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CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, THE ENIGMA (CRISTOVAO COLOMBO-O ENIGMA) (director/writer: Manoel De Oliveira; screenwriters: Manuel da Silva & Sílvia da Silva-inspired by the book “Cristóvão Colon Era Português; cinematographer: Sabine Lancelin; editor: Valérie Loiseleux; music: José Luís Borges Coelho; cast: Ricardo Trêpa(Manuel Luciano), Leonor Baldaque (Sílvia), Jorge Trêpa (Hermínio Luciano), Manoel De Oliveira (2007 Manuel Luciano), Maria Isabel de Oliveira(2007 Silvia); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: François d’Artemare; Epicentre Films-PAL form DVD; 2007-Portugal-in Portuguese with English subtitles)
A slight but oddly entertaining film about checking for the true identity of Christopher Columbus.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A slight but oddly entertaining film about checking for the true identity of Christopher Columbus by the master Portuguese filmmaker Manoel De Oliveira (“The Strange Case of Angelica”/”A Talking Picture”/”I’m Going Home”), who was born in 1908. It’s enticing, controversial and provocative, but it raises questions that in the end it can’t show the proof to ascertain that the discoverer of America was Portuguese and not Italian as it claims. The true story, adapted from the book by Manuel da Silva & Sílvia da Silva, follows a Portuguese doctor/amateur researcher and his wife who go on a life journey in order to prove that discoverer Christopher Columbus was of Portuguese origin.

In 1946, twenty-something Portuguese siblings Manuel and Herminio Da Salva (Ricardo and Jorge Trepa) immigrate to the United States to better themselves.Manuel becomes a medical doctor and returns to Portugal to marry in 1960 Sylvia (Leonor Baldaque), while Herminio stays in America and gets in involved in movies. On their honeymoon, Manuel and Sylvia go to Cuba and try to track down where Columbus was born under the name Zarco later changed to Colon. The director buys into Manuel’s belief that the explorer was not born in Genoa, but on the Cuban island of Porto Santo. It ends with the lifetime searching senior citizen couple (Maria Isabel de Oliveira & Manoel De Oliveira) visiting in 2007 Manhattan’s Columbus Circle and still trying to make their case, but only raising questions and not providing answers one could pound the table for.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”