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Part of SFFILM Festival

Pedro Costa: POV Award + “Vitalina Varela”

Onstage Conversation & Screening

Saturday, April 18, 7:00 pm · SFMOMA

Award Presentation

Join us for a very special onstage tribute and conversation with filmmaker Pedro Costa, in which he will go in-depth on his work and career.


The conversation will be followed by a screening of Costa’s most recent film Vitalina Varela.



The Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award honors a filmmaker whose main body of work falls outside the realm of narrative feature filmmaking. Since the late ’80s, Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa has developed a signature form of collaborative nonfiction. His creative partners are his subjects, and paired with a cinematic style that combines observation and fictional reenactment, an art cinema that blurs documentary with the avant-garde emerges. Over his nine feature films, Costa has explored the earthly and spiritual struggles of marginalized people, always with a seductive palette, showing a peerless command of light and shadow. Join us for a career-spanning conversation with Pedro Costa and a screening of his recent, award-winning film, Vitalina Varela.

Read more about Pedro Costa in Johnny Ray Huston’s essay Pedro Costa: In the Dark, Into the Light.

Vitalina Varela
Pedro Costa, Portugal, 2019, 124 min
After 25 years, Vitalina Varela has returned to Lisbon, only to find out that her husband, from whom she has been separated, was buried three days prior. Based on her own story and reprising and expanding upon her role in Costa’s Horse Money (2014), Varela’s emotionally potent performance delves into the grief that drives her but haunts her as well. Familiar cast, including longtime collaborator Ventura, and themes appear in what might be Costa’s most visually stunning work, where he paints with the camera, every frame more striking than the last. Winner of the Golden Leopard at Locarno, along with the Best Actress prize for Varela.
The conversation and award presentation will take place on Saturday, April 18.

“At once Costa’s saddest and most spiritual film, Vitalina Varela employs gradually interlocking story threads to follow both Vitalina as she settles her husband’s affairs and endures the condemnation of his friends and associates, and the plight of a fragile, guilt-ridden priest (played by Ventura), whose vacant church becomes a sanctuary of sorts for these damaged souls. Shot with customary rigor and an increasingly refined and unparalleled sense of space, light, and shadow, the film invests a tragic episode in its heroine’s life with an intimacy and grace that forges new dimensions in Costa’s cinema.” –Jordan Cronk, Film Comment

Pedro Costa

After studying at the Lisbon Theatre and Film School, Pedro Costa began his career as an assistant director, making his feature debut with Blood (1989). Among his other films are Ossos (Festival 1998); In Vanda’s Room (2000), winner of three prizes at the Locarno Film Festival; Colossal Youth (Festival 2007); and Horse Money (2014), for which Costa won the Best Director and Don Quixote awards at Locarno.

“In the case of Vitalina, it was the meeting of two sensibilities, hers and mine. What she’s telling me, what she’s proposing, I hear, collect. It interests me. I think it could make a good scene, an interesting moment. I organize, I concentrate or reduce a lot through a sort of permanent rehearsal on film, which is also something that not a lot of filmmakers do. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been doing digital. It’s a way of seeing what we want to do. All the rehearsals, all the work we do, the preliminary talk or just small talk, leads up to a kind of ‘Yeah why not?’ moment. As soon as that happens, I record. I like that, the ritual of the take.” –Pedro Costa, Hyperallergic

Film Details

Language Cape Verdean Creole, Portuguese

Year 2019

Runtime 124

Country Portugal

Director Pedro Costa

Producer Abel Ribeiro Chaves

Writer Pedro Costa, Vitalina Varela

Editor João Dias, Vítor Carvalho

Cinematographer Leonardo Simões

Cast Vitalina Varela, Ventura