The Pedro Costa event: In Vanda's room, 20 years on

Vitalina Varela

Pedro Costa

2019Portugal125 minColour


Vitalina Varela, a 55-year-old woman from Cape Verde, arrives in Lisbon three days after her husband’s funeral. She has waited for her plane ticket for over 25 years.



Vitalina Varela, a 55-year-old woman from Cape Verde, arrives in Lisbon three days after her husband’s funeral. She’s been waiting for her plane ticket for more than 25 years.

After making “Colossal Youth” I had the feeling that I was spending most of my time with Ventura, in a man’s world, so I was happy when Vitalina appeared in my life halfway through the shooting of “Horse Money”, in the autumn of 2013. The encounter with Vitalina deserved a film, it was that simple for me. I also felt that this encounter could give me the chance to approach another side of the story of the Cape Verdean diaspora – the women’s side of the story. [...] At the beginning of “Vitalina Varela” there was just Vitalina and her dramatic arrival in Lisbon, to her late husband’s house in the neighborhood of Cova da Moura. The film slowly began to take shape and evolve as I started visiting Vitalina and talking with her every day : she was telling me all about herself, her runaway husband Joaquim, her two children, her peasant life in Cape Verde, her immigrant life in Lisbon... I listened to her memories and suggested some directions we could take in the film. Vitalina accepted some ideas and naturally rejected others. And I kept doing my job : suggesting, adding, concentrating, getting it tighter and tighter. This way, we began to build an itinerary for this woman. [...] Vitalina and I became friends and she agreed to play a supporting role alongside leading man Ventura in “Horse Money”, and the more I got to know Vitalina the more I knew that my next film would be with her and about her. I thought that she could be the star of a film about her own life, a film centered on her own memories and experiences, a sort of companion piece to “Horse Money”, with Vitalina as the main character and, perhaps, with Ventura in a supporting role. Actually, I started putting together this dreamed project with Vitalina while “Horse Money” was still in the shooting phase. I even got some funding for the Vitalina project, which I used to complete “Horse Money”. So, you see, “Horse Money” and “Vitalina Varela” are connected in many ways. They really are twin films.
[...] To me it’s about desperate people, it’s about their struggle – a struggle inwards into their most profound selves, and a struggle outwards against the wall that has been built around them, against the silence that has fallen over them. I’m working in a very disturbed, very disoriented community : these people used to be peasants in Cape Verde, then they migrated to Lisbon to work ; in Portugal they were mercilessly exploited, they needed the money... I don’t know in what stage of progress or defeat of capitalism we are in, right now... I know that I can only work with this confusion. It’s very risky and challenging, but I have no interest in safe scenarios.
–Pedro Costa (interviewed by Michael Guarneri, Dé, Novembre 2019)

  • PRODUCTION : OPTEC Sociedade Óptica Técnica
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