The Filmography of João Pedro Rodrigues
Born in 1966 at Lisbon, João Pedro Rodrigues is a Portuguese film director and screenwriter. His work, which explores human desire in all its forms, reflects the expanse of film history from its classic forms of fiction and documentary to its modern experimental film.
After initial studies in the field of biology, João Pedro Rodrigues studied at Lisbon’s Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema from 1985 to 1989. He started his career as an editor on several feature films and as assistant director for notable Portuguese directors Alberto Seixas Santos, a member of the Novo Cinema movement and professor at the Escola Teatro e Cinema, and Teresa Villaverde, actress and one of the best known figures in the third generation of Portuguese cinema.
Rodrigues’s film career began with his 1997 short film “Parabéns! (Happy Birthday!)” which, entered at the 54th Venice Film Festival, won the Special Jury Prize. In 1997 and 1998, he worked on a two-part documentary that was released in the following years. In the first film, entitled “Esta é Minha Casa (This is My Home)”, Rodrigues filmed the holiday trip of an emigrant family from Paris to their homeland in Trás-os-Montes. The story was presented through alternating scenes of their Paris life and experiences from their holiday journey. In the second film “Viagem à Expo (Trip to Expo)”, Rodrigues returned to the family and filmed their tour of the historic areas of Lisbon and visit to the city’s 1998 Expo.
In 2000, João Pedro Rodrigues directed his first feature-length film “O Fantasma (The Phantom)” which was screened at the 57th Venice Festival’s Official Competition.This film, as well as his next two features, focused on a character who is defined by all-consuming desire, in this case a man who prowls Lisbon’s nightlife looking for anonymous sex. Rodrigues’s second feature film “Odete (Two Drifters)” dealt with people who experience deeply emotional experiences of loss. This film won several awards in 2005 including Cinémas de Recherche at Cannes; it also was nominated for Best Film and Best Actress at the 2006 Portuguese Golden Globes. Rodrigues’s third feature “Morrer Como Um Homem (To Die Like a Man)” presented a meditation on spirituality as seen through an aging drag queen’s life devoted to the impersonation of womanhood.
Since his early career, Rodrigues has collaborated with his lifelong partner, artistic director João Rui Guerra da Mata. In 2012, they worked together on the feature film “A Última Vez Que Vi Macau (The Last Time I Saw Macao)” that combines fiction and documentary into an autobiographical film noir. This film competed at the Concorso Intternazionale of the Locarno Film Festival and received a special mention from the jury. Rodrigues was also invited in 2012 to be the jury’s president for the Nikon Discovery Award for Short Film at La Semaine de la Critique. His short film “Morning of Saint Anthony’s Day” had a special screening for the closing of the Nikon Discovery Awards.
During his Fellowship at the Howard Radcliffe Institute in 2014 and 2015, João Pedro Rodrigues researched and edited his next feature film. The meditation on spirituality and the introspection of his last two works led him to his new project, a work which deepened these two aspects into a mythological voyage. In 2016, Rodrigues released “O Ornitólogo (The Ornithologist)”, a drama feature film shot in the most remote parts of Portugal. The film is a liberal allegory based on the life of Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of Portugal and lost people, and stars French actor and model Paul Henry as Fernando, an ornithologist studying Portugal’s black storks. Fernando is drawn into a series of incidents, both surreal and erotic, that parallel the story of Saint Anthony. For this work, Rodrigues was awarded the Director’s Prize at Locamo’s 69th Film Festival in 2016.
In 2016, Rodrigues directed and produced the short film “Où En Étes-Vous, João Pedro Rodrigues? (Where Do You Stand Now, João Pedro Rodrigues?)”. Commissioned by Paris’s Centre Pompidou, the film is a lyrical autobiographical compliment to “The Ornithologist” as it blends home movie footage with Rodrigues’s memories from his early career and existing relationship with João Rui Guerra da Mata. Evoking images of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Thoreau, the film is a intimate reflection on the people and experiences that shaped Rodrigues’s voice and vision.
João Pedro Rodrigues directed a feature-length musical romantic comedy in 2022 entitled “Fogo-Fátuo (Will-o’-the-Wisp)”. The film stars Mauro Costa as Alfredo, the crown prince of Portugal, who becomes a fireman and falls in love with his colleague played by André Cabral. The film had premieres at the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, both in 2022. It was later screened at the Brussels International Film Festival where it won the Grand Prix in the Directors’ Week Program.
Retrospectives of Rodrigues’s work have been held in Japan, the Harvard Film Archive in Boston, and Brooklyn Academy of Music Cinema Festival in New York, among others. His films have been produced and released through the Lisbon-based production company Rosa Filmes.
Notes: The online ArtForum site has an interesting informative article by artistic director Dennis Lim on João Pedro Rodrigues’s films with particular focus on “O Fantasma” and “Two Drifters”, both released in 2000. This article is located at: https://www.artforum.com/features/unspeakable-desire-the-films-of-joao-pedro-rodrigues-195280/
An interview between Dennis Lim and João Pedro Rodrigues on his film “Will-o’-the-Wisp” was held at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in October of 2022. This interview can be found at YouTube through the search: João Pedro Rodrigues on Will-o’-the-Wisp | NYFF60
The Seventh Art: Conversations on Cinema has an interview between Christopher Heron, one of its co-founders, and João Pedro Rodrigues on the 2016 “The Ornithologist”. This interview can be found at: https://theseventhart.org/joao-pedro-rodrigues-interview-the-ornithologist/