Sog.: Thomas Harlan. F.: Russell Parker. M.: Roberto Perpignani. Int.: Maria Vitória, José Neves Paiva, Herculano Valada Martins, Camilo Mortágua, Cruz, Luís Banasol, José Afonso, Francisco Fanhais, Vitorino Salomé (se stessi). Prod.: Cooperativa Era Nova, Società Cinematografica Italiana, Albatros. DCP. D.: 138′. Col.
Torre Bela is one of the most mythic films made on the popular struggles following the end of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974. First film of Thomas Harlan (1929-2010, son of the famous director of Jud Süß, Veit Harlan, and the actress Hilde Korber), it was shot in pursuance of a former, frustrated project planned to be shot in Chile. Differently from the great majority of films made on the same context, it follows the events of one single land occupation in the middle of the country, using a direct cinema language, without any voice over or rhetorical explanation. Harlan (then close to political movements such as the Lotta Continua) said until his death that he had made it in order not “to make cinema” but to confessedly intervene “in History”, meaning he wanted to stick to the spontaneous movement of the peasants thus aiming to try and avoid (other) external political interferences. The strength of the material shot, especially after going through the first editing by Roberto Perpignani, did however impose it as a remarkable work on the process through which people formerly dispossessed of any oral representation conquer their own speech as well as true political awareness. Shot in 16mm, the film had many different versions following a first long version (near four hours) made by Perpignani and immediately heavily cut (to 139′) for the Cannes premiere in 1977. The version hereby presented is a digital restoration (by means of a 4K scanning of the original 16mm negative, currently with significant colour fading) corresponding to the edited negative as it more recently reached the Cinemateca Portuguesa, with 136′ (version made for distribution in the USA). It is neither the Cannes version nor the one Harlan wished to be the ‘definitive’ film, the search for material and further data (eventually leading to new alternative restorations) being still in progress.