Miguel Gonçalves Mendes (born September 2, 1978 in Covilhã) is a Portuguese film director, screenwriter and producer. He is the author of José and Pilar (2010), a documentary about writer and Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, co-produced by Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her, The Skin I Live In) and his brother Augustín, and Fernando Meirelles (City of God and The Constant Gardener). In 2011, after a successful international festival circuit, the movie spurred an unprecedented popular movement in Portugal resulting on a petition signed by 1400 people (0.00014% of Portugal’s population), which in turn sparked a debate over Portuguese cinema and a campaign for the Oscar nominations in Los Angeles and New York. Currently, Miguel is at the post-production stage of his new documentary, The Meaning of Life, produced by Fernando Meirelles, which has been dealing with issues to raise finishing funds.
Miguel studied International Relationships (ISCSP – Technical University of Lisbon) and History – Archaeology (New University of Lisbon) before graduating in Film by the Lisbon Theatre and Film School, specializing in Film Editing. In 2002, he founded JumpCut, through which he produced all his projects until 2014.
D. Nieves (2002)
Documentary that explores the proximity between Portugal and Galicia, its historical roots, its deepest reasons and its consequences. This documentary led the director to win the first prizes of his career, such as the “Massimo Troisi” European Prize, in Italy.
Autograph (2004) Documentary that portrays the life, the journey and the individuality of the Portuguese poet and painter Mário Cesariny. It was the winner of the award for Best Portuguese Documentary at DocLisboa 2004.
A Batalha dos Três Reis (2005) The first fiction feature film by Miguel Gonçalves, shot in Morocco, a first long-length fiction film by Miguel Mendes, shot in Morocco, an insane and fatal game of jealousy.
Floripes (2007) Back in documentary cinema, explore the legend of Floripes. An enchanted Moura that wanders, every night, sad and without destiny, through the town of Olhão, enchanting the fishermen with a spell that guided them out to sea, until death.
Silêncio Course (2007) Experimental film, based on the universe of the Experimental Film and on the images of Maria Gabriela Llansol who, following her narrative construction process, explores the so-called “glow dinner”.
A documentary that observes the life of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and finds an unknown Saramago, proving that genius and simplicity are compatible. The Elephant’s Journey, the book that narrates the adventures and misadventures of a pachyderm transported from John III of Portugal‘s court to that of the Austrian Archduke Maximilian, is the departing point of a movie that portrays the relationship between Nobel Prize winner José Saramago and his wife Pilar del Rio. For four years, Miguel spent the days with the couple, at home and during work trips all over the world, revealing a surprising new side of the author, immersed in his creative process while wanting to change the world with his wife – or, at least, to make it a better place. After it became Miguel Mendes’s most popular work, with commercial exhibitions in Portugal, Spain, Brasil, México and Italy and several awards and nominations, the movie stood out for the uncommon support it received from the Portuguese audience and for the debate it ignited around Portuguese cinema, historically divorced from the Portuguese people. The film ended up being picked as Portugal’s candidate for the nomination to Best Foreign Film in the Oscars. It got a run in the United States, which included an exhibition in the MoMA, collected praise from publications like Variety and The New York Times, and got shortlisted for Best Original Song at the Oscars with Já Não Estar (written by José Mário Branco and interpreted by Camané). Brazilian director José Padilha (RoboCop) said that “it’s really hard to make a movie like José and Pilar, delicate, respectful, deep. A great movie about a great man and a great woman, about time and death, about love and life.”