The Tsugua Diaries

(Portugal/2021—directed by Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes) 

Cinema has always provided paradoxical notions of time, unfolding in a present that is already past, so it’s unsurprising that in the first year of the pandemic, artists were anxious to rupture the loop of endless days in quarantine. Such is the case with The Tsugua Diaries—a refreshingly playful antidote to isolation —produced with modest means and loving passion by co-directors Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes during Portugal’s lockdown in August of 2020.

Shot on sumptuous 16mm in sun-soaked Sintra, where it observes the daily lives of characters Crista (Crista Alfaiate), Carloto (Carloto Cotta), and João (João Nunes Monteiro), it gradually becomes clear (if the title hadn’t given it away already!), that this diary of the trio’s month is unfolding in reverse. As the movie’s flow approaches its origins, the true hero of The Tsugua Diaries is revealed to be cinema itself—a form of life, love and joy, a weapon to combat the darkness. Cannes, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals. In Portuguese and Romanian with English subtitles. (102 minutes)

“The Tsugua Diaries delights! A comic, creative and inspired faux-documentary.” –Giovanni Camia, Sight & Sound