Interview: Miguel Gomes, director of ‘Tabu’

This Friday sees the UK cinema release of Miguel Gomes’ bewitching black and white master-stroke Tabu (2012). We met up with Gomes at the Edinburgh International Film Festival earlier this year to discuss the film and his own nostalgic approach to cinema further. An ex-film critic known for his playful personality, it would be fair to say that Gomes is quite an intimidating subject to interview. However, his passion for the medium is almost unparalleled, conveyed with remarkable eloquence and passion.

We began by talking about the influences behind Tabu. “People say to me there is such an irony in the film about the colonisation issue, whilst others say you’re so nostalgic about cinema, and I say to both of them, you’re correct.” A wry smile graces his face: “I like that I can be at the same times ironic and completely into the message of the film.” Gomes purposes that “cinema is like a battery, you must have a negative and positive pole to create energy.” When asked to elaborate he continues: “The main issue of this film is structured around loneliness in the first part and passion in the second.”

The issue of colonialism provokes a more provocative response: “I always wanted to depict Portugal’s identity, I wanted to explore it not in an historical way but in a much more meteorological way.” However, Gomes was keen to explain that he personally only knew Africa from the movies he watched growing up: “This Africa, comes from my film knowledge not personal experiences. It’s Africa built through a cinematic perspective – an abstract territory.”

When then asked about Gomes had found working in Africa he humorously replied by illuminating the difficulties of creating a ‘’realistic’ portrait of the continent in the sixties: “I had ten white guys to make a film set in Africa, I asked every male member of the crew to grow a moustache because I thought it would be more impressive.” And how did they reacted to such a peculiar demand? A melancholic look arises from his face: “Well some of them betrayed me, they shaved them off during the shooting, it was a disgrace!”

Much like in his previous film, 2008’s This Dear Month of August, music played a big part for Gomes in Tabu. “I love music” he proclaims. “I always try to have things I like in my films”. Gomes continues: “I try to put things like music, or people doing things I like to do in there.” His answer is interrupted slightly as we seek to enquire about the film’s iconic, melancholic crocodile. “I love crocodiles! People ask me ‘Why a crocodile?’, and I didn’t have a rational answer. However, I started to understand it more after I answered a similar question by saying that they look very prehistoric, so maybe they are so old that they remember the things that people may have forgotten.”

We conclude the interview by asking what we should expect next from Gomes. He answers sheepishly: “I’m trying to write another feature. I have very specific idea, but what I know from making films is that my starting point is so different from the finished product that I don’t want you to accuse me of being a liar…” Either way, whatever comes next from Gomes is bound to be met with the highest level of anticipation.

To read our review of Miguel Gomes’ Tabu, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble