Catarina Mouráo: The Wolf’s Lair

Portuguese film director Catarina Mouráo pitched the film as a project back in Prague March 2013 at the Archidoc workshop with a brilliant trailer. I was there to moderate the session. I knew Catarina from workshops in Lisbon, she was one of the founders of the Apordoc documentary association and I had watched several of her films (among them ”The Lady from Chandor” from 1999) that always had a fine sense of aesthetics, helped by the unique cinematographer Joáo Ribeiro.

The project started off from these lines from the Apordoc catalogue: ”In the 1950’es my grandfather was committed to a psychiatric hospital, my uncle became a prisoner, and my mother aged 11 was sent to a boarding school… Based on the background of Salazar’s dictatorship a true drama unfolds in a split family. Mouráo wants to ”unravel secrets and mysteries” 38 years after the 1974 revolution.” The film, I wrote back then, if it can keep the level of the teaser, has definitely a theatrical/festival potential. I saw it this morning and it keeps its promise.

Take a look at the photo – the director caressing a pipe pouche, a

bag for a pipe, in this case from the well known company Stanwell. From smoking experience I remember these bags, that the grandfather collected. As something special. In a clip from Portuguese television the grandfather, the writer Tomaz de Figueiredo (1902-1970) shows his collection, stating the limited possibilities of film compared to what the brain is able to do… the clip is b/w, you don’t see the colours and you are not able to smell the remains of the tobacco that has been in the pipe that has been in the bag.

These pipe pouches lie in the house in Casares of the grandfather, where his daughter is living protecting his legacy and letting no access allowed for the younger sister, the mother of the director, who tries to get access. Without success. On the television clip – quite moving – the author says that he hopes that one day one of his granddaughter or his great granddaughters, even if they have never met him, will find use of the pipe pouches… and remember him.

Catarina Mouráo has made a fascinating film using family archive of photos, tv clips with the grandfather, b/w film material to catch atmosphere of the time of the Salazar dictatorship – as she step by step with her own voice tells the story and reflects on why she wants to know about the grandfather and his hard destiny in the psychiatric hospital and is suffering, when his son is being imprisoned for being – as it is said – ”a contra”. Mouráo visits the archives of the secret police and of the hospital and she has many conversations with her mother. These scenes are very moving, you see how difficult it is for the mother, who had no real contact with her father but – a strong introductory sequence – has had dreams about him, holding his hand, and there is a photo with that motive.

It’s a very personal film, on the importance (so say it in a banal way) of finding out where you come from and do so while there are still someone around who can help you do so. But you need to be a good filmmaker to make it interesting for others. Mouráo has found a quiet, un-bombastic, subtle way to get us interested.

2015, Portugal, 102 mins.




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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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