Culture » Film » What Makes Them Scared: Twelve Portuguese Directors in MOTELx’s 2018 Film Fest

August 17, 2018 by Ellis Dixon

What Makes Them Scared: Twelve Portuguese Directors in MOTELx’s 2018 Film Fest

Sometimes all you need is a good scare to get the blood pumping. Oftentimes, politics and the general state of affairs in the world isn’t enough to do it, so thank god for the magic of the motion pictures to make our hair stand on end.

This year’s lineup at the international horror film festival MOTELx is sure to get you trembling in your seat for all the right reasons: Mutant Blast by Fernando Alle and Inner Ghosts by Paulo Leite have been selected for the MOTELx Award for Best Feature of European Horror / Méliès d’Argent. This is the first time a Portuguese film— let alone TWO— has been selected for this award.

According to the director of MOTELx John Miller, “The inclusion of two Portuguese feature films in competition was a dream I never thought would come true…It’s the culmination of over 10 years of work to stimulate the production of this kind in Portuguese cinematography.”

Atlas got a behind-the-scenes peek of the films from all of the 12 Portuguese horror film directors showcasing their stuff at MOTELx this year. Find out which director was influenced  by disco diva Donna Summer, how the Italian master Caravaggio is a definitely a thing — as are dark corridors — where the pros go to get the heebie-jeebies, and how bugs, combined with not wearing anything, can get you in trouble.

Paulo Leite (Brazil/LX): Inner Ghosts

Why did you make this film?
Because this story touched me. I felt this was more than just a horror film — I felt it brought something new that I had not seen in other films, and those feelings guided me through the process. It was bigger than me. In fact, you should ask the film why it chose me.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
Many horror films have inspired me. Some are well-known classics like Rosemary’s Baby and The Return of the Living Dead while others are smaller gems like Night of the Creeps or Angst. I’ve been watching horror films since I can remember, and for as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to make them. I’m blessed for being able to.

Who are your artistic influences? 
Producers, writers, directors, musicians, and visual artists. Everything I’ve ever seen has contributed to what I do. I am a big fan of producer Robert Evans, who produced Rosemary’s Baby. He understood the power of the horror story and put the writing at the center of the process, where it belongs. Dan O’Bannon is one of the writers I like best. He knows and writes conflict like few people. From Dostoyevsky to Donna Summer, everything is an influence!

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
I’m saving that one for my next film.

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
I’m not easily spooked. That’s not the kind of person I am. But there are lots of places in Portugal where I could make a horror film.

Looking for more information? Here is the film on Facebook, Twitter, and here’s the website of the production company.

São José Correia (LX, Madeira): O Coração Revelador (The Tell-tale Heart)

Why did you make this film? 
One day I was reading Edgar Allan Poe’s tales and reading the “Tell-Tale Heart” I fell in love. Not only because of its beauty and simplicity, but also because of the terrible things that happen. I had a vision, and I convinced myself that I would be able to film it; Someone who tells his story in the purest form.
Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
Winter Light by Ingmar Bergman. The scene in which the pastor, Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand) speaks freely about what torments him. Bergman does nothing, just listens, no movement, and that compels us to hear it too.  A camera, an actor, and his story. So simple and so bright. I always wanted to do the same. And I’ve been trying ever since.  What drives me to direct my short films are the books I read, the films I see, and of course my fascination with actors.
Who are your artistic influences?
All the artists that pass me by. Some worked with me, others I saw them on television, others I saw in the movies, others in museums.  Teresa Gafeira, Rogerio de Carvalho, David Bowie, Ingmar Bergman, Anna Magnani, Sergio Godinho, Luchino Visconti, Tina Turner, William Turner, Anton Chékhov. I could continue….
What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
I almost died pierced by the reed of a rocket, at a village party.
Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
MOTELx, of course!
Looking for more information? Here’s the webpage courtesy of MOTELx.

Rui Pedro Sousa (Aveiro): Insanium

Why did you make this film?
We made this film out of the love of telling stories and entertaining audiences. We are also the first bet for Station Productions in the fiction realm.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
I grew up watching Spielberg movies like E.T., Schindler’s ListIndiana Jones, Jaws, The Color Purple. These stories always fascinated me and made me want to become a storyteller through motion pictures.

Who are your artistic influences?
Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuáron, and J.A. Bayona in film. The Italian painter Caravaggio is also a great inspiration for the style and overall look of my movies and themes.

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
To tell you the truth, it’s always the first shooting day of any of my movies! It’s the day where you start putting the work you have been developing for months into film or digital card. And, especially on the first day, everyone is looking at you and hoping you can guide them through that day so they feel safe for the rest of the shoot.

Related Post:  What’s on in Lisbon in July

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
I would say in theatres watching horror movies or even at MotelX. If I were to pick a place I would say the Hotel Monte Palace in Ponta Delgada, at night.

Looking for more information? Here is the film on Facebook, and here’s the website of the production company.

Gonçalo Morais Leitão (LX): A Boneca

Why did you make this film?
About ten months ago my 10-year-old daughter Joana and I had this conversation:
Joana:
Daddy, I already know what I’ll be when I grow up: an actress. Please, put my name in an actor’s agency.
          Me: An actor’s agency?! No, you are too young for that. And you have no portfolio so they will never call you. I’ll do something much better. I’ll write a screenplay for a short feature where you’ll have the main role.

A couple of months later The Doll was born, and she became Diana, the monster adults created with their sorrows.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
I have an over 20-year connection with this kind of creative profession: I’ve been a copywriter and creative director in the television and adverting industries where I created hundreds of TV commercials and had my own TV shows where I was a creator, producer, and host, but never as a director. At least not with that name.

A year ago a friend of mine from a production company asked me, “Would you like to start directing?” And that question was like a switch. Since then, I read several books about directing, I took a three-month editing course and I took masterclasses with Werner Herzog, Aaron Sorkin, David Mamet, Hans Zimmer, Ron Howard, and Martin Scorsese, and then I started writing, directing, and editing my own films and directing TV commercials. And I’m loving it.

Who/What are your artistic influences? 
I have four artistic influences :
1. Good stories told in a non-linear way. (Christopher Nolan is a master at this)
2. Good stories that pay particular concern to details, aesthetic, costume design, sound, where to put the camera and what is in the frame. The series Handmaid’s Tail, Big Little Lies, House Of Cards, The Crown, and The Killing are good examples.
3. Good stories where violence, blood, and humor go hand in hand. Welcome to Quentin Tarantino‘s world.
4. Good stories of everyday life.

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
It was 15 years ago when I lost my oldest daughter (she was only two years old back then) in a shopping mall. It was just for 10 minutes. But it was a nightmare.

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
If we could go back to 1981, I would say the best place to get spooked out in Portugal was in the living room of my grandparents’ house in Castelo Branco. It was a huge ancient house where I used to watch the Hitchcock’s Midnight Sessions by myself when I was only 12 years old. At the end, I would run through a never-ending dark corridor to get to bed and slept covered by sheets and blankets. This house will probably be one of the sets for my first long feature, The Maze.

Looking for more information? Here is the teaser.

Fernando Alle (Brazil/LX): Mutant Blast

Why did you make this film?
I have always wanted to make a zombie film but the zombie genre has become saturated, so the film evolved into something else. What started as a love letter to the zombie genre ended up as a break-up letter, but still loving and respectful to the conventions of the genre.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
I can’t think of one particular film because ever since I can remember I have always wanted to make films. I made some short films in school, and have been making this feature for the past seven years. At first, I started making it on my own, and then I got funding from Troma Entertainment, and later from ICA (Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual).

Who are your artistic influences?
As for directors, I guess my biggest influences are Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, the Wachowskis, and Werner Herzog. As for particular films that have directly influenced Mutant Blast, you can check out this list on my Letterboxd profile here.

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
I can’t think of a particularly scary thing that has happened in my life, but I can remember what the grossest thing was: accidentally stepping on a cockroach while barefoot. It is as gross as you can imagine.

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
I don’t have any.

Looking for more information? Here are the IMDB and the Facebook pages.

Guilherme Daniel (Caldas da Rainha): A Estranha Casa na Bruma

Why did you make this film?
The idea for the movie came from reading the short story “The Strange High House in the Mist” by H.P. Lovecraft, from which this movie is adapted.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films?
There wasn’t one specific film — directing came from a will to make movies to evolve in my craft, which is cinematography.

Who are your artistic influences? 
I’m into painting, so Caravaggio, Hopper, Wyeth, and Hammershøi, etc. are big influences in my process.

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Trying to go to the Finance office (Finanças) or the Bureau of Social Security (Segurança Social). It never fails to throw me into an abyss of despair. (AtlasLisboa: Oh, how we can sympathize…)

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
By the sea, as can be seen in our movies.

Looking for more information? Here is the trailer.

Patrícia Maciel (LX/NYC/Mozambique): Moscatro

Why did you make this film?
The wish to tell this story. It’s part of a script that I have been developing.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? 
Well… I was about twelve and I remember watching Natural Born Killers by Oliver Stone numerous times. I had a VHS and I played it before going to school while smoking the cigarettes I’d stolen from my mother the night before. I have no idea how many times I watched it but I still know most of the dialogs by memory. I’m not sure if that film made me want to direct films but it was definitely an inspiration. There are many artists I admire, David Lynch and John Cassavetes are surely two of the greatest.

Related Post:  Taberna Tosca

Who are your artistic influences?
Besides the ones I already mentioned, Pina Bausch is one of my biggest inspirations.

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Some very weird stuff already happened to me, I must say, not sure if it was the scariest but it was the most recent one. A couple of months ago, I got stuck in an open shower, in the dark, in a cottage in a deserted place in Mozambique, alone, naked, and being eaten by mosquitoes for about eight hours.

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
I love to go to the Serra de Sintra on a cold and cloudy day.

Looking for more information? Here’s the trailer on MOTELx’s website.

Hugo Pinto (Cascais): Espelho Meu (Mirror Mirror)

Why did you make this film?
The film was made for the Lisbon 48 Hour Lisbon film project, a festival where you have to complete the entire film process in 48 hours, from the first draft of the script to the screening of the movie. It’s an amazing challenge and I loved the story and the mood of the finished film.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
I have wanted to tell stories since my early childhood and I found out very soon after that I wanted to tell them by being a director. When I was 13 years old, I had created scripts and I had made short films on Super 8 and VHS. I was very influenced by Spielberg movies and the ’80s John Hughes mood.

Who are your artistic influences?
Anything moves me and everything grabs my attention: Directors, writers, people, landscapes, I listen to music all the time, and really, so many things get me going!

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Being very sick and understanding I didn’t have enough time to do what I wanted to do.

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
Sintra! It’s an amazing and mysterious place.

Looking for more information? Here’s the trailer.

Paulo A.M. Oliveira (Mozambique/LX) and Pedro Martins (LX/Elvas): Calipso

Why did you make this film?
PAMO: I’m a huge fan of the horror genre and I believe there’s space for these kinds of films in Portugal.
PEDRO: Since childhood, I’ve been a fan of horror films of the sub-genre zombie. I also like psycho- thrillers, so Calipso came up as a mix of these two genres. The dramatic plot of this story is about a couple in an intoxicated and dying relationship, which is also a theme very warm and personal to me.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
PAMO: There are several films that inspire me: The Exorcist, The Shining, Pan’s Labyrinth, Psycho, The Conjuring, Nosferatu, and many others.
PEDRO: There are some authors of psychological thrillers, from Hitchcock to Polanski and Aronovsky and Brad Anderson, that for sure have influenced my vision. Also, some Nordic directors, like Lars von Trier or Thomas Alfredsson, with their amazing films, and some authors of the conceptual horror and bizarre have “intoxicated” my vision. Despite loving zombie films, particularly Romero and Lucio Fulci films, I think there is not a particular zombie film that influenced the creation of Calipso. The fungal epidemic that turns people into zombies serves more as a metaphor for the story of the couple Bruno and Sandra, the protagonists of the film.

Who are your artistic influences? 
PAMO: Kubrick, George LucasHitchcock, Dali, Tim Burton, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, the Brothers Grimm, and many others.
PEDRO: As I mentioned above, classic thrillers and modern psychological horror films have influenced me a lot. I also like the expressionist horror and the European Nordic new wave. Authors that explore the conceptual horror (e.g. Cronenberg, Del Toro, and James Ward Byrkit) are for sure among my favorites.

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
PAMO: One of the great scares that I experienced recently was the breakdown of the plane on my flight to the Fantasporto festival of terror.
PEDRO: Not a particular one. Maybe, as a father, when I almost lost my kid in the supermarket! It was just three seconds, but still…

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
PAMO: Possibly at MotelX!
PEDRO: I used to like an old familiar house in a center of Portugal with a big and scary corridor that I used to visit during my holidays as a child.

Looking for more information? Here’s the teaser.

David Vieira (LX/Loures): Yet Another Christmas Tale

Why did you make this film?
In all honesty, I’m not quite sure myself. You see, I wanted to make a piece that reflected the schizophrenic experience in a way that the viewer felt as puzzled and immersed as the main character himself. Where peculiar events unfold one after the other and the meaning behind them is one we aren’t willing to accept. I wanted the audience to be as close to the action as possible. I wanted to explore the unconscious empathetic link we all possess, the very same one responsible for the rise of reaction videos and webcam culture. I think there is something deeper there worth exploring; and also the fact that the Santa Claus’ origins offer fertile ground for a dark backstory.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
Films like The Butterfly Effect and the Harry Potter series illustrate what the potential of film to manipulate and explore reality can truly could be— the fantasy behind it has always had a great appeal. I have always brought a camera with me when hanging out with my friends. We used to go on adventures in our local areas, as kids do, making up scenarios and stories along the journey. The very best part was perhaps watching [the film] back on the big screen, realizing how placing a camera at the right moment and place creates a time capsule impossible to replicate. I find that probably was my main reason for wanting to direct my own pieces.

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Who are your artistic influences? 
My biggest and dearest influences come from perhaps rather underground influences. I am quite obsessed by the peculiar, weird, and hyperreal, by the constant subversion of expectations and surreal, at times dark, comedy. In that sense, there is no one quite like Tim And Eric, Nathan Fielder, Eric Andre, and Sasha Baron Cohen. I feel in a sense that film is the fourth-dimensional process of art and communication (3D Matter + Time). In its purest form, it offers an almost perfect delivery and conceptualization of language, of an intended message, and context. However, with such tools at hand I feel the most rewarding job is seeking the untranslatable, the edges of art, the yet-to-be-culturally-assimilated. However bad at it I might be.

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
In general, I was almost never the one getting scared but rather the one scaring and playing pranks on people — quite awful ones at times. However, one of the first times I was truly scared was when my father died. It was not death itself that was the motive for the fear, but the direct realisation of how fluid and malleable reality was. Of how from one second to the other your life can drastically change, how one door can forever close and the only thing left to do is to learn from it and accept it.

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
If you are looking for a truly scary experience of myth and tale hunting, you should try going into a forest in Sintra around midnight. But for an equally daunting experience, Labirinto De Lisboa is the scariest escape room/interactive play I have ever been to. Worth the wait!

Looking for more information? Here’s the film on MOTELx’s website. Interested in going? Check out the line-up and info for tickets here.

Paulo Araújo (Pedras Salgadas): O Quadro (The Portrait)

Why did you make this film?
When we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the death of Georges Méliès and when films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Nosferatu are almost turning 100 years old (the first is from 1920 and the second from 1922) I felt the urge to make a short film inspired by these filmmakers, pioneers of the horror films, that fascinate me so much and that, as we know, are still very influent today. So obviously, the portrait is not only silent (at least it doesn’t have dialogues), but it is also a black and white film. And it was also, to a certain extent, filmed following the standards of that time.

Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
It wasn’t just one, but many, and before films, comics. I am an illustrator and I’ve always enjoyed telling stories from drawings. Changing to motion pictures was a small step (although it took some time because the accessible digital technology only arrived one decade ago). However, there are film directors that I admire a lot and that I am constantly studying, such as Tarkovsky, Kubrick, Béla Tarr, Hitchcock, Sergio Leone, Godart, Tarantino, and the Coen brothers, just to name a few.

Who are your artistic influences?
From my previous answer, you may have figured out that my interests are very eclectic. And, if I like many of the classic horror films, I’m also seduced by the more experimental cinema of Buñuel or a fantastic story by Spielberg. In music and plastic arts, I also have varied tastes. To sum up, I’m curious about everything.

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Honestly, to date, I don’t remember anything that has scared me to death. Unless it was such a traumatizing experience that my memory had deleted it or blocked it out.

Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
Maybe walking alone in the middle of the night on a road with no lighting in any given mountain in the countryside.

Looking for more information? Here are the links to the Facebook page and the trailer.

This just in: Updated Aug. 20

Francisco Lacerda (USA, Açores): Freelancer

Why did you make this film?
I wasn’t planning to make another short film at the time, but my co-director Francisco A. Lopes approached me one day with a crazy pitch that I immediately fell in love with and began penning a script based on it. We not only wanted to tell another blood-drenched and humorous tale but also to make a sort of social statement by criticising in a satirical manner the hardships of freelance artists and the film industry.
Was there a particular film that made you want to direct your own films? What was the process that led you to direct?
There was one particular film, and that film was Ridley Scott’s 1979 Sci-fi horror film Alien. I was quite young at the time, around 11 or 12 years old and I could say that was the film that introduced me to horror and led me to watch films such as The Evil Dead and Bad Taste which catapulted me into starting to make my own little blood-drenched home movies.
Who are your artistic influences?
I have many artistic influences and they vary with the type of project I’m working with,  in the case of Freelancer, I was mostly inspired by Emiliano Rocha Minter’s horror film We Are The Flesh, 80s synth music and aesthetics, Azores culture and the Dark Souls video games.
What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Having a cockroach crawl into my pants.
Where’s your favorite place to go to get spooked out in Portugal?
Amarino França’s attic.

Share your thoughts!


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