Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival

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In memory of Wilson Filipe (1948-2020)

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“Once, Thomas Harlan jokingly said to me: ‘You were the actor of your own life, don’t you want to pursue that profession?’” Wilson Filipe

Two years ago, as part of the thematic cycle "A Desire Called Utopia", LEFFEST presented, for the first time, a version of “Torre Bela”, by Thomas Harlan, digitized by the Portuguese cinematheque, in what was the final version of the film made by the director, with a longer duration than the one that circulated in theatres around here.

In April 1975, landless, unemployed, and forlorn peasants, many of whom illiterate, occupied the Torre Bela estate, the feud belonging to the Lafões Duke, which comprised over fifteen hundred acres where nothing was cultivated. There, they formed a co-op. It was a spontaneous action – one with which the MFA collaborated – that shook up the Ribatejo region for 572 days. Zeca Afonso, Vitorino, Fanhais, and Camilo Mortágua took part.  

“A mythical film of a mythical occupation”, a film about the liberation and appropriation of language by those who did not have a voice and who conquer it in real time, before our eyes. A film with “a timeless and universal value that many films shot at that time do not have”, as José Manuel Costa, director of the Portuguese cinematheque, wrote. Serge Daney said of it: “Rarely will the doing and undoing of a co-op that is singular on its own and also made up of singularities, caught in a political process in which it is blind truth and the point of utopia, have been depicted”

The festival invited several of the participants to watch the projection of this version and participate in the debate that followed, which you can see here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbqIhoVHW9o, and in which participated: Wilson Filipe, one of the leaders of occupation, deceased this week, Camilo Mortágua, Francisco Fanhais, Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, Roberto Perpignani (the film's editor), Chester Harlan (the director's son), José Manuel Costa, the historian Francisco Bairrão Ruivo, and the director of LEFFEST, the producer Paulo Branco.

From Wilson Filipe, we remember these words at the beginning of his intervention: “It was a utopia. It was a dream. And I was crying while watching that dream just now. A lot of the people we were seeing, no longer exist, died. The one that discusses the hoe, the tool, with me, committed suicide when Torre Bela ended. Because he couldn't live without Torre Bela. […] Thomas Harlan really experienced Torre Bela. Thomas entered Torre Bela and stayed there as if he were a member. He was truly a very, very interested man. There, he lived through the workers’ struggle […] It was a dream that I lived.”
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