Directed by: André Almeida Rodrigues
Starring: people from the village of Alfaião
Short Film Review by: Annie Vincent
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a film as ‘a story or event recorded by a camera as a set of moving images and shown in a cinema or on a television.’ Alfaião, a short showcasing moments of daily life from the Portuguese village of the same name, only lives up to half of that definition.
Rodrigues has collated a series of clips from around the village of Alfaião, capturing the landscape, the quaintness of the village and the day-to-day activities of its residents. We are invited to observe a baker praying over her loaves; a hunter taking out his rifle to hunt game in the early morning; some butchery, and a game of cards between friends. And whilst this depiction of daily life in Alfaião has been captured on camera and is presented to us on screen, there isn’t a discernible story here.
It is half a film, half a documentary. It depicts daily life, but to no consequence, with no clear cohesion or sequence and with no shape: we have all setting, no character development, no rising action and certainly no climax. There is nothing for the audience to invest in, to explore, to build a relationship with. We are kept at arms length, only permitted to view these images, not question them, not learn from them and consequently, with nothing to engage us beyond the acknowledgement of the daily lives of the people of Alfaião, which appear happy, but which are unremarkable, we cannot do much more than say: Alfaião is a respectable piece of camerawork, offering a glimpse of life in that village.
Technically, more can be said: the photography and filming is professional and the clips have been edited together smoothly. Camera positioning and lighting have been considered throughout, creating a professional feel, like we might expect in a documentary. Subtitles are used on occasion, when we are exposed to a conversation, but two sets of the same subtitles appear, overlapping one another, which does need remedying.
But without a story or an event, this piece cannot really be considered a film in the way we expect, and while capturing real life on film is absolutely what film is for, it is the capturing of characters and their stories, not landscapes and activities, that audiences seek, and here, Alfaião fails to deliver.