This week I'll be presenting a paper at RevCon Academic, the academic sidebar of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival that was introduced last year. In keeping with the festival's focus on independent cinema and RevCon's focus on the practical aspects of filmmaking, I'll be discussing DIY filmmaking in the context of Pedro Costa's In Vanda's Room. The paper is titled Patiently, Alone and by Necessity: DIY Art Cinema and Pedro Costa's In Vanda's Room and here's the abstract:
After three successful films that cemented him within the Portuguese film industry, Pedro Costa’s fourth feature In Vanda’s Room (2000) marked a radical shift in his approach to filmmaking – an approach he has kept since. Costa dispensed with a crew altogether, purchased a cheap DV camera, cobbled together equipment using household materials and visited Fontainhas, a now-demolished immigrant slum on the outskirts of Lisbon. Here, alone and over the course of a year, he would patiently shape a moving narrative about its impoverished, drug-addicted and forgotten inhabitants.
In cinema, DIY filmmaking is usually associated with documentaries, the avant-garde and micro-budget genre films. In Vanda’s Room straddles all three traditions and remains a landmark over a decade after its release, being one of the few examples of the DIY art film. Not merely an economic choice, Costa’s DIY approach is informed ethically by both his subject matter and his role as filmmaker and documentarian. The resulting film – its experimentation with form, narrative, duration and the boundaries between fiction and documentary – is a direct consequence of the practical methods used by Costa, and is an invaluable and neglected case study for contemporary independent filmmakers.