José Costa

Visual Communication

Red Line

Film frame

Cinema Forges the Event: Filmmaking and the case of Thomas Harlan’s Torre Bela

The film Red Line and accompanying thesis revisit the documentary (1975) by Thomas Harlan and its memory, reflecting upon the role cinema played in the revolutionary process in Portugal in 1975 and its enduring significance to the collective memory of this event. It makes a forensic investigation of the context for this documentary, examining not only the history of the occupation of the Torre Bela estate in central Portugal, but also the wider unfolding of the PREC (Processo Revolucion rio em Curso/ongoing revolutionary period, 1974–5), the history of documentaries produced during this period and their critical reception.

Since the earliest forms of revolutionary filmmaking, cinema has been theorised as a medium that has the capacity to establish new relationships between different subjects and worlds, to amplify perceptions, to privilege certain protagonists and situations and give form to particular effects and experiences. The making of the filmforged new relationships between different worlds and provided a forum for new protagonists who had never before expressed themselves politically in the past, in keeping with the revolutionary ideal of the Carnation Revolution that took place on 25 April 1974.