Cannes Film Festival
24th Cinéfondation 2021
Brazilian filmmaker Rodrigo Ribeyro, a graduate of São Paulo International Academy of Cinema, will be at the 24th Cinéfondation with his graduation film Cantareira. This powerful short film tells the story of Bento and Sylvio, grandson and grandfather, respectively, both with deep roots in Serra da Cantareira, but in different moments of life.
Hi Rodrigo, thank you for talking to TNC, how have you been keeping during these strange Covid times?
Hi! Thanks for the invitation. Well, the situation in Brasil is very dramatic. Having a genocide president is a really toxic thing to deal with, especially while experiencing isolation and constant fear of contracting the virus. Personally, I have the possibility of actually staying home, but that’s a privilege most Brazilians simply don’t have. The pandemic in Brasil just intensified social inequality and that’s extremely sad. At this moment, while writing this answer, my country is getting close to 500k deaths. So I’ve been trying to hold on to the good things, like this Cannes selection, while keeping an eye to the political panorama. Just a few weeks ago there were big protests all around the country against the government. Might be the beginning of a movement that, as I hope, will reach the overcoming of this pathetic figure.
Have you been inspired to take on any new creative opportunities?
I’ve written new scripts, edited docs, video clips, and experimental shorts, and also played a lot of guitars, which is a very balancing activity. Music has been a good friend these times.
How much did your time and experience on the Cinema Direction course at the International Academy of Cinema of São Paulo prepare you for your filmmaking journey?
I think it gave me the practical initiation I needed. Organizing my projects, working on my skills, understanding how to make it happen, and then being able to do it. A good example would be labs we had on directing actors and actresses. Working on scenes, establishing this dialogue between you and the professionals you’re directing... It’s something you can study and read about, but you also need to exercise it. Another important content was studying sound and then giving it the huge importance it must-have on a good project. It’s not an accessory, it’s a vital part of the soul of a film.
Congratulations on Cantareira being selected for the 24th Cinéfondation, what does it mean to you to have your film part of this year's festival?
I think it means that my crew and I are capable of beautiful things. The selection should work as a fuel and energy dose for our upcoming projects. The film is a collective work and everyone involved is responsible for this achievement. Eva Moreira, the AD, discovered her big talent for this on the Cantareira set. The beautiful cinematography by Dani Drumond, Shay Peled, and Paulo Chou, the efficient production work by Isis Ramos, Wagner Vieira (responsible for the cast, as well), and Juliana Santos, the precise and attentive sound captured by Uirá Ozzetti. Also, the sharp production design by Gabriela Taiara and Madu Medeiros and the sensitive acting by Almir Guilhermino, Emiliano Favacho, Gelson dos Santos, Margot Varella, Guilherme Dourado... and more and more people involved. Just hope their potentials feel empowered by this selection.
Can you tell me how Cantareira came about, what inspired your screenplay?
Cantareira is a mixture of my life experience with other life experiences I’ve observed. I’ve grown up in Cantareira, a very peaceful and green place, and when I was 16 I moved with my sister to this little São Paulo downtown apartment. São Paulo is one of the biggest cities in the world and it has a lot of chaos and intensity. This change was a big impact on my sensorial perception: from the calm forest to the crazy asphalt. That feeling inhabits Bento, the main character. Along with that, as I moved to this place, I’ve got to know a lot of people that worked in the area. In this process, I became really close to the waiters and employees of a popular restaurant that was wall to wall with my apartment. Through the relations, the conversations I had with those people, I’ve witnessed their experience in that place, the impact of moving to São Paulo to find work. Anxieties, loneliness, questionable housing conditions, low salaries, missing home, as these guys came mainly from other Brazilian states. So, for the screenplay, I basically mixed these multiple existences with the reality of Cantareira nowadays. New houses, stores, malls, noises, traffic... When economic investment comes, there are pros e cons. There are new jobs and offers, but also a change in the pace, the places and the way of occupying these sites. For example, there is a process of backfill that is going on right now on the lake of the quarry that serves as one of the main locations of our film. So, how do we deal with these things? What’s at stake? I think that’s a question that was born in my heart when I first got inspired and that is also at the core of the film.
When working on a project like this how important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking for you?
Well, it’s essential. Cantareira is a very low-budget project, so without collaboration, it simply wouldn’t exist. But apart from the financial aspect, being collaborative is also being humble. Hearing the people you’re working with and actually giving space for ideas to flow, for people to be creative along with you. I strongly believe that being a good director also consists of the ability to know how to make the best of everyone involved. You bring people together so they can expand your original perception, so they can get that idea and improve it with their talent and work. It is such a nice lesson.
Do you allow yourself much flexibility with the screenplay or do you like to stick to what has been written?
With Cantareira I’ve kept the screenplay structure and filmed all of it. While editing, the screenplay has been much more left aside than while filming, which makes the editing much more independent and witty. But, on rehearsals, this flexibility can be used, and then good things can come up. I’m always open to hearing the actor's suggestions. If they bring some unexpected interesting thing or suggest something good, why not embrace it? The lines, for example, can be said with different words while keeping the intention of the scene. But it depends a lot, it’s not like I have an established flexibility policy.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
After realising I wanted to do it, I started remembering life moments in which I was totally hypnotised in front of the television. I remember being a little kid in my bedroom and getting closer and closer to the screen as the movie progressed in emotion. But it took me a while to consider it for life as it is not a safe and simple career, especially in my country.
"I hope the working class can watch it and feel represented, feel that some of their journeys, struggles, and desires are somehow being portrayed."
How different was your approach to Cantareira compared to your other short films?
I have a hybrid called Interview With The Great Director, a documentary called Before Çairé, and a fiction, Cantareira which is, by fair, the one that gave me the most work. For that reason, for being the first kind of complicated production, my approach was also much more intense. Cantareira is a project that lasted around two years and a half, from the first draft to the final cut. The hybrid was a one-month project with four people on the crew and the documentary was a three months project with all the technical work made by me. So Cantareira required a bigger crew and, in that context, directing includes different skills, especially communication ones. The styles are very different as well... The hybrid has a strong comedy vein and it was constructed with a fake scripted interview and real images from security cameras. The documentary is kind of a direct cinema, it’s me with a camera getting to know other people and their lives and traditions. Cantareira goes to this more traditional production model and demands different levels of complexity.
Is there any advice or tips you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
It’s always curious to see young people giving advice because it’s almost advice for themselves, something they’re still pursuing. This logic definitely applies to me. I’m very much interested in the ones that my Cinéfondation colleagues, whom I’m really looking forward to meeting, will offer. But, I guess I would offer the advice of serenity, which makes projects and ideas much better and also joyful. Besides that, remember to go out in the world, to go and live. And if possible, try to film stuff, to record something every once in a while, to have a connection with the act of filming. Can be random stuff, anything. The importance is to film, to see how life looks through the lens. I suspect it refreshes our creative minds.
And finally, what do you want audiences will take away from Cantareira?
I hope people feel Bento’s subjectiveness presence and, through that, adopt more collective and empathetic attitudes towards workers. I hope the working class can watch it and feel represented, feel that some of their journeys, struggles, and desires are somehow being portrayed. I also hope audiences can take away the deep love for nature that moved me to this work. When I first went to the quarry that appears in the film, I remember how impressed I was, how it strongly attracted me. It’s a place created by humans with the intention of exploring stones etc. But, after abandoned, nature took it in her arms and made heaven out of it. A place of destruction became a place of contemplation. That’s powerful, that’s rebirth. And, at last, I hope the relationship between Bento and Sylvio, the two main characters, can generate something positive in the human heart. You’ll have to watch it to know what it is!