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Empire Cinema: Propaganda and censorship in colonial films during the Portuguese Estado Novo

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Aiming to provide a critical analysis of the filmic memorial of Portuguese colonialism I consider two alternative ‘visions of cinema’: the official version presented in Estado Novo propaganda newsreels, and, in ‘reverse shot’, the disruptive gaze found in censored auteur fiction films – Faria de Almeida’s Catembe (1965), Lopes Barbosa’s Deixem-me ao Menos Subir às Palmeiras… (1972) and António de Sousa’s Esplendor Selvagem (1972). Portuguese colonies were seldom depicted on film, and only the ‘right kind’ of images – specifically those presented in propaganda newsreels – tended to be approved by the censorship committees. Faria de Almeida received government support to film everyday life in Mozambique’s capital, in 1964. After the first version of the film was censored – with 103 cuts, a Guinness world record – projection of Catembe was banned.1 In 1972, Barbosa made a film about abuses of power in colonial farms in Mozambique. The film was banned. Sousa recorded initiation rituals and rites of passage in different Angolan ethnic groups. The documentary was considered ‘anti-political’. Until conducting this research, the films remained deposited at the Portuguese Cinema Museum, largely unknown to audiences and researchers. What are the limitations of the history of cinema – and of the knowledge of the ‘imagined man’ – as long as the perspectives provided in such censored colonial films remain unanalysed?
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Keywords: Portuguese Cinema Novo; Portuguese colonialism; censorship; colonial films; cultural studies; film studies; propaganda

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Lisbon and University of Minho

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.
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