Cops, Robbers and Old People

On the winter solstice, in the region of Trás-os-Montes, magic and superstition combine. “Cops, Robbers and Old People” is an ode to the “Festa dos Velhos” (The festival of the old men), an ancient tradition from the remote village of Bruçó, Portugal. The dreamlike documentary explores this annual event, which takes place on Christmas Day in the remote village of Bruçó. The isolation of the Trás-os-Montes region allowed these ancient cultural traditions to survive and became interwoven with the region's identity. The “Caretos de Podence”, the pre-historical Celtic masked carnival seen in the film, recently gained a place on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity. While many villages and towns in Trás-os-Montes are suffering from rural depopulation, others are maintaining these stunning traditions and passing them on to new generations. Reflecting on the changes faced by Portugal’s rural mountain cultures in the 21st century, “Cops, Robbers and Old People” reminds us of the importance of documenting these traditions and their memory.