Portuguese film

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The Portuguese film ( Cinema Português or Cinema Lusitano ) describes filmmaking in Portugal . Authors' films and narrative cinema in particular are still the most important forms of expression in Portuguese cinema. In this area, Portugal is significant as a film location, but not in the area of ​​commercial cinema. Many productions are also joint productions, mostly with Spanish, Italian, French, British or Brazilian film producers . Two important and particularly recognized Portuguese directors are João César Monteiro and Manoel de Oliveira .


Beginnings (from 1896)

Scene from Saída do Pessoal Operário da Fábrica Confiança

The beginnings of the Portuguese film go back to the film pioneer Aurélio Paz dos Reis , who is to be mentioned as the actual founder of the Portuguese film. In 1896, he presented the first Portuguese cinematograph to the public. His 1896 film Saída do Pessoal Operário da Fábrica Confiança ( Workers Leaving the Confiança Shirt Factory ) is considered the first Portuguese film.

High phase (1930s / 1940s)

Invicta's studios

There were some successful projects early on, such as the Charlie Chaplin- influenced comedy Pratas Conquistador by Ernesto de Albuquerque in 1917 or the successes of the production company Invicta in the 1920s. But a Portuguese film industry only began to develop in the 1930s, which caused a period of national box office hits. These comedies from the 1930s to 1950s are very popular in Portugal to this day.

Through the successful films of the 1930s to 1950s, some people, such as the singer Amália Rodrigues or the actor Virgílio Teixeira , also became internationally known. In Portugal itself, the actors António Silva , Beatriz Costa and Vasco Santana are very popular to this day.

Arthur Duarte had been an actor with UFA in Germany since 1927 , but returned to Portugal in 1933, where he was responsible as an actor and director for some of the most successful comedies ( O Leão da Estrela , O Costa do Castelo ).

In 1931, A Severa (“Die Strenge”, about the Fado singer Maria Severa ) was the first sound film in Portugal. In 1933, A Canção de Lisboa (“The Song of Lisbon”) was the first sound film to be produced entirely in Portugal. A number of successful comedies and tragic comedies followed.

O Homem do Dia (1958, directed by Henrique Campos ), with racing cyclist Alves Barbosa

The dictatorship that had emerged since the military coup in 1926 also played a role in the spread of cinema in Portugal. The Estado Novo regime of Salazar , established in 1932, promoted modern cinema for its own purposes. The SPN Propaganda Secretariat and its director António Ferro , who was interested in film , produced a rather elaborate propaganda film , A Revolução de Maio (“The May Revolution”), completed in 1937 by director António Lopes Ribeiro , under the influence of the Spanish civil war . The emphatically anti-communist film was shown a lot abroad. As a result, Ribeiro stood out alongside José Leitão de Barros as a “director of the right”. Documentaries like his in particular became part of the program in the traveling cinemas that propaganda sent across the country. But the successful, apolitical comedies in the cinemas of the time also usually showed a calm, traditional Portugal. This portrayal of a prosperous , strong and above all peaceful nation in the midst of a world sinking in World War II strengthened the regime's position.

After the end of the war in 1945, the reconstruction and the onset of economic upswing in war-torn Europe ensured an enormous general development, while Portugal now increasingly lagged behind. The international criticism of the regime and Portuguese colonial policy that arose in the 1950s also contributed to a changed social climate (it was not until 1955 that Portugal joined the UN, which was founded in 1945 ). The popular comedies now increasingly showed an outdated Lisbon, in which its residents recognized themselves less and less. In 1958, Sangue Toureiro ("Bullfighter Blood") was the first Portuguese color film to be released, starring the well-known bullfighter Diamantino Viseu and the popular Amália Rodrigues. The failure of the film was symptomatic of the unmistakable crisis of the country's formerly successful film production since the mid-1950s, with declining cinema attendance and the weak script of the uninspired film being mutually dependent. Some directors (about the neorealistisch embossed Manuel Guimarães ), has been a desire to place more sophisticated films with the general public, but the system-compliant entertainment film dominated the levers of industry. The established directors continued to cling to their outdated recipes for success. After initial cinematic élan ( Madragoa , Sonhar é fácil , both 1951), Perdigão Queiroga became more and more conventional, while Manoel de Oliveira stopped filming since his flopped Aniki Bóbó (1942). There was a lack of engaging scripts and opportunities for young filmmakers, and the emergence of television further fueled the anti-cinema trend. In 1955, for the first time, not a single film was produced in Portugal. At the end of the high phase characterized by entertainment films, the Portuguese film was stuck in a dead end and lost the audience's approval.

Novo Cinema (1960s / 1970s)

Main article: Novo Cinema

In 1963, the new Portuguese film, the Novo Cinema , caught on with the names of rebellious young filmmakers such as António da Cunha Telles , Paulo Rocha and Fernando Lopes . As with neorealism with Aniki Bóbó (1942), Manoel de Oliveira with his O Acto da Primavera , which he shot from 1959 and which was canceled in 1963 after only one screening (with subsequent temporary arrest of Oliveira ), can be regarded as a forerunner of the Novo Cinema by the secret police PIDE ). A first wave of content-critical and cinematic demanding works emerged. Films like Os Verdes Anos by Paulo Rocha, or Belarmino and Uma Abelha na Chuva by Fernando Lopes, developed film languages ​​influenced by Nouvelle Vague and neorealism , but under their own auspices, under the influence of poetry, censorship and the country's social problems. When, after increasing pressure from the cinema buffs, the important Gulbenkian Cultural Foundation also turned to the art of film, Novo Cinema, which had suffered from censorship and lack of economic success from the start, gained new confidence. The foundation supported the establishment of the film collective Centro Português de Cinema (1969), in which the most important filmmakers organized themselves. The planned film funding from the Gulbenkian Foundation, which was promised at the same time, and the institutional funding from the newly founded state film institute IPC (today's ICA ) gave the Novo Cinema, which threatened to wane after its initial enthusiasm, new momentum. The success of the film O Cerco (by António da Cunha Telles 1969/1970) bridged the onset of the dry spell until the newly funded projects started and gave the Novo Cinema new impetus.

Eduardo Geada

After the Carnation Revolution and the end of the censorship of the Estado Novo dictatorship in 1974, the language of the Novo Cinemas also changed, but remained true to the primacy of claims over commerce. The new freedom first manifested itself in a flood of political documentaries and emancipatory films, but in the course of the cooling revolution also in an increasing search for direction. In this phase, internationally acclaimed directors such as João César Monteiro were able to set new accents.

At the end of the 1970s, discussions among film buffs in the country about the future direction of Portuguese film increased. Some voices asked for a film that was closer to the audience, on the one hand , because the censorship no longer required metaphorical film language, and on the other hand, the audience's wishes should be the yardstick. Other voices, on the other hand, advocated an avant-garde cinema that stimulates social discussions and is not oriented towards conforming mass tastes. Names of the Novo Cinema such as António da Cunha Telles, António-Pedro Vasconcelos , José Fonseca e Costa or Luís Galvão Teles opted for a film that wants to convey content in an entertaining language that reaches as many people as possible. Directors such as Paulo Rocha, Margarida Gil , Eduardo Geada or Fernando Lopes saw themselves more committed to avant-garde films.

Contemporary cinema (1980s to today)

Poster for Joaquim Sapinho's surprise hit from 1995

The social changes in the course of the political disillusionment, but also the steadily advanced economic improvements in Portugal in the 1980s and 1990s, also influenced the perspective of film in the country, its themes and its language. The framework conditions remained essentially unchanged, such as the relatively small domestic market and its limited financial resources. And even if there are occasional Portuguese blockbusters , for example by Carlos Coelho da Silva , who is also the program director of the private broadcaster SIC , they only exist in Portugal itself, while Portuguese film continues to be known internationally for its high-quality films. The award-winning films by names such as João Canijo and João Botelho are in the tradition today . International recognition is made possible in particular by the work of producers such as António da Cunha Telles , Tino Navarro and the renowned Paulo Branco , who made Portuguese films known to cineastes through international film festivals and distributors.

Young directors, however, are looking for new answers in Portugal's ever-changing society. The spectrum of Portuguese film is broader today than ever, with directors as diverse as Teresa Villaverde , Miguel Gomes , Joaquim Sapinho or Bruno de Almeida . The late José Álvaro Morais, for example, had aroused hopes among film buffs for a new author of high-quality films, while Fernando Fragata was more oriented towards the viewing habits of the general public. Joaquim Leitão, on the other hand, follows the tradition of directors such as Vasconcelos and Fonseca e Costa, who offer content and food for thought in a film language that is closer to the audience. But cult films outside of the categories of cineastes are also possible today, such as the surprisingly successful Balas & Bolinhos trilogy, which came to an end in September 2012, by Luís Ismael and friends (among the 10 most-watched port. Filming since 2004).


In front of the Cinemateca Portuguesa in Lisbon

The state film funding institute Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual (ICA), an independent institution under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture, which also publishes the weekly box-office figures and publishes the relevant statistics, plays a major role in Portuguese film production .

Mention should also be made of the film institute and museum, the Cinemateca Portuguesa , founded in 1948 , whose diverse activities also include the restoration of important Portuguese films. The film club movement, with its 22 official and many unofficial film clubs, continues to provide an important source of inspiration and freedom for film discussion in the country outside of the commercial structures.

Film festivals

Festival poster for the 29th Fantasporto in Porto (2009)

Films are shown at various cultural festivals in the country (e.g. at the theater festival CITEMOR ) and occasionally also receive awards (e.g. in Santa Maria da Feira ). There are or have been over 30 regular film festivals since 1971 , including the Festróia, one of which is accredited by FIAPF . The most important are the fantasy film festival Fantasporto in Porto , the environmental film festival CineEco in Seia , the festival of Portuguese film ( Caminhos do Cinema Português ) in Coimbra , and the Lisbon festivals Doclisboa ( documentary films ), Queer Lisboa (for the gay lesbian film) and the festival for independent film , the IndieLisboa .

See also: List of film festivals in Portugal


As a traditional focus of culture in Portugal, the capital has always played a particularly important role for domestic films. Even if there are film festivals, film schools and film productions all over the country, the most important institutions of Portuguese film are all located in Lisbon. Most of the domestic film productions are shot there and play in the picturesque backdrops of the old quarters or the rather desolate suburbs.

See also: List of films related to Lisbon


Manoel de Oliveira

Oliveira (left) with Piccoli

Manoel de Oliveira was born in Porto in 1908 . Until his death on April 2, 2015, he was the most important representative of Portuguese film, at the same time he was considered an old master and one of the last great auteur filmmakers in Europe. With “ Aniki Bóbó ” he made the first film in the style of neorealism in 1942 (even before Visconti's obsession in 1943), and at the “Study Week for Portuguese Novo Cinema” he was chosen by filmmakers as the figurehead of their movement. He was also the last director in the world who shot as an actor and director in the silent film era. He was also the oldest active director in the world and so far the only one who, at over 100 years of age, still made films on a regular basis.

His favorite international actors included Marie-Christine Barrault , Irene Papas , Michel Piccoli , Chiara Mastroianni , Catherine Deneuve , John Malkovich and Marcello Mastroianni , whose last film he made in 1996.

João César Monteiro

João César Monteiro

João César Monteiro was born in Figueira da Foz in 1939 . He became known through polemical films in which he sarcastically and socially critical shook moral taboos or played with social conventions. The most famous film is likely to be " Memories of the Yellow House " (1989). He achieved international recognition among film buffs through prizes at festivals, in particular Cannes and Venice. He often played the lead role in his films. But he also occasionally took on roles in films by other directors, such as Margarida Gil , with whom he was married for some time. The non-conformist eccentric was also able to surprise, for example with the soulful and colorful “ Auf dem Meer ” (1986), with Laura Morante and Georges Claisse in the leading roles. In 2003, Monteiro died of cancer in Lisbon.

Contemporary directors

The multi-layered auteur films by João Canijo and João Botelho are known to film buffs and international critics . Fernando Fragata is more oriented towards international public films with an emphasis on suspense and action, while Jorge Pelicano successfully dedicates himself to the committed documentary film of national themes. Directors such as Bruno de Almeida , Joaquim Sapinho and Miguel Gomes are involved in internationally oriented independent films . João Pedro Rodrigues stands for creative, predominantly gay and lesbian works, Teresa Villaverde for a mostly visually powerful, always critical and very emotional cinema, and Edgar Pêra for an unpredictable creative film inspired by silent films to pop culture.

See also: List of Portuguese directors


Joaquim de Almeida (left) at the launch of the TV series Queen of the South in Austin, Texas (2016)

See also: List of Portuguese film actors

The Portuguese film produced a number of notable actors who, however, rarely achieved international fame , such as Virgílio Teixeira or António Vilar since the 1940s.

Names like Teresa Madruga , Luís Miguel Cintra or Laura Soveral have largely gone unnoticed outside of the country despite their long and varied, also international careers. In Hollywood, however, Maria de Medeiros , who played alongside Bruce Willis in " Pulp Fiction ", and Joaquim de Almeida , who is now a US citizen and has played a few minor leading roles in Hollywood, for example in " Desperado " as an opponent of Antonio Banderas , or at the side of Harrison Ford and Willem Dafoe in " The Cartel ".
Carlos de Carvalho is another internationally known actor who, however, mostly works outside of Portuguese film.

When it comes to young actors, names like Ana Moreira and Beatriz Batarda recently aroused the expectations of cineastes.


The most famous Portuguese cameraman is probably Eduardo Serra (* 1943), but the most important cameraman in Portuguese film is Acácio de Almeida (* 1938). Other well-known cameramen are Rui Poças (* 1966), Manuel Costa e Silva (1938–1999), or Mário Barroso (* 1947), who was also known as a director.

The most famous Portuguese films

The most famous Portuguese entertainment films of the 1930s – 1950s

Beatriz Costa and Vasco Santana in A Canção de Lisboa
Beatriz Costa and António Silva in A Canção de Lisboa


Web links

Commons : Portuguese Film  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A. Murtinheira, I. Metzeltin: History of the Portuguese cinema . 1st edition, Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2010, p. 19ff.
  2. The Invention of Portuguese Cinema . (PDF; 231 kB) p. 6.
  3. ^ A. Murtinheira, I. Metzeltin: History of the Portuguese cinema . 1st edition, Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2010, p. 59.
  4. Jorge Leitão Ramos : Dicionário do cinema portugués 1962–1988 . 1st edition, Editorial Caminho, Lisbon 1989, p. 130.
  5. Cinema, Fascism and Propaganda. A historical approximation to the Portuguese Estado Novo . February 1, 2012
  6. ^ A. Murtinheira, I. Metzeltin: History of the Portuguese cinema . 1st edition, Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2010, p. 49ff.
  7. ^ A. Murtinheira, I. Metzeltin: History of the Portuguese cinema . 1st edition, Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2010, p. 75.
  8. ^ A. Murtinheira, I. Metzeltin: History of the Portuguese cinema . 1st edition, Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2010, p. 80.
  9. ^ A. Murtinheira, I. Metzeltin: History of the Portuguese cinema . 1st edition, Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2010, pp. 90ff.
  10. The invention of portuguese cinema (PDF; 231 kB) p. 11ff.
  11. The most-watched Portuguese films since 2004 ( Memento of the original from July 8, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 236 kB) Status: March 2013 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ica-ip.pt
  12. Overview of Portuguese film clubs ( Memento of the original from January 22, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 149 kB) from 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ica-ip.pt
  13. ^ A. Murtinheira, I. Metzeltin: History of the Portuguese cinema . 1st edition, Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2010, p. 97.