Batalha Centro de Cinema: First season (December 2022 – July 2023)
The reopening of Cinema Batalha, long awaited by the people of Porto, is scheduled for December 9, 2022. It will be a tribute to the venue’s history, while placing it in the contemporary as a Cinema Centre, with Artistic Direction by Guilherme Blanc. To promote knowledge and culture through Cinema and the Moving Image, the programming will be regular, covering the main themes of current thinking, with different cinematographic languages and artistic practices, the history of Portuguese cinema and dialogue with the city’s public and entities. Batalha Centro de Cinema fills a gap in Porto not only in the field of cinematography, but also different aspects of moving images, contributing to the debate, reflection, and discovery of national and international cinema, but also the one produced in its territory.
The aim is to continuously exhibit past and contemporary film forms and genres, setting them in the context of current artistic thought and practices. Accordingly, the BCC will present several bi-monthly Thematic Cycles, with varied themes, promoting reflection on social, cultural, and political notions, of which we highlight the inaugural Sci-Fi Politics (December – January), curated by Ana David and Guilherme Blanc. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) by Robert Wise will be screened, with free admission, at the Cinema’s reopening. We will also be able to watch Domesticity(s) (March), curated by Alejandra Rosenberg Navarro and Ana David, El Futuro Ya No Está Aquí (May), curated by Guilherme Blanc and Virginia Pablos, as well as Counter-Fluxes (July), curated by Almudena Escobar López and Margarida Mendes.
One of the programme’s cornerstones are the Focuses and Retrospectives. These are cycles dedicated to the filmography of directors and artists from various nationalities and eras. This will allow a more consistent, elaborated and reflected perspective of the filmmakers’ work, essential to understand their language, singularity, and filmic concepts. During December and January, we highlight the most complete retrospective presented in Portugal of the French filmmaker Claire Denis. She premiered two feature films this year, having a career spanning over five decades that reflects on European colonial culture. Also in December, we will learn about works by Polish visual artist Agnieszka Polska, addressing human extinction, memory, technology, or ecological disaster, through the production of distinctive moving images. And, during 2023, the highlight is Portuguese filmmakers, in particular André Gil Mata (February) with a complete retrospective, the premiere of O Pátio do Carrasco (2023) and the release of an edition about the author; Luísa Homem (April – May) and Basil da Cunha (June) with the screening of a film-concert about Bairro da Reboleira. And also the retrospective of Lorenza Mazzetti (May), Italian filmmaker and co-founder of the Free Cinema movement.
BCC also encourages collective cinematographic creations. For four days in January, the collective COUSIN, created in 2018 by artists and filmmakers of Native American descent, presents filmic and performative projects between artist cinema, fiction, and documentary. March will see the restored work of the Yugantar Film Colletive, the first Indian film group created and formed by women in the 1980s. In July, we will have the opportunity to watch films from the Zanzibar collective, created during 1968 in Paris, composed of young artists and directors such as Philippe Garrel. The aim is to stimulate avant-garde cinematographic projects.
The look and the questioning about the national cinematography will be ongoing. First, with the annual National Selection programme, where films of various genres, lengths, formats, and eras will be presented, stimulating the thought, appreciation and promotion of Portuguese film heritage curated by Daniel Ribas and Paulo Cunha. And the Cineclube Matinees, reviving the relationship between Batalha and Cineclube do Porto, which since the 1940s and for decades organized matinees at the Cinema. It is a programme dedicated to key moments of this institution.
In the Special! sessions, we highlight Towards the Last Movies (April), and we will see the last movies watched by celebrities, curated by Stanley Schtinter. And also the New Encounters of Portuguese Cinema, remembering the Study Week on the New Portuguese Cinema, a decisive event in 1967, organized by Cineclube do Porto with the support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Porto City Hall, looking at the financing policies for cinematographic production. In June, the debate will be on Production, Distribution and Exhibition, Criticism and Education, in an event dedicated to the cinema industry.
Besides the regular film sessions, BCC will also present other expressions related to moving images in an annual cycle of exhibitions and installations. We highlight Premium Connect by Tabita Rezaire, between December and January, where the artist questions colonial exploitation through the decoding scene in The Matrix; Croma, o sono by Pedro Huet, from February to April, where several types of images related to the story of a dream derive from a vase in chroma-key; and Escondidas na caverna que foremos umas outras, between May and July, an invitation to Alice dos Reis and Pedro Neves Marques to develop an exhibition with the American poet CAConrad. There will be lectures, conversations, and debates, such as My Cinema Story#1, where we will meet Trinh T. Minh-há (Vietnam), Manthia Diawara (Mali), or Byung-Chul Han (South Korea). We highlight the film-concert Os Faroleiros, restoring the Portuguese silent film with a new soundtrack by Daniel Moreira, interpreted live by the string quartet The Arditti Quartet.
There is also the cycle New Moons, which includes films made by young filmmakers, the inclusion of Festival and Shows of the city’s cinema, such as Porto Femme, BEAST, or Porto/Post/Doc, as well as sessions of Filmaporto – film commission and activities with Laboratório de Cinema da Torre. In the sessions directed to Families and Schools, we highlight Surrounding Cinema, where Batalha promotes sharing and leisure outside the cinema room by forming groups, courses and workshops for adults and children, namely the Reading Club, the Film Criticism Course, the Sci-Fi Workshop: Delirium Tools or Batalhawood, in collaboration with neighbouring roots in Bangladesh. We also want to mention the publication of critical texts and editions about the programming, without skipping the library, the film library and the bookshop dedicated to cinema and the moving image, as well as the Cafeteria & Bar.
Cinema Batalha opened in 1947 and kept its activity for over fifty years, becoming one of Porto’s most iconic movie theatres. We all remember the Porto expression vai no Batalha to describe something so absurd that it sounds more like a movie. Although attempts were made to sustain this venue with cultural activities, it closed in 2006 and became derelict in 2010. But, in 2017, Porto City Hall reached an agreement with the owners, the Neves Real Family, taking over the management for 25 years. Batalha was reopened with a rehabilitation project by architects Alexandre Alves Costa and Sérgio Fernandez, from Artur Andrade’s trace. During the building’s renovation, two frescoes by Júlio Pomar, murals alluding to the Saint John’s Eve, censored by the PIDE in 1948 and hidden by several paint layers, were discovered, and restored, and can now be seen.
In the next season, we wish to see a greater opening to the general public, especially to the generation that got to know Batalha, as well as a more ambitious programming of exhibitions and installations, and a greater number of cycles of experimental and artist cinema, historical and contemporary, especially national. However, BCC’s reopening will allow the viewing of films from different cinematographies, eras and genres, with a highly eclectic curatorship that values the reflection, the debate and the problematization of issues not only related to film theory but also to current affairs. Access to a library and bookshop dedicated to cinema and the moving image, as well as a film library that aims to preserve Porto’s film heritage, will fill a void in the city, which has always had a strong connection with the cinematic art since the beginning.
Batalha Centro de Cinema will be inaugurated on December 9, 2022.