×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Portugal’s Film Industry Gets a Funding Boost

Despite producing only around 15 feature films per year, Portuguese cinema has consistently won significant festival prizes.

In 2018, awards for Portuguese films included Cannes’ Critics’ Week winner, “Diamantino” by Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, and “The Dead and the Others” by João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, which took a Special Jury Prize at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard.

Portuguese filmmakers have survived through a mixture of dedication, creative ingenuity and co-productions. Amid economic crisis, in 2012, the situation seemed dire, with Portugal’s National Film and Audiovisual Institute (ICA) unable to open any funding lines.

However a 2012 film law, revised in 2014, provided new revenues for the ICA by introducing levies on subscription TV services. As a result, the ICA has been able to channel significant additional funding into the domestic industry, including new support programs for TV series and animation features.
Investment obligations for domestic broadcasters have also been upped including reinforced commitments for public broadcaster, RTP.

As part of a wider strategy to reinforce the film and TV sectors, in 2017 Portugal enacted a tax incentive scheme, whose top rate was increased to 30% in mid-2018.

Popular on Variety

As a result of these changes, current public funding for Portuguese film and TV productions includes over €15 million ($17 million) from ICA, $13.7 million via the cash rebate scheme, and a further $10 million from RTP.

This new funding environment makes it possible to consolidate a much stronger domestic industry, and thereby more co-productions and high-profile international shoots.

A main challenge in this new environment is to build a stronger local audience base, given that Portuguese cinema has one of Europe’s lowest shares of the national box office — 1.5% in 2018.
Between 2005 and 2015, close to 20 Portuguese films — primarily popular comedies — clocked up more than 100,000 admissions per movie.

But the situation has become more complicated since 2016, as the country’s main private broadcasters — SIC and TVI — have backed fewer projects, and independent screens have closed, the latest example being Paulo Branco’s four-screen multiplex, Monumental, in Lisbon.

Portuguese box office fell by over 10% in 2018, mitigating the upward trend recorded since 2014 as the country emerged from its profound economic recession.

To build bridges with local audiences Portuguese filmmakers have increasingly focused on crossover films that combine genre and auteur elements.

Examples include João Botelho’s 2014 costume drama “As Maias,” with 123,000 admissions; Edgar Pera’s 2014 comedy “Upside Down,” starring Diogo Morgado, with 113,000; and António Ferreira’s 2018 epic love story “Pedro & Ines,” which notched up 48,000 tickets sold.

ICA president Luis Chaby Vaz says the problem of low audiences is influenced by the high dependence on public financing, high concentration of distribution and exhibition in a few operators, shortage of screens in the provinces and low levels of cultural consumption in general.

“We are aware of this complex situation and are working with the sector’s various players to find solutions, which should be implemented soon,” he says.

O Som e a Furia, one of Portugal’s leading production companies, will release two majority co-productions in 2019 — Gonçalo Waddington’s child-abuse drama “Patrick,” and João Nicolau’s musical comedy “Technoboss,” both repped by the Match Factory, and two minority co-productions: Ira Sachs’ “Frankie” and Laís Bodanzky’s “Pedro.”

The shingle is also preparing various projects, including Miguel Gomes’ next feature, “Savagery” that will shoot in Africa in 2020.

Paulo Branco’s Leopardo Filmes is completing TV series and also two major feature film projects — Tiago Guedes’ historical drama and TV series “A Herdade” and João Nuno Pinto’s WWI drama “Mosquito,” set in Mozambique.

“These are two hugely ambitious projects that I’m very proud of,” says Branco.
“These kinds of projects are extremely important for Portugal, that combine a critical artistic approach with major ambition. I think they have the chance to compete in official selection in a top international festival.”

Maria João Mayer’s Filmes do Tejo has high expectations for the April release of exuberant soccer-themed drama “Diamantino.” “It’s probably enjoyed the highest visibility of any of my films,” says Mayer. “We aim to create street events for the release that will attract audiences.”

Mayer is also advancing on “Dreaming With Lions,” by Paolo Marinou-Blanco (“Goodnight Irene”), Francisco Botelho’s “A Girl,” based on a novel by Gonçalo Tavares, and a debut feature by upcoming director, Sebastião Salgado.

Rodrigo Areias’ Bando à Parte is the leading producer in the North of Portugal. His current projects include Edgar Pera’s psychological thriller, “The Nothingless Club,” Ana Rocha Sousa’s “Listen” about a Portuguese family in London, and a series of animation shorts.

“The main priority for Portuguese cinema is access to screens,” Areias says. “Gabe Klinger’s ‘Porto’ was distributed in 34 countries, but here we only managed a short release and only 5,000 spectators, which is extremely frustrating for a film of this calibre.”

Blackmaria, run by João Figueiras, is readying a major TV series on biodiversity — Humberto Ramos’ “The Last Frontier” — and Diogo Varela Silva’s musical drama, “Alfama em Si,” featuring well-known fado singers.

Terratreme, run by six young filmmakers, premiered Ico Costa’s debut feature “Alva” in Rotterdam in 2019 and is prepping other projects including “Tomorrow Is Another Day,” by Pedro Pinho (“The Nothing Factory”).

Pandora Cunha Telles’ Ukbar Filmes has multiple projects in the works, taking in co-productions with Brazil, such as Júlio Alves’ “The Art of Dying Away,” as well as an eight-part TV series, “Twentyfour Land,” about WWII espionage in Lisbon.

Fernando Vendrell’s David & Golias, is completing João Maia’s debut film, “Variações” about cult Portuguese pop star António Variações, to premiere in August.

“We have huge expectations for the film,” Vendrell says. “We’d like to present it in international festivals as long as it doesn’t affect our main priority, attracting Portuguese spectators.”

More Film

  • Jumanji The Next Level

    Box Office: 'Jumanji 2' Kicks Off Overseas With $52 Million as 'Frozen 2' Powers Toward $1 Billion

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” skated past international box office competition again as the animated sequel propels toward the billion-dollar mark globally. “Frozen 2” generated another $90 million from 48 foreign territories, boosting its worldwide weekend haul to $124.9 million. After three weekends in theaters, Disney’s musical follow-up has made $919.7 million and should cross $1 billion [...]

  • Lily James

    Lily James Delivers Masterclass in Charm in Macao

    British actor, Lily James delivered a masterclass in charm and good humor at a seminar on Sunday at the International Film Festival and Awards Macao. Questioned on stage by one of the festival’s senior programmers, James brightly chatted her way through eight years of a screen career that has taken her from “Downton Abbey” to [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Lion King Frozen 2

    Disney Crushes Own Global Box Office Record With Historic $10 Billion

    Thanks to a record number of billion-dollar blockbusters, Disney has become the first studio in history to surpass $10 billion at the worldwide box office. Through Sunday, the studio has generated $3.28 billion in North America and $6.7 billion overseas for a global haul of $9.997 billion and is expected to officially cross the benchmark [...]

  • Takashi Miike

    Miike Takashi's Unusual Takes on Feminism and China

    Takashi Miike chuckles when you ask him if he’d called himself a feminist. “Maybe I’m not exactly, because when I use the word as a man, it feels like it might be condescending, or anti-woman,” he told Variety on the sidelines of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao, where his latest feature, the high-octane [...]

  • FAMILIAR FACE -- In Walt Disney

    Box Office: 'Frozen 2' Remains Victorious, 'Playmobil' Bombs

    “Frozen 2” dominated box office charts for the third weekend in a row as Disney’s animated sequel scored another $34.7 million in North America. Those ticket sales, a 60% decline from its massive Thanksgiving haul, boost its domestic tally to $337 million. “Frozen 2” earned $130 million in its inaugural outing and another $123 million [...]

  • Macao Project Market Participants

    ‘Dear Wormwood’ Claims Macao Project Market Prize

    Philippines director Dodo Dayao’s supernatural horror project “Dear Wormwood” claimed the top prize on Sunday at the IFFAM Project Market, part of the ongoing International Film Festival & Awards Macao. “Wormwood” is a tale of five women living together in a remote house in the forest, where a mystery illness strikes one of the quintet, [...]

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Industry Debate: Streaming Not Done Reshaping Indie Film Business

    New viewing habits brought on by the rise of streaming have hastened the demise of the mid-budget American indie, changed the very definition of arthouse cinema, and shaken the indie distribution business. But theatrical is still here to stay, attendees of the Macao International Film Festival’s closed-door industry panels concluded Saturday. Panelists gathered to discuss [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content