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A Toca do Lobo
Though Portugal’s Salazar regime came to an end in 1974, the impact of a dictatorship can be felt by generations afterward. Now, decades later, after the archives have been finally opened to the public, the re-appropriation of family histories lies in the hands of the grandchildren’s generation.
The essay film by Portuguese filmmaker Catarina Mourão tells the story of such a re-appropriation. Mourão ventures out in search of the fate of her grandfather, the writer Tomáz de Figueiredo. It is, to begin with, the story of an absence: even before he is committed to a psychiatric clinic in the mid-1950’s, Figueiredo lives far from his family. By means of archival material, conversations, photographs, and places, Mourão attempts to shed light on the story of her grandfather. His most famous book, A toca do lobo (The Wolf’s Lair), lends the film both its title and a conflict: the torch used to illuminate the Wolf’s Lair invariably lightens just a part of the den; what lies in close proximity often will be plunged into darkness. Every illumination is a selection, distortion, and interpretation; the filmmaker's frequent use of the colour black is hence honest.
Mourão shows that truth cannot be found in documents and memories. What can instead be found is a relation to the truth. At the end of this sensitive and poetic film, in a delightful twist, the filmmaker succeeds in playfully creating just such a relation.
Catarina Mourão studied music, law and film (MA Bristol University). In 1998 she founded AporDOC, Portuguese Documentary Association. Since 2000 she has been teaching film and documentary. Together with filmmaker Catarina Alves Costa, she started Laranja Azul, an independent production company for creative documentary and visual arts in Lisbon. She is currently doing her practice-based PhD in Film at the University of Edinburgh, working with family archives and old family albums, but also shooting in present time.