How are ghosts filmed? How are spectra of memories latent in the air filmed, conflicts that do not disappear, unfinished revolutions? Perhaps the revolutions are not to be finished. In the colonial war I was not yet born. Manuel Roberto was born and raised in it. I am part of the first children of the revolution. He is part of the continuators of the revolution. But how does a revolution continue?
With the 25th of April revolution, Portugal got rid of 48 years of dictatorship. With independence Mozambique was freed from centuries of oppression and colonial rule from a decaying empire. It was at the time of all dreams that Roberto began to photograph the tanks that appeared in the liquid emulsion, the children who learned in the dust of the ground, the agrarian work, the hunger. They had to build the best Popular Republic in the world. They were the continuators of the revolution.
Peace did not last and the war came again, which caused five million displaced people, one million people killed in the fighting and starved to death and many wounds that have not healed today. With peace, the idea of building a new country returned again. But the collective gave way to the individual, material goods prevail and dreams remain postponed. The ghosts of enduring wars continue to haunt. We don't know where our revolutions are. And Mozambique is the only country in the world with an automatic weapon on its flag.
In my uncle Pedro's kitchen, I got used, as a child, to looking at a photograph. Not black and white but red and black like Che Guevara's. For years I thought it was from my grandfather Rui. It was not. It was Vasco Gonçalves' face, the prime minister of the Portuguese revolutionary government that emerged from the 25 April Revolution.
In fact, they were similar physically. My grandfather was in the war but in Angola. In Mozambique I never had a family. I was born just over two years after the revolution. I got used to fiery speeches, endless political discussions, demonstrations, parades, slogans, carnations on the lapel, posters, free books that had been previously forbidden, strikes, rights, struggle, resistance. There was none in the close family who was not proud of the revolution. My military grandfather Rui supported it. My grandfather Ramiro, a railway man, always cried when he remembered it. My parents, teachers, emanated from it. We were the first children of the revolution.
"Not one more soldier for the colonies" could be heard in the Portuguese streets. "Our war is not against the Portuguese people but against Portuguese colonialism", proclaimed Samora during the colonial struggle. The enemy was colonialism and oppression, of a dictatorship that repressed and overthrew the subjects of a decaying empire and was based on war, illiteracy, obedience, religion and extreme poverty many lived in Portugal and in the African colonies. For the guerrillas, the enemy was not the Portuguese. It was the dictatorship itself. The dictatorship was also our enemy.
During the colonial war I was not yet born. Manuel Roberto was born in it. He grew up with it too. When Manuel Roberto started shooting I was still very young. When he lived a colonial war followed by a civil war, I lived the aftermath of a Revolution in a revolutionary family environment. I remember the demonstrations for better pay at a time when everything was still very hot. I've always associated the former colonies with an unjust and fratricidal war, where many fought unintentionally, without believing in ancient empires.In a way, I also felt a follower of the Revolution even though in Portugal that title did not exist. The years have passed, the world has changed and continues to change in a cycle that seems endless here and there.
June 25, 1975. Samora Machel proclaims independence. At zero o'clock on the 25th. Samora hugs Vasco Gonçalves. The Portuguese flag goes down. The flag of Mozambique is raised. The shields and the castles come down. The hoe, the book and the Kalashnikov go up. The book represents the importance of education. The hoe agriculture. The Kalashnikov the defense, surveillance and fight for independence.
Independence has come after centuries of Portuguese colonization. With it, the period of peace and of all dreams. Like thousands of children, he was a Follower of the Revolution, an organization created by Samora Machel similar to those in the Eastern European Bloc and collectivist ideology. Then the civil war came. More war. Most unbearable war. Roberto began to shoot. The war, the children, the schools, the agrarian reform, the demonstrations, the concerts, the street life. He photographed the transformation of society. He photographed the Followers of the Revolution.
Roberto not only photographed the horrors of war. He used the medium of photography as a kind of reconciliation with himself and others. For him, the records of fragments of time in different places and times, are a way of trying to understand and to think about the changes and the contacts that emanate from them and that also dictate his own transformation.
We eventually became friends. We talked about the revolutions, about friendship, about freedom and how we lived it, about dreams we have for the world. Each, in their own way, had their own dreams, whether they were ingrained in the memories of stories told, either by the hardness of the stories lived in the skin. Together, we want to travel in a cinematic voyage that uses Roberto’s photographs and reflections that guide us through a history of resistance and where its characters act like ghosts that float on a time and a space that refuses to disappear.
In fact, there is only one country in the world with an automatic weapon on the flag: Mozambique. In 2005 an international competition was opened for the submission of proposals for a new flag. They received 169 proposals. The idea was to remove the weapon from the flag. The proposals were all rejected. The Kalashnikov is still there.
Written and Direction
Pedro Neves, Jacques Bidou and Marianne Dumoulin
Eurodoc 2017: Portuguese Group and Eurodoc 2021: International Group
ICA and RTP