98 minutes

Eschewing the classic documentary concept of both voiceover narration and speaker identification, filmmaker Joana Pontes and sociologist António Barreto's feature-length documentary As Horas do Douro elegantly weaves an oral history of the winemaking region by the Douro river in Northern Portugal, overlapping the memories and experiences of its social, historical and technical progress with the tale of the yearly grape harvest. Neither strictly observational nor fussily historical, the film develops as a langorous, enveloping experience, soundtracked by Henryk Gorecki's sweeping strings; it aims to seduce the viewer into embracing the seasonal rhythms of the hard work required to make wine, but also to warn quietly that the local specificities of land and experience that make this particular region so special may be in danger.
     Ms. Pontes and mr. Barreto have collaborated previously on a number of acclaimed television documentary series about Portugal's development and progress, but there is nothing “televisual” or openly educational about As Horas do Douro, even though it inexplicably sidestepped a theatrical release to go straight on to DVD. Beautifully photographed by João Ribeiro (even though the occasional grain of the high-definition digital format shows), it's a handsome, smart, heartfelt paean to the river and its surroundings that, nevertheless, never looks away from its problems.

     Directed by Joana Pontes; produced by Maria João Mayer, François d'Artemare; written by António Barreto, ms. Pontes, inspired by the book Douro by mr. Barreto; director of photography (colour), João Ribeiro; film editors, Rui Branquinho, Catarina Mourão, ms. Pontes.
     A Maria João Mayer/François d'Artemare presentation of a Filmes do Tejo II production, supported by the Portugese Institute for Cinema and Audiovisual, Cinema and Audiovisual Investment Fund and Radio and Television of Portugal.
     Screened: IndieLisboa festival advance press screening, Cinemateca Portuguesa - Sala Dr. Félix Ribeiro (Lisbon), April 21st 2010; DVD, Lisbon, June 19th 2011.  


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