Cinema of Portugal

Cinema of Portugal

Portuguese cinema has a long tradition, reaching back to the birth of the medium in the late 19th century. In the 1950s, Cinema Novo, (literally "New Cinema") sprang up as a movement concerned with showing realism in film, in the vein of Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave. Directors Manoel de Oliveira and João César Monteiro have gained Portuguese cinema international attention.


Silent film

Portuguese silent film began its course on June 18, 1896, at the Real Colyseu da Rua da Palma nº 288, in Lisbon, as Edwin Rousby presented Robert William Paul's Animatograph, using a Teatrograph projector. This places the Portuguese début around six months after the Lumière brothers's inaugural presentation in Paris.

The early days

However, the Portuguese audience was already familiar with photograph projection, first at the "cicloramas", "dioramas" and the "stereoscopic" views and, later, the magic lantern, with the projection of transparent photographs in glass plate then colored.

On December 28, 1894, the German photographer Carlos Eisenlohr opened his "Imperial Exhibition" at the galleries of the Avenida Palace Hotel. Beyond the projections already familiar to the Lisbon audience, he presented the great novelty: the live photograph - shown not through an Edison Kinetograph, as it was announced at the time, but by the Elektrotachyscop or Schnellseher, an invention by Ottomar Anschutz, that A. J. Ferreira calls Electro-Tachiscópio Eisenlohr. The device projected images of actions, of a dog passing by or the gallop of a horse, contained in disks of small diameter that produced images of extremely short seconds.

In the beginning of 1895, the tobacco shop Tabacaria Neves presents Edison's Kinetoscope (in fact, a copy of said invention, built in London by Robert William Paul, ordered by the Greek George Georgiades, who presented the machine in Lisbon). Unlike the precededing invention, the Kinestoscope provided individual visioning and the film with about 1380 photographs enabled a projection of 20 seconds.

The machine that presented the movie session at the Real Colyseu was not the Cinematograph of the Lumiére brothers, but rather one of its competitors, the Teatrograph, also by Robert W. Paul, that merely projected. The machine projected behind the screen, where natural size images appeared for about a minute. The session was very well received and in the upcoming months, many were the machines swirling at the movie theatres of Lisbon, vying for the favour of the movie audience.

At the Real Colyseu of the Rua da Palma of António Santos Júnior, on June 18, 1896, Edwin Rousby showed the films of the producing house of British Robert-William Paul, for whom it worked. Those are films of about a minute, "animated views" taken by the operators of the British proucer: "Parisian balls", "The Pont Neuf in Paris", "The Train", "The Serpentine Dance", "A Barber and Shoeshine Store in Washington".

Edwin Rousby meets Manuel Maria da Costa Veiga, a photographer with electrical and mechanical skills, who assisted him in preparing his session. Thrilled, Costa Veiga begins acting as an exhibitor, acquiring a projectoscope from Edison that same year and showing films in Lisbon venues.

Robert W. Paul will also send his operator Henry Short to Southern Europe, to record the animated views of landscapes enrichening the programme of the English producing house. Short also passes by Portugal, registering several views that, though destined to be shown in London, would be integrated in the program of Rousby's Portuguese sessions, in 1897.

The success is overwhelming, prolonging his stays and increasing the sessions. However, when Rousby proceeds with his tour to the Teatro-Circo Príncipe Real, in Oporto, that the animated photograph gains not only an enthusiast but also a professional, who would found Portuguese cinema: Aurélio da Paz dos Reis.

Saída do Pessoal da Fábrica Confiança, the first Portuguese film, by Aurélio Paz dos Reis

From July to August, Rousby presents his films at the Teatro do Príncipe Real (currently the Teatro Sá da Bandeira), without achieving, however, the success of Lisbon.

The pioneers and the producing houses

Three years after beginning is exhibition business, Costa Veiga purchases a movie camera and registers his first film, Aspectos da Praia de Cascais ("Views of the Cascais beach"), with images of King D. Carlos bathing in Cascais. Costa Veiga begins recording official visits and other relevant political events of the nation. He founds the first Portuguese producing house, "Portugal Film", headquartered in Algés, close to his home.

In 1909 are born, in Lisbon, the "Portugália Film", of João Freire Correia and Manuel Cardoso, financed by D. Nuno de Almada, and the"Empresa Cinematográfica Ideal" of Júlio Costa.

João Freire Correia, a photographer, begins his activity by buying a projector for the opening of the "Salão Ideal ao Loreto" in 1904, the first Portuguese movie theatre. He founds his producing company five years later, for which he'll turn several films, such as the Batalha de Flores ("Battle of Flowers") that garnered vast success. He was the operator of O Rapto de Uma Actriz ("The kidnapping of an Actress"), the first scripted Portuguese film, directed by Lino Ferreira in 1907.

Freire Correia however directed two documentaries of significant success in 1909: A Cavalaria Portuguesa ("The Portuguese Cavalry") and the O Terramoto de Benavente ("The earthquake of Benavente"). The first showed already some technique on image capture, displaying the prowess of Portuguese cavalry in such a way as to create situations of danger, fictitious, to the audience. The earthquake was filmed in April, having been shown two days later - a remarkable speed - and with the export of 22 copies abroad.

João Freire Correia would also be responsible for the production of the two versions of Os Crimes de Diogo Alves ("The Crimes of Diogo Alves"), whose direction he entrusted first to Lino Ferreira in 1909 but that remained incomplete, with João Tavares a then directing a second version in 1911.

Of note still the early attempt at sound films with the incomplete Grisette (1908), using the Gaumont method but with the adaptations by Freire Correia, who attempted to synchronize image and sound. Portugália produced also the first film from the adaptation of a literary work. Carlota Ângela was based in the work with the same name by Camilo Castelo Branco and was directed by João Tavares, in 1912.

Júlio Costa, partnering with João Almeida, acquired the "Salão Ideal" from Freire Correia and Nuno Almada in 1908 and starts the "Empresa Cinematográfica Ideal", producer and distributor. Remodelled and appropriately refitted, the Salão Ideal presents a predecessor of the talkies, the "Animatógrafo Falado" (Spoken Animatograph): a group of people reads the texts and produces sound in synch with the film's exhibition. That group was made up by the Volunteer Firefighters of Ajuda, of which not only Júlio Costa but also António Silva, the unforgettable actor of the Portuguese Golden Age comedies, were members.

While waiting for the construction of his studio at Rua Marquês Ponte de Lima, Júlio Costa begins his activity filming "views". He begins filming features with Chantecler Atraiçoado ("Chantecler Betrayed") and then with Rainha depois de Morta ("Queen After Dead"), by Carlos Santos, the first Portuguese film with an historic motif. Júlio Costa's company was also a pioneer for having grouped for the first time production, distribution and exhibition. The company would cease activity after a suspicious fire.

In 1918, "Lusitânia Film" is born, a production company with an ambitious project, led by Celestino Soares and Luís Reis Santos. They rework the old studio of Portugália Film, in São Bento, and begin activities filming documentaries.

Still in 1918, two short films are done outdoors by Costa Veiga and directed by young Leitão de Barros: Malmequer ("Daisy") and Mal de Espanha ("Evil From Spain"). The shooting of O Homem dos Olhos Tortos ("The man with the Twisted Eyes") begins, based upon a police serial by Reinaldo Ferreira, directed by Leitão de Barros. However, due to financial pressures, it would remain incompelte. A well-organized conspiracy would close down the company that intended to film A Severa as its next production.

Closed the "cycle of Lisbon", the first Oporto producer is founded, who would ensure for some years the continuous production of cinema in Portugal.

The foreign Portuguese cinematography

After founding a production company bearing his name in 1910, the Oporto exhibitor Nunes de Mattos, adds "Invicta Film" to its corporate name, two years later.

The company films current events and documentaries, among them O Naufrágio do Silurian ("The Sinking of the Silurian"), of which 108 copies will be shipped to Europe. In November 1917, Nunes de Mattos decides to found the second "Invicta Film, Lda", increasing the number of partners and the equity. Henrique Alegria takes over the Art Direction and they acquire the Quinta da Prelada, in Oporto, where the studios and laboratories of the producer are to be built.

In 1918 they leave for Paris, from where they bring a technical team from the Pathé studios. The team is led by Georges Pallu, the director who would author virtually all the feature films of the Oporto producing house. In the team were also André Lecointe, architect-decorator; Albert Durot, camera operator and Georges and Valentine Coutable - the couple who would be, respectively, the Chief Lab and Chief Editor. Durot would later be replaced by Maurice Laumann, also from Pathé.

For six years, "Invicta Film" produces several films and documentaries, enrichening the Portuguese film landscape. In 1924, however, the company shows severe financial distress, leading to laying off all its personnel and ensuring only the lab work. They would shutdown in 1928.

Rino Lupo is another milestone of cinematography. He shows up through Georges Pallu, who accepts his direction of Mulheres da Beira ("Women from Beira"), after a tale by Abel Botelho, with photography by Artur Costa de Macedo. Though the financial disagreements and the unfulfilment of deadlines force his removal from the company, Rino Lupo still directs Os Lobos ("The Wolves"), another pearl of the Portuguese silent cinema. He'll direct other movies, however without the quality of the earlier works.

Three other companies are set up in the 20s to fill in the gap from the brief existence of the Portuguese studios: "Caldevilla Film", "Fortuna Film" and "Pátria Film". These also follow the Portuguese motif, hiring foreign technicians to use their experience in the Portuguese production. Though the directors brought from French production houses were presented as recognised stars in their countries, in fact, they made use of that limelight to progress their careers without having the claimed background.

Raul de Caldevilla founds in 1920 his "Caldevilla Film", placing production in Lisbon, at Quinta das Conchas, in Lumiar. Frenchman Maurice Mariaud is the director chosen for the works Os Faroleiros ("The Lighthouse Men") and As Pupilas do Senhor Reitor ("The Wards of the Dean"), for its only two productions. The company would shut down due to acute disagreement among partners due to financial matters.

Virgínia de Castro e Almeida, a writer of children's books, founds in Lisbon the studio "Fortuna Film". She hires a French lawyer, Roger Lion, to direct productions based upon her books. With him, he brings actress Gil-Clary, his wife, Maxudian and the cameramen Daniel Quintin and Marcel Bizot. They shoot A Sereia de Pedra ("The Stone Mermaid") and Olhos da Alma ("Eyes of the Soul"), the latter shot in Nazaré, in what was its first screen register.

Henrique Alegria leaves "Invicta Film", in 1922, to found "Pátria Film" with Raul Lopes Freire. They buy Quinta das Conchas, where Maurice Mariaud directs O Fado ("The Fado"). This company too would cease to operate after shooting Aventuras de Agapito - Fotografia Comprometedora ("Adventures of Agapito - Compromising Photograph"), the fourth film directed by Roger Lion in Portugal.

The new generation

At the end of the roaring twenties, the "young Turks" begin the regency of the cinema estates, with the return of Leitão de Barros and the emergence of young António Lopes Ribeiro (who would soon launch Manoel de Oliveira), Jorge Brum do Canto, Chianca de Garcia and Arthur Duarte.

Their agenda is to move away from the previous productions, taking inspiration in the esthetic designs of the French, German and Russian cinemas. The casts also support this disruptive move, bringing to the screen the stars of the Revista, by contrast to the spoken theatre. Stars such as Eduardo Brazão, Brunilde Júdice, António Pinheiro or Pato Moniz fade, and a new school begins with the presence of Vasco Santana, António Silva, Maria Matos, Ribeirinho or Maria Olguim.

At the same time, the relationship of the State with cinema was also to change from the end of the 20s. The installed powers understood these youngsters dominated the cinema press and influenced masses with the perspectives and the way the conveyed their messages, a privileged means of propaganda for the new regime.

António Lopes Ribeiro launches his career benefiting from the 100 metres Law. He films Uma Batida em Malpique ("A huntin Malpique") and Bailando ao Sol ("Dancing in the Sun") (1928), the latter with photography by Aníbal Contreiras. He will later depart with Leitão de Barros in a visit through the European studios, where he'll meet Dziga Vertov and Eiseinstein.

Leitão de Barros, who screens at Lopes Ribeiro's home the 9,5 mm film he had made with his brother-in-law in Nazaré, is spurred and returns to filming with Nazaré, Praia de Pescadores ("Nazaré, Beach of Fishermen"). Again in Nazaré, Leitão de Barros films Maria do Mar ("Mary of the Sea"), the second ethnofiction in the history of cinema, a milestone for the bleak Portuguese cinematography esthetics. He also directs Lisboa, Crónica Anedótica ("Lisbon, an Anectodal Chronicle") (1929), where in a gathering of multiple city scenes, he displays Chaby Pinheiro, repeaters Adelina Abranches and Alves da Cunha, Nascimento Fernandes, and the unforgettable Vasco Santana and Beatriz Costa.

Inspired by Marcel l'Herbier, Jorge Brum do Canto opens with A Dança dos Paroxismos ("The Dance of the Paroxisms") (1928), with his own script and where he plays the main role. It opens with a private session in 1930, and will only be seen again in 1984.

Manoel de Oliveira shoots Douro, Faina Fluvial ("Douro, River Works"), and António Lopes Ribeiro persuades him to take it to the V International Critics Congress, where it receives the praise of Pirandello.

But will again be Leitão de Barros who will leave a print in movie history, with A Severa, based upon the work by Júlio Dantas, with the direction of the first Portuguese talkie. A new era of Portuguese cinema was to begin.

The Portuguese sound films

1930s - 1940s

With the rise to power of the right-wing party and the beginning of the Estado Novo, in 1933, a new genre of film started, based on the comedy and musical genres, famously the " A Comédia À Portuguesa", with focus in contemporary life and more light matters, and the intention of taking the minds of the people from the difficult times faced.

The Golden Age, as it is known, began that same year with the release of A Canção de Lisboa, and dominated the country for the next two decades, eventually fading away during the 1950s and giving way to the Novo Cinema in the 1960s. Another famous titles from this popular era are Aldeia da Roupa Branca (1938), O Pátio das Cantigas and O Pai Tirano (1941), O Costa do Castelo (1943), A Menina da Rádio (1944) and O Leão da Estrela (1947).

During this period historic films also emerged as an important genre in the Portuguese industry, as a medium for the state party to develop its nationalist propaganda and conservative values, namely As Pupilas do Senhor Reitor (1935), Bocage (1936), Amor de Perdição (1943), Inês de Castro (1945), Camões (1946) and Frei Luís de Sousa (1950). A sub-genre of these nationalist films were those related to the culture of Fado and the rise to popularity of Amália Rodrigues, the greatest name of the Portuguese song. Some of those films are Capas Negras and Fado, História de Uma Cantadeira, both from 1947.

1942 saw the release of Aniki-Bóbó, the first full-length non-documentary film from Manoel de Oliveira, who would only return to fiction film-making twenty-one years later. This film is a milestone in Portuguese film not only because it differ from the tone most in vogue at the time, dealing with social issues, but also because it can be stated that it predated the first Italian neo-realism movies for a few years.


The Fifties were mainly years of stagnation with the continuity of the same movies made in the earlier decades, government censorship and glorification of the colonial empire - see Chaimite (1953); although the first signs of the winds to come were being given by films like Saltimbancos (1951) and Nazaré (1952), both directed by Manuel Guimarães and inspired by the Italian neo-realism.

In 1958 opens the Portuguese Cinematheque with a retrospective of American movies that inspired the French filmmakers of the Nouvelle Vague, an event lauded by then new critics Alberto Seixas Santos e António Pedro Vasconcelos.


The first year of the new decade brought a new generation, fronted by Dom Roberto (1962), Os Verdes Anos and Pássaros de Asas Cortadas (1963).

This new fase was named Cinema Novo or Novo Cinema (New Cinema), referring to Portuguese cinema made between 1963 and the revolution in 1974 by directors such as Fernando Lopes, Paulo Rocha or António da Cunha Telles, amongst others. Like other new waves of the period, the influence of Italian Neo-Realism and the burgeoning ideas of the Nouvelle Vague can be felt keenly.

During the following years appeared films like Belarmino (1964), Domingo à Tarde (1965), Sete balas para Selma (1967) and O Cerco (1969).

The term Novo Cinema is now used to avoid confusion with the Brazilian movement of the same name. This movement gains particular relevance after the Carnation Revolution, pursuing certain experiences of the French New Wave, both in the field of visual anthropology and of political cinema. The generation of the seventies, taking advantage of the new liberties, explores realism and legend, politics and ethnography, until the late eighties, in conjunction with some directors of the liberated colonies, such as Flora Gomes. Portugal has a notable tradition in the field of docufiction and ethnofiction since Leitão de Barros, a contemporary to Robert Flaherty.





In 2005, there were 13 Portuguese feature films released, one of them an animation co-produced with Spain, Midsummer Dream. The most successful film this year was O Crime do Padre Amaro, with more than 300 000 viewers, grossing more than 1.3 million euros. The following year, 22 feature films were released, five of them documentaries. The most successful film this year was Filme da Treta, with more than 270 000 viewers, grossing more than 1 million euros.


  • List of Portuguese film directors


  • List of Portuguese film actors



See also

  • Cinema of the world


  • Ribeiro, Félix O Cinema Português antes do Sonoro, Esboço Históriconema Português, Terra Livre, Lisbon, Portugal, 1978.
  • Ribeiro, Félix, Panorama do Cinema Português, Lisbon, Portugal.
  • Bandeira, José Gomes, Porto: 100 anos de cinema português, Câmara Municipal do Porto, Porto, Portugal, 1996.
  • Antunes, João and Matos-Cruz, José de, Cinema Português 1896-1998, Lusomundo, Lisbon, Portugal, 1997.
  • Duarte, Fernando, Primitivos do Cinema Português, ed. Cinecultura, Lisbon, Portugal, 1960.
  • Faria de Almeida, M., Resumo da História do Cinema, RTP Centro de Formação, Lisbon, Portugal, 1982.
  • Ferreira, António J., O Cinema Chegou a Portugal, - Palestra Baseada no Livro A Fotografia Animada em Portugal 1894-1895-1896-1897 - 1896.
  • Ferreira, António J., A Fotografia Animada em Portugal, 1894-1896-1897, ed. Cinemateca Portuguesa, Lisbon, Portugal, 1986.
  • Nobre, Roberto, Singularidades do Cinema Português, Portugália Editora, Lisbon, Portugal.
  • Pina, Luís de, História do Cinema Português, Colecção Saber nº190, Publicações Europa-América, Lisboa, 1986.
  • Pina, Luís de, Aventura do Cinema Português, ed. Vega, Lisbon, Portugal, 1977
  • Pina, Luís de, Documentarismo Português, Instituto Português de Cinema, 1977.
  • Pina, Luís de, Panorama do Cinema Português, Terra Livre, Lisbon, Portugal, 1978.
  • Silent film at Amor de Perdição.


External links

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