Ghosts of an Empire / Fantasmas do império
by Ariel de Bigault
(Documentary, Portugal/France, 2020, 112’, C, En ST)
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 Dessuant, Télérama