'Superhero' confronts Portugal's fascist past with satire

Tue Dec 10, 2013 10:20am EST
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By Andrei Khalip

LISBON (Reuters) - The Portuguese prefer not to talk, much less joke, about the 1932-1968 fascist dictatorship of Antonio Salazar - which may explain why it has taken a "superhero" to broach the topic in a big-screen comedy.

The masked, moustachioed "Capitao Falcao" (Captain Falcon) is Salazar's most trusted henchman in a movie of the same name, tackling the "red menace" of communism and attempts to bring democracy to Portugal in the 1960s.

The much-awaited release - in which the motorcycle-riding Falcao and his sidecar-borne sidekick the Partridge Kid fight bearded communists in red overalls armed with hammers and sickles - is due to hit Portuguese movie theatres next summer.

Far from an ultra-conservative apologia, the film is a spoof designed to "exorcise some of our demons of the past by laughter", said director Joao Leitao, 32, whose crew describes Falcao as an "ultra-patriot and ultra-idiot".

The imagery was partly inspired by the 1960s "Batman" TV series, while the humor is more in the mould of the BBC's 1980s sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!' about Nazi-occupied France, he said.

"If we don't laugh at ourselves, we don't grow, we risk only looking at the past as something glorious, which is a very Portuguese defect," Leitao said while wrapping up shooting in a darkened studio hangar in Lisbon.

"It's scary that in our current economic crisis there are people saying 'there was no unemployment under Salazar'," he added. Portugal, which needed a financial bailout in 2011, only recently emerged from its worst recession since the 1970s.

Salazar ruled Portugal and its colonies with an iron fist for decades. His authoritarian New State government, backed by the PIDE secret police, outlived him to fall in 1974 after a practically bloodless Carnation Revolution.   Continued...

Portuguese actor Goncalo Waddington (R), dressed as "Capitao Falcao" (Captain Falcon), and actor David Chan, dressed as Partridge Kid, pose for photos during the filming of "Capitao Falcao" in Lisbon December 3, 2013. REUTERS/Hugo Correia