INTERVIEW Watch out, a prophet is among us !

Watch out, a prophet is among us !
Luis Camargo de Barros

The story is narrated as a tale told to a child but as “overtitles” rather than classical intertitles. Why did you choose this specific narrative format?

In fact this film is a document about my difficulty in relating to my own niece. Me in Portugal, she in Brazil. And it was also born from a desire to record the area of Olaias where I lived my first year in Lisbon. From my window I could see that space inhabited by memories that roamed my head and that I wanted to be able to tell Nina, my interlocutor in this story. But it was difficult. She was so small, she still didn’t understand that her uncle was so far away. Therefore, these overtitles act as mediators of this non-relationship. And unlike the silent films of early cinema, I didn’t want them to break the movie with black screens and text. I was more interested in the overlapping, invasion and contamination of these voices through the written, graphic and imagery word. Maybe that way she could hear me better.

Your film is mostly shot as a silent film including the framing which is very reminiscent of 1920s soviet cinema. Why did you choose this format which borders on pastiche?

I wanted to create an anti-history, reappropriate this territory of Olaias, mixing images from old archives and other “unpublished” ones (the relationship between real and fictional archives doesn’t make sense to me). Using these artifices that the history of cinema has built interested me in order, to some extent, to be able to deny them. The film is a polyphonic history of genres, formats, textures, surfaces. It’s almost a conversation between times, spaces in an attempt to reach that baby who lived somewhere else.

One of the two voice-overs speaks at the beginning in order to situate a historical period which may or may not be the one during which the action takes place. Could you explicit the link between this period and your narrative for a non-portuguese viewer?

Firstly, as a Brazilian, it is important to position myself as a foreigner in this area and in portuguese history. And for this short film, I am interested in a re-habitation of narratives and territories through the image. I wanted to base my anti-history film on the hauntings of this space. When I use images from 1911 and the narration that lands the spectator in a time and space, it is precisely to wander through other zones. For this, I use elements of hegemonic history regarding the transition from Monarchy to Republic and a denial of Catholicism (which soon would return with all perversion in the Estado Novo dictatorship). However, I only use those elements so that I can tear everything apart – because this is a film of affections, not of history. And I feel the area of Olaias and the valley of Chelas, the region where the film was shot, is like a transitional territory between a contemporary Lisbon (gentrified, touristic) and one that insists on resisting (peripheral, invisible). It is an area that mixes kitschy buildings and other functional social housing, amidst constructions dating back to the Middle Ages and even Roman ruins. All this history coexists in this valley and it invaded my bedroom window. But I believe that this is not a film to learn what this space is (myself, as a foreigner, I think I never got it). This movie is just an attempt to apprehend these non-memories and try to tear, with love, all these distances.

Interview with Nathan Letoré