Vacationland presents

{Um Reino Maravilhoso}

A film by Carlos Carneiro 

In the Douro valley, the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, an annual tradition takes place. “A Wonderful Kingdom” is a feature documentary that captures this beautiful and remote region that comes alive for the wine harvest each year, and follow the local characters who instill its spirit through their hands.

In the mountains of Portugal, amidst the stunning, timeless vineyards of the Douro Valley lies the heart and soul of Old World winemaking. Once a year a divine ritual begins, the harvesting of the season's grapes by the generations-old families who pick, carry, and stomp their way through September with blood-red feet, stained by grape juice. Celebrating tradition over mythology, “A Wonderful Kingdom” is an homage to these hard-working folks - they are the lifeblood that flows through the rocks of the region.   Narrated by Malcolm McDowell and set to prose by the iconic poet Miguel Torga, this hypnotic, observational documentary unfurls across the epic beauty and austerity of both nature and humanity.

A Wonderful Kingdom is a visual feast, a poetic meditation on heritage winemaking, and, above all, a love letter to Portugal. Stepping outside the conventions of standard wine documentaries and travelogues, this cinematic journey takes viewers into the heart and soul of Portugal’s Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.
Defined in many ways by its geography, the uniqueness of this province, Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, lies in its isolation and challenging climate.  Here, where little can be farmed but grapes, olives, and almonds, dusty hills were terraced to give grape vines maximum exposure to the sun, and the land took on the particular contours that define its beauty today.           

The art of cultivating the valley’s fruits and transforming them into distinctive varieties of wine has been passed on, generation after generation, for nearly 300 years. Each September, this tradition of winemaking comes fully alive in the hearts and hands of the people who gather from nearby towns and villages to work the vineyards.
From the valley’s harsh soil and intimidating terrain, comes one of the most beautiful rituals of the year: the fall wine harvest.  While introducing viewers to process and local culture, this is more a film about the human spirit: a story of triumph over adversity, the preservation of tradition in the face of globalization, and the admirable labors of ordinary people who have not only adapted to an inhospitable climate—they have made the most of it.

Casting their work in a noble light and the Douro Valley as an enchanted land, the words of late Portuguese literary giant Miguel Torga set the tone for the film’s voiceover. His poetic observations are all the more stirring when delivered through the commanding voice of one of Hollywood’s most legendary actors, Malcolm McDowell, who narrates A Wonderful Kingdom. Together, these artists convey something of the essence of Portugal—earthy, proud, sensual, self-sufficient—teasing out what is mythic and profound about the reality of the Transmontanos, a people hunched over the soil for generations.

One part slow cinema, one part observational documentary, A Wonderful Kingdom is a portrait of the Douro Valley and a meditation on place, time, work, and tradition. There is no gimmickry, no reliance on exposition, and there are no interviews with vineyard owners. From the visual style to the editing choices to the music and sound design, every detail of the film echoes the attention to craft the film celebrates. The repetition of the traditional wine harvest is a back-breaking process: picking and transporting grapes from across the valley and crushing them by foot, day after day. But people fall into a rhythm with such work, and the film taps into the sense of time in which this work is done. In editing the film, it was paramount to find and meticulously craft a completely different sense of time than what viewers may be used to.

Moving away from clock-based, industrial time, and away from faster editing styles that are the hallmark of advertising and Hollywood-influenced cinema, the film allows moments to unfold as fully as possible and calls attention to the rhythms inherent in the work, the land, and the dance between people and nature.
Rather than entertaining or aiming to merely inform, the film instead seeks to elicit a hypnotic effect that moves the viewer deeper into the experience.
Slow tracking shots evoke the time it takes to harvest grapes and handcraft wine, while stunning aerial views give the Douro River and the valley’s striking cliffs and steep vineyard slopes extra gravitas.  Picking up on the rhythm of the editing and amplifying the impact of the visuals, both the music and sound design ebb and flow the way the work itself does.

Taken together, the deliberateness of this cinematic approach allows the viewer to feel that they are soaring above the land, toiling in the field, moving among the wine presses, or heartily dining with the Transmontanos after a hard day’s work.
The film is meant to induce a certain calm, a certain state of mind, a certain sense of intimacy and, above all, to transport the audience to the wonderful kingdom. From its gritty characters and their boisterous camaraderie to its captivating vistas, evocative contrasts, and the earthy abundance it captures, A Wonderful Kingdom is an homage to a place, its people, and a way of life.

In a world that too often stresses short-term gains and short-lived trends, this film slows down to celebrate the opposite: longevity, continuity, quality, heritage, and the rugged alchemy that turns grapes into wine and labor into pleasure—a sacred process in the Douro Valley, perfected by the ancestors of the Transmontanos centuries ago and one that, no doubt, will be carried on by their children for centuries more.

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