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Browning Cinema to host director Pedro Costa

Observer Scene | Thursday, November 6, 2008

In the Fontainhas district of Lisbon, Portugal, one man has met with local men and women to create a new kind of cinematic art. Tonight, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center will host director Pedro Costa and show his latest film, “Colossal Youth,” the third in his series depicting the lives of marginalized Cape Verdean immigrants in Lisbon.

“Colossal Youth,” or “Juventude em Marcha” in its original Portuguese, follows 1997s “Bones” and 2000s “No Quarto da Vanda” (In Vanda’s Room) in portraying the people of Fontainhas. The film reunites Costa with a man only identified as Ventura, a 75 year-old Cape Verdean immigrant who has known Costa since the filming of “Bones.” The film also features Vanda Duarte, whose struggles with heroin were the focus of Costa’s 2000 film. In “Colossal Youth,” Ventura wanders between the former Fontainhas district, which has been razed by the city government in favor of new developments on the outskirts of Lisbon.

In the film, Ventura visits Vanda and others of his “children,” who call him “papa.” His wife has left him, and he lives a meandering life between settlements. Ventura’s wife has left him, leaving him with little but the time to make rounds from child to child. The film depicts what the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Web site calls a “material and emotional wasteland,” while also featuring Costa’s filmmaking style, one of aesthetic austerity and naturalistic dialogue. The blend of reenactment and improvisation, of film and documentary, is an exercise in experimental filmmaking that should not be missed.

Costa is a Portuguese film director best known for “In Vanda’s Room,” which won the France Culture Award for Foreign Cineaste of the Year at the 2002 Cannes International Film Festival. “Colossal Youth” was selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, and earned the Independent/Experimental prize from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association earlier this year.

“For me, the primary function of cinema is to make us feel that something isn’t right. There is no difference between documentary and fiction here,” Costa said in a series of lectures he gave in Japan in 2004. With meandering dialogue, episodic moments and a largely nonprofessional cast, “Colossal Youth” is attempting not to be commercial film art, but to examine a group of lives in a situation where “something isn’t right.”

Students will have the opportunity to hear Costa speak at this evening’s screening of “Colossal Youth,” as the director is scheduled to attend. The screening, to be held in the Browning Cinema, has been sponsored by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and is a free but ticketed event. Visit performingarts.nd.edu or call (574) 631-2800 for further information.

Contact Analise Lipari at alipari@nd.edu.