José and Pilar

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José and Pilar
Cinematic release poster
Directed by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes
Produced by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes
Ana Jordão
Daniela Siragusa
Starring José Saramago
Pilar del Río
Gael García Bernal
Fernando Meirelles
Music by Adriana Calcanhoto
Bruno Palazzo
Luís Cila
Pedro Granato
Pedro Gonçalves
Cinematography Daniel Neves
Edited by Cláudia Rita Oliveira
Release dates
  • 25 September 2010 (2010-09-25) (Brazil)
  • 18 November 2010 (2010-11-18) (Portugal)
Running time
117 minutes
Country Portugal
Language Portuguese

José and Pilar (Portuguese: José e Pilar) is a Portuguese documentary directed by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes following the last years of the Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, chiefly through his relationship with his resolute wife, Pilar del Río. Highly praised by the critics and the audience, the film seems to have accomplished to show the tenderness, the genuine integrity and the deeply concerned humanity behind such controversial figure and his spouse. It gathers sequences from Madrid to Helsinki to Rio de Janeiro and covers Jose and Pilar's life in Lanzarote, their trips around the world (presenting José's books, signing autographs, making speeches) and their most simple, transient and quotidian moments, as for during the period José writes his "The Elephant's Journey". The film was produced by Miguel Mendes' JumpCut (Portugal), Fernando Meirelles's O2 and Pedro Almodóvar's El Deseo.


"The Elephant's Journey", in which Saramago narrates the adventures and antics of an elephant transported from the court of King John III of Portugal to that of the Austrian Archduke Maximillian, is the starting point of José and Pilar.

The film shows us their daily life in Lanzarote and their trips around the globe, and is a surprising portrayal of an author throughout the creative process of a couple decided to change the world, or at least to make it a better place. The film shows us an hidden Saramago, unravels any preconceived ideas we may have about the man and proves that genius and simplicity are indeed compatible. José and Pilar is a glimpse into one of the greatest creators of the Twentieth Century and shows us that, as Saramago said, "everything can be told in a different way."


Accomplishments and nominations[edit]

  • Five months in the portuguese theaters (historical maximum).
  • The first Portuguese film co-produced with internationally high ranked film production companies (O2 and El Deseio).
  • First Portuguese film to ever open the International Documentary Film Festival of Lisbon (DocLisboa) (2010).
  • The Portuguese (Portugal) film with the widest distribution and the largest audience to ever premiere in Brazil.
  • One of the greatests word-to-mouth successes of the 2010 Rio de Janeiro Film Festival (world premiere), among three hundred other films.
  • Opened the Ronda International Political Cinema Film Festival, introduced by the Judge Baltazar Garzón.
  • Got a 1300 people audience at the spanish premiere, in Madrid, on January 17.
  • Attended the Guadalajara International Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film festivals in Latin America (out of competition).
  • Winner of the Audience Award in the São Paulo Film Festival.
  • Nominated by the Portuguese Authors Society for Best Film (2011).
  • Best Film of the year by Visão and top 5 Best Films by Time Out Portugal.
  • Nominated for Best Film, Best Editing and Best Soundtrack by the Brazilian Academy of Cinema.
  • Portuguese submission for a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.[1][2]


  • " (...) it's so carefully constructed that at times it feels like fiction, shuttling easily and with a surprising level of intimacy between Saramago, the public persona, and Saramago, the private man.” in Variety (USA).
  • "The film portrays Jose's clearheaded pessimism in his quests for human rights." in Cahiers du cinéma (Spain).
  • "An amazing film about the love that tied them and the exhausting daily routine of a public figure." in Diário de Notícias (Portugal).
  • "José and Pilar is a documentary, but a documentary that dissolves the illusion of the pure documentary. The end of a cicle. A monument to the glory of a writer." in Público (Portugal).
  • "Miguel Gonçalves Mendes took four years to make this documentary but watching it makes us realize it will last for much longer." in Expresso (Portugal)
  • "(...) a documentary about a unique relationship (...) you don't even have to be fond of José Saramago, his books or share his ideology to like José and Pilar." in Time Out (Portugal).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ""José e Pilar" na corrida aos Oscars". Jornal de Noticias. Retrieved 2011-09-09. 
  2. ^ "63 Countries Vie for 2011 Foreign Language Film Oscar". Retrieved 2011-10-14. 

External links[edit]