Anyone familiar with minimalist and truly independent Portuguese director Pedro Costa’s work will not be surprised by the unconventional style of the trailer for his latest seamless mix of documentary and drama, “Horse Money.” Consisting entirely of high contrast static shots of poor and disenfranchised immigrants living in the Fontainhas area in Lisbon, the trailer doesn’t give a single hint regarding any possible narrative content, not that we should hold out much hope that there will be any. Newcomers might be taken back by Costa’s approach, but for his fans it will more than likely feel like returning home (read our review).
This is the fourth feature by Costa taking place in Fontainhas, and his use of static, documentary-style shots bathed in bright light and the darkest of dark is his calling card. Yet he’s still not a director who can be easily pigeonholed into a predictable, easily marketable box. He operates with next-to-no budgets and minimal crews (sometimes consisting only of himself) in order to do everything his way without interference by “producers,” which he considers to be an ugly word.
If you’d like to find out more about Costa’s frustrating life as a filmmaker working a considerable distance outside any established system, the excellent “HBO Director’s Dialogues” interview represents the perfect starting point. Instead of spewing empty platitudes about the fresh and liberating qualities of independent cinema, he gets down and dirty about the many practical challenges of constructing his work in a refreshingly honest fashion. It’s a valuable crash course for any budding indie filmmaker.