70th Berlinale | 2020
"A collage of a peripheral neighbourhood with all the messiness that entails - police brutality, sexual assault, homophobia, women right to protest – and also the power of family, of female friendship and community."
Josefina Trotta, Co-Screenwriter
MEU NOME É BAGDÁ / MY NAME IS BAGHDAD
A film from the skater world of São Paulo, where it is women who call the shots. Bagdá is surrounded by self-confident role models in her family. However, outside on the streets, in the venues and clubs, the old machismo continues to dominate. Bagdá and her fellow comrades-in-arms confront it defiantly.
Hey Josefina, congratulations on My Name Is Baghdad on being selected for the 2020 Generation 14Plus you're are no stranger to the Berlinale having previously been part of Berlin Talents, what was this experience like for you?
As a Talent I participated of the 2007 Berlinale and my screenplay “Perseguidas” was selected for the Script Station that same year. It was a key moment in my career as a screenwriter. I just started working as a professional writer for TV in Argentina and my first feature film “Darkness by day” was about to enter pre-production.
Talent Campus and Script Station were quite enlightening experiences to meet with filmmakers from other parts of the world. I never imagined that in the near future, I was going to start collaborating with filmmakers outside of Argentina, such as Brazilian director Caru Alves de Souza.
My Name Is Baghdad will make its World Premiere at the Berlinale, does this add any extra pressure on you?
Not at all. I was thrilled with the news about our film being part of 2020 Berlinale Generation Programme. It’s an incredible feeling to be coming back to the Berlinale as a screenwriter with such a powerful and daring film.
Do you ever get nervous about watching a film with a festival audience?
I always get nervous! A premiere is always a thrilling moment. It’s exciting to see how things written on the page play on the big screen. I’m mostly anxious and curious to see the reaction of the audience. But then, after the lights go out, I let go and end up enjoying the movie as everyone else.
"Someone who wants to change the world she lives in, and goes: “Fuck it, I’m going to do it anyway”."
Can you tell me a little bit about My Name Is Baghdad, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
The idea and the first drafts were created by director Caru Alves de Sousa. I joined the project as a collaborate writer and wrote with Caru the following drafts, up till the screenplay was ready to shoot.
Our screenplay stitches incidental scenes together as it explores a working class neighbourhood in São Paulo (Brazil) from the point of view of a teenage girl skater named Baghdad.
Each scene is a snapshot of her life in which every moment becomes special — not because it’s servicing an arc - but because they become breakthrough stages for our protagonist. A collage of a peripheral neighbourhood with all the messiness that entails - police brutality, sexual assault, homophobia, women right to protest – and also the power of family, of female friendship and community.
What struck me the most about the story was something admirable about the protagonist, an innate bravery; the fact that she’s not trying to please anyone. Baghdad could be an outsider but she fights to blend and be active in her community. You don’t get to see this kind of heroine in Brazilian cinema very often. Someone who wants to change the world she lives in, and goes: “Fuck it, I’m going to do it anyway”.
For me, “My Name is Baghdad” is about growing up and frustration and care and love and resistance.
How much does a screenplay change once a project like this is in production?
“My Name is Baghdad” screenplay development was one of a kind. The cast was formed by actors and non-actors, so during pre-production, Caru spent a lot of time on rehearsal. There's a beautiful authenticity and rawness that comes from non-actors that worked out beautifully in our story. So after the process of rehearsal, some scenes and dialogues were rewritten. Even new scenes were created. The cast ended up empowering the story with their collaboration.
What was the experience like working with your director Caru Alves de Souza?
Teaming up with Caru was an easygoing experience. She is a good listener and has a natural confidence as a director. I knew and loved her previous film “De Menor” but had never worked with her before. During the script development she took an open-minded approach to collaboration; and our voices mingled throughout the story naturally.
How important is the collaboration between writer and director on films like this?
Collaboration is an intimate creative association. Like in any other relationship, trust is important. But similar sensibilities, is a must. There has to be a connection between writer and director in order to “see” the same film. In my experience, the stronger the writer-director partnership, the further the director can push the writer and vice-versa.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Since I was a kid I knew I wanted to make films, though it took me a while to find my place as screenwriter. I come from a working class family so getting a job – any job - was my first choice. And I used to spend some of my money on film books and movie tickets. That’s how I began my education. Later I started Film Studies, but studying the work of my heroes, wasn’t enough. I realized my place was behind the cameras. That’s when I decided to become a screenwriter. I read and studied and wrote a lot but it was hard to get a job as a junior screenwriter in Argentina. So I ended up working as a director’s assistant while I kept on writing. I never gave up. I entered screenwriting contests and win a few and finally got my first job as a professional writer.
How has your style and approach to your work changed since you started out?
I always loved horror films so my first screenplays were scary stories. Later I became a professional writer so I started writing comedy, dramedy, science fiction, period dramas and many book-to-film adaptations. Most of those films were collaborations with independent filmmakers, graphic novelists and visual artists. Other, were assigned by producers.
Since I started my career as screenwriter there is one thing that didn’t change: I gave special attention to research and rewrite. I use research as a warm-up. While researching I gather ideas, find new characters, explore tone, strengthen the plot. On the other hand, rewriting is a great pleasure for me. I enjoy rewriting dialogues, editing scenes, reassembling sequences, finding the rhythm of the story.
What has been the best advice you have been given?
Write. Write. Write.
As a filmmaker what advice would you offer fellow writer?
Write. Write. Write.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from My Name Is Baghdad?
I hope this film will inspire youngsters to follow their dreams, to fight for their rights.