It was almost fifty years ago when the Carnation Revolution took place, overthrowing the authoritarian Estado Novo government in Portugal. This month and next, a local film series looks at life under the regime, highlighting efforts by the dictatorship to use film as propaganda, as well as some filmmakers who tried to work outside the government’s constraints. For this week's Artscape, morning host Luis Hernandez spoke with Paula Celeste Gomes Noversa, Director of the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which is presenting the series. 

The weekly series is open to the public, and runs through April 25, with some showing at the UMass-Dartmouth main campus and some at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Screenings open at 5:30 p.m. with light refreshments, followed by the film and a discussion. Click here for more details.

Luis Hernandez: We're 50 years removed from the Carnation Revolution. You have three generations who never knew life, what it was like under authoritarian rule. Could you briefly describe life in Portugal under the Estado Novo?

Paula Celeste Gomes Noversa: It was the longest dictatorship in Europe in the 20th century. You have, on the one hand you have this prolonged colonial war, and then on the other hand, domestically, you have a situation in which, while the rest of Europe – you know, their citizens are gaining more civil liberties, you have a restriction of civil liberties within Portugal. And this is felt particularly by the everyday person in terms of the censors, and the fact that there was a political police known as the PIDE. And you could be arrested, you could be beaten, and you could be imprisoned for speaking out against the government.

Hernandez: So you have seven films, as part of this series. Briefly, why were these seven chosen? What's unique about them?

Noversa: You have directors that are being influenced by what is happening in cinematography, you know, in the rest of the world. The four that are at the whaling museum, what really unites them is the sea as a, as part of the theme, either as a backdrop, or as an important part of the film itself, you know, the storyline to the film. They date from the time of the silent movie era, 1930, all the way to the 70s, right, the early 70s. So it's an interesting breadth or scope of cinematography that can be explored through this series.

Hernandez: The next film in the series coming up on March 30 is O Mal-Amado. Can you tell me real briefly, what is this movie about?

Noversa: So O Mal-Amado is set in a good neighborhood of Lisbon to a middle class couple. But their son is not integrating well into that middle class pattern. He is attending classes. He's studying economics at the University, but you know, he attends more political meetings than he does classes at the university. He likes to spend a lot of time in coffeeshops, he likes discussing politics. This is not something that would be acceptable to a – a proper Portuguese middle class family would not want their son engaging particularly in this kind of, like, attending political meetings, right, because they would see that as a threat, a threat to him and a threat to them as well. Because of the PIDE, because of the secret police. 

Hernandez: What do you hope will come from this series? And what do you want people to take away from the experience?

Noversa: So what I'm hoping is that we can do really two things. One is to allow folks within the Portuguese community that are fluent in Portuguese, to really come to appreciate Portuguese cinematography. These are films that, many of them have never been screened in the United States, in a public, you know, in a public space. But also, I wanted the majority of the films to be films that had English subtitles. And what that means is that, whether it's students that are here at the university that don't speak Portuguese at all, that are not of Portuguese descent, to be able to come and any members of the public that, again, have no familial connection or ethnic connections to the Portuguese, to be able to come and enjoy the films as they would any other, you know, international film. But also there are, you know, second- and third-generation Portuguese who really would like to know more about their Portuguese culture, and really appreciate Portuguese culture but don't have the language skills to do so.