the lecture and discussion will be hosted by Václav Kadrnka
João Viana’s films are poetic, at times surreal image composites that often deal with Africa’s postcolonial present. The filmmaker was born in 1966 in the then Portuguese colony of Angola. After completing law school at the University of Coimbra, he studied film in Porto. Since then, he has worked in various roles with renowned filmmakers such as Werner Schroeter, Manoel de Oliveira, José Alvaro, Rob Rombout, and Filipe Rocha. In 2007, for instance, he wrote Olhos Vermelhos for Paulo Rocha, which won the ICA’s first prize. In 2018, as he did in 2013, he presented two films at the Berlinale: the thirteen-minute short Madness in the short film competition, and the ninety-minute feature film, Our Madness, in the Forum.
He realized his first short film A Piscina (The Pool, 2004) together with Iana Viana in 2004. It was presented in Venice and has to date, according to press reports, received the most awards ever for a Portuguese short film. His next short film, Alfa Ma (2010), was screened at over fifty international festivals and has received ten awards. In 2013, he debuted his first feature-length film, A Batalha de Tabatô (The Battle of Tabatô), alongside which he also presented the short-film version, Tabatô. Set in present-day Guinea-Bissau, the long version of the story on the ghosts of the former civil war was shown in the Berlinale Forum. It received a special mention by the competition jury there. The short film was awarded the DAAD Short Film Prize.
Critics compared the elegance of João Viana’s black and white image compositions with Jean-Luc Godard or the early Jim Jarmusch. But magical realism is combined in João Viana’s films with an observant, documentary approach. For the more than five-year filming of A Batalha de Tabatô (2013) in Guinea-Bissau, the director set out with only a three-member team and no script. Authenticity does not necessarily mean naturalism for João Viana: for example, music plays a major role in the film and the actual village of Tabatô is known for its musicians. João Viana recorded many hours of music there on site. In his feature-film debut, however, he opted for a rather minimalist use of music, which he had a composer in Portugal create for the film.
From his latest feature film Our Madness (2018), João Viana also produced a short version in parallel again, Madness. Both films revolve around the effects of the past in present-day Mozambique: in a psychiatric clinic there, Ernania dreams of her little son, Hanic, and her husband, the soldier Pak. In her dreams, an unusual instrument accompanies her: her hospital bed. Ernania’s musicality attracts the attention of one of the nurses. One day, Ernania’s song plays on the radio. The evangelical radio priest Rosa then visits the hospital to hear Ernania live. But she uses this opportunity to escape. Sabine Lancelin was his cinematographer for both the feature and short version of the story.