Vitalina Varela

Director: Pedro Costa
Screenwriters: Pedro Costa

Institute History

  • 2020 Sundance Film Festival


At an airport in Lisbon, Vitalina arrives. She has waited more than 25 years to come here. Another woman meets her to tell her she is too late—Vitalina’s husband was buried three days ago. Her house is not her own; she should turn around and leave. Seemingly in a trance, Vitalina pushes on through shadowed alleyways to a poor neighborhood and a brick shack. This will be her new existence.

The newest feature by celebrated filmmaker Pedro Costa follows the title character in mourning, decades after her husband left her in Cape Verde. In fact, Vitalina is playing herself, replaying events of her own life. As expected of Costa, this film resembles a painting, with color and grain inside the heavy contrast of the film’s chiaroscuro cinematography. The powerful realism of the actors’ faces against carefully lit walls illuminates an invisible community. No castles but exposed bricks, crumbling roofs, stairs to nowhere. The effect of Vitalina’s story is just as textured, emotionally touching inside a harsh reality, in the way only a master like Costa could achieve.

— M.P.

Screening Details

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