E AGORA? LEMBRA-ME (What Now? Remind Me)

Part essay film, part personal memoir, Joaquim Pinto's sprawling, protean mosaic What Now? Remind Me has become the latest Portuguese sensation in the global festival circuit, after three awards at its competitive premiere at Locarno and the top prize at the DocLisboa documentary festival. It's hardly a surprise that this challenging work follows on the footsteps of two other festival favourites that started out at Locarno: It's the Earth, Not the Moon, Gonçalo Tocha's equally sprawling chronicle of a little Azorean island; and The Last Time I Saw Macau, João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata's playful documentary of the mind. For starters, all three films refuse to fit pre-existing, pre-formatted categories, stubbornly following their own muse into more fluid territories. All of them are highly personal films, vulnerable extensions of their makers' viewpoints, perspectives and experiences.

     Technically, I suppose What Now? Remind Me is a sort of "visual notebook" shot by the HIV-positive Mr. Pinto over the course of a year during which he shuttled between Lisbon and Madrid, undergoing an experimental therapy for hepatitis C. A director, producer and soundman with extensive credits in Portuguese filmmaking over the past three decades, from the same generation of filmmakers as Pedro Costa, Joaquim Leitão or Vítor Gonçalves, Mr. Pinto has directed three features and a handful of documentaries and produced João César Monteiro's breakthrough film Recollections of the Yellow House. In many ways, his experience as a filmmaker fashions What Now? as a sort of "scratch pad" of possible ideas for films, a huge mash-up of virtual worlds flickering in and out of existence as he shapes a collage of possibilities tried out at some length. A memory and memorial for those left behind, his friends who died of AIDS from the mid-1980s onwards; a recorded diary of appointments, meetings and visits with doctors and friends; a look at the growing rural patch of land Mr. Pinto and his life and work partner Nuno Leonel share in the countryside, punctuated by a series of extreme close-ups of natural life; a meditation on the power of art to make sense of human experience...

     In that sense, What Now? is also a sister project to It's the Earth, Not the Moon and The Last Time I Saw Macau: a film that starts out recognisably, with a premise and a project, before eventually becoming "contaminated" by unforeseen twists and turns and meandering off-course into a more free-form, purely sensory experience. The fact that the finished film runs nearly three hours can make it a bit of an endurance test and suggest that Mr. Pinto, who co-edited with Mr. Leonel, may have wanted to pack far too much into the end result, fit to burst with half-finished ideas. But that is also part and parcel of its unruly charm, since there's a very strong element of a record assembled for posterity, a struggle to make sure memories and experiences remain accessible and relevant; another point in common with the two previously mentioned films, whose clearer documentary aspects record remote places whose culture and history is less recognised than it should be. In Mr. Pinto's film, that remote place is his own life, and through it a whole pan of Portuguese filmmaking in the 1980s and 1990s. That alone would make What Now? Remind Me an important work, but there's much more to it than such a limiting, reductive definition.

Director: Joaquim Pinto
Cinematographers and editors: Mr. Pinto, Nuno Leonel  (colour)
Producers: Joana Ferreira, Christine Reeh, Isabel Machado (C. R. I. M. Produções and Presente Edições de Autor)
Portugal, 2013, 165 minutes

Screened: 2013 Queer Lisboa Film Festival official out of competition screening, São Jorge 1, Lisbon, September 22nd 2013


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