Basil Da Cunha’s O Fim do Mundo has just been unveiled as part of Locarno’s Concorso Internazionale, and this story of a young man returning to his Lisbon suburb after eight years in a juvenile facility is a surprising, visually striking achievement for the director.
Born in Switzerland, Da Cunha decided to move to Portugal – where his family comes from – as an adult, settling on the impoverished area of Reboleira, north of Lisbon. He has lived there for a dozen or so years now, making it the subject of his cinema in addition to being his home. His brand of observational drama has the subtlety of a documentarian and the energy of a genre enthusiast, making heroes onscreen out of the people he has met in the last few years. With bulldozers showing up in Reboleira to change the landscape and move the gentrification radius that far north from the center of the capital, Da Cunha calls his cinema a form of resistance.
I sat down with Da Cunha in a Locarno hotel, days after the premiere of his second feature film. Après la nuit, his feature debut, opened at Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes where the director had also shown some of his previous shorts.