Thursday, 9 April 2015

Letters to a dictator by Inês de Medeiros

I have come across an awarded documentary which is rather interesting, to say the least, particularly in what concerns the "role" played by Portuguese women under a dictatorship regime and a period of obscurantism that went on in Portugal  for more than fifty years.

The starting point for the film were some letters found quite by chance at a second-hand bookshop dealer's (whose owner had not read them believing them to be love letters). Many of them did clearly express admiration for the handsome and charismatic Portuguese dictator, Salazar, who presided over Portugal for thirty years, as in accordance to what was written and openly read (either by the interviewer or the person who had written them). 
During the interviews some of the women, who penned those letters as an answer to a circular (never found) challenging them to mobilise in the name of peace, order and above all in defense of the "saviour of the motherland, admitted not to remember having written them and some were either incapable of justifying why they had done so or their justifications sounded rather inconsistent.
None of them seemed apologetic or regretful for having supported a dictator and some of them further enhanced their gratitude and admiration for the dictator, despite not being able to clearly justify why, once more.

The interviews are interspersed with black and white images of the epoch, many of which are not necessarily related to this event but provide the "scenario" for such a political setting. 

Although I was a young child at the time those letters were written I can easily relate to some of the events which occurred then, as well as confirm the role women were expected to play in society at that epoch once those ideas lingered on for much longer and young ladies continued being brought up as in accordance with some of those "principles".

I do agree with one of the critics " What a stimulating and sad film it is!" , but feel it should be seen by everyone, particularly members of the younger generation, who may not be aware of what Portugal was like then and the strenuous path women have had to walk to be able to take decisions based on their own opinions, if nothing else.


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