Joaquim Pinto: “I feel much better now”
As director of E Agora? Lembra-Me Joaquim Pinto declares ‘I finished the treatment some months ago, and I feel much better now; I got my head back’, a tangible nervousness swiftly evaporates from the room. Indeed, many present would certainly have been struggling to detach themselves from the intense intimacy of the Portuguese’s eminently personal document, which spans one year of the director’s subjection to a new drug program for treating HIV. On the subject of his decision to develop such a unique project, Pinto remarks that while more and more films do now address the issue of the virus, a large majority if not all of them have approached it from the outside looking in, leaving a gap of first-hand experiences the director justifiably felt should be filled. Pinto also dispelled a recurring idea that ‘people can now simply take the medication and keep on living’, a faulty notion that he claims urged him to try and translate his personal experience onto the screen.
Undoubtedly a challenging yet greatly rewarding viewing, E Agora? Lembra-Me’s hyper-personal angle expands well beyond pure realism through healthy doses of experimentation and an unwavering commitment to the free-form aesthetic. While Pinto had conducted many interviews during the research and filming process, the director soon realized that they were superfluous to his distinctly first-person approach. During early conversations with his two producers, Pinto claims to have pitched the idea of recording his daily life within the limits of a small circular area around the farmhouse in which he filmed a majority of E Agora? Lembra-Me, narrowing his lens to focus on the singular perspective of one particular HIV patient, yet tightening it still further by embracing the creative challenge of restricted mobility.
Yet this extensive telescoping rarely feels anything but liberating, and further highlights the notion that E Agora? Lembra-Me embodies but a single fragment, and a deeply unique one at that, of a coping experience that resonates around the world for many people, in many different ways. In fact, the director himself admits that his recollection of the events on the screen as well as the filming process is intermittent at best, underlining the film’s identity as a small window, overlooking life with the HIV virus (as much as the director would have wanted to explore and deepen the many subjects evoked in his film).
Finally, as the discussion swerved onto the state of the arts in Portugal, Pinto and his two producers confirmed the growing cynicism surrounding the country’s legislative efforts on the cultural domain, as they brought up the funding freeze that is gradually killing small and independent films and companies alike. The idea that unique, compelling, brave and important portuguese films such as E Agora? Lembra-Me could soon find themselves faced with insurmountable financial obstacles only further justifies its inclusion on the Concorso Internazionale line-up here at the festival.James Berclaz-Lewis