Friday, October 11, 2013

PRODUCING ‘DANCING TO THE BEAT OF HISTORY… AND RETURNING TO LISBON, PORTUGAL AFTER TWENTY-THREE YEARS, IN AUGUST, 2013.

By Mansor Puteh



One thing I liked about being able to work on this documentary is that I was able to find the right excuse to return to Lisbon and Portugal after my first visit there in April, 1990.

I was in Lisbon for the first time in April, 1990 when my feature film, ‘Seman: A Lost Hero’ was selected for the Figueira da Foz Film Festival where I found out that it was nominated for best film.

It was also in London then when I had tried to pitch for my documentary at a film production company which in the end did not take it for a series of programs they were producing for a local television station.

Unfortunately, the program also did not go on very far, and the few documentaries that they had commission were also not so well distributed in film festivals or discussed. 

I had flown into the old airport from London where I had to wait for five hours before catching the Portuguese airline TAP flight to Lisbon.

Filming for the documentary also took me to Palembang, Jakarta, Macau, Hong Kong and Paris where I had thought of driving to Portugal from there during the last Ramadan.

But the plan was aborted and I got stuck in Paris for the whole week. I went to Lisbon from Kuala Lumpur a few days after Hari Raya Puasa.

This time it was easier as I did not have to get a visa to enter the country like I had to the first time.

I was lucky to be able to go to New Delhi for a seminar on Asian cinema, where I took the time to go to the Portuguese embassy to get it.

But the local Indian woman staff asked for some money before I was able to collect my international passport. And she would do it openly like it was not an offense.

Portugal did not have an embassy in Kuala Lumpur then as they still do now. The nearest embassy was in Bangkok and I did not want to have to send my passport there for them to give me the visa as it could be lost in the mail.

They now have a consulate, but they are not helpful in any way. 

Lisbon looks like the other cities in the European Union (EU). And Portugal is reported to be in economic dire straits, where the international news agencies like to report how thousands of the Portuguese often staged demonstrations with many of them not working and where the inflation rate is very high.

This could be the reason why some had to be pushed to walk the streets to become pushers of drugs, and they would do it so openly whether what they are doing is actually what they are doing.

Or if they are just trying to see who buys the drugs so the authorities could follow their tracks, and especially if they order a large consignment that the pushers say they can supply as I do not think there are that many people in Lisbon who consume the matter privately.

I did not see any of that. Maybe I had come to Lisbon when they had become tired of demonstrating and were now resting, before they take to the streets again.

And from what I could see there was no poverty there. The roads are clean and the drains not clogged like in Kuala Lumpur. The tourists flocking the Praca do Comercio looks local, but most of them are from the EU. Few are from elsewhere.

There are many Bangladeshis operating souvenir stalls and I also got to go to their area where they have a small masjid.

The Muslim population in Lisbon seems to be quite large or significant as I can see many men wearing the skull cap or ketayap and women covering their heads; they are mostly Africans who are probably from the former Portuguese colonies. 

However, I found out later that there is a much bigger masjid in the city when I was taking the tourist bus and also the bus taking me back to the airport.

I tried to look for the Rua Afonso de Albuquerque or Afonso de Albuquerque Road, and found it in my Tablet and in the process was accosted by the stone statue of Dom Manuel 1.

He was the King of Portugal in the Fifteenth Century who had ordered Portuguese fleet to sail the seas to reach Goa in India, Melaka in Tanah Melayu, Macau in China and Jakarta and Timor Timor in Indonesia, sitting outside of the Military Museum

But when I wanted to go there I could not find it. Even the locals who live and work near the road did not know about it.

The road must be so narrow and so hidden and so unimportant that they could not show me where it was.

I guessed it was near the old church where many tourists would flock to, but with so few of them actually praying.

At the side of the church building is a tram line where trams pass along taking passengers comprising of tourists mostly.

The locals do not need to take them as they do not run too fast, along the roads which look old and narrow as most of the old roads in the city are.

Most of the Portuguese would not know that their ancestors were formerly Muslims.

And it seems that most of them also do not know that they are Catholics, as much as the others in the west whose ancestors had gone on the crusade, which now does not mean much to them anymore, as one church after the other has been neglected and left to be sold off to some Muslims to be turned to masjids.   

There is a much larger masjid I saw as the bus was taking me back to the airport from the city. It looked new and was probably built by the Arab and other Muslim businessmen there.

I wish to go to Portugal for a return trip and if I get to do that, I will surely want to drive to the other cities including Porto and Figueira da Foz, and perhaps enter Spain to go to Malaga where a Malaysian friend is living.



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