In recent years, Lisbon has become one of the European Cities with the larger tourism growth. Each year, 6 million people come to visit the Portuguese capital: 200.000 tourists every day. Tourism brings opportunities in a city heavily hit by global crisis, but in the meanwhile, the city is basically disappearing: over the last 30 years, Lisbon lost about 300.000 inhabitants and today only 12.000 persons live in the city center. The opportunity is its economical development, but the risk is the lost of its identity.
Produced by: Stadslab European Urban Design Laboratory (Tilburg)
6 questions with You'll Soon Be Here director, Fabio Petronilli at the half-way mark.
Monday, February 6th, 2017
1Hey Fabio! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what inspired you to make a doc about Lisbon and Mouraria, are you from there? YOU'LL SOON BE HERE is a project within a project. In April 2016 I was involved with the Tilburg University and Stadslab European Urban Design Laboratory, to cover an international Masterclass about “City Making & Tourism Gentrification”, more specifically the radical gentrification of the historical Lisbon's city center caused by all the activities and investments related with mass tourism. So, this documentary is both part of that Masterclass, and more.
Mouraria is the main focus of several local associations (Renovar a Mouraria, Academia Cidada, etc) and the reason is that it is one of the "last" neighborhoods where the gentrification is already on going, but it's not that far gone, so it's still possible to find solutions through regulations. Mouraria is in its initial stage of gentrification, while others neighborhoods like Alfama, Castelo, etc. are already totally compromised. But this process also has a positive aspect: for instance just few years ago, the Mouraria was a place of drug dealings and prostitution, nowadays is almost completely rehabilitated. But the cost of living is too high, and local inhabitants struggle to stay.
2At first it seems like tourism is obviously to blame for the inhabitant loss in Mouraria, but then your doc carefully explains that it's much more complicated than that. Did you know before you made the doc that tourism wasn't the sole factor to blame? I think this is the most delicate topic nowadays in Lisbon (and not just in Lisbon: it's a worldwide issue): tourism gentrification is both a global and a local phenomena. But I also think - and this film try to stay equidistant and more objective as possible - that there are several forces on the field, and that the consequence are both negative than positive: a city (and a country) which base almost 70% of its income economy on tourism industry, is an unhealthy country. First because tourism cannot be anticipated, second because it brings a lot of problems to the weakest part of the society, which for example cannot afford to face the rising rental and life's cost. But tourism also has positive aspect: it brings new lymph to the urban, social and economical context, which in Portugal were mostly put in danger by global crisis of the 2007/2008.
As I said, there are more than one force on the field. The true challenge is to find a balance and to put regulations on the market, which nowadays is completely free and a sort of far west. The real goal is to keep the city's identity alive, and to use the tourism potential to improve the quality of life of the local communities.
3The need for regulations to help promote locals to remain in the city seems to be vital. How optimistic are you that this kind of change will occur? Lisbon is on the top 10 list of every travel web site nowadays. Somebody even compared it with the most famous cities, it is also being called "the new Berlin"... In fact, I think there are a lot of interesting young business and start ups, related with creativity, design, art and food, in town! I am quite positive tourism is a threat, but it's also and opportunity to use money to create something new, something that could be both traditional & innovative. I'm thinking about associations like Lisbon Sustainable Tourism, Renovar A Mouraria, or shops like Cortiço & Netos (azulejos), A Vida Portuguesa... or places like LX factory, where business and creativity are living together. I think that the new lisboetas generations have a great opportunity, and some of them are doing very well, and most importantly, without leaving their own amazing city.
4Stadslab is an interesting organization that claims is a design lab for cities. What were your thoughts meeting with them? Stadslab is first of a kind Think Tank. Their focus are cities and the dynamics within cities. Their approach is not just theoretical, but empirical: they begin with dialogue and sharing of ideas, but then they get on the field, they walk into the streets to try their theories, to meet real people and real issues, to dialogue with the city itself. In Lisbon, the different groups interview and get in contact with local people, asking about their problem and trying to find smart solutions. Their Masterclass are something very innovative and working with then has been a deep and challenging experience.
5Do you feel optimistic about Lisbon's future? Do you think it will be able to exist without losing its identity and inhabitants? I totally think so. But what is very necessary are regulations: people, institutions, local authorities and local communities must talk together, trying to find solutions. Tourism is something that cannot be eliminated, it is already changing the face of the city, and this is a risk: the risk to lose identity and authenticity. That's why it must be regulate, and doing this we must learn by other cities where this problem has been addressed successfully (for ex. Barcelona, San Francisco, Amsterdam)
6What's next? I'm actually working with a Lebanese NGO, making a documentary about the biggest Syrian refugees camp in Lebanon, where they are building the only school + playground for all the children population of the camp.
Other projects are related with Portugal (I have a special relation with it): a documentary about the Last Whaler alive of Pico (Azores), and a series of short films on the road, along the Atlantic Coast, looking for traditional Portugal, which is about to disappear. A sort of time travel, by van film.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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