Diogo Costa Amarante on “Luz de Presença” / interview

Born in Porto in 1982, the Portuguese filmmaker studied cinematography and documentary at the Catalonia Film School in Barcelona. He then completed a master’s in film production as a Fulbright Scholar at the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. His films “The White Roses” and “Small Town” both screened in Berlinale Shorts.

What was your starting point for “Luz de Presença”?

Five years ago I decided to move to Porto, and rented a place in an old working-class area that is known locally as the neighborhood of Fontinha. It’s a hidden enclave, a kind of slum, that, at that time, had still resisted the accelerated gentrification the city center had been subject to. I bought a scooter (the one crashed in the film), and I started to ask around where the best place might be to park it at night. A neighbor recommended the safest place would be to leave the motorcycle near to Diana, near where she stands each night. Quickly I realized that many people talked about her as being the guardian of that place. Following the advice I’d been given, for an entire year, every night, I discreetly parked my moto nearby her. We would only ever exchange quick ‘goodnights’. The repetition made her part of my routine – someone I would see every night before going to bed. Without ever talking to each other, she became a present person in my life. To the extent that after an event that made me feel sad and lonely, I would go out in the middle of the night and sit on the moto, pretending I was reading something on my phone, just to be near to her. She turned into a silent confident – someone who in those cold days, irradiated warmth. After having moved out of the neighborhood, back again in a sunny mood, I returned and decided to finally have a conversation with her. I told Diana I was a filmmaker and that I would love to make a film with her.   

Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

I would have to choose the first shot of Diana carrying the motorcycle up the stairs. I feel it sums up everything that makes me admire her so much: how strong this woman is; how she never gave in to social pressures and kept on living; finding her way, despite all adversities; remaining truthful to her sense of self. It’s deeply inspiring to me. 

What do you like about the short form?

I’ve always loved the evocative nature of the short form – the open mindedness that characterizes it. As there are less market expectations or pressures placed on shorter works, less reactionary dogmas about what a good short is or isn’t, they have an outsiderness that makes them less predictable, more exciting – all potency. 

Photo © Heinrich Völkel

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