2 February 2024

THE OPINION OF THE “WORLD” – NOT TO BE MISSED

Claudia Varejao is part of this generation of Portuguese filmmakers – Miguel Gomes with This dear month of August (2009), Leonor Teles with Terra Franca (2018)… – which start from reality, and accidents of life (or filming), to re-enchant fiction.

Born in 1980, in Porto, the director and photographer has produced critically acclaimed documentaries produced by the Lisbon collective Terratreme: her first feature film, In the dark of the cinema I take off my shoes (2016), follows, in splendid black and white, the daily life of the National Ballet of Portugal, on the occasion of the troupe’s 40th anniversary. The second, Ama San (2016), explores the daily life of a community of female divers in Japan, who live by fishing for shellfish and crustaceans. Claudia Varejao has the gift of approaching her characters, without rushing them, to lead them “to the safe harbor” of her imagination.

It was during an artistic residency on the island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores archipelago, that the filmmaker found herself observing a group of fishermen cleaning their nets. All men, with tattooed arms, powerful and work-worn bodies. Then she saw a group of transgender women approaching in colorful attire. The filmmaker dreaded the telescoping between these two worlds. And yet, one and the other took in the arms, and tightened, with affection. What strange links could have been forged?

Micro-narratives down to the millimeter

It is from this vision that his first feature film was born, Wolf & dogA journey to the end of the desires of Ana (Ana Cabral) and Luis (Ruben Pimenta, Pasolinian). These two young people, who grew up on this island steeped in traditions and rites, can they find their space of freedom there? Employed on a tourist liner, in a hostess uniform, Ana imagines other crossings. The title of the film refers to a poem by Francisco de Sa de Miranda (1481-1558), devising on the dog and the wolf, the first having a rather assigned role, while the second opens up to danger.

To say that Ana falls in love with another young girl, Cloé (Cristiana Branquinho), and that Luis, in his sequined top, resists all of his father’s maneuvers aimed at putting him back on the path to manhood is not not reveal the film. Claudia Varejao’s great talent is to advance her micro-stories to the millimeter, like one stitch added to another: a mother searches for her son, Ana confesses, a newlywed seems perplexed… The director films a space-time where identities shift and reconfigure. It tells of the poverty that makes you addicted to God and does not promote open-mindedness, acceptance of same-sex couples, trans bodies, etc.

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