Cinema director and producer.
THE INSPIRATION TALK
HI CAROLINA, SO TELL ME... GROWING UP, WHAT WERE YOU DREAMING OF BECOMING?
As a teenager, I wanted to work with cinema. I think the turning point for me was when I was 13 years-old and I decided to do theater. Before that, I was a little confused; my friends would love going to the beach, surfing, shopping, those regular teenager things but I would not fit a lot there. And then I discovered theater, I saw a different group of people, a different way of life, people living from their art together, discovering different music, different places, different films. So I consider that a turning point for me as I started to understand what I really liked. At the same time, my father, as a filmmaker, would teach me about life, we would listen to Brazilian music, he would take me to see contemporary dance performances and I got very affected by those artists: Caetano Veloso, Pina Bausch, Jorge Ben, etc. I grew up nourished by all of that. And when I started theater I finally made friends with people of my own age that I would really admire.
SO SUDDENLY YOU FELT MORE CONNECTED WITH THEM THEN WITH YOUR CHILDHOOD FRIENDS...
Yes, when I started theater, I found my gang. But then I decided I didn’t want to be an actress.
NO?! WAS IS DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO BE ON STAGE?
Actually I liked it a lot, I was glad I found « my » people, I was young and I was having a lot of fun. I was obsessed with watching films, I would always go to the cinema Estação Botafogo, it was a very emblematic place. There, I could watch all the Nouvelle Vague movies: Godard, Truffaut, Japanese films. When I turned 17, I decided to take a script course. A friend of mine was in college studying screenwriting so I did it with her and started with a one-minute short movie. At the same time, I started dating a musician. He was the singer and the guitar player of a band called Mulheres Que Dizem Sim (« Women Saying Yes »). They had various hits, they were well known for their talented music and for dressing up as women during their shows. Around that time, I met Andrucha Waddington and Arthur Fontes as they were starting Conspiração, a production company. They were producing the video clip of my boyfriend's band and invited me to write the script. This is how I started to work as an assistant director with Mini Kerti, my partner and close friend. It was the beginning of Conspiração, we were there to create and develop it. We were doing a lot of video clips, MTV had just launched in Brazil. Andrucha and Arthur would direct and we would assist. Soon we started doing music documentaries, shooting with Marisa Monte, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil. We started that movement of cinema meeting music, sharing intimate moments with those artists. It really pushed the company forwards. And finally I took the plunge of becoming a director in 1998… It’s such a long time ago (laughs)! Funny story : one day I met Fernando Meirelles on a plane. I was carrying a lot of books about photography, art, etc, and he asked me « why do you have all those books? ». I said I was about to direct a video clip. One week later he invited me to direct for O2, his company. I was very honored so, of course I accepted.
SO YOU LEFT CONSPIRAÇÃO?
I was a freelancer for them so not really. And I had been Fernando’s assistant director for a year before he gave me films to direct. I directed only three films there, before Conspiração got jealous. I told them « well, you know what he (Fernando) gave me… » and so they offered me to direct a music documentary about Milton Nascimento for HBO. And I did this documentary.
17 IS VERY YOUNG TO START WORKING, I UNDERSTAND IT STARTED BY CHANCE BUT WERE YOU EVER THINKING OF GOING BACK TO SCHOOL AT SOME POINT OR WERE YOUR REALLY IN A HURRY TO START WORKING?
I had some doubts. One of them was that my father didn’t have money. I never asked him any financial help. I wanted to work to be independent. I always really appreciated that, being independent. I was a precocious child on that level, very responsible. My first job was doing the windows display for Fiorucci. When I started working with Andrucha, it didn’t take long before we started making money. We started with video clips and right after we did commercials. And there, there was a lot of money. So at 22 years old, I was already living on my own.
WHICH IS NOT THAT COMMON HERE IN BRAZIL…
No it’s not. But I really needed my independence. So I did that documentary about Milton Nascimento called A Sede Do Peixe (The Fish’s Thirst). It was brilliant, we built a cave in the middle of the huge studio. We had a very artistic scenography, which emphasized the beauty of Milton’s voice. I learned so much with him. After doing it, I chose to stay with Conspiração. And I chose Rio as well.
WERE YOU BORN IN SÃO PAULO?
No I was born in Rio. I had moved to São Paulo to work at O2 where they were expecting me to work only from there and for them. They were creating a branch of O2 called 22 but I decided that my life was in Rio. I got married here. From that moment I started directing a lot of commercials and more video clips. I did this for 10 years at least.
DID YOU LIKE IT?
Yes! It was very important for me, I was making my own money and I was learning a lot, getting experience. Every project is different and brings new challenges. With those shoots you have access to great equipment, huge crew, so your learn to work on set.
AND IT’S ALSO A DIFFERENT PACE, OBVIOUSLY THE TIMING IS SHORTER THAN FOR MOVIES, IT TEACHES YOU EFFICIENCY…
Yes, you learn how to work, how to be professional, polite, strong. It was a very important time for me. It was my school.
I FEEL THIS IS DIFFICULT TO LEARN AT SCHOOL. CINEMA SCHOOL CAN GIVE YOU TECHNIQUE BUT THE ACTUAL EFFICIENCY YOU GAIN IT ONLY WITH EXPERIENCE. STARTING SO YOUNG WAS CERTAINLY AN ADVANTAGE FOR YOU.
Yes, even more in Brazil. We don’t have such great universities to learn cinema so the best way to learn here is to look for an opportunity and start working. You really have to fight for it, work a lot. I was very privileged on that level.
HOW IS THE ADVERTISING WORLD HERE IN BRAZIL? IN PAST INTERVIEWS, YOU SAID THAT YOU WERE OFTEN OFFERED THE GIRLY PRODUCTS COMMERCIALS, WHEN MEN WOULD GET THE ONE FOR CARS. DID YOU REALIZE THAT SEGREGATION AT THE TIME? AND IF YOU DID, DID YOU TRY TO CHANGE THINGS, IMPOSE YOURSELF?
We always have to impose ourselves. We need that confidence. Advertising is a very sexist business, as many others. The other day my little sister, who is 27 and very feminist, told me « you suffered unspoken sexism ». A sexism that you are not even aware of.
IT’S TRUE, IF IT’S NORM, YOU DON’T EVEN REALIZE IT. IT’S A PASSIVE FORM OF SEXISM.
Thinking about my past, I realized I suffered male supremacy. But at that time I didn’t stop to reflect on that, I didn’t pay much attention to it. The production company was mainly run by men. Sometimes on special tasks women would come as freelancers but they would never stay.
They could not stand all the men. And actually the men didn’t like it neither. They were like a pack.
AND YOU WERE PART OF IT?
Yes, I was. I was there from the start. They were always very nice to me.
WERE YOU PAYED LESS THAN A MAN?
I didn’t realize that back then. I was already fighting enough just to be there. I always thought I was paid less because I was a junior more than because I was a woman.
DO YOU KNOW WHY CONSPIRAÇÃO SPECIFICALLY WANTED YOU TO COME BACK AFTER YOU LEFT TO O2?
They loved me (laughs)! We were very close. I have to say, it’s Pedro Buarque, my partner, my friend, my brother, my everything, who decided to bring me there. He brought me back and supported me all the way, always fought for me. Every time someone wanted to shoot with Andrucha, he would put me in as well. We shared a lot of projects as directors together. I was just part of the company from the start, he saw the possibility of loosing me to Fernando Meirelles, got competitive and fought for me. Probably if O2 had not offered me to direct, Conspiração would have not offered it neither, at least not right away. It would have taken more time.
IT TRIGGERED SOMETHING WITHIN HIS COMPETITIVE EGO AND IT PLAYED IN YOUR FAVOR! AND SO WHAT THEN MADE YOU DECIDE TO START DIRECTING LONG MOVIES?
Well this is the thing, we (Mini and I) were shooting commercials, earning money for the company so the seniors directors could, them, shoot feature movies. I don’t know if this was another form of sexism. Honestly it didn’t bother me, I was working on the features as an assistant director. In 2005, we did the first Brazilian series for HBO called Mandrake; Jose Henrique Fonseca was running the show and I started to direct episodes. It was an amazing experience! It made me realize that this is what I wanted to do. I had the technique but I had to improve my dramatic skills. I knew I needed to do more of it.
WHEN YOU ARE CATEGORIZED ADVERTISEMENT OR VIDEO CLIP, HOW DO YOU CONVINCE PEOPLE TO TRUST YOU WITH A FICTION FOR THE FIRST TIME?
That’s a very good question. You fake it (laughs)! More seriously, I was an assistant director for years and Jose Henrique just gave me the opportunity to shoot two episodes. He was always backing me on that project. Also, I was very close with the actors, reconnecting with my theater years. I didn’t feel like I was airdropped in a world I didn’t know. It was very natural to me, the whole process, the conversations with the artists. It was easy even if I didn’t know much. My husband is also a director and a producer; we talked about what he thought was important for the scenes, how to do it, etc. I learned a lot with him too. The set experience with Jose Henrique, with Andrucha, with Fernando Meirelles, all this was a new school for me. From 2005 to 2018 : these were 13 years of studies. It’s only now, in 2018, that I feel comfortable on set. I am able to discuss dramaturgy with the actors, I go into the character’s depth. It’s a lot of work, you have to love it to do it.
YOU RECENTLY DIRECTED A SERIES ABOUT WOMEN, OPENLY EXPLORING FEMALE SEXUALITY CALLED DESNUDE. I FEEL, FOR THE FIRST TIME WITHOUT CENSORSHIP, BRAZILIAN TV IS GIVING VOICE TO THE WOMEN ON THAT SUBJECT. WAS IT HARD TO SELL THE PROJECT?
It was hard to find a place for the project. The selling part was easier because at Conspiração we were already studying the development of films on that subject. We knew the necessity for women to have access to that type of content. At the same time, the TV network GNT was searching for something similar. They came to us, looking for something about sex. At that point, what we had in mind was almost pornography. Talking with them, we decided to do something softer and focus on erotism, and actually enlighten how we distinguish erotism from pornography, how we express ourselves through sexuality and to always answer those questions through a female point of view. We decided to build up a team of women to think about those subjects, since until now, we only had access to content that dealt with sexuality and pleasure from a masculine point of view. We have been educated like that. It’s been hard to realize, at the age of 43, that only I assimilated my pleasure with penetration since that is how men like it. We needed to separate those things and distinguish different ways of getting pleasure. So in my team of women I invited Anne Pinheiro Guimarães to work with me. She is a very talented writer and director. We needed to choose what part of sexuality to deal with and decided to focus on fantasies. We thought that women, comparing to men, had a more cerebral approach of sexuality and excitement. Women need a context, a little mystery, an atmosphere beyond the act of getting excited. The act is only the climax, but it needs all the details around it for women to get there. We wrote the show with a third writer called Marina Franco. She is a stylist and a costume designer and a creative woman in general. Naturally she started participating in the writers room. She gave us one of the storyline and ended up directing one of the episode. In total we wrote 9 fictions, inspired by real stories we received through GNT from anonymous women that sent their fantasies to us. None of the 9 fictions are based entirely on one fantasy, we picked here and there the mood of some letters and build up our fictional characters around them. We debated a lot, talked a lot about our own sexuality, discussed our fantasies and experiences.
I FEEL THAT OTHER SHOWS THAT TALK ABOUT WOMEN SEXUALITY, LET’S SAY SEX AND THE CITY, ULTIMATELY, END UP HAVING A ROMANTIC GOAL. THE GIRL WANTS TO MARRY THE GUY EVENTUALLY. IT FELT LIKE DESNUDE WAS REFLECTING A TRUER REALITY. THE ATTENTION TO DETAILS GIVES AN ELABORATED FEMININE AESTHETIC, LIKE THE NIGHT GOWN SHE WEARS PERFECTLY MATCHES THE SHEETS… BUT EVEN THOUGH IT’S MADE BY WOMEN, IT’S NOT ONLY FOR WOMEN…
It’s very feminine, yes, but the male audience of GNT for that series was 48%!
VERY NICE! AT LEAST THEY LEARNED SOMETHING!
Yes that was the idea, for them to watch and learn.
DO YOU FEEL MENTALITIES HAVE CHANGED? DO YOU FEEL WE LIVE IN A LESS SEXIST ENVIRONMENT?
I think the entire world is entering a feminine movement, looking for more equality. If we have contributed just a little bit to it, that’s already really nice.
DO YOU THINK IT’S POSSIBLE THE NETWORK WAS LOOKING TO AIR CONTENT ON THAT SUBJECT BECAUSE IT IS THE TREND RIGHT NOW?
No actually, historically, GNT was made by women. I think it was a genuine desire from them. They gave us a lot of freedom and were trusting our creative process. It was exciting to be able to do something completely new. It’s crazy, not every network would let you have those liberties. It could have been interpreted in so many ways, weird, creepy,… We tried to make it a little supernatural but kept the whole thing under control.
IT’S TRUE THAT IT COULD HAVE BEEN A SHOW THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE ASHAMED TO SAY THEY’RE WATCHING BUT IT NEVER SHOWS AN AGGRESSIVE FRONTAL SEXUALITY.
It was hard to find that balance. Sex, most of the time, is not beautiful. Good sex is often a bit crazy, or brutal. If you want to show really hot sex, it can easily drift to something vulgar but if you do something too sophisticated and classy it can easily drift to something cold. The challenge was so exciting, we talked a lot to get to that point, found out what excited us. I remember, half-way trough the process, one writer said « I’m masturbating way more since I started this! I’m writing, I go masturbate, come back, write again, etc » (laughs). We really exposed ourselves.
IT IS EXACTLY THE NAME OF SHOW...
Yes, we had to « desnude » (editor's note : "undress") ourselves. We had to face the fact that we were going to direct sex scenes, we could not be afraid of it. So we had to learn, to discuss, to study how we would shoot that. It was a real challenge but really empowering. Thanks to the project, I discovered a lot of marvelous women. For example our director of photography, named Carolina as well. She lives in Mexico but is Brazilian. She is only 32 but she has a huge experience with films. She is very sophisticated and very good at what she does. Kit was great as well, she was our art director. Marina, the costume designer. The team was very connected and we completed each other to achieve the same goal. Anne and I work very good together. It was the first time and yet we had similar thoughts, we liked the same things, we had the same frame ideas…
WERE YOU CO-DIRECTING ON EACH EPISODES?
No, it depended. Some of the episodes I directed more, others she directed alone. I was more caring about the artistic direction and she was focused on the day by day. But for most of the episodes I was very implicated. At first it was very difficult to let go.
HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE TO WORK EXCLUSIVELY WITH WOMEN? I READ THAT ON SET YOU USUALLY CREATE THIS ALTER-EGO, KILLING YOUR FEMININE SIDE, TO FEEL RESPECTED. DID YOU FEEL MORE « YOURSELF » THIS TIME?
Not especially, I’ve always been myself on set, I am very comfortable there. It’s obviously easier now then 10 years ago but every project is as much of a challenge. Every time I don’t know something, I have to study it and learn about it. You always keep on learning. There is always a first-time feeling for each new project. This project had only women on the creative team and mostly women for the rest of the crew. It had 90% of women in total. It went really smoothly, the set was very delicate. The actresses were more comfortable being directed by women as well, specially for the intimate scenes. They trusted the way we would shoot and frame. I told each of them: « We are doing this together. I will never make you do something that you don’t feel like doing. » They felt confident. It was a very powerful and special set on that level. Regarding the relationships between women, often, you find a lot competition. But on that project, it didn’t happen. Everyone of us was working as a team. I think this is why we worked so well together. I think solidarity is the new model. It was very pleasant for me to see Anne succeed.
JUST AS THE PASSIVE SEXISM, IT’S TRUE THAT THIS IS SOMETHING WE GREW UP WITH : THE IDEA THAT IT WAS NORMAL FOR WOMEN TO BE COMPETITIVE, THAT WE HAD TO FIGHT FOR A MAN AGAINST EACH OTHER. I FEEL WE ARE AWARE OF THIS NONSENSE NOW.
It’s a new generation coming. We are together and we need to be together. We built something together. It was very beautiful to witness that on set.
YOU TURN OUT TO BE QUITE A FEMINIST SINCE NOT SO LONG AGO. TELL ME HOW YOU EVOLVED INTO THAT DIRECTION. AT THE END OF THE DAY WHAT MADE YOU REALIZE YOU HAD IT IN YOU?
Well it’s because I fought a lot to get where I am. I fought for 20 years. As I told you before, I didn’t think too much about the fact that I was fighting also because I was a woman. I guess I was a feminist without knowing it. When that new wave of feminism arrived, 3 or 4 years ago, I started to talk with younger women, teenagers. My husband’s daughter that lives with us, started to talk about those subjects. She was teaching me this new battle younger women were fighting. My younger sister Isabel, opened my eyes as well. She did this documentary with Antonia Pellegrino called Primavera Das Mulheres. She is very clever and she has very clear ideas on that topic. At the same time, Renata Brandão, our current CEO at Conspiração, has that spirit too. She created that platform called Hysteria. It’s all about creating more choices and more opportunities for women to express themselves. It’s not about doing stuff for women but stuff by women. I guess I absorbed all this and I became more conscious about it.
EVENTUALLY EVERYONE CAN REALIZE THAT THEY ARE FEMINIST, EVEN GUYS. IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING ONE ABOVE THE OTHER BUT ABOUT EQUALITY.
Of course, my husband is more feminist than me!
WHAT KIND OF STORIES DO YOU WANT TO TELL THROUGH YOUR ART?
I’m working more with contemporary stories. I’m very impacted by the world we are living in. Our values are changing, I’m wondering how is it going to be in the future. The way we communicate, the way we give and receive affection, love… Everything is changing. For me reality is imposing itself over complex fiction. We are living in such a crazy era. Even if I’m not doing documentaries anymore, for me fiction has to stick to reality.
IN YOUR LAST MOVIE, AOS TEUS OLHOS, A TEACHER IS ACCUSED OF PEDOPHILIA. PARENTS ARE QUICK TO JUDGE AND SENTENCE HIM GUILTY BEFORE HAVING ANY PROOF ENDING UP INEVITABLY DESTROYING HIS LIFE. IT SHOWS THE PERVERSE SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA WHERE A RUMOR GETS AMPLIFIED WITHOUT ANY CONTROL, A CONTEMPORARY BLACK MIRROR. ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DRIFTS OF TECHNOLOGY? WHERE IT COULD TAKE US?
Well I think a lot about that because I have children. They are growing up in that environment, this new type of reality. I’m always looking after them, how they surf on the Internet, what their interests are… But i’m afraid of everything, technology is just one of those things. There is no going back, it’s in our lives now. We have to adapt ourselves.
HOW DO CHOOSE YOUR PROJECTS? DO YOU FEEL THEY HAVE TO RELATE TO YOU PERSONALLY? FOR EXAMPLE THIS NEW FILM, IS IT A SUBJECT CLOSE TO YOU?
I think it’s a subject I like to discuss. I didn’t write this film, it’s not an original script. So it changes the level of how much it is relating to my life. This one had a subject that really intrigued me. It interested me to debate on the topic but it’s not connected to my real life. I think my next film will be more personal. I’d like a character with whom I can identify more.
IS IT COMPLICATED AS A WOMAN TO FIND MONEY TO FINANCE PROJECTS?
Now I think is a good time. It’s trending. They are creating an investment fund dedicated for women.
I SAW THAT YOU WERE HEAVILY PREGNANT AND STILL DIRECTING UNTIL GIVING BIRTH ON ONE OF YOUR PAST MOVIES. DO YOU FEEL YOU HAD TO SACRIFICE THINGS AS A WOMAN IN THE INDUSTRY?
It’s a challenge to be a woman! If you want to work, if you want to raise kids, if you want to be married, if you want to be pretty, everything is a challenge. There is a lot of pressure and it’s more complex when you are a woman. We have a lot of responsibilities. Of course I had to sacrifice things. I never have free time. My friends that don’t have kids can go see an exhibition, watch two films a day. For me it is like « wow, two films! ». But I have amazing kids, I made the choice of having them. But I never had to sacrifice work for my personal life. I shot my first feature film 30 weeks pregnant!
THEY SAY WHEN YOU’RE PREGNANT YOU FEEL MORE POWERFUL…
I already had a baby and I knew it felt good being pregnant.
HOW DID PEOPLE REACT ON SET?
The director of photography said it was beautiful. It was so difficult to shoot, it was summer, we had very little money. She looked at me and she thought, « if she can do it, I can do it ».
IT’S A GREAT FEELING KNOWING THAT YOU CAN INSPIRE PEOPLE!
Very nice! When I meet teenagers and they tell me that I inspire them, I’m always very flattered.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOU TALENTED AT WHAT YOU DO?
I think that one thing that I learned with Guel, my husband, is that is not only about talent. You have to study a lot, fight for it, it’s not easy. There are a lot a talented people but they don’t have the will to make it happen. For me the important thing is to make ideas actually happen. I’m a director but I’m a producer as well. I know how to make things possible, how to concretize an idea. Also I think that psychoanalysis helps me. There is no ideal, if I want to make the film, a masterpiece I will never do it. This desire is an illusion. It’s important to acknowledge when you did the best you could do. This thought satisfies me, it calms me down. Of course I would like to win an Oscar, but I don’t think I’ll ever do. I’m just doing my job the best I can.
I CAME WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT SUCCESS IS A TARGET ALWAYS MOVING. ONCE YOU ACHIEVE SOMETHING, YOU ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT ONE. WHAT IS YOUR LAST SUCCESS AND WHAT IS THE NEXT SUCCESS YOU LOOK FORWARD TO?
These past weeks I was experiencing the release of the film, the way the film would be received. I was realistic, I did the best that I could. For me, in cinema, the question of success is about being able to show your film: there are a lot of films nowadays, so just the fact to achieve the film being seen is a success. Of course it’s even better when the film is well received. I had a lot of people that I look up to who liked it so this is a great feeling. After that, you just have to start everything again, find a story, find a way to tell that story, find money... It’s an endless battle. I’m always very worried but also always looking forward to it. It’s all about art and it’s all about making it happen.
LAST QUESTION... WHAT SONG WILL ALWAYS MAKE YOU WANT TO DANCE?
FIRST TIME I GET THIS ANSWER HERE.
It’s the music I like to dance to. Disco as well!
ITW & CREATIVE DIRECTION: LISA DEBATTY
PHOTOGRAPHER: BRUNO MACHADO AND JULIANA ROCHA
BEAUTY ARTIST: PIU
STYLING: LISA DEBATTY - THANK YOU TO OS/ON, AROEIRA ABE AND WYMANN.
PRODUCTION: OUI SIMONE - SPECIAL THANK YOU TO PEDRO IGOR ALCANTARA, ANTONIO FRAJADO, LEO MUQUI, ROSANA RODINI AND ADRIANA VAREJÃO.