Deixem-me ao menos Subir às Palmeiras / Let Me at least Climb the Palm Trees

by Joaquim Lopes Barbosa

(Fiction, Portugal, 1972, 85’, BW, Fr ST)

with Estevão Macunguel, Gabriel Chiau, Helena Ubisse, Malangatana Valente

Deixem-me ao menos Subir às Palmeiras

Long shots of farm workers mistreated by the black foreman. In their beautiful house white owners smile. Tired of abuses, beatings, humiliations, the peasants try a gesture of revolt, quickly tamed by the boss. The young Dino will have the courage to leave.

“Cinema must be a front of guerrilha against taboos, pseudo-morality and commonplaces. Cinema is a weapon because it can alert people to think. It was a challenge. But I couldn’t do it any differently.” Joaquim Lopes Barbosa

The political police watched the shooting without worrying themsleves too much because the producer worked for the regime. In an attempt to avoid censorship, Lopes Barbosa had the cruel white foreman interpreted by an African and doubled the dialogues of the white owners in English. The peasants speak Ronga, a language of Mozambique.

The film is radical and committed but not a political manifesto. Its aesthetics are powerfully poetic. The frames and perspectives of the sequenced shots, the look on the peasants are of a pure lyricism. Songs of poignant beauty convey many scenes.

Joaquim Lopes Barbosa
Joaquim Lopes Barbosa

Joaquim Lopes Barbosa (1945-2021), born in Porto, went on an adventure in Angola in the late 1960s. He discovers the violence and injustice of colonial exploitation and meets poets, MPLA activists, Viriato da Cruz, António Jacinto. Passionate about Brazilian Cinema Novo, he directed a short film O Regresso. Then he left for Lourenço-Marques to work for an advertising and documentary production company. The producer agrees to give him the means – team, film, material – for his first feature film, adapted from a short story by Mozambican Luis Bernardo Honwana. He turns in the countryside with peasants and the help of the painter Malangatana. The film is completely banned by censorship and the filmmaker has to flee hastily to Lisbon. After 25 April 1974, the first, scheduled for 7 September in Lourenço Marques, was prevented by the revolt of the colonists. In Portugal, Lopes Barbosa directed documentaries and then in the 1980s, he returned to Mozambique where he created a film production company, and where he remained until his death. His iconoclastic fiction, one of the very few anti-colonial films before 1974, was forgotten for more than thirty years.

Other movies: Season France-Portugal 2022

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