Saudade: Exploring Memory through Film
We are opening Memory Month with a short film by two graduate students from the University of Porto entitled Saudade.
This film tells the story of Ana Pereira, whose parents migrated to Australia from Portugal. Ana has always been fascinated by photographs and curious about her heritage. After discovering a photograph of her grandfather, she decided to visit Portugal in order to connect with her family’s past and to face the fantasies she had fabricated of Portugal since childhood. Ana is constantly online, searching for more details about her family heritage and the exact location of important family events. She is in a deep emotional state, consumed by feelings of nostalgia and melancholia, which can be captured by the Portuguese term saudade. It is interesting to note that there is no direct translation for this word in English.
The inspiration for this video came from an unknown and unique vernacular found photograph. We can tell from the message on the back that the image depicts two soldiers at Molhe beach, Foz do Douro, Porto on 15th August 1943. We were incredibly lucky to find a photograph that had such artistic potential. We explored different research avenues, including the photographic technique used (“à la minuta”), the history of souvenirs, fashion from this period, historical events and the changing landscape of Molhe beach. We decided to focus our attention and conduct extensive research on the rich historical and cultural significance of the site itself.
The first known photographs from this location date back to the first decade of the 20th century. We collected a range of visual and literary references which we used as inspiration when constructing our story’s narrative. We visited the exact location where the photograph was taken and made a photographic record of the site on 7th January 2017. The differences we noticed between the historical images and our live observations were striking. During our research, we came across stories of mothers, wives and daughters who sang fado songs to each other by the coast as they waited for their fathers, husbands and sons to return from sea. These men were mainly sailors, fishermen and soldiers.
In making this film, we were greatly influenced by a range of artists, including Manuel Mozo, Tacita Dean and Chris Marker. We were especially inspired by Dean’s Green Ray and Marker’s La Jetée, which gave us the idea to create a fairly static short film juxtaposed with a voiceover narration.
The soundtrack is Amalia Rodrigues’ Gaivota.
Vanessa Martins Brito Gonçalves & Vijay Patel