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Tabu (2012)

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Click here, or on the image above, to see the press conference at The Berlin International Film Festival for Tabu (with English translation).

Just back from The 62nd Berlin International Film Festival, Marco Abel raves about Miguel Gomes’ Tabu (2012). a dreamy narrative that nods towards the Murnau/Flaherty Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931), but with a decidedly different spin. Tabu won the prestigious Alfred Bauer Award as well as the FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin, and was nominated for the Golden Bear, so it seems that all the commotion is not without substance. This was the world premiere, so obviously I haven’t seen it, but it sounds delicious, and I can’t wait to check it out for myself.

Here’s a brief review by Patrick Gamble from Cinevue: “Miguel Gomes‘ third feature Tabu (2012) is an impassioned love story which draws its influences from the early romantic era of 1930’s Hollywood filmmaking – and is already one of the stand-out films at this year’s Berlinale. Aurora (played by Laura Soveral in her old age and Ana Moreira during her younger years), an elderly Portuguese women with an eccentric personality and a destructive taste for the local casino’s slot machines, lives with her African maid Santa (Isabel Cardoso) in an imposing Lisbon tower block. Her next door neighbour is Miss Pilar (Teresa Madruga), a compassionate and caring catholic who finds herself caring for Aurora as her mental state starts to show signs of deteriorating. When Aurora is admitted to hospital, Pilar is assigned the task of finding a long lost companion of hers, an Italian man with an outlandish tale of love against adversity set within the shadows of Mount Tabu in Africa.

Tabu is stepped in nostalgia, with Gomes painterly presenting his characters in romanticised black and white – a fact only emphasised by Gomes’ decision to name his movie after [an F.W.] Murnau film. It results in a film that radiates a warmth that perfectly compliments its heartbreaking story. Crossing back and forth through time, Tabu successfully differentiates past from present with subtle lighting techniques and the gentle use of soft focus – creating a dream like atmosphere that feels like crossing through a jungle of memories and regrets [. . .] Playfully switching from the gloom of the present day to the warmth and perceived simplicity of life in the past, Tabu is an enthralling, lighthearted stab at a society unable to escape from imprisoning itself in a cloud of nostalgia.”

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or Visit him at his website,

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