The success of the first annual DocLisboa – the Lisbon International Documentary Film Festival – offers a clear sign of Portugal’s growing interest in documentaries. Held from June 1 to 9, DocLisboa screened 68 films in its two large cinemas, many of which were well attended by the public.
The festival demonstrated its intentions to be a force for years to come by debuting in a suitably impressive venue – the Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB). Built to host the closing summit of Portugal’s 1992 EU presidency, the CCB is an enormous limestone complex reborn as a public arts center.
The CCB also served as the venue for the fourth annual European Documentary Network (EDN) pitching session, ‘LisbonDocs’, which ran concurrently with the festival. This year’s session featured 15 projects from Portugal, Germany, France and the U.K., pitched to 10 commissioning editors, including Karen Michael of ARTE France and Diane Weyermann of the Sundance Institute.
Tue Steen Müller, head of the EDN, provided a useful liaison between festival and industry events by hosting a day of masterclasses, which were open to the public. In the morning, ex-Danish film school students Jonas Frederiksen and Sami Saif explained how they bypassed TV commissions to make their feature doc Family, which won the Joris Ivens Award at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA) last November. In the afternoon, British filmmaker Kim Longinotto discussed the ethics behind her two films about Iranian women, Divorce Iranian Style and Runaway.
Back at the festival, DocLisboa’s national prize went to Regina Guimãraes’ Dentro, which follows inmates of a Portuguese penitentiary as they re-work Aeschylus’ dramatic trilogy Oresteia. The festival’s international jury awarded their top prize to Tiexi District, by first-time Chinese director Wang Bing. The doc portrays three factories in different stages of decline in China’s former industrial heartland. Both selections underscore festival director Luis Correia’s hope that DocLisboa will foster authored films that don’t fit easily into broadcasters’ strands and brands.
In addition to the national and international competitions, the Lisbon festival featured Brazilian and childrens’ strands.