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Into Their Labours: The Films of António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro
Institute of Contemporary Arts
8 – 11 December 2022

Photo of António Reis & Margarida Cordeiro

António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro together created one of the most influential bodies of work in the history of Portuguese cinema. Made between 1963 and 1989, their films deal with rural communities, rituals and landscapes, blending reality, fiction, ethnography and poetry into a singular survey of the north-eastern Portuguese region of Trás-os-Montes. Into Their Labours offers a survey of their exceptional work, from Reis’s earliest shorts to the pair’s final feature – including films screening for the first time in the UK, presented in new digitised copies from Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema.

Reis and Cordeiro developed their cinematic vision alongside their regular jobs: Cordeiro as a psychiatrist, Reis as a poet, art critic and film lecturer. Their broad set of interests allowed them to craft a catalogue of work best understood through instruments often regarded as alien to the art of cinema: sociology, music, painting, anthropology, physics, even architecture.

The duo’s work acknowledges the intimate connections between the elements and human life, drawing parallels between soil erosion and the destruction of plant species with the disappearance of regional populations. The pair initially intended to document and record different aspects of the rural Trás-os-Montes region, but their films’ originality ultimately lies in their radical transfiguration of reality – their use of different arts and disciplines, bringing together ancient folktales and scientific treatises.

Made during years of political turmoil and rapid sociocultural change, Reis and Cordeiro’s films now function as living archives. By observing rural communities, studying their history and acknowledging both their dignity and their singularity, Reis and Cordeiro developed a uniquely non-naturalistic way of depicting the world around them.

The screenings in this season are accompanied by a series of related special events, including a music performance, a study-day and a reading group, taking place at the ICA and Birkbeck, University of London.

Part of the ICA 75th Anniversary Season
Into Their Labours: The Films of António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro is organised in partnership by Open City Documentary Festival, the Essay Film Festival and the ICA.

The screenings and events were made possible with the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual, the Experimental Humanities Collaborative Network, and ABIL, the Association of British and Irish Lusitanists. With special thanks to Cinemateca Portuguesa-Museu do Cinema.

Thursday 8 December, 7pm
António Reis’s first collaboration with longtime partner Margarida Cordeiro highlights this collection of three Reis shorts.

Friday 9 December, 6:30pm
António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro’s first feature is a journey through the mythical region of north-east Portugal.

Saturday 10 December, 5:30pm 
The circle of life, from birth to death, is at the heart of António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro’s second feature.

Saturday 10 December, 8.30pm
João Polido presents a listening session of music inspired by the films of António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro.

Sunday 11 December, 2pm
Three sessions focused on Juan Rulfo’s 1955 novel, which directors Margarida Cordeiro and António Reis had planned to adapt.

Sunday 11 December, 4:30pm
António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro’s ambitious final feature reflects on the human condition from ancient times to the present day.