LOCARNO — Screening at the Locarno Fest’s Panorama Suisse showcase “Río Corgo” adds a Portuguese touch to Switzerland’s burgeoning documentary tradition. Directed by Maya Kosa and Sérgio da Costa, “Corgo” offers, with a meditative tempo, an impressionist portrait, which is strongly anchored in nature, of 60-year-old Silva, a drifter who has worked as umbrella repairman, farmer, shepherd, barber, bricklayer, miner, gardener, clown and magician. Now he lives on his own. “Corgo” topped DocLisboa fest and was selected for the Berlinale’s Forum sidebar.
Suffering daily hallucinations, Silva arrives at a small northern village, extravagantly dressed. where the villagers shun him, except for a young girl called Ana.
“The film is about accepting the irrational as a normal component of reality,” Kosa hinted.
“Corgo” is produced by Geneva-based Close Up Films, which also handles international sales. Lisbon’s O Som e a Fúria co-produces.
Switzerland’s burgeoning documentary production may derive in part from the desire of its filmmakers to question its place in Europe, as seen in a fiction film, 2015’s omnibus feature “Wonderland,” an allegorical fantasy in which, as a catastrophic storm threatens Switzerland. Its borders close, not to immigrants but, in one of the film’s multiple ironies, to emigrating Swiss.
Swiss docu production is flourishing, thanks in part to co-productions such as “Corgo” and its exploration of new issues beyond its boundaries —as in Nicolas Steiner’s “Above and Below” and Jan Gassman’s “Europe, She Loves You”, both co-produced with Germany.
Geneva-born Kosa has Polish origins. Da Costa, from Lausanne, is descended from Portuguese forebears. Both studied at Geneva’s Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design. “Corgo” is their second collaboration after the medium-length docu, “Aux bains de la reine.”
Influences on them of Portuguese directors range from João Pedro Rodrigues, “The Ornitholigist,” which screens at Locarno this year, and Miguel Gomes (“Arabian Nights”). Maya adds Joao César Monteiro (“Recollections of the Yellow House”) or the dean of Portuguese cinema Manoel de Oliveira (“The Divine Comedy”), enthusing about “their fable-like films.” In “Corgo,” Costa and Kosa work with Gomes’ regular editor Telmo Churro.
“Corgo” is lensed in a Western-ish scope, suited to the solitary landscape depicted. Da Costa joked: “The horizontal spread of Silva’s sombrero also called for that format.”
Both Kosa and Da Costa tipped their metaphorical hats to Pedro Costa (“Colossal Youth”). “We admire his way of magnifying the life of the people that he films. He’s able to transform a person into a mythological character. He erects monuments to the anonymous,” Sérgio argued.
Kosa and Da Costa’s next project will be “Milan noir,” they told Variety, adding it is a documentary about a wild bird hospital near Geneva.
“In the great majority of cases, the birds are victims of man: Pesticide poisoning, the disappearance of their natural habitat and climate change,” Kosa said.
She added: “Birds came back from a battlefield like the people who [look after them, having endured long-term unemployment and been placed in the center by the state. They have also lost another battle, the labor market one.”