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2,470 Ratings


Directed by Miguel Gomes
Portugal, Germany, 2012
Drama, Romance


A temperamental old woman, her Cape Verdean maid, and a socially-conscious neighbor live on the same floor of a Lisbon apartment complex. When the old lady falls ill, the other two learn of an outlandish episode from her youth: a story of love and crime set in Africa.

Our take

Miguel Gomes’s dazzling two-pronged tribute to old age, memory, & classic cinema is a bewitching, often funny journey with an atmosphere all its own. Like the ingenious Arabian Nights, Tabu is nearly impossible to categorize, but one thing’s for certain: it’s an arthouse high point of the 2010s.

Tabu Directed by Miguel Gomes

Awards & Festivals

Berlin International Film Festival

2012 | Winner: FIPRESCI Prize

Village Voice Film Poll

2012 | 2 nominations including: Best Director

Indiewire Critics' Poll

2012 | Nominee: Best Director

The strength of Tabu lies in how powerfully sex is captured, offering aural and visual textures that inspire sensorial memories. The black and white imagery of beautiful people making love behind layers of mosquito nets is a beautiful vision. The sex looks good, feels good, but it’s still just sex. But the nostalgia for this moment of time is unreal, rooted in a nostalgia for a broken system and a broken time.
July 16, 2015
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Despite the many reviews that describe it as “lush”, this extravagance is almost entirely an illusion, a tribute to Gomes’ ingenuity more than his budget. The director and his collaborators… have testified to the hard fact that, when they arrived on location in Africa, the budget evaporated – leaving the “central committee” listed in the credits with the task of devising a new, radically reworked script day by day.
February 06, 2014
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Without denying the devastating impact of Portuguese colonialism, Gomes acknowledges that it fed the colonials’ desire to experience life as the stuff of myth. In this regard, colonialism had much in common with cinema, enabling people to remake the world according to their own fantasies. Those fantasies may have died out, but Tabu unsettlingly suggests that they continue to haunt the Portuguese, who have yet to find a comparable dream to take their place in the imagination.
April 03, 2013
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What are people saying?

  • Jason's rating of the film Tabu

    I love Tabu. It seems like it has been joyfully jerry-rigged to represent all that is most wonderful in contemporary cinema. It is supremely global, though two key influences also have a Portuguese connection. The big one is Ruiz. But earlier Ruiz, primarily. Then, almost completely unrelated, Pedro Costa, I suspect consciously, in the first half. The split-in-two structure and use of sound also invoke Apichatpong.

  • GoSpeedGo!'s rating of the film Tabu

    Watched it for the fifth or sixth time last night and could go on about it for hours. The cut to Aurora's face when Ventura starts telling the story is still the most shiver-inducing transition. Ghosts from the past suddenly reemerge, probably more beautiful than they originally were, but that's life and memory for you. One of the best films of this century.

  • Michael H. CLAES's rating of the film Tabu

    Le Paradis & le Paradis Perdu, film étrange, inclassable, tragique & beau. Je dis souvent que quelque chose qui commence mal ne peut pas se terminer bien, en voici une édifiante illustration. Culte. Sans concession. Inoubliable. === Paradise & Paradise Lost, strange, tragic & beautiful film. I often say something that starts badly cannot end well, here's an uplifting illustration. Uncompromising. Unforgettable. Rare.

  • EdieMaas's rating of the film Tabu

    Was colonialism: A moment of untamed and passionate youth? The growing pains of an evolving moral consciousness? Simply evocative cinematic backdrop? If no, (hint: the answer is no) then we're left with some problematic filmmaking. Very glad this wasn't my first Gomes. Not that it didn't have charm, display talent, develop his style... It did. While being about as ill-advised and aversive as its characters. 2.75.

  • lndah's rating of the film Tabu

    I could hate this with my bearing as a kid growing up in a third world country. To put it aside, everything in this film is mesmerizing; the cast, the music, the narration, the color, all appear on its best to retell the story of forbidden and unspeakable romance. It managed to have style and effective story telling in balance. So neat.

  • Rafael Zen's rating of the film Tabu

    Poetry, voice over orgasms and photography - the three step flow of this film. Gomes builds a very grown up cinema, getting a lot of work done in 2 hours. Every scene is delightful, and every second you get deeper and deeper on his jungle dream. Tabu is a dreamy work of cinema as a form of art.

  • Drew Kelly's rating of the film Tabu

    A classic story told through an old lens in a technically new way. Love in a time of political unrest: the domination of Mozambique by colonialist Portugal as wrong as this youthful and careless less doomed to destroy everyone of their "friends" around them.

  • Zac Weber's rating of the film Tabu

    Tabu requires patience, but the 2nd half beautifully explores the construction of memory and identity. At times slow, but more often hypnotizing and mysterious. Gomes' film is all the more rich because of his ability to subtly capture the reverberations of Europe's colonial past. For instance, one cannot avoid the irony of Aurora telling Santa she is imprisoned by a monster. I yearned for more as the credits rolled.

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