Following graduation from the Escola de Cinema at Portugal's Conservatorio Nacional in 1976, João Botelho is best known for his internationally acclaimed adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic novel Hard Times, Tempos Dificeis (1987). Botelho became interested in film while studying engineering. He abandoned engineering studies to attend film school, and shortly after graduation found occasional work as a graphic artist and film critic, as well as founding a short-lived film magazine. Botelho made his directorial debut with the documentary Um Projecto de Educação/A Project for Popular Education, which he co-helmed with Jorge Alves da Silva. He directed his first solo effort, Conversa Acabada/The Conversation Is Over, in 1981. For Tempos Dificeis, Botelho received prizes from the 1987 Venice Film Festival. In 1994, Botelho was commissioned to make a film about Portugal's most famous city, Lisbon, to celebrate its designation as a European capital of culture. The film was part of a trilogy, each one depicting part of a typical day in Lisbon. Botelho's film Tres Palmieras covered the hours of six a.m. to two p.m. and was comprised of a series of interesting short vignettes. Botelho did not make another film until Trafico (1998).