Their Land, Our Home

  • April 12, 2018

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Cities & Communities

About to be evicted from their homes, the last residents of Santa Filomena reflect on their lives in an informal neighborhood on the outskirts of Lisbon.

Weaving legend and reality, Their Land, Our Home is a snapshot of the final days of Santa Filomena, an informal neighborhood in the suburbs of Lisbon. The film gives a voice to those whose homes are being destroyed through the government’s out-dated and inadequate slum clearance program. Through their stories we see that the residents of Santa Filomena lose more than just their homes, but also their community, their identity and their sense of belonging. These things, once destroyed, are not easily rebuilt.

Established over thirty years ago, the neighborhood was built by people arriving from Cape Verde and other former Portuguese colonies as well as rural areas of Portugal, seeking work and a better future. People here face
 racism, discrimination and marginalization from the wider Portuguese society. Despite these hardships (or maybe because of them) residents have built a community where people have forged a strong sense of belonging and identity. Residents talk of neither being from Cape Verde or Portugal but of belonging to Santa Filomena.

Now their neighborhood is being reduced to rubble. The city council has sold the land to private developers and is playing the role of bailiff, evicting the whole neighborhood whilst only rehousing a fraction of the population. The reality of this action is that whole families have been made homeless. People are evicted with only a few hours notice. One minute they have a home, the next they are on the street with all of their belongings in boxes, watching their homes being reduced to rubble. People live in fear, not knowing when they will get a knock on their door and be told to leave their homes while the diggers rev their engines.

There are other neighborhoods around Lisbon currently undergoing the same process as Santa Filomena and still more are at risk. For more information on housing issues in Lisbon visit:

Ryan Powell

Ryan Powell is an award-wining filmmaker from the UK. His work focuses on landscape, contested spaces and the relationship between people and their built and natural environments.

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