ALBUFEIRA 1968. PT. 28min

a film by António de Macedo

Albufeira, a Francisco de Castro production, assumes the tenor of a promotional tourist film, without leaving, however, the marks of the Macedo’s experimental attitude, one of the founding fathers of Portuguese New Cinema, always daring to break away from the production canons.

text by Tiago Bartolomeu Costa

Albufeira, seeing beyond the sea

The sea has a prominent presence in António de Macedo's cinema, as do the commissions to which he responded, producing ads that invented a distinct mode of communication, which make ALBUFEIRA a unique social, political and cultural approach far beyond cinema as a mechanism of expression.

Produced by Francisco de Castro, the film is a response to the entity responsible for promoting tourism in the region, and António de Macedo's response couldn't be more disarming and unassuming. The film portrays the visit of an English journalist, accompanied by two friends, responsible for producing a report on the singularities of the Algarve and, in particular, Albufeira, a magical and enchanting place for the British community that was then beginning to settle.

The film is an observation exercise and a derisory denunciation of a country that pretended to be open, but was still defined by cultural stereotypes, particularly noticeable in the contrast between the free figures of the three friends and the representations of women, subject to cultural, aesthetic and social impoverishment, somewhat distant from the (few) social conquests achieved by women in Portugal at the end of the 1960s.This may not have been the director's explicit intention, but from afar, ALBUFEIRA emerges as an important document on the condition of Portuguese women, the rude opposite of the liberal and free female figure that the three Englishwomen represent.

The sea, as written above, does indeed have a significance in António de Macedo's career. A PROMESSA (1972), based on the play by Bernardo Santareno, is a prime example of this relationship, and even more so of the oppression to which women were subjected. But before that, with VERÃO COINCIDENTE, another institutional commission, in this case for Central de Cervejas, where the poem by Maria Teresa Horta, read by Carmen Dolores, is juxtaposed with images of work, the beach, leisure, strength and lives governed by solar time. These are very effective ways of dismantling an idea of naturalness in national identity and through which - as later, in his only theater performance, O MARINHEIRO (Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, 1983) - the sea will become a chance for deep reflection on the illusion of a collective.

In ALBUFEIRA, this collective is commented on with mockery and malice, in a sinuous montage that, together with the musical composition and the speech, offers itself, with evident delight, to the denunciation of paradox and ridicule. The intense aerial shots, the intimate party and luxury sequences, the exposure of a fabricated Algarve, which hides social misery behind traditional dances, which promises harmony before urban chaos, which dismisses failure in order to emphasize the virtue of a country serving itself, is a vast field of filmic intervention, always on the side of the protagonists. It's a film made from a free gaze, which at the same time frees the viewer from the vision imposed by a politics of redemptive spirit, because it observes, in the alibi of the foreign gaze, the reason for the error, the loss and the limit of a Portugal that is all fictionalized.

ALBUFEIRA is, in short, an essential film that reveals how cinema has invented ways of standing between truth and perception. It also pretended to be selling the Algarve. We would see the consciously premonitory errors a few years later. The film was digitized by Cinemateca Portuguesa - Museu do Cinema, as part of the FILMar project, with the support of the European Financial Mechanism EEAGrants 2020-2024.

The premiere of the new digital copy took place on April 28, 2022, at the opening session of the 19th IndieLisboa festival.

Tiago Bartolomeu Costa is a cultural programmer. He was FILMar project coordinator between 2021 and 2024.

directing, script & editing ANTÓNIO DE MACEDO photography ELSO ROQUE sound ALEXANDRE GONÇALVES production FRANCISCO DE CASTRO