Because it’s still necessary – the MICAR Anti-Racist Film Festival, 2020 edition

Supported by transform! europe, this year’s edition of MICAR was back in Porto, at the Rivoli Municipal Theatre.

written by SOS Racismo

Annually organised by SOS RACISMO, since 2014 this film festival brings to the screen essential themes and this year’s edition presented three days full of opportunities to reflect and discuss on racism, discrimination and the struggles against it. Four sessions were staged, each with a short and a featured movie (several of which were premiered in Portugal). This year’s MICAR edition took place between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon (from 2 until 4 October) – mostly with sold out events.

This 7th MICAR edition sought to contribute to decoding and making visible the racial, ethnocentric, and xenophobic system that exists in the architecture of time and space we live in. To problematize this architecture it is imperative to discuss its structures, lexicons and grammars, namely those present in the education system, in security and border control forces, in courts and judicial systems, as well as in the bodies institutionally responsible for inclusion and fighting discrimination.

Though – due to the pandemic – with a shorter programme, SOS RACISMO considered it fundamental to organise MICAR and the reflection it encompasses, in a year profoundly marked by great violence against racialised people and the anti-racist struggles in the public space.

This year’s programme offered the audience a wide range of films on various themes, mainly focused on structural dimensions of racism and discrimination that imprint the daily lives of many black, Roma, migrant and refugee people in Portugal, whole Europe and the world.

The opening session kicked off with Eu não sou Pilatus ("I am not Pilatus"), directed by Portuguese-Guinean actor and director Welket Bungué. This short film constitutes an artistic manifesto, based on the case of police brutality in the Bairro da Jamaica, a neighbourhood in the outskirts of Lisbon, and the demonstration that followed, revealing how racism continues to be endemic in Portugal. Welket Bungué’s work has been recognised and awarded at several national and international film festivals. The director was present and highlighted the need for actors and directors to speak out against racism and police brutality in their work, and ended his speech by congratulating SOS RACISM for 30 years of activism in Portugal.

The session continued with the movie What You Gonna Do When the World’s On Fire? by Roberto Minervini, awarded in Venice in 2018. The film celebrated its Portugal premiere at MICAR. The movie is essential for understanding some of the events that mark our present and is a strong and intimate portrait of the violence in race relations in the USA and the systemic ways in which it exists and is reproduced.

On Saturday afternoon, the audience could watch the short film Atlantiques by the multi-awarded Senegalese director Mati Diop and Ceuta, Douce prison, by Loïc Hecht and Jonathan Millet. These movies addressed the theme of borders and the Mediterranean.

On the evening of that second day, we further discussed the mechanisms of reaction to racism through two very distinct movies: the short film Black Sheep by Ed Perkings and Show Me Democracy by Dan Parris, which reflect on street activism and advocacy. Rebeca de Gomes Freitas, black activist and sociologist, was the invited speaker of the debate that followed.

On Sunday, two movies and two different realities followed: On the one hand, a reflection of an affirmative action with the documentary about the Portuguese project Opré Chavale, a project that aims at the integration of Roma communities in higher education. On the other hand, the discrimination and exclusion experienced by people from ethnic minorities in educational contexts in Romania, narrated through the eyes of Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coca-Cozma in the film Our School. The final debate was conducted by Guiomar Sousa and Salvador Gil, two Roma activists of different generations, who brought to light the relevant issues regarding the suitability of the Portuguese education system for the inclusion of minorities. 

It is through the debates and the production of materials that accompanied the various editions of the MICAR festival that we intend to trigger a pluralistic and effective discussion of alternatives to fight racism, ethnic-racial discrimination and to contribute to the construction of an egalitarian society that grants effective integration, participation and full citizenship for everyone. 

The pandemic has clearly shown the unequal distribution of risk and protection, the fast-changing ways in which vulnerabilities translate into inequalities, into increased risk of suffering from the disease and the crisis. The evident violence that this inequality entails has become even more present in many ways, and this was the base for our choice of proposing a reflection on structural racism and the multiple discriminations that mark the lives of many black, Roma, immigrant or refugee people on a daily basis. Because the pandemic situation prevented us from holding more debates, meetings and discussions, SOS RACISMO decided to publish, during MICAR 2020, a comprehensive booklet on the structural and institutional dimensions of racism, featuring 24 authors. The Caderno MICAR 2020 is available in its physical version and online as PDF and eBook (on payment) at (Portuguese).

We recommend:
Miguel Cardina, The living ashes of Portuguese colonialism