João Rui Guerra da Mata was born in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique. He spent his formative years in Macao, China, then a Portuguese colony. He studied and trained in Graphic Design and Typography in Lisbon, Portugal, where he is currently based. Since 1995, he has been working in cinema as art director, production designer, costume designer, make-up artist, actor, assistant director, screenwriter and director.
In 2003 he was invited by Lisbon’s University of Theatre and Cinema (ESTC) to design the syllabus of the discipline of Art Direction/Production Design, which until then was non-existant, being that discipline’s teacher from 2004 to 2011.
In 2012, he directed AS THE FLAMES ROSE, his debut solo short, awarded at Locarno Film Festival Short Film Competition. Screened in several film festivals, it was honored with a Special Screening presentation at Turin International Film Festival about Jean Cocteau's "The Human Voice", featuring Rossellini's "Una Voce Umana" (1948) with Anna Magnani and Ted Kotcheff's "The Human Voice" (1966) with Ingrid Bergman.
He has co-directed several shorts and the feature THE LAST TIME I SAW MACAO (2012), with his lifelong partner and artistic collaborator, João Pedro Rodrigues, being the short IEC LONG (2014) their most recent joint effort in a body of work they like to call their “Asian films”.
He worked in most of Rodrigues’ features and shorts as a writer, being the last one WILL-O'-THE-WISP (2022). In 2016, he was honored, together with Rodrigues, with a COMPLETE RETROSPECTIVE AND INSTALLATION EXHIBITION at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, part of the Festival d’Automne.
Other international retrospectives include two itinerant retrospectives in Japan - Athénée Français, Tokyo, Yamaguchi Centre for Arts and Media, IndieTokyo, 2013/2015; The Road to Macao - The Floating Worlds of João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata, Harvard Film Archive, (2015); Taipei International Film Festival (2015); Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro (2017); Around « The Ornithologist », Harvard Film Archive (2017); FilmMadrid (2017); Festival Écrans Mixtes, Lyon, 2018; MALBA (Museu de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires), 2018.
Other Exhibitions include RAPAZES DA MARGEM SUL / SOUTH BANK BOYS (2006 / 2007), Drawings, Baliza Bar (Lisbon, 2007); CAVES OF IRON(Y): PAIN IS TEMPORARY, PRIDE IS FOREVER, #1, Installation, Baliza Bar (Lisbon, 2006); BAD MIRROR by The Vicious Five, Video-clip, JANCL, 2005; SANTO ANTÓNIO / SAINT ANTHONY, created with João Pedro Rodrigues for the Mimesis Art Museum in South Korea (26/11/2013 - 9/02/2014); ONDE É A CHINA? / WHERE IS CHINA? Collective exhibition - Beijing World Art Museum (Millenium Monument), China (16/05 – 04/06/2014) / Museu do Oriente (Fundação Oriente), Lisboa (29/05 – 06/07/2014) – presented ALVORADA VERMELHA / RED DAWN (2011), which was censored by the Chinese Authorities and banned from the exhibition in Beijing; DO RIO DAS PÉROLAS AO AVE / FROM THE PEARL RIVER TO THE RIVER AVE (02/07 - 25/09/2016), created together with Rodrigues for Solar, Cinematic Art Gallery, in Vila do Conde; IDENTIDADE NACIONAL / NATIONAL IDENTITY (PRÍNCIPE REAL), Installation created together with Rodrigues for BoCA, Biennial of Contemporary Arts, 2019.
His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Portuguese Cinematheque and the Cinémathèque Suisse.
His feature and some of his shorts had theatrical, DVD, TV and Streaming release in many countries, like the USA, France, Germany, Australia, etc.
All his films were released on DVD in France in 2014: Box Set L’Intégrale João Pedro Rodrigues (Epicentre Films) and all his short films were released in Portugal in 2016: DVD João Pedro Rodrigues & João Rui Guerra da Mata, As Curtas-Metragens (FNAC/ Curtas Vila do Conde).
Guerra da Mata was granted with the MacDowell Colony fellowship together with Rodrigues.
In March 2017 he gave a three week intensive Directing and Scriptwriting Masterclass, together with Rodrigues, at Universidade de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano and in September 2020 the workshop Fiction 2 meters apart at BoCA Biennial Summer School with Rodrigues, among others.
He wrote, together with Rodrigues and Miguel Ángel Fajardo, the fiction feature O SORRISO DE AFONSO/ AFONSO’S SMILE, and the short UM PRÍNCIPE NO QUARTEL/ A PRINCE IN THE BARRACKS with Rodrigues and Paulo Lopes Graça.
Together with Rodrigues, he is also working on their new Asian feature, SAN MA LOU 270, MACAU, project that won one of the Crouching Tigers Project Lab Awards at the International Film Festival & Awards – Macao in 2016.
ONDE FICA ESTA RUA? ou SEM ANTES NEM DEPOIS / WHERE IS THIS STREET? or WITHOUT BEFORE OR AFTER (feature), co-directed with João Rui Guerra da Mata
2021 - UM QUARTO NA CIDADE / A ROOM IN TOWN (short), co-directed with João Rui Guerra da Mata
2014 - IEC LONG (short), co-directed with João Pedro Rodrigues
2013 - MAHJONG (short), co-directed with João Pedro Rodrigues
2012 - A ÚLTIMA VEZ QUE VI MACAU / THE LAST TIME I SAW MACAO (feature), co-directed with João Pedro Rodrigues
O QUE ARDE CURA / AS THE FLAMES ROSE (short)
2011 - ALVORADA VERMELHA / RED DAWN (short), co-directed with João Pedro Rodrigues
2007 - CHINA, CHINA (short), co-directed with João Pedro Rodrigues