also has several documents on his account. The main line of his filmography, however, consists of feature films, which successfully avoid stereotypes and genre boxes.

In his films, he explores in detail human desires and passions, which often abut with absolute obsession. He is not afraid to present his heroes in bizarre situations or in unflattering light – after all, he strives for depth, intensity and individualism more than for superficial sympathy. Hallmarks of his films are bold work with nudity and his uncommon symbolism. His films often include homosexuality and transsexuality.

In his first feature film Phantom (2000) he follows a young garbage man, Sergio, who rejects the affection of a female colleague and instead falls for the desire for another man. In the grim reality of the dark night streets, the viewer gradually penetrates the depths of Sergio’s fetishes and watches his sexual interest turning into a dangerous obsession. The film premiered at the Venice IFF, where it was nominated for the Golden Lion.

In his second film, Two Drifters (2005), the director follows the story of a woman who, after a neighbour’s death, infiltrates into his family pretending to expect a baby with the late man. This time in Rodrigues’s viewfinder, there is a hysteria that will gradually dominate the main character. The film was presented and awarded with Cinémas de Recherche special mention in Cannes.

To Die Like a Man (2009) is a portrait of an ageing star of the Lisbon travesty scene. On the background of the heroine’s love, health and family problems, the film becomes a parable that combines elements of melodrama, fantasy and musical. The movie was screened in the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes.

The movie The Last Time I Saw Macao (2012), co-directed by Rodrigues with João Rui Guerra de Matta, is a multi-genre experiment with a touch of Asian exoticism. A mosaic of authentic memories comes to life in an original combination of documentary shots with a narrative voice-over.

So far, the latest feature film João Pedro Rodrigues has completed is The Ornithologist (2016). As the title suggests, the film is partly of autobiographical nature. However, it is not dealing with the real life of the filmmaker, it shows how his life could have looked if he had taken a different course at an important intersection of life. The main protagonist is an ornithologist who unexpectedly embarks on a journey of inner rebirth on his quest for an endangered bird species. Among other things, the film also paraphrases the story of Saint Anthony of Padua, a native of Lisbon, and reveals to the viewer the beauty of the most remote Portuguese regions.