There is an evident irony both in the title of Campo de Flamingos sem Flamingos  - the literal translation is A Flamingo Field without Flamingos - and in its initial shot (of a television set tuned in to the news about the current recession). But that is neither a mean or bitter irony, and it isn't necessarily representative of the film directed by André Príncipe, better known as a photographer, artist and book publisher, though one with cinema studies and for whom cinema was always the starting point. A good example of that is that the three-month road trip during which Campo de Flamingos sem Flamingos was shot also generated a book of photographs, O Perfume do Boi, published at the end of 2012 while the film was in the editing stage.

     Finally premiered at the IndieLisboa festival in 2013, Campo de Flamingos could be seen as a contrasting/complementary twin to João Vladimiro's Lacrau as both are very personal takes on the observational documentary and on the essay-film, though leading in entirely different directions. Mr. Príncipe's film is the most accessible, though it's hardly a traditional piece of storytelling, eschewing voiceovers and musical illustration to let its quiet, unhurried eye and leisurely narrative blocks of footage - reminiscent, for instance, of Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter's clinical observations - be organised by the viewer. The road trip during which a micro-crew of three (Mr. Príncipe, DP Takashi Sugimoto and sound recordist Manuel Sá) travelled around in an RV loosely followed the millennial Portuguese border with Spain, and, in fact, is a search of the borders between nature and civilization, looking for something you can't quite place your finger on.

     In essence, it's a sense of identity still surviving in the porous borders between mankind and landscape, an ancestral memory hidden under rocks (literally, as one of the "characters" is an entomologist) and visible only to those willing to wallow through mud to find it (again literally, in the film's final shots) and not necessarily being sure you did find it. In fact, Campo de Flamingos sem Flamingos isn't so much about the goal but about the journey, much helped by editor Sandro Aguilar's nimble intercutting between footage of hunters or paintball gamers and that of landscape and beasts at home in nature. For all that, there's a sense that this is very much a photographer's film that wouldn't necessarily be out of place on a gallery wall, even if it's a welcoming work that wants to make its viewer think and not just show him pretty or witty pictures.

Director: André Príncipe
Camera: Takashi Sugimoto, Mr. Príncipe (colour)
Sound: Manuel Sá
Editor: Sandro Aguilar
Producers: Luís Urbano, Mr. Aguilar (O Som e a Fúria)
Portugal, 2013, 91 minutes

Screened: IndieLisboa Film Festival 2013 Portuguese competition screener DVD, Lisbon, April 17th 2013


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