Filmaporto-funded film by Melanie Pereira shown at Porto/Post/Doc

After winning three awards at Doclisboa, the film As Melusinas à Margem do Rio, by Melanie Pereira, will be shown at Porto/Post/Doc at 3pm on Saturday 18 November, at Batalha Centro de Cinema. The feature film, which explores the search for identity through conversations between the filmmaker and four daughters of immigrants born in Luxemburg, has been supported by Filmaporto — film commission.

The starting point for As Melusinas à Margem do Rio was Melanie Pereira’s graduation film, Aos Meus Pais, made in 2018, in which she approached her parents’ migration from Portugal to Luxemburg. That feature premiered at Doclisboa and went on to be shown on the festival circuit. “Given the positive reaction from audiences, who identified with the issues in the film, I decided to address the same theme but this time from the perspective of the children — who, despite being born and growing up in Luxemburg, are also considered immigrants”, the filmmaker explains.

As Melusinas à Margem do Rio draws on conversations with five women — including the director, who was born and grew up in Luxemburg — who are all the children of immigrants, in an exploration of their search for identity between their parents’ culture and the culture of the country they grew up in.

The legend of Melusina — a folk figure associated with the founding of Luxemburg whose presence is felt throughout the film — serves as a metaphor for these children. “The story goes that Melusina was a mermaid who ended up imprisoned in the river. I found it interesting that the country was represented by a female figure. And I saw that she too could be considered an immigrant, as her legend exists in various forms in different parts of the world”, Melanie Pereira explains. “At a certain point, I had the thought that, actually, the women who appear in the film, me and all children of immigrants, are all in some way like Melusina — we exist at the water’s edge, because we are trapped between identities.”

According to the director, the film’s five-year development process was also a phase of self-discovery. “I was trying to discover a sense of belonging and find some peace regarding my identity. In the film, we talk in fragments and I think that’s it: trying to find peace in a fragmented identity and accepting that that’s how it is, rather than trying to find a sense of belonging associated with a particular place. The film also coincided with the moment I moved back here and a certain illusion was broken. Portugal stopped being this idealised country, the place of return, home and family that I had been told about.”

Currently, Melanie Pereira is undertaking independent work on a short film paying tribute to her late grandmother, with the participation of family members. Simultaneously, she is working on the feature film A Terra das Viúvas dos Vivos, with the Porto-based production company Red Desert. The film follows the last two remaining practitioners of transhumance (the seasonal herding of livestock between pastures) in Castro Laboreiro, and the changes experienced in the region over recent years.