I have wished to make a film in Angola for a long time. As a young man my idea of Africa faded between vague images of what I had never seen and sparse family memories colored by the omnipresence of colonial mitologies so frequent in Portugal. For a long time, I have had the suspicion that these vague memories hide fundamental things. Africa is a ghost that still haunts my generation, the one born after the independence of the colonies. It was in this context that I accidentally crossed paths with Joseph Conrad’s short-story "An outpost of progress" (1897), a powerful piece about colonialism, about issues of otherness and the ambiguous relationship between colonizer and colonized.
I wanted to tranlate the short-story to the Portuguese colonial context, which has a primordial and ancient connection with the Congo and to explore the portuguese presence in Africa sketching and mapping a possible system of symptoms of the Portuguese colonialism in the late nineteenth century.
Conrad’s short-story is an extremely strong kaleidoscope which depicts the complexity of the colonial relationship, relativizing the glances and positions of the characters. There is no good or evil, only relations of power, transfers, inter-dependencies and mimetic processes ocurring.
The fundamental issues in my version are the ilusion of communion of cultures and the impossibilities of translation. I wanted to explore the idea of reasons coliding, of the deaf-dialogue which repeats itself throughout the centuries between Angolans and Portuguese.
I wanted to think of the old Portuguese traders of the nineteenth century, vaguely civilizing, vaguely in line with the international currents of the time, carrying the weight of 400 years of colonization, infected by the powerful colonial mythologies of a very old country, of small trade and poverty. Peripheral Portuguese people, not very cosmopolitan, ancient and modern all at once.
Looking at them, male bodies, austere, desiring, distressed, but also extrordinarly adaptive and flexible, oblivious palimpsests of 400 years of history. One day colonialists, another claiming not to be it, in a sort of schizophrenia which can only be rooted in a deep repression and denial process. The antecedents of our bodies, eventually of my body, because I am fascinated by the extraordinary hipotheses of a «history of physicality of bodies and gestures», imagined by Aby Warburg.
Hugo Vieira da Silva