On the festival circuit at least, every calendar year starts with a bang. First Rotterdam, then Berlin—two gargantuan magnets dwarfing all around them. Flabby ships the pair of them, one might say—their programs developing each year by way of a bigger-not-better approach. How nice it is, then, to find oneself, in the weeks prior to Cannes especially, at a festival that appears to have actually rejected films in order to arrive at its lineup. Taking place once again toward the back end of April, and running into May, IndieLisboa—Lisbon’s international festival of independent cinema—showcases some of the better independent productions unveiled in Rotterdam, Berlin, and elsewhere while pruning out much of the filler.
It’s all about timing. And also maybe money. In Miguel Valverde and Nuno Sena, IndieLisboa has two expert co-directors whose curatorial acumen has allowed the festival to negotiate the unpredictable tides of a fiscally fraught Europe. For the 11th edition, Valverde and Sena’s tellingly small programming team once again delivered a lineup whose emphasis was on quality control and individuality. In addition to its international competition (won by Sundance-winner To Kill a Man), IndieLisboa features several other programming strands as well as a comprehensive, high-quality shorts program. After two years in the financial wilderness, the festival’s “Independent Hero” retrospective also returned, dedicated this time around to Claire Simon. It’s a shame a festival so dedicated to traditional ideas of cinephilia doesn’t in its current situation attract more international press; this critic was one of only four attending from outside of Portugal.