Art and Experience/Hossein Eydi Zadeh-Arezu Ghorbanpour: The film industry of Brazil has gone through periods of ups and downs, following the film week of Brazil in Art and Experience and the presence of Rpberto Berliner, documentary filmmaker of Brazil; we sat for an interview to hear about Brazil cinema from him.
Before we go and talk about your movies, I like you to talk a little about how you become interested in movies and cinema?
In the 70s in Brazil, we were under dictatorship and we had just a few films but we had a strong movement of cine clubs and in the cine clubs we could see all the most important films of the filmmakers from the history of cinema like Eisenstein. I started to see films during the 70s when I was a teenager around 15 years old and then I started to go to those places to see sometimes just part of the film because they were broken and it was so difficult to have these films in Brazil so we were very happy to see them even when we missed a part of them. It was some horrible copies and that’s when I started to pay attention and I didn’t know that I would become a filmmaker at that time. There is a museum in Rio named Museum of the Modern Art and there is a very strong cinemateque there and in the 70s they use to give some classes of films. I use to go there maybe because I loved to see films and then there were some film critics that they use to talk about. I was very young. That time I was sure I wanted to become an actor. I was so interested in being an actor since I was a child. I knew what I didn’t want to be. My brother was an engineer and my sister was a psychologist but I never wanted to be any of them and I hated school. I always wanted to be out of school, my son is the same and he is 16. He has exactly the same problem and my daughter she is the opposite and she loves the school. I started to study acting but it was very hard for me because my family didn’t have money to pay the university and the theater classes for me. I started to work very early and during this time I had a group of theater. One school asked me to give classes of theater for kids and then I started to give classes for kids, first in one school then in two and three schools and then during these classes I had to prepare a play to show in the end of the year. For me it was so amazing to direct children and teenagers. I started to realize that I was much more interested to direct than to act. Because it is very hard to act for me, it was tough to transform myself and dedicate myself to be another person. I think because of this small period that I tried to be an actor I can understand more how to manage with them. I think that it is a horrible profession because it’s very hard. At the same time I started to give these classes, it was in the end of 70s and at the same time I was at the university, studying and at the same time I took part in a group that started to show films in the university. A cine club in the university and one of the guys in this group had a super 8 camera that he never used. We started to use this camera together and discovered how to use it together. I fell in love with this camera since the first moment. It was something like playing football for me. I loved to take film. I loved to take the camera to see the frame and movement and try to do something different with these moments. In the beginning I was just myself, I mean we were a crew but I wanted to be the owner of the camera the most. I was the only one who kept staying in cinema. They became journalists and I later became a filmmaker. I started to film alone in 1978. In 1980 I started to work in television in archives of global network and in that period in 1992 to 1993 I use to edit archives images and I had a lot of equipment for myself. First I had to take cameras from friends and by night I use to bring these materials to archives and used all the equipment to edit these films and I edited a lot of films for my friends and also my material.
Did you follow cinema novo movies?
What did you think about them?
They were my heroes.
You mean Glauber Rocha?
Yes, especially Glauber Rocha.
What did they teach you with their movies and the way they use to make their movies? They are famous in Iran at least in 90s they were very famous because some of their movies were on screen in Fajr Film Festival. They show Glauber Rocha’s film so he is famous here.
He was our leader, he died in 1981 but he is still the most important filmmaker in Brazil until now. For many reasons his films shake us. Because before Glauber Rocha, we use to see films in a way that after him changed. He made the Brazilian culture in the movies. We had theater and music but we didn’t have representation of cinema. Glauber was so Brazilian that subvert the use of camera and the actors and the way they act in his films. It was so strong that he always made us think, like he was saying don’t be stupid there are other ways of thinking out there. He is shaking us all the time.
At that time only young people went to see his films or old people?
I think only a few people and probably more young people.
Did you ever meet him?
Can you tell us a little bit about that?
In the 70s I worked and I couldn’t go to press university and I had no time for my classes so I talked to my professors and promised them to take three interviews from three very important people in Brazilian culture at that time in 70s. I promised to interview with Caetano Veloso, who is a very important composer. He is probably the most important composer of contemporary Brazilian music. Then there was another director and Glauber Rocha. I made two interviews but I never succeed in getting the interview from Glauber Rocha. I use to go to his editing room and wait for hours but I never got the interview. I met him in beginning of 80s. He had an strong TV show named “aperture” and it was in the end of dictatorship and he use to make a very provocative ten minutes every Sunday night and he use to dictate the cameraman and scream at everybody and it was something very strong for television at that time. He was our idol but a lot of people also hate him. They hate his ideas and his films. Until now it’s the same. I think we need people like that, it’s very important, to be hated also. Every one want to be loved by everybody but it’s nice to have some guys who provoke all kinds of sensations. He was one of them. It was contradictory that everybody from the left was with him but suddenly he started to have some right ideas and everybody was confused and saying what happened? Now Glauber Rocha is in the opposite? He was always doing the opposite. He was very important. For me this freedom of thinking was very important.
In Brazil we have Cinema Novo and marginal cinema; can you tell me the difference between these two? We know Glauber Rocha is from Cinema Novo and Júlio Bressane is from marginal cinema. How do you identify these two?
It’s so hard. Bressane is a marvelous guy and a brilliant mind also but he makes films for just few people. Bressane almost makes film every year but his films are very hard. His films are about Nietzsche and Cleopatra and he makes some films which are always interesting but I don’t think the film is all about the script and there are so many interesting ideas. I think the characteristic of the cinema novo was first that they were very cheap films and the second the cameras, they were hand cameras. They use to do many shootings and we had a lot of famous cameraman in Brazil.
So what was the characteristic of marginal cinema? Directors like Bressane just wanted to be radical?
I can’t say that he wanted to be, he is like that. He is a very nice guy, very quiet. The opposite of Glauber. He is very calm and almost shy. He and Rogério Sganzerla, the other guy who took part in marginal cinema, their films use to shocked audiences but at the same time cinema novo had a lot of other filmmakers like Cacá Diegues who is still alive and producing and directing and Nelson Pereira dos Santos. He is 88 and the oldest in cinema novo but he is marvelous.
So let’s talk about your own filmmaking, you started with making documentaries and made films like “Nise“, what’s the difference between making documentaries and movies? Is it hard?
Which one do you prefer?
I prefer documentaries.
First, small group and second, real people. I think it’s not easy to deal with actors. As I told you it’s very hard to be an actor. I felt sorry for them because you have to try to convince them to do something and you are never exactly sure if you are going in the right way. You try to do what you want but these deals are very hard. It’s never what I want and never what exactly they want. They know much more than I do about how to act than I can. It’s so hard to be an actor and show what director wants and when you are with normal people, you don’t have to transform them, they are just what they are. I loved it and I love to be with people and I love to stay in a place and if it’s raining, it’s raining and if it’s sunny, it’s sunny. When you make a fiction you have 80 people around you and everyone is complaining, one guy I starving and complaining and there are 80 different minds and you have to convince everybody to just focus on just one and for me it’s very hard. I don’t know how you work here. Do you do hours of shooting in a day?
Then we work 12 hours and after that I go home and I start to prepare for the next day. Then I stay for 5 or 6 hours and sleep a few hours and then at the end of the film I’m completely done. When I make a documentary for me it’s like living. I can make a documentary now. I was here and I can sleep the next day will be what it will be. It’s much easier for me and I love documentaries but I will make more fictions again.
How did your project begin and how do you feel about “Nise” being shown here?
It’s wonderful for me. In the beginning it was not my project, It was a project of my DP. His brother studied with her and worked with her for almost 20 years and he use to write these notes in his notebook about her. Small stuffs and he never shown it to anybody. His brother knew about that. He told me and I said I will produce a film about that, let’s do a film about Nise because she is really important and nobody knows her. Then Anderea and his brothers, Bernardo started to work with this screenplay. Anderea gave up in the middle of the project because he works as a DOP and I tried to convince him that it’s really important to make this film but I had no time and suddenly I took this project for myself. This project took me 13 years. From the first screenplay to when the film was done. I sure made a lot of documentaries and made another fiction film in between this time and because I’m a partner of a production company and the production company needed money I had to stop many times to do other projects. During this time I made 7 different screenplays, with 7 different writers to get to the point I wanted. This key moment of Nise, the moment where she said no to traditional treatment of psychiatrists in Brazil, where she started to be a rebel in the hospital. I wanted to focus on these moments in her life and because this film is too sharp to tell and there are many stories and you should try to focus and I tried to focus on these moments of her life just to show the most important of ideas of her.
How much are you familiar with Iranian Cinema?
I use to go to see some Iranian films in Brazil but I think the most important for us is Kiarostami. We have a production company in Rio named Abbas, Abbas Films which is made by Sergio Bloch who is a great documentary filmmaker. We have a cinema of Art in Rio and we see a lot of Iranian films but I think Kiarostami is like your Glouber Rocha.
What do you like about his movies? His poetry, the images, the simplicity?
For instance his last film that I saw in Canne, 24 frames made me feel he is an artist in cinema. You just sit there and he shakes you. He shakes me. I love to be shaken and moved. I like the feeling of telling myself I have to move myself and do something different. Like what I saw in “Fish and Cat” to think it can be possible to make a film in a different way. This film touched me. I think I never saw in Kiarostami’s works that was just a regular film. It could always take me to a better place.
What do you think about the young generation of filmmakers of Brazil like Fernando Meirelles?
We have very good filmmakers. I think Kleber Mendonça is great. We have a guy in Brazil that I love and his name is Gabriel Mascaro and I think he made very special films.
Especially the last one which was about “Neon Bull“, right?
Yes. It was a wonderful film. These films touch me. His pervious film, was okay and interesting but it was strange.
How is the situation of the new generations? Are they well received from the audience? Is it easy for them to find audience or not?
The audience is the hard part. Gabriel Mascaro sold just a few tickets but went to a lot of international festivals. I produced a film with a nice young director named Fellipe Barbosa who won two prizes in Canne this year for the film “Gabriel and the Mountain.” He made another film called “Casa Grande” . He is a great filmmaker and I think he will be famous.