European Film Festival Paris
from 17 to 30 November 2021
European Film Festival Paris
from 17 to 30 November 2021

Ghosts of an Empire / Fantasmas do império

by Ariel de Bigault

(Documentary, Portugal/France, 2020, 112’, C, En ST)

Ghosts of an Empire

Ghosts of an Empire explores the power of colonial identity in Portuguese cinema since the beginning of the 20th century. As a contrast to the productions that related imperial domination, films by different generation of Portuguese filmmakers, as well as their testimonies, unmask the myths that have been dressing up the violent gest of colonial exploitation and that still inhabit memories today. The contrasts between the images, the various analyses and attitudes reveal very topical questions.


«The most fascinating images are those that show the work of imagination around the figure of the “kind savage man”. Never filmed as people but rather as objects for a study, the blacks are shown in their traditional garments during ancestral ceremonies, highlighting their folkloric and exotic side. The colonialists are presented as friendly masters. In the old films, very sensitive to the strong luminosity of Africa, the Portuguese invaders wearing only white appear overexposed, in a phosphorescent aura like magical ghosts. This fabricated collective memory is to be deconstructed. Such is the necessary task taken upon by today filmmakers.» Anne DessuantTélérama

Ariel de Bigault
Ariel de Bigault

Ariel de Bigault is a French writer and documentary filmmaker who moves and works between France, Portugal, Brazil and Africa. After first documentaries shot in Portugal, she creates a series Eclats Noirs du Samba (1987) in which she gathers some great Afro-Brazilian artists such as Gilberto Gil and Grande Othelo. In Afro Lisboa (1996) and Margem Atlântica (2006) she follows African immigrants in Lisbon trying to forge their identity and find their place in the country. Canta Angola (2000) celebrates the popular music tradition of Angola. Ariel de Bigault also actively participates in promotion of lusophone music, in particular that coming from Cape Verde and Angola.

Other movies: Competition Present