SLUGHTLY SMALLER THAN INDIANA

Portugal, 2006, DOC,’ video, Colour, 78

Last Summer, I traveled across Portugal to shoot my project: a road-movie about a country that can be crossed in six hours from north to south and just one hour and a half from east to west. The landscape we passed through, (camera) Joao Ribeiro and I, was the post-Euro 2004 Portugal, with the provisional government of Santana Lopes about to take office. It is a country that still seems like the idea we all have of "our homeland", but which actually no longer corresponds to reality and is becoming almost unrecognizable, as in a postcard. It was this notion that led me to want to make this film, and this journey in an old Mercedes named Rocinante, eventually confirmed it, sometimes in an alarming way. Portugal today is a territory undergoing deep transformation, a mixture of what it was and an idea of America, which was imported and changed by Central Europe years ago.The highways literally split the country, giving a false sense of speed, because it doesn't seem to me that this is being accompanied by greater swiftness in deed or in thinking in general. The landscape is adulterated and violated by everyone, led by the political powers of all colors and property developers, while most of us just look on passively. The closest to an environmental policy of any consequence that governments and local authorities have come up with is the creation of innumerable golf courses. Many of these are no more than fictional landscapes that suck the water from the subsoil, drying up the original natural features, and accessible only to a select few. Agriculture is on the road to extinction. Everything seems to be done for money and the economic value.Construction lacks both quality and taste, but also a sense of size and location: gigantic shopping malls copied from the United States, which there do not stand out in the vast spaces they have available, but here are boxed in-between a village and a town. Huge villas are built in protected coastal areas, already threatened by the ocean anyhow. Others are built beside noisy motorways. Public space is maltreated or littered with atrocious monuments they call "public art". Private space, however small, is selfishly enclosed inside fences, walls and railings. Beneath or on top of the surface of this landscape, individual and collective memories and other realities are hidden. We simply have to open the newspaper to appreciate some of them: bodies found on a mountainside, children being abused, car crashes. Anyway, it was summer, and Joao and I were working from morning to night. We would arrive at hotels and guest-houses tired out, ready to sleep. But, seeing the bits of film we had shot each day, it became apparent to me how difficult it is to portray the vastness of a desert on a screen. And I couldn't fall asleep ...the temperature went up, but the sky was always white, which was bad for the kind of film that I had in mind. The bathing season was in full swing, the beaches and swimming pools were full of people, fires were breaking out everywhere, and the intense traffic always carried with it the noise of the cars, motorbikes, the hooting of horns. In every cafe and restaurant could be heard the sound of music or the television or, sometimes, both at the same time. On the day when the temperature reached 43 C, we were filming in the middle of a landscape that had burnt the previous day. Joao was in despair because we rarely managed to find anything to go withour meals other than greasy French fries and, if we were lucky, some sort of salad, invariably lettuce and tomato. Meanwhile I could only think of the lyrics to a Morrissey song: Hide on the promenade, etch a postcard: How I dearly wish I was not here in the seaside town that they forgot to bomb, Come, come, come - nuclear bomb...But wasn't this what I had wanted for my film? Wasn't it this chaos that I'd come in search of and that had pushed me into this kind of adventure? The reality surpassed my expectations and, yes, this was what I wanted for my film.The problem was that this was not what I wanted for my country.

Director: Daniel Blaufuks
Producer: Laranja Azul
Production: Catarina Alves Costa/Patrícia Faria
Script: Daniel Blaufuks
Photography: João Ribeiro
Editing: Daniel Blaufuks
Music: Dead Combo
Sound: Pedro Gonçalves

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