The title "character" of Portuguese-Belgian director Miguel Moraes Cabral's documentary is Jorge Fernandes, a sixty-something man who rides around the Northern provinces of Portugal with his trusty, noisy old motorcycle, sharpening knives and scissors with a portable grindstone and doing some faith healing on the side. Through the trips of this journeying tradesman, Mr. Moraes Cabral is attempting to draw a contrast between an "old", disappearing world of close provincial communities and a "new", modern world that is letting tradition disappear without a trace. It is also an attempt at recording some of those disappearing tales before it's too late.

     Mr. Fernandes thus becomes the "centrepiece" of a series of encounters and characters radiating from his travels around Braga, but in so doing Os Caminhos de Jorge loses some focus, meanders dangerously close to a certain shapelessness, a sense that at one point the director may have found everything else around his central character more interesting, or worth of a film in itself. In its aimlessness, however, as it veers back and forth between Jorge and those surrounding him, it also gets very close to the sense of aimlessness of a man who makes ends meet with a centuries-old trade now seriously threatened in a country where even established barbershops have to shut down due to legalities they have nothing to do with. It's serious, well-meaning stuff, though lacking the "edge" that would give it a more forceful push - it's as if Mr. Moraes Cabral started doing one thing but found himself heading in another direction, attempting to shape material that resists any linear structuring, in a stop-start motion that never truly gels together but provides amiable observational moments on its way.

Director: Miguel Moraes Cabral
Camera: Christophe Rolin, Ivan Castiñeiras
Editors: Francisco Moreira, Mr. Moraes Cabral
Production: Leïla Films in co-production with Quilombo and Filmes do Caracol
Belgium/France/Portugal, 2013, 63 minutes

Screened: DocLisboa 2013 official competition screener, Lisbon, October 18th 2013


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