João Moreira Salles talks about ‘Santiago’ – part II

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…

Noe Mendelle: But the difference between these shots seems to me to be in relation to you, not in relation to him.

João Salles: Yes, of course!

Noe Mendelle: He is the same either in or out of the shot, you are the one that changes…

João Salles: Yes, I was the one who changed once I was off screen. And that first edit didn’t have that. And then I started to listen, when I started editing again, to all of the audiotapes, before the beginning of the shot and after. And I also listened to the off cuts of the film which changed my perspective.

João Moreira Salles is a Brazilian documentarian and president of the Instituto Moreira Salles. In 2006, he founded the magazine piauí. He has also taught courses on documentary at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and Princeton University.

In 1992 he began shooting a film about Santiago, the butler in his childhood home who left an indelible mark upon the family. Santiago was an educated man who, in addition to his work, produced some 60,000 pages of stories documenting his surroundings as well as tales of aristocratic lifestyles, including that of the house in which he himself served.

"Through his personal voice-over, Salles sheds light on his family and childhood, and on the reasons why the film took 13 years to complete. The result is an elegant mosaic with two parallel narratives, dealing with universal topics such as memories, identity, and documentary filmmaking." (Source unknown)

Here is an extract of the film.

This entry is part of a series of edited transcripts of João Moreira Salles’ Masterclass in Doc Montevideo 2011, hosted by Noe Mendelle.