Journal of Romance Studies

Lovers, not fighters

Left politics and brandos costumes in Capitães de Abril

Journal of Romance Studies (2016), 16, (2), 12–35.

Abstract

The popularity of Maria de Medeiros’s Capitães de Abril [April Captains] (2000) has made it a significant reference point in perceptions and post-memory of the Portuguese revolution. This article argues that the film presents the 25 April 1974 coup as a restitution of social justice predicated on the long-established notion of Portuguese brandos costumes [‘gentle customs’]. By foregrounding the April captains’ commitment to non-violent regime change, and their attitudes of humility, empathy and good humour, the film opposes them to an authoritarian regime whose arrogant, stubborn and brutal defenders repeatedly traduce ‘traditional’ national values. The endemic nature of brandos costumes is meanwhile implied by representing army conscripts and the common people as ill-suited to military engagement, but strongly disposed to ‘feminine’ values of love, solidarity and compassion. Ultimately, Capitães’s appropriation of this national myth revises the gender politics of the April Revolution’s commemorations but reinforces paternalistic conceptions of Portuguese social organization.

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Sabine, Mark