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Bread and Wine (docufiction)

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Bread and Wine (O Pão e o Vinho) is a 1981 Portuguese feature-length film produced and directed by Ricardo Costa, his second docufiction after Changing Tides (Mau Tempo, Marés e Mudança) – 1996/7. The third is Mists (Brumas) – 2003. Like Changing Tides and Bread and Wine, Mists may also be classified as Ethnofiction.

Easter pagan procession at Redondo


Bread and Wine is contemporary to the tetralogy Homem Montanhês (Mountain Man), a series of four documentary feature films that Ricardo Costa was shooting on the mountains in remote villages : 1 – Castro Laboreiro, 2 – Pitões a village of Barroso, 3 – Faraway is the city, 4 – Further ahead on this road.

They are all ethnographic films, with one exception : Bred an Wine is not a pure documentary, since fictional elements have been added as part of the film narrative, in order to strength drama and highlight the nature of the subject (see Visual anthropology). Bread and Wine is both docufiction and ethnofiction.

A common denominator for these films is that no conventional narrative is used. The story is told with poetic ellipses linking alternate actions and situations. Meaning arises from the flow of pictures, from the harmonic association of shots, slowly drawing a human portrait : a survivor.

All the Portuguese ethnographic films of these period involved passion (the portrait should be touching) and that means they are art films. António Campos, Antonio Reis and some other left important living “documents” of patrimonial interest that will be seen with emotion any time.


During a religious celebration on a Good Friday, black night, hooded figures dressed with black mantles walk in deep silence, only broken by the noise of a rattle and by the canticles of a young Veronique rising in her hands a sheet with the bloody face of Christ stamped on it. She sings a song of grief and sorrow in an understandable language, telling an old story. The chorus of the hooded men answers to her complaints, echoed by a music band. At each turning point of the procession, now under a burning sun, other figures appear, bent on the earth, other voices, other sweaty faces. At each blow of the sickle, at each progress of the harvest, at each hit of the hoe, at each impromptu of a native poet, Anastásio Pires, Gil Quintas, or the bohemian Joaquim, the dishes seller, the portrait is drawn, the true story is told. The rattling and the Veronica's song sound again. And the procession proceeds until the moment when, with a strong blow, the coffin cover falls over the body of Christ.

The story which is told is of pain and wandering. The motive is the same as when people talk in front of a glass of wine, a bit of bread with a slice of cheese. We can see that something happened, by that time, which was not deserved. Now we can see that, extinguished all hopes in a project that was not accomplished, the Alentejo, a singular and attaching land, still had a memory, was still alive. The actors of this film tell what happened. In each of these stories, the main character is Man.

Historic background[edit]

The film Bread and Wine was commissioned by Fernando Lopes, when responsible for the second channel (RTP2) of Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP), the Portuguese public broadcasting corporation. His friend Vitorino Salomé, native of Redondo, told him about the existence of the traditional Easter ceremony in the town and of the interest in having it filmed. At that time, Ricardo Costa was filming in the mountains of northern Portugal his sequel of feature documentaries, The Mountain Man (Homem Montanhês), which consisted of four anthropological and poetic films about communities whose habits were endangered. The production of the Mountain Man was made in two parts, with an interval of two years, between 1979 and 1981. The filming of The Bread and the Wine took place in that time lapse.

At that time, the film cooperatives, which emerged after the Carnation Revolution, were still active, as was Diafilme, the company formed by Ricardo Costa to carry out his work. Soon, however, to face the competition of the new private television channel SIC, the RTP would cease to collaborate with outside producers, independent groups in which the filmmakers were associated, and devoted themselves to broadcasting commercial contents. Documentary production would thus be drastically affected and almost all of these small companies would close their doors. Since RTP contribution became scarce to make the films, the survivors had to resort to other support, largely from municipalities, which consisted almost always of accommodation facilities and other small aids.

Passion Plays in popular theater
Like Manoel de Oliveira's ethnographic film, Rite of Spring (1963), filmed in Curalha, a village of Trás-os-Montes, Bread and Wine, filmed almost twenty years later in a village of Alentejo, Redondo, illustrates the suffering of Man, symbolized by a religious representation of the Commemoration of the Passion of Christ in the form of Mystery play, in this case as a popular and pagan expression in the context of medieval theater, in spontaneous reaction to the dogmas of the Catholic Church.[1]
The Passion Play in Alentejo
Although the face is the same, although Veronica's love is imprinted on the same cloth, this version of suffering shows other lands and other people, in another place, in another time and in other colors. Here the word is given to the producing land, to what about it the speakers mean, but in this case, in Alentejo, those who speak are not the characters of human condition, but the poets who speak in verse and become the demiurges of a reality that is life, just there, on the plain, with the colours it has at that moment, in the daily struggle for sustenance and for a pacified future of all those who live in such a place.[2][3]
Another peculiarity characterizes both works : the acts and actors that both movies illustrate are extinct realities. If both illustrate something, that's the same face printed on the white cloth as on the white soul of any Veronica, of any woman who lives the same suffering as the pain of any man crucified for injustice.


  • Joaquim da Louça (folk poet)
  • Anastásio Pires (folk poet)
  • Gil Quintas (folk poet)
  • Vitorino Salomé
  • Janita Salomé [4]
  • Grupo de Cantares do Redondo (Group of Singers from Redondo)


  • Script : Ricardo Costa
  • Director : Ricardo Costa
  • Production : Diafilme
  • Format : 16 mm colour
  • Length : 82 min.
  • Premiere : RTP, 1983


  • Extracts from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi and from Portuguese composers of the same epoch

See also[edit]

  • Wisdom poetry


  1. Public festivities in Portuguese medieval towns – paper by Arnaldo Sousa Melo and Maria do Carmo Ribeiro at Mirabilia Journal
  2. "Easter Portuguese Tradition". GoodRent. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  3. Local councillors from Portugal and Spain warn of population decline - article at The Portugal News, 9 September 2018
  4. "Janita Salomé | Discography & Songs". Discogs. Retrieved 2019-09-14.

External links[edit]

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