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Portugal marks 50 years with festivals

Celebrates Korea ties and past with a modern twist and look toward future


Korea and Portugal established formal ties half a century ago, but the European country still has a low profile here.

To showcase Portugal while also celebrating the golden anniversary, the embassy has organized a slew of cultural performances that will entertain, enlighten and hopefully attract a certain curiosity to a country that first came to Korea in 1604.

The first event for this half of the year is the embassy’s participation at the Jeonju International Film Festival. The Portuguese contribution focuses on the stories before and after the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

“During this period, Portuguese society went through many changes,” said Portugal Ambassador Henrique Borges. “We had to reabsorb about 600,000 people” who fled the Portuguese colonies of Africa during that period.

By the end of 1974, Portuguese troops withdrew from Portuguese Guinea which was followed by the independence of Cape Verde, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe and Angola in 1975.

Running until May 6, these films at the festival will, in a romantic fashion, look at the revolution and its effects on Portuguese society.

“What is interesting for Korea about this festival is that it’s mostly attended by young people so it’s good for the Korean public to see how a country, on the other side of the world, went through all these major social, political, and cultural transformations,” he said.
Portugal Ambassador Henrique Borges. (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
Portugal Ambassador Henrique Borges. (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)

Attending the festival will be Portuguese directors Joao Botelho, Rui Simoes and Joao Tabarra, and the Portuguese critic and film expert Joao Antunes.

Running alongside of the Jeonju film festival is the “I Could Live Here” video-art exhibition that shows the collaborative works of Portuguese director Joao Tabarra and emerging director Park Chan-kyong.

The exhibition will run until May 15 at the JIFFTHEQUE Gallery in Jeonju.

For Seoulites looking to experience Portuguese cinema, the embassy arranged a traveling movie festival to run at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies during the second half of September.

Also, Tabarra’s works will come to Korea National University of Arts during “The Age of Micro Voyages,” an exhibition with other Portuguese video-artists such as Maria Lusitano, Miguel Palma and Pedro Costa from May 12-31.

During that period, Tabarra will hold workshops with curator Atsushi Sugita.

But the big showing of Portuguese cinema will run at Asia’s most important film festival, the Busan International Film Festival.

On the planning stage is an exhibition of Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura who recently won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most influential prize in the industry.

The work of Souto de Moura was characterized by the jurors as being “imbued with intelligence and seriousness,” a work which “like poetry, it is able to communicate emotionally to those who take the time to listen.”

Yet the big question is how Portugal, who is going through difficult economic times, could afford to celebrate this important milestone?

“In the beginning there was money,” said Borges. “These events were planned and budgeted before hand. In financial terms, they are quite small in scale and not expensive with the exception of the participation in the Busan Film Festival.”

There were other larger scale initiatives that were canceled, Borges said.

“You have to keep on living your life as business as usual,” he said. “But we have to be realistic, we have to deal with the situation and we will overcome as we have in the past.”

To add to the importance Korea places on its relationship with Portugal, President Lee Myung-bak sent Rep. Park Geun-hye as special envoy to visit Portugal as well as Greece and the Netherlands.

Park will be in Portugal until May 3 to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties as well as exchanging views on ways to extend bilateral cooperation.

As for the future, Borges noted that there are a few “positive” investment and trade initiatives in the pipeline that he hopes will materialize.

“If these happen, I hope they will put our trade relations on a more balance platform,” he said.

Borges said that Portugal would regain its competitiveness through a set of reforms in the next few years.

“Once we apply these reforms, Portugal will become again attractive to foreign investors.”

For further information about the movies and dates for the festivals, visit the embassy’s website at www.portugalseoul.com.

By Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)
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