The film became possible when I realised that these off screen moments were essential for the film
13 years later, when I got back to the edit suite I asked for the transcripts, but these only had information about the actual shots. There wasn’t a single sentence about what came before or after, so I had no information on all the off-screen conversations that took place. I started looking at what came before and after the planned shots and realised that what explained the artificiality in the film was outside of these shots. And the film became possible when I realised that these off screen moments were essential for the film. The off screen that I didn’t control or what I thought I didn’t need to control. And those were my conversations with him, that in the end were the things that weren’t the object of my obsession with control, of the obsession with the aesthetics…
I rented a room in the centre of town as public transport tends to be reduced to “chapas” – little mini buses which are always so full that you have young men’s bums sticking out of the windows and they have this tendency to break down, making any journey a challenge to time and patience…
First morning, after a night of heavy rain, I woke up to the croaking of frogs and a city landscape transformed into lakes of murky waters and floating rubbish. I’d never thought of packing my Wellington boots. My project is about the way the city of Maputo has dramatically expanded over the last few years, creating a large suburb of what appears to be endless slums. For the first few days it was extremely difficult to access the families I was going to work with, as the lanes were transformed into a slalom of mud. As days passed by I grew more anxious, having only 3 weeks to research and film this project. But the sun returned and I was able to get on with the next challenge, getting to know my families, and start filming.
On Sunday I was in London so decided to pay a visit to St Paul protest camp. It was a beautiful, glorious morning with St Paul’s bells imposing silence and respect from the protesters…
One month after the Occupy Movement launch across 900 cities, affiliating to the cause to fight against the extremes of global capitalism, 200 colourful tents set home outside St Pauls after NOT being allowed to occupy Paternoster square, home to London Stock Exchange.
At the end of the 80’s, Brazil elected its new president, called Fernando Collor de Melo. One of the things Fernando Collor de Melo did was to suspend all the laws that supported film production in Brazil. So for three years or maybe a little before that, whilst he ruled the country, Brazil didn’t make any films. I think there was one film, maybe two, maximum, which was a real problem for production companies, such as the one I have with my brother, Waltinho, where we used to make TV series, documentaries and features.
Suddenly we couldn’t do that anymore. So we, like any other production company in Brazil, had one solution only, and that was advertising. We all started making adverts. Video Filmes, which is our joint production company, became one of the biggest advertising production companies in Brazil. The other production company was Fernando Meirele’s O2, based in São Paulo.
Day 3: Constructive Feedback
Our final day began with yet another strong note of caution. As if the previous evening and night had itself merely been an illusion, Werner jumped back into commenting on commentary and advised us to take it easy with text that is overloaded with too much depth. 'There are moments when you can depart far from the text', he said. He gave the end of Cave of Forgotten Dreams as an example.
The commentary moves into the abstract form of perception with the albino alligators. Only once the audience is comfortable with the subject can you go wild but it is important to anchor it well. The audience has to be taken by the hand and guided through the film.
Werner then delved back into the staging of moments in documentaries. For example, there is the scene in the Kinski documentary where we are taken on a visit to his old house, which was all choreographed. The basic pattern of the trip was rehearsed. ‘Sometimes it is better to come as a surprise but here it was right to set up the scene. The real surprise renders the best effects but this is not only always the case. We must sometimes be quick to take drastic steps in order to solve a problem.’
Day 2: Being a lion tamer
The morning session began with an unexpected occurrence, an occurrence that sublimely facilitated the forgetting of the Fitzcarraldean trial that was reaching Crawley train station first thing on a Sunday, whilst engineering rail works shut down the entire local network. There was, of course, the other painful recollection that it was indeed early on a Sunday morning. Werner began the day with the reading of the passage of the horse’s death from Virgil’s Georgics. His eyes gazed at the manuscript with intent yet they burned wildly, completely transfixed in the text. Werner read the passage with that distinct accent of his whilst we hypnotically stared, captivated in a long gone moment in time. He explained how Virgil saved his Antarctica film. Arriving with no notion of what he would find Werner stepped onto the South Pole, looked around and thought 'We will do it like Virgil!'
This year we added a short course lead by Sandra Whipham (London Fields Pictures) to our selection of offerings to Scottish producers and filmmakers. 2x 2 days (April & September) on what to consider in order to get your films ready for the international market and the role of a producer in shaping the strategies for a film.
Have you ever thought about how many roles we take on as producers? We need to be creative and nurturing, counsellors and confidantes, we need to know some technical stuff and not shy away from accounting, marketing and legal contracts. Maybe "Jongleur" would be a better description. And of course we need to accept sometimes that we're "the boss" technically, and literally, and not worry about being unpopular. In fact if you like being popular, perhaps it's not the right career choice.
For its 6th edition Dockanema decided to celebrate Ruy Guerra. At the Brazilian Cultural Centre he decided to talk about the 3 moments of his life: poet, photographer, actor, scriptwriter, editor, but above all film director, born in 1931 in the city now known as Maputo. In his youth in Maputo, he was active against Portuguese colonization and racism, which of course got him into trouble with the authorities. His father worried for his safety and decided to send him abroad.
Day 1: Read, read, read, read.
I wanted to be as far forward as possible to be able to see Herzog's every muscle move in his face, to observe every movement, to completely concentrate and to listen. My notepad quickly opened, my pen at the ready, my only purpose to be attentive and to write down everything he uttered.
Werner entered the front of the room and took control of the microphone, a screen hung behind him and a projector fanned in front of him. Two speakers dangled either side of him. He welcomed us and began with his Rogue Film School mantra, ‘I will say this again, if you want to be a film director you must read, read, read, read.’
Some of you may have heard of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique but I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t. It is a large country in the south of Africa, with a very long coast on the Indian Ocean and sharing borders with South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. Not only do they share borders but also a history of wars and colonialism. Except that Mozambique was the only territory in that part of Africa colonized by Portugal, which meant independence only came once Portugal got rid of its own fascist government in 1975.
Then came the golden era of Mozambique's left wing liberator, Samora Machel. Again, many people wouldn’t even know his name, but he was a bigger version of Mandela, with as much of a passion for his people as he had for life. Less than 10 years later – at a time when Aparteid in South Africa was at its most threatening, and in retaliation of Mozambique’s offering political refuge to South African militants – his presidential plane crashed ‘by accident’, leaving Mozambique a helpless widow.
This is a long introduction to talk about Dockanema, Mozambique’s annual documentary festival, but Mozambique has always had a special place in the history of cinema.