Winner of the Locarno Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize last year (amongst a host of other accolades), 2013’s What Now? Remind Me (E Agora? Lembra-me) is a revealing self-portrait and memoir by Portuguese filmmaker Joaquim Pinto that emerges as a moving examination of an important subject – how to live your life well. With a prolific career predominantly in sound editing and a considerable filmography of directing features, Pinto began the project to turn the camera on himself as a way to document a year of experimental clinical trials in treatment for HIV and Hepatitis C, debilitating conditions he has lived – and struggled with – for well over two decades.
Opening in a state he describes as inertia induced by the interferons he has begun injecting, Pinto reflects on the changes his body is undergoing due to the side-effects of the drug combinations, as well as the liability he has agreed to for the period in which he will essentially be a guinea pig. He has placed himself in an interesting position, not uncommon for those suffering from a long-term illness, in that in reaching towards better health in the future, his short-term experience of life is severely diminished. Pinto’s focus then becomes on dissecting the nature of naturally occurring and artificial viruses, and musing on the life he has lead so far with his husband, Nuno. Living in rural Portugal with four dogs, the pair spend time in their garden planting and replanting after not-so neighbourly fires.
Woven into his present day struggle, Pinto uses footage shot over the years of he and Nuno’s younger selves and the community of filmmakers and artists who have entered and departed their lives due to the same affliction. Though naming Derek Jarman, amongst others struck down by “the disease killing homosexuals” in the 1980s, and existing in part as a tribute to “friends departed and those who remain”, What Now? Remind Me transpires to be so much more than what some might categorise as a film about HIV. Though some narrative tension is created by Pinto’s dilemma of whether to continue with the drug trials or stop and accept liability, the consequences of his choice either way soon become secondary to more general insights regarding community and creativity.
By sharing this time in their life with such honesty and depth of reflection, Pinto and Nuno have achieved no less than a true portrayal of companionship – as Nuno at first declares a resistance to being filmed – and then emerges as a focus for Pinto, with the routine of filming allowing contemplation of his essential support. With What Now? Remind Me we get the sense of an almost methodical approach to life, where the seemingly simple components of tenderness, play and touch – both from their pack of personable dogs and each other – are a daily reminder of the very things that life is worth living for.
The 68th Edinburgh Film Festival takes place from 18-29 June 2014. For more of our EIFF coverage, follow this link.