Congratulations! The Golden Bear for Best Short Film goes to Diogo Costa Amarante and his film «Cidade Pequena»!

Diogo Costa Amarante was born in Portugal where he graduated in law before making his directing debut with the short documentary «Jumate/Jumate» which screened at numerous international festivals and won several awards. In 2009, Diogo participated in the Berlinale Talent Campus and directed his second documentary film «In January, perhaps» which was also selected in many festivals. «The White Roses», his first fiction short film, premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival in the Official Shorts Competition and was awarded with the European Grand Prix in the Best European Short Film Festival. In 2016, Diogo finished his Master of Fine Arts at the New York University/Tisch School of the Arts with his thesis film «Cidade Pequena».

Portraits_Berlinale2017_HiRes_17333_0009.jpgCopyright by Heinrich Völkel

What is your ambition in the film?

One day, my sister told me that Frederico, my 6-year-old nephew, learned about the human body at school from a teacher who explained to him that people die when their hearts stop. That evening, Frederico didn’t sleep. He woke my sister up several times throughout the night complaining he had a pain in his chest. Hearing this story, I immediately recalled being his age and receiving a collection of books for children that happened to include one titled «Why did grandfather die?». Although the book was very colorful, populated by warm characters and communicating its educational message for children with sweet metaphors, I found it absolutely terrifying. I would hide it in different places, but inevitably weeks later, thinking of something else, I would bump into that thing again and again, each time terrified anew. It made me feel like the most melancholic person on earth. My mother worried I had developed a minor psychological problem, since she would find me in those moments staring sadly into space. The emotional parallel I saw in my childhood memories and my nephew’s experience inspired me to make this film. My first attempt at depicting this was very literal – including a chronologically written script and footage shot with my nephew at his school. I then realized what I really wanted to represent in the film was not a recreation of events but an expression of the emotions I felt reading that book as a child and the tenderness I felt hearing the story of my nephew’s similar experience. Approaching the concept fresh, I began to shoot with a more spontaneous approach. I went with my sister and nephew back to places that belong to my childhood memories and filmed with a stream of consciousness objective, intended to allow more instinctive moments to emerge from the familiar spaces, landscapes, colors, and sounds. To use montage and image manipulation to convey that mix of horror and tenderness. To introduce the absurd and its inherent humor as a sort of resistance against the otherwise immobilizing fear that can affect us all. If there’s something that will always be universal, it’s the vulnerability inherent in the consciousness of our own mortality.

How did you get started in the film business?

I used to be a trainee lawyer in Lisbon working in an office located nearby the Portuguese Cinemateca. One day, on my way back to the office, I was given this random flyer promoting a filmmaking workshop that was being organized by a new film festival I had never heard of. I was curious and went online to read more about it. Apparently they were willing to select 10 people to produce a short film each in 4 days. Potential participants should email them explaining why they should be one of the final selected. I have no idea what I wrote or if there were not that much people applying but soon I received a phone call saying I was one of the ten finalists. It was weird but exciting at the same time. I took a week off in the office and just went for the adventure. I arrived to their office and quickly realized that all the other participants were film students but me. Most of them knew each other from school and were already scheduling in between them to be able to crew in each other’s project. I was too shy to ask for help and so I went out on my own and started to collect images with the mini DV camera the festival borrowed me. I had no idea how to edit the material and so I spent all night playing with the software a friend of mine installed on my computer. The biggest surprise arrived when the organization of the festival awarded my “short” with a grant to study documentary filmmaking in Barcelona. I had two weeks to make a decision. My family and friends were shocked. I don’t even remember to question what was happening. I just quitted my job, left everything behind and went to Spain. Once in Spain, my little documentaries took me to the USA and once in the USA I was accepted into a Master of Fine Arts program as a Fulbright student. After 10 years jumping around I’m finally back to Portugal where I’m not sure if we can talk about a film business/industry.

What are your future plans for 2017?

I was recently funded to develop a first feature script. At the same time I’m preparing to start a PDH.

kleine-stadt-2Film excerpt from »Cidade Pequena»

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