Diogo Simão

For Diogo, being busy is a mindset, so you can always find him doing something, be it acting, directing, writing, or working on some new projects for Plutão de Verão – the cultural association whose artistic director he is. He thinks that everyone’s creative and that teachers have a very important role in motivating youth to go out there and experiment.

How’s your life going right now?

Right now, I’m working full-time on Faro’s candidacy for European Capital of Culture 2027…among other things. A lot of things. It’s a mindset. When I was in university, I did theatre, wrote for a few magazines, directed a short film, worked on a lot of movies sets as well. So, I kept myself busy outside of classes. Once the university finished, I kept working – I ran a film festival, then another one. I did more films and worked on more movie sets, then I did more theatre and wrote more plays and worked for more websites and created an association and got to work with a lot of professionals, which provided value to whatever I was doing.
I think 2021 was the year that I understood that I had to stop and learn to say “no”. I need to grow on a personal level as well, and that’s what I’ve been mostly working on this year.

If we had had this conversation last year, you’d have heard a different side of me, but the last year really changed my mindset on a lot of stuff – professional fulfillment is not everything to me anymore. I did accomplish a lot of things that I set out to accomplish once I entered the professional world, and right now I just want to rest and focus on myself and the people I care about.

What would you like to do when you grow up?

I’ve always wanted to tell stories and make things happen, and that’s what I’m doing right now. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I was already trying to write my first book, and I also used to watch a lot of movies. I had this big VHS collection which, once I got older, turned into an even bigger DVD and Blu-Ray collection. I did my first play when I was 9. Every year since then, I starred in at least one play, be it professional or amateur. 2020 was the first year when I didn’t do any work as an actor.

Something that fascinates me is working with youth. Nowadays, they are much smarter and world-savvier than I was. The Internet kind of changed everything. When I was a teenager, I only thought of watching wrestling (still do), playing games on PlayStation (still do), and spending my weekends with my friends on the Scouts (still do, but not on the Scouts). I felt zero need to be an activist on social causes. Kids are so much more in tune with what’s happening today and I am blessed to be around them and learn from them.

What do you think about Faro’s cultural development?

Even with Covid in the middle, there has been such a big growth in the last 3 years, like I’ve never seen before in Faro. Last week, there was a theatre festival (Mochila – Festival de Teatro para Crianças e Jovens) happening, this week there will be a music festival (Festival SIGA), at the end of November, another theatre festival will take place (MOMI – Festival Internacional de Teatro Físico). Amazing plays are coming here on a weekly or monthly basis. The tools are all here and the people are coming. There’s a big movie studio opening in Loulé, there’s another theatre and jazz festival that will take place there (Festival Contrapeso). Things are happening, and I’m very happy that I get to be part of it and see people grow and understand that they can actually do stuff here.

How does this city contribute to the audiovisual culture?

I had a teacher who taught a cinema class for a few years when I was in middle school. It was unusual for Portugal at that time. I know two people (including myself) that graduated from that class and went on to work in cinema.

Apart from that, it has a few production companies that make great content and a few relevant film festivals, but there’s not really much more than that. And there should be way more.

Actually, one of my main goals is to combine my passion for helping youth grow to their full potential with having a proper cinema degree in the university. If we are going to have a movie studio 15 minutes away from Faro, how come we don’t have a university with a degree in cinema?

Tell us about a project you remember dearly.

The one that’s closest to my heart right now is called “Sara Sara”. I worked on it for 3 years and it debuted this year. It was basically a monologue for a great actress, called Sara Afonso Vicente. The play is the result of sharing personal experiences between the two of us, very much like a therapy session. Our creative process was based on sharing things that we have never shared with anyone else and being honest like never before.

“Sara Sara” is a play on her name and the Portuguese verb “sarar”, which means “to heal”. So, in this case, the meaning is “Sara heals”. At the same time, Sara Sara is the name of a dormant volcano in the South of Peru, where the Incas used to sacrifice kids for the gods.

This play helped me grow tremendously as a human being and I think it helped Sara as well. We poured a lot of negative emotions, and our worst experiences into it, and shared them with the world with all the empathy we have. We knew that someone, somehow, would relate to it and achieve the same emotional catharsis we did.

What about Retrospectiva de um Faro futuro? 

That project consisted of reading urban legends about Faro that go from the time of the Moors, the Christians, and all those wars from 1000 years ago, until today. We got every theatre company from Faro working together. They had never worked together on the same project before, and I am very proud of being the first to make it happen.

One of the things that I loved the most was the legend of the future; we called it Esta lenda ainda não existe (“This legend doesn’t exist yet”). I wrote it myself for a friend of mine called Catarina Silva– a very good actress. It’s about what I think could happen if we don’t take measures to reduce global warming. Everything that makes Faro, Faro – the laughter, smell, people dancing in the street – is going to be taken over by the ocean if we don’t do something about it. She told the story in a very Miyazaki way and it was amazing.

Why legends? Are you interested in the fiction or truth behind them?

I’ve always been interested in fiction, but my eye has started shifting more towards real stories lately. There are so many random things happening right next to you. Why wouldn’t you do a documentary about a random guy that lives in downtown Faro and has a duck for a pet?

At the same time, I’ve always loved fiction, myths. When I was a kid, I had this thick book about myths from every culture – from the North, Greece, Rome, Incas. I’m still very interested in it today, but my intention, right now, is to tell stories about the place that I’m in.

Where do education and art meet?

Everyone’s creative. At some point in Faro2027, we asked people on the street to share their ideas about Faro and culture and they were like “I don’t know anything about culture”. Ok, but isn’t cooking culture? Isn’t football culture? Isn’t the place you live in culture? Isn’t the song that you used to sing when you were a kid culture as well?

I think people just need the right motivation to connect to their creativity. In this respect, I believe a teacher should motivate youth to go out there and experiment. I’ve taught a few classes and workshops and I caught myself doing the same thing that my teachers used to do, which was to explain stuff for a long long time. Even though I was excited and motivated while talking, I still felt like – “Oh, I’m just talking. I’m not doing”. Now, I’ve changed my approach and every time I have a class, I talk for 5 minutes and then tell them “Ok, now you have 10 minutes to experiment with what I’ve just said. Put that into practice.”. When they’re practicing, they’re creating something. When they’re creating something, they’re learning. And as long as you manage to motivate someone, that’s teaching.

What is the first thing on your mind when you think about Faro?

Faro is a goldmine. I think this place is full of potential, a lot of people have amazing ideas. If you go to Lisbon, or to bigger cities, there are going to be more people trying to implement a lot more ideas, and here, not many people do it. This creates a ripple effect and I’m beginning to see this with Faro’s candidacy for European Capital of Culture 2027.

Faro gave me space to grow my own ideas and make my own projects. Once I made them, I understood “Oh, this has an impact! People want more.” So, there’s space for other people like me to make things happen.

What would be the soundtrack of your life story?

Sam The Kid – Sendo assim. This track came out on the same day that my team and I closed the ‘Short Week’ project in IPDJ. We are in the exact same place where I listened to it the first time.

Basically, he talks about why he hadn’t released any song for so many years – because people just want fast things, this new attitude of not letting things grow on us, not letting the messages artists share stick with you. Also, he never tried to be better than anyone else, he just tried to be better than he was yesterday and help those around him grow. That’s something I can 100% relate to.

What is the place in Faro you are most connected to? Why?

 IPDJ. This is the place where my mom worked and where I spent a lot of my childhood because it always had theatre plays, concerts, exhibitions, fashion shows going on. I got to be part of that. My first theatre play as an actor was here, my second film debuted here, the project that changed my life (‘Short Week’) was also here.

© Photos by Beatrice Dragusanu