2720: An Open-Hearted Immersion Within Immigrant Community

in 69th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen

by Elaine Guerini

While Basil da Cunha’s camera wanders through the Reboleira neighbourhood, on the outskirts of Lisbon, 2720 reveals the poetry and humour of an immigrant community amidst the chaos following a police raid. Nothing escapes the eye of the Portuguese-Swiss director, who sees beyond the roughness of the area and captures magical and unusual situations, à la Federico Fellini and Emir Kusturica.

Probably because he has lived in the Reboleira for more than ten years, Cunha recognises the neighbourhood’s cinematographic potential in every corner, including its most degraded parts, with houses in ruins. The same happens with the residents, the non-professional actors, who guide the viewer through their world, opening their homes and consequently their hearts while telling the most picturesque stories they have to share.

Everything seems possible in Reboleira, which lets all its distinctiveness be captured in one single take of 24 minutes, the total length of the short film. Because Cunha knows the dynamics of the neighbourhood so well, it takes the viewer a while to realize that everything is meticulously orchestrated to achieve its feel of fluidity. His narrative crosses with choreographed mastery the path of a girl looking for her missing brother and an ex-convict late on his first day of work.

With an almost documentary style approach, we see the reality of the community of African immigrants and descendants, from the former Portuguese colonies, such as Mozambique, Angola and especially Cape Verde. But even if precariousness is obvious everywhere, showing that society does not offer them many opportunities to succeed, there is no lack of sweetness, humour and joie de vivre in the lives of the characters, as if they had learned better than anyone to value the little things.

The people seem to be Cunha’s true inspiration in Reboleira, where the official language tends to be the native creole of Cape Verdeans. All the residents know each others’ story and care about it. The brotherhood between them is touching.

Camila, a 7-year-old girl, is consoled wherever she goes, because she is worried about her brother, who disappeared the night before after a violent police raid. And the young Jysone, who needs to get to work – his first job after 6 years in jail – knows that he can count on his friends for a ride, even though many of them help him to be even more late. After all, time seems to have a rhythm of its own in the neighbourhood.

Cunha takes full advantage of the short film format to provide a quick immersion in Reboleira, where he already shot the feature films The End of the World (2019) and After the Night (2013). During the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, while many films more than anything played with the possibilities of the short narrative structure, 2720 was the one that best combined form and content. Cunha used the format simply to empower his solid story.

By filming in one continuous shot, Cunha allowed the viewer to feel as though they are walking through all of the narrow streets and the homes, glued together for the first time, in a real-time exploration. And it doesn’t take the audience very long to realise what fascinates the director so much: the neighbourhood’s soul, with all its colours and pains.


Elaine Guerini
Edited by CJ Johnson