Home News Portuguese cinema legend Oliveira dies aged 106

Portuguese cinema legend Oliveira dies aged 106

Published on 02/04/2015

Portuguese cinema legend Manoel de Oliveira, reportedly the only director whose career ran from the silent era into the digital age, died on Thursday at the age of 106.

The award-winning director made more than 50 films, including features and documentaries, over the course of a career that began in 1931.

And despite his fragile health, he completed his last work, a short film, only last year.

His death was announced to AFP by his producer Luis Urbano. Media reports said he died at his home in the northern coastal city of Porto, where he was born in 1908.

Oliveira was introduced to cinema by his father, a movie-lover and factory owner.

Aged just 20, the accomplished athlete and would-be filmmaker had his first stint in cinema as an actor in a silent movie.

In 1931, he made his first documentary, also a silent film, titled “Labour on the Douro River”.

After making several other documentaries, he made his first fiction film “Aniki-Bobo” in 1942, which focused on the tough lives of children in a poor district of Porto.

The film was a powerful social critique, and would only receive acclaim several years later.

Restrictions under Antonio Salazar’s dictatorsip and a lack of infrastructure in Portugal kept Oliveira away from filmmaking until 1963, when he made his second feature, “The Rite of Spring”.

In 1972, he made “Past and Present”, a powerful social satire that tells the story of a young widow with a number of marriages past her, who betrays each new husband yet venerates each one of the deceased.

He then shot a tetralogy of failed love stories, kicking off with “Doomed Love” in 1979.

– ‘Creative genius’ –

In 2008, he was awarded the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes for his life-long contribution to cinema, as well as the French Legion of Honour.

Still making films in the digital age, Oliveira made “Christopher Columbus – The Enigma” in 2007 and “Gebo and the Shadow” in 2012, which was screened at the 69th Venice International Film Festival.

Despite his frailty, he made an appearance at the 2014 premier of his last film, “The Old Man of Belem”.

Portuguese actor and director Maria de Meideiros once described Oliveira as a “genius who represented the creative freedom of cinema”.

Gilles Jacob, president of the Cannes film festival until last year, said the man was a “legend and a mystery”.