Vitalina Varela

A moody, masterful portrait of Fontainhas, the now-vanished Lisbon neighbourhood that the Portuguese director Pedro Costa first began chronicling over two decades ago.

Time & Tickets

Taking its title from the name of its lead – a Cape Verdean woman who, as per usual with Costa’s non-professional actors, plays a fictionalized version of herself – Vitalina Varela follows its stoic heroine as she arrives in Lisbon to collect the effects of her husband, who had left their homeland 25 years ago to work in Portugal and died three days before Vitalina could reach him. Following its protagonist as she navigates the scanty physical traces her husband left behind and encounters the other souls that haunt the tenebrous tenements, alleys, and forests of the Fontainhas that once was, VITALINA VARELA plays out as a series of burnished, painterly still lifes, rendering the nightmarish reality of the African diaspora and the harrowing legacy of racial and colonial violence as a dreamlike portrait of the living dead.

Pedro Costa, Portugal, 2019, 124 min. Portuguese spoken, English subtitles. With Vitalina Varela, Ventura.