European Film Festival Paris
from 17 to 31 March 2022
European Film Festival Paris
from 17 to 31 March 2022

Ghosts of an Empire / Fantasmas do Império

by Ariel de Bigault

(Documentary, Portugal/France, 2020, 112', C/BW, Fr ST) with João Botelho, Margarida Cardoso, Ivo M. Ferreira, Fernando Matos Silva, Hugo Vieira da Silva

Ghosts of an Empire

Ghosts of an Empire explores the colonial imagination in Portuguese cinema since the beginning of the 20th century.  Seven Portuguese filmmakers and two African actors open the coffers of memory. They scrutinize and comment on the representations of a real past, re-invented or repressed: the myths of discoveries, the imperial fiction factory, the masks of violent domination. The documentaries and fictions that legitimize the exploitation of peoples and glorify a Portuguese identity and mission respond to films, especially those of the seven filmmakers, who tell a completely different story and bring critical perspectives, other views on the real past.


Gathering very diverse cinematic fragments, Ghosts of an Empire illuminates the variations and evolutions of looks, especially on “the other”. By playing on counterpoints, echoes, contrasts between situations, images, dialogues, the film weaves a web of imaginations and attitudes, memories and emotions. And it questions the persistence of ghosts in the cinematographic present.

Ariel de Bigault
Ariel de Bigault

In Portugal, Brazil and Africa, Ariel de Bigault, French author and director, has been exploring Portuguese-speaking cultures for years. Her film career began in Lisbon with documentaries. Then came the meeting with Brazil and the series Éclats Noirs du Samba (1987), with the great artists Gilberto Gil, Grande Othelo, Martinho da Vila, Paulo Moura, Zézézé Motta, celebrating Afro-Brazilian creation. She has contributed to the dissemination of African urban music: Anthologie des Musiques du Cap Vert 1959-1992 (1995), Musiques Urbaines d’Angola 1956-1998 (1999) and many records. The film Canta Angola (2000) shows the resistance of popular music artists in a war-torn Angola. Afro Lisboa (1996) reveals the faces and voices of various generations of African immigration in Lisbon. Margem Atlântica (2006) introduces us to authors, actors and musicians of African origins – Mariza, José Eduardo Agualusa, Kalaf Ângelo, Ângelo Torres – whose creations captivated audiences. Ghosts of an Empire, on the colonial imagination in Portuguese cinema, is a new stage in her Afro-Lusophone journey.

Other movies: Season France-Portugal 2022