A mercenary sits in silence on a chair placed in an abandoned palace in Lisbon, as if posing for a portrait. Facing the camera, he begins narrating and performing his own history, constructing a record which slowly reveals in its turns of phrase and mismatched events a series of doubts and contradictions. The camera watches, relentlessly. Paulo narrates his involvement as a hired killer for special military forces during the Portuguese colonial war, the part he played in the GAL (Antiterrorist Liberation Group), a death squad illegally established by the Spanish government to annihilate high officials of ETA, and his work as a mercenary for the CIA in El Salvador. Rather than being interested in affirming the veracity of the historical record or in proving an official narrative, No Man’s Land dwells in the present moment of witnessing, the space inhabited by the performance of a memory. Refusing to linger on a static moral duality, throughout the film accuser and accused are frequently asked to change positions – at a certain point, after describing a series of crimes he committed, responding to a question by the director Paulo replies with one of his own “How much is worth the life of a man? A man like me or men like them?” As the film’s own processes of making are slowly revealed, No Man’s Land creates a set or a stage where information or document are peripheral to the question of how one plays out and affirms as history his own personal truth.
Born in Lisbon, Salomé Lamas studied cinema and fine arts both in Portugal and Amsterdam and has exhibited her work widely both in the context of the gallery and the film theater. Rather than conventionally dwelling in the periphery between cinema and the visual arts, fiction and documentary, she has made these languages her own, challenging the lines between genres and modes of exhibition. Salomé’s films are fearless, both in the formal and narrative risks they take, and in their physical performance, as we see her trapped, hanging, falling or in this case, sitting silently behind the camera, in a fertile occupation of a no man’s land.
– Joana Pimenta, Film and Visual Studies PhD candidate, Harvard University
This screening is supported by the Provostial Fund Committee for the Arts and Humanities, Harvard University. Presented in partnership with the Film Study Center, Harvard.
$12 Special Event Tickets
Salomé Lamas in Person
Sunday September 29 at 7pm
Directed by Salomé Lamas
Portugal 2012, digital video, color, 72 min. Portuguese with English subtitles