NHA Mila (Denise Fernandes) Portugal, Switzerland

NHA Mila
Denise Fernandes
Portugal / Switzerland. 2020. 18 min

After 14 years away from her homeland, Salomé is forced to return to Cape Verde to see her dying brother. During her stopover at Lisbon airport, Águeda a cleaning lady recognizes Salomé as “Mila”, her childhood friend. Águeda invites Salomé to leave the airport and spend the stopover at her home, with the women of her family. The neighborhood transports her on a spiritual journey, whose destination unfurls a painful bond with her homeland.


Denise Fernandes was born in Lisbon in 1990 from Cape Verdean parents and she was raised in southern Switzerland. In 2011 she graduated in film directing and production at the International Conservatory of Audiovisual Sciences in Lugano (CISA). In the same year, her diploma short film Una Notte debuted at the 64th edition of the Locarno FILM Festival. From 2011 to 2013, she studies filmmaking at Cuba’s International School of Film and TV (EICTV), where she directs Pan Sin Mermelada, which deserves the nomination of Upcoming Talent at the Solothurn Festival and Idyllium, awarded at the Winterthur International Festival. She is currently preparing her first feature film, Hanami, set in Cape Verde. Hanami was selected from 70 projects for the Solothurn Talent Lab 2016 and awarded the Best First Project by the Swiss Society of Authors (SSA).


Stopovers at the Lisbon airport are a habit for the Cape Verdean emigrant. The waiting time between one flight and another can last several hours, and many travellers end up visiting relatives who live in the nearby suburbs.
The story of NHA MILA is inspired by the stopover hours spent in Lisbon, a purgatory between the familiar and the innate, on a journey to a home that will always remain at a distance. The hours unfold into an inevitable search for an axis around which Cape Verdean emigrants can recompose the pieces of a complex identity. NHA MILA traces a serpentine route from that centre, taking us through an itinerary unknown by the usual guidebooks and brochures of Lisbon.


In Cape Verdean Creole, “nha” is a strong affective term that literally translates as “mine” or “dear”. NHA MILA, therefore, means Dear Mila. The film was shot in Lisbon’s Portela neighborhood with four incredible women, three of them making their screen appearance debut.
Cleo Tavares, who plays Sheila, is known for her role in Diamantino by Gabriel Abrantes (winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes Critic’s Week, in 2018).
The short was filmed by Marta Simões, known for her work in Flores (Toronto IFF 2017) and Past Perfect by Jorge Jácome (Berlinale 2019). NHA MILA is Denise Fernandes’ fourth short film.


HANAMI (in development) SWITZERLAND | PORTUGAL | CAPE VERDE, feature film , 100’
NHA MILA, short-film | 18’30’’ | PORTUGAL | SWITZERLAND
production | ventura film (Switzerland).
IDYLLIUM, short-film |14’ | CUBA | 2013 production | Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión (EICTV).
PAN SIN MERMELADA, short-film | 12’ | CUBA | 2012 production | Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión (EICTV).
UNA NOTTE, short-film |28’ | SWITZERLAND | 2011 production | CISA Lugano, RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera.