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The director Sandro Aquilar investigates the narrative boundaries of cinema, especially those of the short film genre. He conveys the so-called “shorts generation” of a group of Portuguese filmmakers, which has granted the short film a new sense of authority. Sandro Aguilar likewise influences his homeland’s film scene as a producer, cutter, and video artist. The production firm he founded in 1998, “O Som e a Fúria”, offers with Miguel Gomes and Manoel de Oliveira a forum for many of today’s influential filmmakers in Portugal.

Sandro Aguilar was born in 1974 in Angola and grew up in Portugal. In Lisbon he studied in the Film Academy’s Montage department.

His work appears regularly at the most important international festivals. Recent retrospectives were celebrated in festivals held in Rotterdam, Bafici, and Brooklyn. Sandro Aguilar was nominated twice for the “UIP Prize” for best short film at the European Film Prize celebrations. His work received awards at the Biennale in Venice, Film Festival in Locarno, Bahia, Gijon, Vila do Conde, Indie Lisboa, and several other festivals.

The atmosphere of a specific location offers the point of departure for the majority of Sandro Aguilar’s films. The narration and dialogue are sparse and the imagery mysterious. Reflections can overlap the facial features of his protagonists and often they can only be seen from behind, or are dissolving in a blur. In the case of longer exposures, often no more than a leaf moves, heightened, for example, by the call of a bird. Auguilar’s tableaus are bewitchingly composed. People seek companionship in vain. Aguilar once referred to his theme as the “freezing point of human relationships”. Dense with poetry and melancholia his films level out the linear quality of narrated time.

In his 2010 “Voodoo” a cowardly man meets a disturbed woman, both flight attendants. She laughs when she is expected to resuscitate a dummy. But laughing is not allowed. Although they share the same space the protagonists never have immediate contact with one another. “Nevertheless, they seem connected on a magical level of an unenforceable reality.” (Dieter Wieczorek). For this film Sando Aguilar received the “Restart Award” as best Portuguese short film director.

Also created in 2010 was “Mercúrio” (Grace), shot in only five hours. Here, too, Sandro Aguilar surpasses the known perimeters of parenthesis. At first glance almost nothing happens. A man, a woman, a child. Two cars parked beside on the edge of the city. A no-man’s land on the edge of civilization, with the wilderness slowly seeming to take off. In the end, only memory remains. The film won top prize in Oberhausen. It was selected best short film at the Gijon film festival. At the short film festival “Golden Boll” it was chosen best experimental film. In addition, “Mercúrio” won two nominations at the “Tiger Awards” of the Rotterdam Film Festival.

A longing for lost objects, feelings and sensations connect the characters in Sandro Aguilar’s first feature film, his 2008 “A Zona”, in which a man awaits his father’s death; a pregnant woman survives a car accident but her partner dies; and a child is born. All the characters seem enveloped in a kind of pre-hell. In this evening-length film the director experiments with narrative and visual omissions, and he reaches the limits of the logically comprehensible.

Aguilar’s 2000 film “Sem Movimento” was inspired by reality games. The rules are simple. Four people in a car. The first to leave is the loser. Cigarettes, Polaroids, the claustrophobic atmosphere of a shopping center, and self-imposed self-denial. At the 2000 Venice Film Festival the film received a special mention in the category best short film.

In Berlin Sandro Aguilar is working on both his second feature film and a new a project. With the working title “A Field or Sphere of Action”, he plans to expand his well-tested cinematic concept to a series of films or installation.

Text: Maike Wetzel
English Translation: Karl Edward Johnson

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2010 Mercúrio (Short Film, 35 mm, 18’) 2010 Voodoo (Short Film, 35 mm, 30’) 2008 A Zona (Short Film, 35 mm, 99’) 2000 Sem Movimento (Short Film, 35 mm, 17’)
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