Por Mónica Delgado

In conversation with Desistfilm, the artistic director of Pingyao International Film Festival, Marco Müller, remarked that one objective of the event is to approach Latin American cinema to an audience that knows little about what’s happening in the region. And the interest of the audiovisual Chinese community is confirmed by the two latinamerican films which won of this edition, Brazilian film La febre and the Guatemalan Nuestras madres. This validates and replicates the sensibilities and expressions of a cinema with a history of resistance or tension.

Part of this validation and craving for information about latinamerican cinema, was reflected in the realization of the masterclass with Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho, author of Neigboring Sounds, Aquarius and the recent Bacurau, an event that drove events to a full room that had a panel with Müller himself and Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke. What was strange though, is that none of Mendonça Filho’s film was programmed in this festival, which would’ve been a big help in contextualizing his work, specially for the ones that doesn’t know their work.

The conversation was centered in the film plots, and little was spoken about the critical situation in Brazil after the actions of president Jair Bolsonaro, which is jeopardizing the subvention to the audiovisual production in the country.

Mendonça Filho said that “For many years I thought I would only make short films and I am completely happy with my short films. I thought there would be nothing better than short films but one day I made a feature film and I thought it was as great as my short films. You get more friends with feature films and you travel more with feature films. So I am now twice happy making feature films.

I was making films around the block where I used to live and I grew up watching American films and later in my teenage years, German and French films. Then I discovered all kinds of cinemas. I made films through the films which made me make films. Of course, I am Brazilian and come from Brazil which is a beautiful, amazing, complicated, complex and ugly country with amazing people and a troubled history. That is, of course, a source of tension, conflict, love, passion, tragedy and blood. And that is sometimes reflected in the architecture and in the way people live. When you are preparing your first film, you remember how many films you saw. And one thing I tried to say in the opening ceremony didn’t come out quite ‘clear’——is how much Jia Zhangke’s film inspired me to make something which would be mine, not his one, but would be mine. And I also thought a lot about an American director, John Carpenter. Of course, in the context of Brazilian life. That is how I made my first film. I wanted to show an opening sequence. There’s no dialogue. This is called Neighboring Sounds in English. The whole opening part would show the block where I used to live. I’s a modern apartment complex in Recife. A playground area, completely different from reality. You can see the nannies in the background”.

The Brazilian filmmaker kept talking about the process of Neighboring Sounds: “The idea for the film is that it would take place in the modern street in the city. The philosophy of life in the street and the way the life was organized in the street had the same design as a sugarcane village which is 50 or 60 km away from the city which had the classic local economy. I never explained this in the film but some may slowly notice the vein follow the same historical vein of the sugarcane plantation village. That’s how the tension of the film takes place. Modern tension comes from history”.

Then, he stopped to talk about his process with Aquarius: “It’s a film about public space and private space. And this scene I want to show you is interesting because the editing is done inside the camera the when we were shooting the film, not in the editing. Sometimes when you are making a film, you have three or four opportunities where you dramatically edit in the different set-ups for the same shot”.

And about his recent film, Mendonça indicated that “Bacurau was made out of our love for all the great films when I was growing up. It has a lot of Brazilian cinema novo and American films’ influence from the 1970s. This is what I was talking about. Now we have to be very bold. The state of the country kind of deserves punchier, more violent actions. We wrote the film very much connected to media and social networks. We were not isolated in some mountains, we were writing the film feeling the temperature of it all. And the film has had a very strong phenomenal reaction in Brazil. People seem to decode, seek to understand it, the general atmosphere of the film,in regard to the country (..) The film is a film about a small community. It’s interesting I thought I lot about Madadayo, a film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It is very true to this region I come from”.

Photos: Pingyao Film Festival