Access Road

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IndieLisboa Film Festival

LISBON -- "Act local, think global" is the impression taken from "Access Road" ("Via de acesso"), which examines a story unfolding near one European capital that has parallels with increasingly large numbers of locations worldwide. A dark-horse winner of the Best Portuguese Film category at the recent IndieLisboa film festival, this is a genuinely independent (self-funded) production that warrants further exposure on the festival circuit.

In "Access Road", Nathalie Mansoux focuses on the Azinha de Besouros district just beyond Lisbon's border. The authorities want to demolish the area rickety dwellings to build a shopping-mall access-road. But residents, many of whom are ineligible for rehousing due to Kafka-esque regulations, won't surrender easily.

What follows is recorded with compassionate objectivity by Mansoux's video-camera as events unfold with grim inexorability. The soundtrack features extracts from numerous letters written by the council to the residents, informing correspondents that any appeals will be instantly "archived," i.e., filed in the waste-basket. In the interests of editorial balance, Mansoux might perhaps have included interviews with council officials, without diluting the partisan, polemic force of her approach.

As books such as Mike Davis's harrowing "Planet of Slums" warn, the
handling of these "peri-urban" populations will be one of the major problems facing mankind in the coming century. Well-constructed chronicles like "Access Road", which with economy and clarity put the audience right at the sharp end of the issues involved, are crucial contributions to the ongoing debate.

Production company: Nathalie Mansoux.
Director: Nathalie Mansoux.
Script: Nathalie Mansoux, Justine Lemahieu.
Producer: Nathalie Mansoux.
Director of photography: Joao Pedro Placido, Nathalie Mansoux, Miguel Sargento.
Editor: Justine Lemahieu.
Sales: Nathalie Mansoux.
No MPAA rating, 81 minutes.

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