Oliveira’s Century


Labor on the Douro River.

Christopher Columbus: The Enigma.

(This post probably should have been written in Portuguese. Or not.)

Manoel de Oliveira, the oldest filmmaker in activity, the most prominent Portuguese film director, celebrates 100 years of age today.

A few words on him and his films. There he is with his wife in Christopher Columbus: The Enigma (Cristóvão Colombo: O Enigma, 2007), his latest feature film. If there is something that he preserved and developed throughout his career, ever since his first documentary Labor on the Douro River (Douro, Faina Fluvial, 1931), it is the ability of film to document and, at the same time, present multiple points of view that shape what we see. Oliveira’s cinema is not founded on the transparency of the record, but it is also not contrived. It is a cinema permanently under construction that defies what is thought of as evident, presenting us with words, images, sounds, music, gestures, rituals, which ask for tentative consideration instead of immediate recognition. We can call it a pedagogy of uncertainty.