An Outpost of progress

Posto avançado do progresso

A film by Hugo Vieira da Silva

Starring Nuno Lopes, Ivo Alexandre, David Caracol

At the end of the nineteenth century, two inexperienced Portuguese colonizers, with a vague intention of civilizing the colonies, disembark in a remote part of the Congo River in order to coordinate a trading post.

As time goes by, they become increasingly demoralized by their inability to profit from the ivory trade. A mutual feeling of distrust and misunderstadings with the locals isolate them at the heart of the tropical jungle. Faced with each other, they begin a journey towards the abyss.

  • 2015

Release date


Nuno Lopes - João de Mattos
Ivo Alexandre - Sant`Anna
David Caracol - Makola
Inês Helena
António Mpinda
José Manuel Mendes
Cleonise Malulo
Domingos Sita
Miguel Delfina (Pagé)


Written and directed by Hugo Vieira da Silva
Based on the story “An Outpost of Progress” by Joseph Conrad
Produced by Paulo Branco, Ana Pinhão Moura
First assistente director Pedro Madeira
Sound Pierre Tucat
Cinematography Fernando Lockett
Art direction Isabel Branco
Editing Paulo Mil Homens
Decors João Dourado Santos
Costume design Tânia Franco
Make-up Íris Peleira
Casting Zé G. Pires
Coreography assistant Cláudia Dias
Unit production manager Sofia Carvalho
First assistant camera Inés Duacastella
Key grip Guillermo Saposnik
Sound mixing and editing António Lopes
Foley artist Pascal Maziere
Colorist Marco Amaral

Production Alfama Films
In co-production with Leopardo Filmes
Executive production República Filmes
With the support of RTP and ICA

Filmed in Congo River, Soyo, Porto do Pinda, Porto Rico and the community of Kimpondo, region of Zaire, Angola.

Hugo Vieira da Silva

Born in Oporto, Portugal. After studying law at the Catholic university in Oporto from 1992 to 1995, Hugo Vieira da Silva graduated from the Lisbon School of Theater and Cinema (ESTC). After receiving a grant from the Nipkow Grant fellowship programme 2003 he moved to Berlin.

His first feature film, “Body Rice” (2006) produced by Paulo Branco, won several intrenational awards, most notably: “Special Mention” of the Official competition in Locarno (2006), the “Best Director” award in Buenos Aires (Bafici 2007) and in Mexico City (Ficco 2007). Furthermore, the film was selected for several competitive international sections and distributed in Portugal and France.

“Swans” (2011) his second feature was selected for “l'Atelier” at the Cannes Film Festival (2009), Binger Filmlab (2008) and awarded at the Torino Filmlab Development (2008). Distributed in several countries by The Match Factory, “Swans” was selected for the Berlinale Official Selection 2011 (Forum) and several other international festivals.

He just finished his new feature film “Outpost of Progress” (2016)- a Portuguese mimicry of the Joseph Conrad story (1897) produced again by Paulo Branco and shot in Africa near the Congo River (Angola). Hugo Vieira da Silva currently lives and works between Vienna (Austria) and Lisbon.

2016 An Outpost of Progress (feature film)
2011 Swans (feature film)
2006 Body Rice (feature film)    

Nuno Lopes

Born in Lisbon in 1978, Nuno Lopes graduated from the Lisbon Theatre and Film School and frequented the Master Class in the École des Maîtres. He also received private lessons from Robert Castle, Susan Batson, Tom Brangle and Wass M. Stevens.

In theatre, Nuno Lopes interpreted texts by such playwrights as Bertolt Brecht, William Shakespeare, Pierre Corneille, Heiner Müller or August Strindberg, and was directed by some of the most important stage directors in Portugal.

In television he was part of the cast of some of the most memorable comedic shows of the last decades. In cinema, Lopes started his work with a small role in “God’s Comedy” by João César Monteiro. Five years later, he collaborated for the first time with José Álvaro Morais in “Moonfish”, working with the director again in 2002, in “Lent”. He also worked with the renowned stage and film director Jorge Silva Melo in “António, Um Rapaz de Lisboa”.

In 2005 he would have one of the most important roles of his career in “Alice” by Marco Martins, a film which premiered at the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, as a father who suffers from the disappearance of his daughter and uses all sorts of methods to keep alive the belief that she will be found. This role gave him several accolades from the international critics and awards, including the Shooting Star at the Berlin Film Festival.

Em 2012 he was one of the stars of “Blood of My Blood” by João Canijo and “Lines of Wellington” by Valéria Sarmiento. The following year he starred in “Obsessive Rhythms” by Fanny Ardant.

Selected filmography:
2015 “An Outpost of Progress” by Hugo Vieira da Silva
2015 “Capitão Falcão” by João Leitão
2013 “Obsessive Rhythms” by Fanny Ardant
2012 “Lines of Wellington” by Valeria Sarmiento
2011 “Operation Autumn” by Bruno de Almeida
2011 “Operation Libertad” by Nicolas Wadimoff
2010 “Blood of My Blood” by João Canijo
2008 “Nuit de Chien” by Werner Schroeter (special participation)
2007 “Noise” by Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra (special participation)
2007 “Efeitos Secundários” by Paulo Rebelo
2006 “Olho Negro” by Paolo Marinou Blanco
2006 “Goodnight Irene” by Paolo Marinou Blanco
2004 “Alice” by Marco Martins
2003 “Ma Mère” by Christophe Honoré
2002 “Lent” by José Álvaro de Morais
1999 “Peixe-Lua” by José Álvaro de Morais
1999 “António, Um Rapaz de Lisboa” by Jorge Silva Melo

Ivo Alexandre

Ivo Alexandre started his career in television in 1994. Since then he has maintained a prolific career, working in both film and television. In television he has been part of the cast of several of the most watched and most beloved television shows in Portugal. In cinema he has worked with directors like Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra (in “Between the Fingers”) or António-Pedro Vasconcelos (in “Os Gatos Não Têm Vertigens”).

Selected filmography:
2015 “An Outpost of Progress” by Hugo Vieira da Silva
2014 “Os Gatos Não Têm Vertigens” by António-Pedro Vasconcelos
2013 “Bairro” by Jorge Cardoso, Lourenço de Mello, José Manuel Fernandes, Ricardo Inácio
2010 “Conta-me Como Foi” (TV-Series)
2009 “Equador” (TV-Series adapted from Miguel Sousa Tavares’ novel)
2007 “Noise” by Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra
2000 “Cães Raivosos” by Paulo Castro

David Caracol

David Caracol is a young actor from Angola, “An Outpost of Progress” is his first feature in cinema.

Selected filmography:
2015 An Outpost of Progress by Hugo Vieira da Silva

  • Berlin International Film Festival 2016

    Official Selection

  • Las Palmas Internacional Film Festival 2016

    Best Actor Award - David Caracol

Hugo Vieira da Silva

Director's Statement & Interview

I have wished to make a film in Angola for a long time. As a young man my idea of Africa faded between vague images of what I had never seen and sparse family memories colored by the omnipresence of colonial mitologies so frequent in Portugal. For a long time, I have had the suspicion that these vague memories hide fundamental things. Africa is a ghost that still haunts my generation, the one born after the independence of the colonies. It was in this context that I accidentally crossed paths with Joseph Conrad’s short-story "An outpost of progress" (1897), a powerful piece about colonialism, about issues of otherness and the ambiguous relationship between colonizer and colonized.

I wanted to tranlate the short-story to the Portuguese colonial context, which has a primordial and ancient connection with the Congo and to explore the portuguese presence in Africa sketching and mapping a possible system of symptoms of the Portuguese colonialism in the late nineteenth century.

Conrad’s short-story is an extremely strong kaleidoscope which depicts the complexity of the colonial relationship, relativizing the glances and positions of the characters. There is no good or evil, only relations of power, transfers, inter-dependencies and mimetic processes ocurring.

The fundamental issues in my version are the ilusion of communion of cultures and the impossibilities of translation. I wanted to explore the idea of reasons coliding, of the deaf-dialogue which repeats itself throughout the centuries between Angolans and Portuguese.

I wanted to think of the old Portuguese traders of the nineteenth century, vaguely civilizing, vaguely in line with the international currents of the time, carrying the weight of 400 years of colonization, infected by the powerful colonial mythologies of a very old country, of small trade and poverty. Peripheral Portuguese people, not very cosmopolitan, ancient and modern all at once.

Looking at them, male bodies, austere, desiring, distressed, but also extrordinarly adaptive and flexible, oblivious palimpsests of 400 years of history. One day colonialists, another claiming not to be it, in a sort of schizophrenia which can only be rooted in a deep repression and denial process. The antecedents of our bodies, eventually of my body, because I am fascinated by the extraordinary hipotheses of a «history of physicality of bodies and gestures», imagined by Aby Warburg.

Hugo Vieira da Silva


Is An Outpost of Progress a film about colonialism, about the adventurous members of the expeditions in Africa in the 19th century or about the European civilizing mission?

The film is mostly about Portuguese colonialism, which in part reflects the European civilizing ideology at the time, but also contains very particular features, because in the 19th century Portugal’s presence in Africa had been going on for around 400 years. By the end of the 19th century, Portugal began importing into its colonies the new Anglo-Saxon models regarding “progress” and “civilization”. At first these seemed odd to Portugal’s traditional form of presence in Africa. The two main characters of this film, João de Mattos and Sant’anna, represent that generation of Portuguese people for whom, in the light of that new mentality, central Africa gradually becomes a place of “incomprehension”, thus leaving them at a crossroads identity-wise. My version also focuses on how the memory of the ancient relations between the Portuguese and the Congolese was repressed by this new generation. These repressions (yet very common in Portuguese history) favor the emergence of phantasms. In this film it is precisely the ghosts of that forgotten past that emerge from Congo’s rainforest to haunt the Portuguese. And the ghosts relate to that common history: slavery, the inquisition (which existed in the tropics as well), the Congolese cultural idiosyncrasy and its icons… essentially a long amnesiac cloak that has lasted to this day.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is that it is a chamber film, a “huis clos” set in Africa, a continent we always think about in terms of wide open areas, endless jungles, and unknown territorial limits. Would you care to comment?

I worked in central Africa in the tropical and sub-tropical areas, along the Congo River, a place with impenetrable and labyrinthine jungles inhabited by the Kongo peoples to the north and south, in their ethnical variety and complexity. It is an area that, in the late 19th century, was divided by the geometrically drawn borders of modern colonialism. Africa before “Berlin Conference” (1984) is full of kingdoms and potentates. In the early 19th century, for instance, in order to trade with kings and chiefs located in the hinterland, a Portuguese trader departing from the coast as usual would have to cross dozens of borders and pay tribute to the local chiefs before he reached his destination. This form of trade lasted 400 years and was a means to ensure that the local governance structures were maintained. From the 19th century onward, with the arrival of the new European colonial powers, and with the effective territorial occupation, a sort of physical, social and cultural “ground-levelling” took place and led to the disappearance of that Africa. That’s when the idea of Africa as an empty space, without boundaries, history or memory — the “non-place” — emerges in Europe. This notion is romanticized, for example, by Conrad in Heart of Darkness, which, despite denouncing colonialism, describes Congo as a sort of mythical, wild, unsound and terrible place. On the other hand, in Conrad’s most ingenious and seminal work (in my opinion, An Outpost of Progress), the jungle is a small stage where the misunderstandings and ambiguities of the colonial relationship between colonizer and colonized are staged in a game of hide-and-seek, almost burlesque, where the African characters finally gain subjectivity. I wanted to highlight that theatrical aspect.

I took a great interest in the way you explored magical thought and the cosmologies of the Congo region. And an aspect that is very well approached, in my view, is the inability by the two Portuguese traders to understand that kind of thought. In their case, irrationality comes only through madness. Do you agree?

Yes, I do. Regarding this, there is a fascinating book written by an American anthropologist, Johannes Fabian, called Out of our Minds — Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa, where, by systematically deconstructing the travel logs and journals of European explorers, scientists and traders who wandered through tropical Africa in the late 19th century, he proves that these documents were often idealized or inaccurate and that, most of the time, these Europeans were in a permanent state of ecstasy caused by the disease, high doses of quinine, alcohol, opiates and other drugs. The hypothesis, which I find very pertinent, is that the European explorers only transcended their social and psychological limitations when they were in that ecstatic “zone”, managing a certain degree of immersion into the local cultures, which might have provided some dialogues or sporadic relations that were a little more “horizontal” than the colonial system might have you believe. I would say the madness of my characters is caused both by the inability to comprehend the other and by the emergence of the repressed, but I would like to think of it as a chance for cultural immersion, which could probably exist only when the bodies forget who they are…

Why did you opt for giving European noble names to the Africans and dressing them in court clothes?

In my free version of An Outpost of Progress, unlike the original, the present interweaves with the past, nullifying chronological time. In the same scene, in the present time of the film (late 19th century), there are ghost-like echoes of characters who were forgotten in those 400 years of relationship. There had been, since the 16th century, a Congolese kingdom with a social structure that was thoroughly copied from the Portuguese kingdom, as if in the middle of the rainforest, in the 16th century, a copy of Portugal had been built under African kings and noblemen with Portuguese names and identities.

Interviewed by António Pinto Ribeiro

News about An Outpost of progress

AN OUTPOST OF PROGRESS, Hugo Vieira Da Silva in French theaters now

Paulo Branco (Alfama Films) presents AN OUTPOST OF PROGRESS by Hugo Vieira Da Silva, based on the novel by Joseph Conrad, starring Nuno Lopes, Ivo Alexander, David Caracol, in theaters May 10, 2017.

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