Latin American Competition
Best Feature Film Ex Aequo - «Baronesa» and «Cocote»
Andreia and Leidiane reside in a favela in Belo Horizonte. Through a camera that is alien to stereotypes and condescendence, Antunez shows the daily reality of her characters as that who lives with them and can talk to them. Baronesa features Andreia Pereira de Sousa’s superb performance and manages to bring the spectator closer to a universe signed by feminine presence. Women’s social inequality is shown through a shocking, intimate, personal view.
How did the idea of shooting Baronesa came up?
There is always a woman's name on the buses that leave for districts far from downtown Belo Horizonte. From the city center you can see names that stamp the buses. Jaqueline, Juliana, Regina, Katia, Lindéia. Bethânia, Cristina - among many others. From the curiosity of the many neighborhoods with these names, the idea came to take research ahead. In observations it was possible to catalog, in the collective transport of Belo Horizonte, about twenty neighborhoods with feminine names. Some neighborhoods were selected and posters with interviews were distributed -without much success, except in the neighborhood Juliana, where the poster was affixed next to a salon.
The first successful meeting was with hairdresser Pamela, who welcomed us and presented us the neighborhood and some residents. Typically inhabited by women, it is in halls that their anguish of their routines, update themselves on the cases of others and that is where they undress of modesty in the relations of sociability that they establish there. After years of attending Pamela's salon, a client caught my attention: Andreia walked into the living room, stared at me in the mirror, and left. From then on, I started looking for her in Vila Mariquinha. Andreia agrees to make the film with one condition: that I move to the favela and be her neighbor. I nodded. When I finally move, a war explodes and completely changes the direction of the movie.
The actors’ performances are excellent. What can you tell us about working with them and about the filming experience?
A casting survey has been done for years. Choosing people to drift is one of the biggest mistakes in filmmaking. We rehearsed a lot. We recorded the scenes several times, for months. We drank beer and always talked about the movie and life. Immersion was fundamentally for the process. A bit of luck, too.
The film deals in its very particular way with the topic of violence, which is ever-present, yet, at the same time, outside the field of action; it is referred to but not shown. Is that something that was planned from the very beginning?
Do not. It was a movie about being a woman on the periphery. Of course violence was always present, because it is not easy being a woman in Brazil, especially in the favelas. A question always accompanies me: where and where does violence go? The desire for something to explain cyclical violence has always existed.
In a non-conventional way, the film deals with the problematic and sensitive topic of the representation of social groups forgotten by politics. What was the audience’s response to the film in that sense?
The year is one of blow and setbacks. daily, we have to fight for basic rights that are being robbed us at a gallop. The obscure phase in which country is threatening us more and more as individuals. The film talks about it all the time, even though it has been recorded before the coup. unfortunately the society is apathetic, anesthetized. The greatest relation of the public and in relation to the feminism: women by behind and in the fronts of the cameras, something still rare in Brazil.
What project are you working on now?
I'm working on my new feature film called Hit and Go Copacabana. It is about two friends, Paulinha y Priscila, who travel to Rio de Janeiro. During the trip, one of them comes across an old crush, a situation wich will affect their relationship.
After Santa Teresa & others stories, he comes back to the Festival with Cocote, his first fictional film. As he says, however, “everything is fiction”. This time, he closely follows a character that breaks a routinary Dominican Republic with a hunger for understanding the vicissitudes of its reality. Incarnated in Alberto, the protagonist comes back to his town for his father's burial. The disruptive narrative focuses on the inquiry of the word of people, who live the pressing situation of social injustice day after day. “Enough with the silence; people want to speak”.
How did the idea for your first fictional film came up?
Every project that I embark on develops a universe and that is where its own political and aesthetic ideas arise. Although Cocote is a continuation of my search of representation in cinema and challenges it towards new forms of manifestation, it couldn't take a path another than telling the story as it does. I think Cocote is the result of showing ourselves as a cultural, political and aesthetic entity. Dominican Republic has its own way of dealing with history and facts. Thinking of violence in my country had to involve its own imaginary, a very special one, a chaotic one, full of uninterrupted stories.
In Cocote, there is a documentary mark given the closeness to characters. How did you work the film in those terms?
I think my way of working involved different facets. People always get mad at my work because of the mixture of colors and formats in it or reach me to discuss that. What you're saying about the documentary mark -which also has to do with a film with no predetermined aesthetics, with a very different staging, with carefully made frames mixed with some very ugly frames- has a lot to do with my divorcing the comfortable position Latin American cinema currently seems to be in, something that I don't find stimulating. Despite the fact that the Caribbean has aimed at eliminating its narrative as regards big continental stories, this is a resistance zone that has always struggled. All of those ideas about race, empires and capitalism as we know them started here. That is why the film has no black and white: colors, different formats, documentary and fiction. That is their Caribbean and mulatto language, the one that I speak. And I don't know what that dividing line between documentary and fiction they talk about is. It's cinema for me. My cinema.
Cocote gets to the core of human injustice and the searching for answers through religion. What elements did you rely on when it came to writing the script to construct the protagonist, the common thread of a personal questioning that is, at the same time, universal?
I aimed at representing the less represented ones, including myself. All I constantly had in mind was mutual respect and the possibility of addressing those issues that affect us as a country, and so that Cocote could be the platform for different social spheres to express their ideas about the world and that they could decide whether it was through laugh, tears, yelling or dancing, but not silence. Enough with the silence; people want to speak. Here, we want to speak. And that's what I had in mind from the very first day I started this project.
In Santa Teresa and Other Stories you focused on Mexico. Cocote is about your country. However, both address the topic of a dormant violence that is the result of historical injustice. Would you say both films dialog in this and other regards?
Totally. Although both films have different expressive ways, somehow both of them speak of the same deficiencies. They want us divided and the elites that want nothing but to perpetuate a colonialist state have done a wonderful job. When Cocote is screened at Mar del Plata, will people feel disconnected from something that is happening so far? When I think about this, at least I’m hopeful within this micro-universe I am as an artist we can find similarities -because we do have some- in two countries that seem distant but share the same history. What really matters in this idea of community is tolerance and solidarity, and the simple fact of expressing the reality of each one of us is crucial to dialog in the future and so our judiciary systems can be translated. That there can be a little bit more tolerance between countries is the least culture can aim at. I’m happy that might be a possibility.
You won in the Latin American Competition for Santa Teresa and Other Stories at the 30th Festival. In the 31 edition, you were part of the jury. What are your expectations as regards the screening of Cocote in a Festival you're so close to?
I was told that when Santa Teresa was screened, people left the theater. Some critics had doubts that was actually cinema. Of course in my situation, living on the bare minimum, money represents a relief; but to tell you the truth, my true wish this year is to come and defend Cocote; to confront a country where I have many friends but, at the same time, I consider to be culturally dangerous. From its headquarters, Buenos Aires, it pretends to be part of Latin America or part of Europe depending on who it is talking to.