It was at the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in 2019, just after the international premiere of his documentary “Lupo”, that Pedro Lino received a proposal from the French Kolam Productions: they wanted the director to choose a cinema in Portugal to be part of the documentary series “Mythical Cinemas”, which is telling the story of the “most fascinating theatres in the world”.
“I immediately remembered Batalha”, recalls the director – “It is the most iconic cinema in Porto, and it seemed more interesting to choose a cinema from my city.”
Born in 1980, Pedro Lino never became a regular viewer of Batalha, assuming, however, a “mythological connection” with the theatre: “The ones who grow up in Porto all know Cinema Batalha. And I remember as a kid going to see some movies there. But my main relationship with Batalha is something that I find very interesting and that, although I don’t know in-depth about cinemas around the world, I think it’s something almost unique: cinema has merged with the city, it already become part of it, it was even adopted by our lexicon with the expression ‘vai no Batalha’ [which means ‘I don’t believe it’].”
According to Pedro Lino, Batalha is a mythical cinema precisely because of this merge, which results from the fact that cinema “has kept up with the entire history of the 20th and 21st century of the city of Porto”.
“In the 20th century, cinema began as a mass phenomenon, at a time when labour movements were increasing in size and there was a new class, which had the money for entertainment, but which did not identify with theatre or the opera”, he explains. “But later, cinema conquered other audiences and evolved as an art – from a fair attraction, from an almost ‘technical trick’ of capturing moving images, until it became an autonomous art. And the rooms themselves were adapting to this change. This is also the case at Batalha, and we can see it from its various incarnations: it started as a shack until it became the building it is today, which is, even in terms of architecture, a notable building of Portuguese modernism and prominent in Portugal.”
Responding to the challenge of Kolam Productions, which asks the directors to build a biography of each room from the memories of people who can still evoke them, Pedro Lino brought together two fundamental personalities in the history of Batalha: Alexandre Alves Costa and Margarida Neves. The reasons for the choice are obvious. Alexandre Alves Costa, the architect responsible, along with Sérgio Fernandez, for the restoration of the Batalha building and also the son of Henrique Alves Costa, historical director of the Cineclube do Porto, “remembers going to Batalha practically since he was born, because his father and mother were connected to the Cineclube do Porto exhibitions”, reveals the director. Margarida Neves is a descendant of António Neves, one of the founders of Batalha, and current administrator of the company Neves & Pascaud, which still owns the building today.
Batalha’s biography will be created based on a dialogue between these two real characters, archive images and old films from the Portuguese Cinemateca and the RTP Archives. There will also be re-enacted small anecdotes known to the people of Porto and that involve, in some way, that cinema.
But the story doesn’t end there. Pedro Lino wants the documentary to continue shooting until the opening of Batalha, “the day when cinema opens its doors to the public and the city of Porto again”. “We caught Batalha at a time of great change – and that’s another point of interest that the documentary has. We are narrating the death and rebirth of Cinema Batalha.”
The documentary, co-produced by Kolam Productions and Ukbar Filmes with the support of the Porto City Council, RTP and ICA, is being made by a team made up entirely of professionals from Porto – and whose cast will still grow. In addition to Pedro Lino (Director), the project has the collaboration of Dinis Sottomayor (Director of Photography), Pedro Balazeiro (Sound Engineer), Bruno Nacarato (Chief Electrician and Head of Production), Tomás Valle (Executive Producer), Mário Santos and Mário Moutinho (Cast).