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New Film Festival Celebrates Cape Verdean Culture

Growing up in New Bedford, Ronald Barboza often heard his Cape Verdean-born grandparents speaking fondly about "their country." Now, Barboza has created a Cape Verdean Film Festival that will honor the history and film of his ancestry.

By Lillian Baulding

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A feature from the Boston Film and Video Foundation

When high school physical education teacher and photographer Ronald Barboza was growing up in New Bedford, he often heard his Cape Verdean- born grandparents speaking fondly with family and friends about growing up in "their country." Barboza has always remembered these stories, and when he thought of creating a Cape Verdean film festival eight years ago, he knew that other members of the Cape Verdean community in the area would welcome the idea. "Everybody’s working hard. We’re starting from scratch, and we don’t have a lot of experience," says Barboza, "but it’s [the festival's] unique. It’s not all about film. It’s about the minority community of New Bedford coming together."

The Cape Verdean Film Festival, sponsored by the New Bedford Historical Society, will run from April 17 through April 25, at six different locations in New Bedford. A variety of independent and commercial films will be shown, including Fintar O’Destino [Dribbling Fate], a 1997 film by Fernando Vendrell about a soccer player's struggle to decide whether he should stay in Cape Verde or find fortune in Portugal, and Pol Ciuchten’s Black Jude, a film about a man’s search for his father in Europe, which was shot in Cape Verde, Luxembourg, Belgium and Portugal.

Barboza feels that the film festival will provide the public with a better understanding of the Cape Verdean community’s history in New Bedford. The city’s whaling industry attracted many Cape Verdean immigrants, and it became a center from which Cape Verdeans moved to other cities like Boston and Brockton. Whaling footage dating back to 1916 will be shown. In addition, the festival will feature Down to the Sea in Ships, a 1921 film, starring Clara Bow, which employed Cape Verdean whalers as extras, including Theopolos Fredes, whose grandchildren will be attending the festival.

The festival has also been granted permission to screen 1937 for the first time in 50 years. The film’s title refers to the year New Bedford resident Marty Rose traveled to Cape Verde to shoot film footage of the islands. The film was first shown in 1938, and includes scenes of New Bedford. Barboza had heard of Rose as he visited New Bedford Cape Verdeans in their homes, talked with them and looked at their old photos. Rose’s son loaned 1937 to the festival. Barboza transferred the film to video and showed it to elderly residents of New Bedford and Cape Verde. Many of them recognized old friends, remembered when they immigrated, and what they did in New Bedford.

A still photographer who has also chosen the islands of Cape Verde as his main subjects, Barboza has been there nine times, and says he now has the largest collection of photographic images of Cape Verde in the country. In 1995, his works were displayed at the Smithsonian Institute‘s Folk Arts Exhibit. He also began videotaping his trips in 1985.

The festival will include a photo exhibit, poetry readings, lectures, live music and food. Partial funding has been provided by Polaroid, People’s Savings Bank and The New Bedford Arts Council, but Barboza adds that they still need further funding. "We have a lot of work remaining to do, and I’d like other people to know about the island of Cape Verde."

f you would like to learn more about the Cape Verdean Film Festival, please call the New Bedford Film Society at 508-996-3411, http://www.ultranet.com/~rbarboza/