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HD video, 16:9, color, stereo sound, 72 min., Portugal
Production: O Som e a Fúria
Support: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Carpe Diem, Bikini, Óbvio Som, Galeria Miguel Nabinho
Distribution: Shellac Sud, O Som e a Furia, Abordar Casa de Peliculas, Zon Lusomundo

A mercenary sits in silence on a chair placed in an abandoned palace in Lisbon, as if posing for a portrait. Facing the camera, he begins narrating and performing his own history, constructing a record which slowly reveals in its turns of phrase and mismatched events a series of doubts and contradictions. The camera watches, relentlessly. Paulo narrates his involvement as a hired killer for special military forces during the Portuguese colonial war, the part he played in the GAL (Antiterrorist Liberation Group), a death squad illegally established by the Spanish government to annihilate high officials of ETA, and his work as a mercenary for the CIA in El Salvador. Rather than being interested in affirming the veracity of the historical record or in proving an official narrative, No Man’s Land dwells in the present moment of witnessing, the space inhabited by the performance of a memory. Refusing to linger on a static moral duality, throughout the film accuser and accused are frequently asked to change positions – at a certain point, after describing a series of crimes he committed, responding to a question by the director Paulo replies with one of his own “How much is worth the life of a man? A man like me or men like them?” As the film’s own processes of making are slowly revealed, No Man’s Land creates a set or a stage where information or document are peripheral to the question of how one plays out and affirms as history his own personal truth.
Rather than conventionally dwelling in the periphery between cinema and the visual arts, fiction and documentary, she has made these languages her own, challenging the lines between genres and modes of exhibition. Salomé’s films are fearless, both in the formal and narrative risks they take, and in their physical performance, as we see her trapped, hanging, falling or in this case, sitting silently behind the camera, in a fertile occupation of a no man’s land.

– Joana Pimenta, Film and Visual Studies PhD candidate, Harvard University

Paulo offers sublime portrayals of the cruelties and paradoxes of power and of the revolutions that
brought it down, only to erect new bureaucracies, new cruelties and paradoxes. His work as a
mercenary is in the fringe of these 2 worlds.

Walter Benjamin states that History is where the singular crystallizes into a fixed whole – it is from this premise that we depart. I establish that the conversation (in this film) takes place in "no man's land" i.e neither in my comfort zone, nor in Paulo de Figueiredo’s. Such premise should generate a feeling of dislocation for both parties. Initially, the location should be anonymous. Gradually, what is off-screen gains weight and the awareness of a time and a place is established. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to identify where we are. I would like to highlight the distinction between reporting (facts) and literature (imagination), without being too explicit. The difference between "literature" and "reportage" does not uphold; we believe in the documentary because it is made of "reportage". We remove one or two fictional bricks and the wall of ‘authentic’ reality collapses. What is left is imagination, which imprints in our memory a real world that I try to describe artistically.
I tell Paulo that I want to tell the story of his life. He consents.
This can be a film about violence, but deep down, it’s a film about moments of human experience. It’s not about History as it is understood academically; these are fragments, jump cuts of a non-linear type.
What is authentic is the story that Paulo tells and the moment that happens between me and his breathing. It’s in this breathing that the documentary is built. It’s in this meeting point that the viewer should feel that he is tearing down the limit between fact and fiction. His sublime portrayal of cruelty, of the paradoxes of power and of the revolutions that dethroned him – only served to erect new bureaucracies, new cruelties and new paradoxes. His work as a mercenary lies on the space that exists between these two worlds.
Trauma is outside memory, outside history. It is (un)representable, unmemorable, and unforgettable. How can we know the trauma i.e. how can its impossibility to be represented be presented? And isn’t history an original container of trauma? The work of memory, and it’s memorial processes of transformation of time and space, of the politic, of the public and the private, of the nation and the family isn’t it a process of desire?

– Salomé Lamas

The truth or the lie in “No Man’s Land” a film by Salome Lamas
It begins with groves of trees and vegetation seen from above, with a zoom to the bottom, to a path, that we do neither know which it is or what it is. I remembered the beginning of Rober Musil’s book: The Man Without Qualities. It also commenced with a cosmic vision, in its case meteorological, of a beautiful August day in 1913, of “minimal barometric pressure” hovering over the Atlantic. From there the written lines take the reader closer to a city, in this case Vienna, with neighborhoods, a street, to the home of the man without qualities, and finally to the man himself. In the film “No Man’s Land”, that is now in theaters, by Salomé Lamas, a dark room, with decrepit walls, a chair, a black cloth, almost prison like, and empty, is the set. Voices can be heard, the room lights up and the “show” begins. As if the truth and the knowledge of a person, of a man, was gradually illuminated as the duration of the film elapses.
Afterwards there are three days, divided by frames, between 2011 and 2012, that refer to an account of past times, between 1966 and the 90s, with a glance back at the childhood and the present of then, of the man. The look and curiosity, almost of voyeur, of the spectator, try to trap the man’s truth, harboring an irrepressible will to get to know him through the stories told in the contexts of a dictatorial and colonial Portugal in the second half of the 2Oth century, and the democracy (?) in Spain. The man claims to be named José Paulo Sobral de Fugueiredo, to have been an electronic engineer, and begins to recount episodes of his life. He knows and wants to tell. Why? We don’t know.
Perhaps he wants to leave a trace of his traveled path, to seek contact and empathy from those who hear him and film him, despite knowing that what he has to say will not result in sympathy because his stories reveal a commando soldier, a mercenary and a killer whose profession is to murder. He finds empathy in Salomé Lamas from who there is neither sympathy nor judgment, although it is present through the questions, that we do not hear but we intuit. Can sympathy exist for a man who was a commando in the colonial war between 1960 and 1980/81 in Angola and Mozambique, who refers to black people as monkeys or tamarins jumping from the plantations, torn to pieces by the grenades? “Every plantation, every grenade” recounts the man. It had to do with “pay back,” he said, while recognizing that there might be a bit of sadism. “But for great evils great remedies.” Paulo Figueiredo likes to use Portuguese proverbs, and this one is repeated to the point of satiation.
The spectator is now wrapped up in the story, eagerly following it to try and learn more and know Paulo Figueiredo better, the truth(s) and lie(s) of a man in the –wrong– context of the Portuguese dictatorial and colonial history of the second half of the 20th century. He affirms to never having eliminated “people,” but only “those that did not give.” Paulo Figueiredo recognizes that “the smell of blood and gun powder” are addicting, just as cocaine and heroin are. The “adrenaline” brought on by that smell was surely proved by him, for he even confesses – and it is probably one of the most genuine parts, for it would be unlikely to invent such a fact – that in times of peace he would go to the Emergency Room of São Jose Hospital to see, feel and smell blood once more. In that particularly impacting point in the film Paulo appears to want to provoke a reaction of disgust and repugnance in the interviewer who films him.
The second day follows the first, for it is the report of his life as a mercenary. Like this we arrive to the third day, where Paulo Figueiredo is a paid assassin for the Anti-terrorist Liberation Group (GAL). For brief instances the film becomes a documentary and the filmmaker becomes an investigator contextualizing the operation, between 1981 and 1987, of the terrorist group created by the Spanish state during the governing of Felipe Gonzalez of the PSOE, which left the Spanish democracy in question. Democracy that self-destructs every time it utilizes torture and assassination. State terrorism that is justified by the terror of the “terrorist.” Almost everything that Paulo tells about GAL can be proven by the research done by the Spanish press. Either he lived everything he recounts, or he appropriated himself of the identity of someone who lived it and told him about it and/or he himself did the research. The question of how much is a Man’s life worth, counters with another: “A man like me or like them?”
In voice-over, we hear that Paulo has no documents or official records. “Who is Paulo Figueiredo?”asks Salomé Lamas, giving hints without answers, and allows the spectator, with their piqued curiosity, to decide for themselves and investigate on their own account. But there is one truth –yes this one– that we still need. The secluded area shown from above in the beginning, and now treaded upon by a man who carries water, drinks, sings, and laughs with his companions of a life of homelessness, two Africans. Paulo is in fact one of many homeless people, without a face, without a recognized existence, to which one turns their back on to not know that they exist, and whose tenuous belonging to common humanity passes through the instances of contact with the filmmaker, she who tells the remainder of the brief life of this man, of which she knows a lot, but cannot prove its veracity through documents.
The rest, is almost everything and it’s in the film, not allowing itself to be constrained by any comment that is made about it. At the end of the documentary, which is not here revealed, the filmmaker reveals “the affliction” and urgency in making Paulo known, who everyone should know, and if they don’t it’s their own fault. That urgency was fulfilled. The film is here, a work of unusual maturity, raising questions about the relationship of memory with history, contributing to the acknowledgment of a human being in his complexity. Without being a historical investigation –and very less a trial– for the lack of documents/sources that prove and contextualize what Paulo relates, the film is a beautiful narrative of the life of a Portuguese man, a commando, a mercenary, a hired assassin, and a homeless man. All of that, a bit of everything or nothing at all, for no human being can be restrained by a single definition. Paulo existed, hence the need for him to be filmed. Thanks to Salomé Lamas for placing herself in the position of another, despite how repugnant his life may have been, not to judge, nor forgive, but opening a sliver of opportunity to understand how this man was possible.

– Irene Pimentel, The truth or the lie in No Man's Land, Jornal Público 2013

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