Described as the “slyly meta-cinematic experiment,” The Tsugua Diaries (Diários de Otsoga) by Portuguese director Miguel Gomes (Arabian Nights) and his partner and collaborator Maureen Fazendeiro is set to open on Friday, May 27 at Film at Lincoln Center in New York City before moving onto other cinemas nationwide via distributor KimStim. Starring in the film are Crista Alfaiate, Carloto Cotta, and João Nunes Monteiro.
Winner of the Best Director Award at the Mar del Plata Film Festival and an official selection at Cannes, New York Film Festival, Toronto, BFI London, Karlovy Vary, and FID Marseille, among others, The Tsugua Diaries is a “cockeyed and languid celebration” of the rigorous process of moviemaking that unfolds, in reverse chronological order, over twenty-two days of pandemic lockdown.
A daily journal that reveals only the leadup but rarely the aftermath, the film begins by surveying the mundane routine tasks of three housemates and close friends (Carloto Cotta, Crista Alfaiate, and João Nunes Monteiro) living in rural tranquility during Portugal’s COVID 19 lockdown: impromptu dance parties, gardening, picking fruit, building a backyard butterfly house. Soon, we discover that there’s more going on beyond the limits of the camera frame as various members of a film crew make themselves visible on-screen.
Following Gomes’ ambitious previous works Tabu (2012) and his Arabian Nights (2015) triptych, The Tsugua Diaries presents a stripped-down meditation on the lockdown blues that continues Gomes’ career-long fascination with the act of filmmaking, while playfully referencing the particular breed of collective tedium that many of us experienced early on in the pandemic. Displaying the mercurial nature of quarantine relationships, the film unravels as a puzzle with the title (simply “August” backwards) being only the start.
Lyrical, immersive, and lovingly shot in sumptuous 16mm, The Tsugua Diaries is one of the most joyful cinematic creations of the pandemic, for which personal restrictions provided a source of inspiration and uncorrupted pleasure in the creative process and demonstrate the possibilities of artistic creation rendered out of sheer will.
Watch the first trailer for The Tsugua Diaries (Diários de Otsoga)