We Are One Film Festival: Day Six
Online Screen Editor, Jim Norman, explores the documentary Kmêdeus in his coverage of the WAOFF
‘Do not play with the philosophy of these people’, the epigraph to Nuno Miranda’s documentary, Kmêdeus, states. The film premiered at day six of the Festival and it is one of its most intriguing releases. Dance and the spoken word, painting and photography, fact and fiction, all combine in this interpretation of ‘Kmêdeus’, a mysterious man who used to walk the island of São Vicente. It considers the island’s relationship to cinema, colonialism and carnival, forcing its sub-60-minute runtime to be densely packed with snippets of information to build an image of its central muse and of the island itself.
Miranda cites the inspiration for Kmêdeus coming from a contemporary dance performance of the same name by António Tavares. In this performance, as well as is documented in the film, Tavares sought to explore the mystery figure of a man on the island who gained himself the name ‘Kmêdeus’ (‘Eat God’). It transpires that this figure – deemed by some to be a lunatic, some an artist, but deemed by all to be a mystery – acts as the very embodiment of the island’s worldview. He was a man who embraced the notion of creating an identity and not changing it in order to be socially acceptable.
Kmêdeus creates the image of a man in order to provide a voice for the island
The film combines a number of interviews, paintings, photos and clips from Tavares’ original performance in its exploration of the island. Each interview holds a certain artistic flare that is rarely felt in such a project – noting the interviewees’ jobs (actor, photographer, painter, cinephile, musician), it becomes apparent that São Vicente is an island that encourages artistic perseverance. The answers build up an image Kmêdeus similar to that which can be seen in epic poetry, but they also, seemingly unknowingly, build up an image of the island community itself.
It is true that the main focus is held on unravelling the mystery of the titular character, but the images of island life are an equally pertinent point of discussion. One local notes of the island that ‘reality surpasses fiction’, referencing São Vicente’s carnival and multi-ethnic identity as examples to support his point. Miranda pays special attention to the island’s passion for cinema and music, using each case study to explain the community’s acceptance of being whomever they desire.
Yet there is a dark shade that falls over the collection of interviews in the shape of decolonisation. The imprint of Western influence can still be seen throughout the island, and the notion of a communal identity is torn due to the island’s combination of Portuguese and African cultures. In his performative dance, Tavares wears an oversized fish head to portray Kmêdeus. This, he states, is used to represent the man’s two bodies, tapping into the notion of a duel identity that runs in the bloodstream of the island’s community. The film provides a scarcely explored look at a community in the process of self-fashioning. The identities that make up the island are multiple, and they collectively draw on this multiplicity.
Although short, Kmêdeus creates the image of a man in order to provide a voice for the island. It is an exploration of community, art, history and self-fashioning, building an image of São Vicente through the words of its inhabitants.