Batalha Centro de Cinema opens on December 9 and has already revealed its programme

  • Porto.

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The Batalha has already set a date for the inauguration. The refurbished and modernised building will reopen on December 9, announced, this Wednesday, the Mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira, during the press conference in which we also learned about the artistic programming of the Batalha Centro de Cinema, presented by the artistic director, Guilherme Blanc.

December 9, 2022. On this date, Batalha Square's historic movie theatre, with the same name, will reopen to the public of Porto with its original function. After the reopening of Mercado do Bolhão, the city of Porto now sees another of its most iconic locations come back, highlighted the Mayor. Like Bolhão, “The Batalha integrates the collective memory of this city and is, undoubtedly, a landmark and an aggregating point of Porto,” Rui Moreira explained on Wednesday during the press conference to present the new programme [from December to July] of the Batalha Centro de Cinema.

It was, moreover, in this sense that, “aware of the cultural and symbolic importance of the Batalha, the Municipality of Porto worked on this solution [of refurbishment and modernisation] during the last five years, facing numerous political, bureaucratic and financial obstacles”, he added.

In addition to the struggles that the project has faced over the past few years, "it is necessary to highlight the discovery and restoration of Julio Pomar's frescoes that were engraved on the interior walls of the building in the mid-1940s. The visual artist and dictatorship opposer painted in the cinema some magnificent murals alluding to the São João celebrations”, which are now again available to the public. Due to this unexpected intervention, the recovery process of the Batalha involved an investment of approximately 5.17 million euros by the municipality, surpassing the four million euros original budgeted.

With the opening of the new Porto movie theatre, "we are putting the Batalha back at the core of Porto city activities, its people and its cinema sector", promoting "transdisciplinary dialogue and openness to different trends and artistic concepts", and stimulating an approach "not only of enjoyment but also of discovery, debate and problematisation", assured Rui Moreira. It is not, therefore, “a gesture of mere nostalgic dilettantism”.

Season one kicks off with Claire Denis' retrospective

Making known the main programmatic axes of the projec and its first season of activity, Guilherme Blanc, artistic director of the institution, announced the intention to present “programs that broaden the understanding of cinema, its formal and cultural heterogeneity”, also proposing “forms of comfort, care, and relationship” that reflect the complex diversity of the audiences and an interpretation of the time and place that the Batalha Centro de Cinema will assume.

Making its goal to promote knowledge and cultural enjoyment, through cinema and moving image, the Batalha includes in its programme thematic cycles, retrospectives and focuses on contemporary practices, as well as the connection to other arts. Stimulating cinema and film culture, through educational, editorial, formative and debate projects, is at the core of Centro de Cinema’s activity.

Guilherme Blanc began by presenting the thematic cycles that, dedicated to specific themes, or crossing different genres, will transform social, cultural, and political issues into debate. The Políticas de Sci-fi cycles opens on December 9, the inauguration day, with The Day the Earth Stood Still by Robert Wise, accompanied by the Polish artist Agnieszka Polska's film The New Sun. Until July, the Domesticidade (s), El Futuro Ya No Está Aquí and Contra-Fluxos cycles will also be presented.

With Focus e Retrospetivas, the artistic programme will introduce filmography cycles, complete or essential, of national and international filmmakers and artists, from different time periods. The first cycle is dedicated to Claire Denis, one of the most influential, stimulating, and eclectic names in contemporary cinema, in which will be the most complete retrospective of the director created in Portugal. This fundamental axis of the programme – which reflects a vision of formal, thematic, generational, and geographical diversity – also presents retrospectives by Melvin Van Peebles, André Gil Mata, Zacharias Kunuk, Luísa Homem, Joanna Hogg, Lorenza Mazzetti, Basil da Cunha, Annemarie Jacir, and Mai Zetterling, and Focos de Artista, dedicated to Agnieszka Polska, Riar Rizaldi and Fatima Al Qadiri.

Portuguese cinema occupies a crucial role in the programming of the Batalha. In fact, either in the Seleção Nacional, weekly exhibitions in order to probe and inquire about the national film heritage, or in Luas Novas, which, every month, will highlight new names of the films produced in Portugal, the national production will assume a role that will represent, according to Guilherme Blanc, about a third of the sessions scheduled by the Centro de Cinema.

In the Matinés do Cineclube, the Batalha resumes the historical connection with the Cineclube do Porto, in biweekly sessions that revisit the most remarkable moments in the institution's history.

Focused on collective experiences of film making and production, Coletivos presents the work of the indigenous collective COUSIN; by Yugantar Film Collective, the first Indian film collective founded and constituted exclusively by women; and Zanzibar, an experimental film collective formed by young French directors in May '68.

Especiais! will present premieres and commissioned projects

On the occasion of particularly relevant celebrations and ephemeris, Especial! will mark relevant dates and present premieres and commissioned projects. Included here are programmes such as Towards the Last Movies, composed of the latest films seen by 20th-century personalities before their deaths, or Oásis, dedicated to the summer experience and its poetics with cinema, lectures, performances, live music, and DJ sets in and outdoors.

Also in this context, the Novos Encontros do Cinema Português, co-organized with Gulbenkian and Cineclube do Porto, will be promoted in June, with the goal of creating an independent debate space dedicated to the film industry, similar to the Semana de Estudos sobre o Novo Cinema Português, which took place at the Batalha in 1967, an essential event for the definition of what would become the policies of financing film production in our country. In December 2023, when the Centro de Cinema marks a year of activity, Especiais! will present, on its premiere, Os Amigos do Gaspar: Uma Reunião na Cidade. The result of an ongoing work of research and restoration of puppets, the project will revisit the children's program that marked the imagination of a generation, through a new musical film directed by Duarte Coimbra.

Throughout the year, the Batalha will also welcome the city's various film festivals, many of which were represented at this Wednesday's session, becoming the meeting point between audiences and professionals, as well as hosting the Filmaporto Sessions, dedicated to authors’ films and producers of the city, whose selection is made through a permanent open call.

In addition to presenting exhibition and installation projects by current artists (from Tabita Rezaire to Pedro Neves Marques), the Batalha Centro de Cinema will also host lectures, conversations and debates, associated or independent of the film programs — the highlight will be A Minha História de Cinema, a cycle of lectures and films by Trinh T. Minh-ha (Vietnam), Manthia Diawara (Mali) or even Byung-Chul Han (South Korea), that, Guilherme Blanc announced, will make, in the Batalha, one of the first presentations of the film he directed.

The concert-film premiere of Os Faroleiros, restored within the framework of FILMar and with a new sound composition — commissioned by Daniel Moreira and performed live by the string quartet The Arditti Quartet —, and the performances of James Richards and Billy Bultheel, Jonathas de Andrade and Rita Natálio are some of the suggestions offered by the Music and Performance section. The meeting, sharing and leisure outside the movie theatre are promoted in Cinema ao Redor, through the invitation to participate in groups (cinephilia, reading and for young people), courses and workshops (for adults and children) and activities such as the Visitas Guiadas and the Batalha Quiz. Also noteworthy is the semi-annual project Vizinhos, whose first edition will be developed in collaboration with the Batalha's neighbours, with roots in Bangladesh, and will result in a cycle of selected films together with the artistic team of the Centro de Cinema.

The Escolas programme has a central role in the Batalha. Proposing a continuous and permanent relationship with the school community, it includes a cinema programme, free for schools in Porto, with proposals from preschool to secondary education divided into four themes: Ecology, Friendship, Identity and Diaspora. It also integrates a continuous working group with students in the primary education of a school and a film assessment group for teachers. Escolas also includes higher education in Big Show, an annual student meeting dedicated to the showing of Bachelor students’ films. The sessions for Famílias, designed from the general program, are aimed simultaneously at adults and children, challenging to build a personal relationship with cinema in all its diversity.

The artistic director of the Batalha also announced the introduction of Escrita, an editorial project devoted to cinematic thinking, which will be responsible for publishing its own editions — with literary contributions or criticisms from external authors — and the commissioning, from a group of invited authors, of new critical texts, available on collectible room sheets. The first big news concerns the edition of a collection of science fiction tales and speculative creation (associated with the Políticas de Sci-Fi cycle), and editions focused on the work of two Portuguese directors: João Salaviza and André Gil Mata.

The full program for the months of December and January, as well as a preview of what can be expected from the first season, are already available on the website and on the other Batalha’s communication platforms, launched this Wednesday.

A complex intervention by Alexandre Alves Costa and Sergio Fernandez

The construction work in the historic building, under the management of the municipal company GO Porto, began in November 2019. With the signature of Atelier 15 (by architects Alexandre Alves Costa and Sérgio Fernandez), the intervention aimed at the reformulation and remodelling of this cultural space with a philosophy of restoring the original conditions, but with deep work on the structure, the rehabilitation of surfaces and roofs, as well as the installation of new equipment. In addition to two projection rooms prepared for the showcasing of digital and analogue formats (Room 1 has 299 seats and Room 2 has 126 seats), the Batalha Centro de Cinema will integrate a room, with about 40 square meters (Sala-Filme), dedicated to the installation of films and a library dedicated to the Seventh Art.

The Batalha was rented by the Porto City Hall for a period of 25 years to the Neves Real family, owner of the building, who, despite all the difficulties, always kept it in their possession. After the opening of the ticket offices, on a first phase, on November 17, the Batalha will welcome the people of Porto on December 9, more than a decade after its closing, to resume its cultural role centred on the Seventh Art.