Southwest (Sudoeste, 2012) is an unusual film on multiple grounds – it was a project which materialized after 13 years of its inception, the film uses extreme wide aspect ratio and talks of a non-existent land. The director Eduardo Nunes visited the Kolkata in Nov 2013 and presented the film at the 19th Kolkata Film Festival, 2013.
Amitava Nag, editor, Silhouette got a chance to interview the director.
Amitava: Southwest is your first feature film though you have been making films for over 20 years. Tell us what type of films you were making in this period.
Eduardo: The film project Southwest was there since 1999, so even if the movie has only been filmed in 2010, I remained working on this project for over ten years. I usually take much time working on a project. I guess this is my way of working. But I shot five shortfilms between 1995 and 2000, and I also wrote screenplays and edited films for other directors, in addition to working a TV in Brazil where I make the direction of documentaries.
Amitava: How did the idea of Southwest shape up in your mind?
Eduardo: The idea came in a short film format. Initially, all history happened in a small village where the wind was permanent, and this wind made the time go faster. The lives of all the inhabitants lasted a few hours. But I realized that the film would not work if you do not have an external reference, i.e. to perceive the passage of time we need two different times simultaneously. Hence the character Clarice with life lasting a single day and the other did not arise. Thus, we perceive the passage of time in the life of Clarice. So, I invited Guilherme Sarmiento, who wrote the script with me.
Amitava: The story is a bit unusual where in 24 hours you show the traversal of a life. As if life starts with death. What is the message you are trying to put here?
Eduardo: The main idea is that we do not perceive the passage of time in our lives. From time to time we say how life goes fast! But we fail to see how this affects us. We create routines of days, weeks, months and years. And we end up losing the ability to realize the value of the most common things that are always present in our lives. When you have a life like Clarice, everything is unique: one lunch time, a single setting of the sun, it makes things seem precious. I think we can rediscover this look on life.
Amitava: Tell us a bit about the name – there is some connotation about a non-existent southwest region, right?
Eduardo: The name comes from the name of Southwest wind that exists on the Brazilian coast: it is a wind that brings rain, and that is an important element in the film. I like the idea that a name refers to something that we feel, but that is something only realized when the presence is acting on something. So is the wind. At the same time, Southwest is the name of a region that does not exist in Brazil, so it’s interesting to think that this story takes place in a non-place and a no-time.
Amitava: How is the film received by the people of Brazil?
Eduardo: The film had very positive reviews in Brazil, was very well received by all and also received many important awards. In the marketing circuit, it was displayed in a few rooms, but I think that is what you expect from a film with a more authorial narrative. Anyway, I think that – worldwide – the authorial film still has a serious problem getting display space in the commercial circuit.
Amitava: And else-where?
Eduardo: The film was very well received wherever he went. It was shown at festivals in 27 countries, and won 23 awards. It was bought to be distributed in Europe and the USA. Had rave reviews from Variety, and still had a very positive review, half a page in The New York Times, at the time the film was shown at MoMA. It was a career much above what I would expect.
Amitava: The film is unusually wide, what aspect ratio you used?
Eduardo: The movie is really “ultrawide”. The aspect ratio is a ratio of 1:3,66, the higher the scope. The idea was of the director of photography, Mauro Pinheiro. When we visited the locations, we realized that everything was very horizontal, and in all frameworks we did a lot of space left over on top and bottom. The choice of wide framework allows greater harmony of the frame, while the background of the picture gives the same value as the main subject of the scene. Nature and people have been given the same weight in the context. Moreover, when we show simple things like a flower, in this framework, they seem special.
Amitava: Also a lot of grain in the texture – is it intentional? If yes, why?
Eduardo: The grain was intentional. We shot on 16mm and then expanded to 35mm. At a time when everyone is in digital film making it is almost a luxury to shoot with film. But for us, it was important for the texture of the film. This gives a vitality even for fixed frameworks. The grain is always moving, and this gives an amazing life to a movie. It pulsates with life.
Amitava: Who are your favourite film makers? Any particular influence that you want to mention.
Eduardo: I have many film makers that I love: Tarkovsky, Béla Tarr, Bergman, David Lean and Brazilians: Leon Hirzman and Mário Peixoto, who made only one film in 1930, the film is called Limite. For me, it is a strong influence.
Amitava: How is the current Brazilian cinema like? What is the future ?
Eduardo: Today, the Brazilian Cinema has a great diversity. The production is almost 130 films a year. Most of these films are commercial films that work with TV actors, and makes comedies and action films in the style of American cinema. But we also have an authorial cinema – and every year – becomes stronger and representative.
The films are being produced from the north to south of Brazil, demonstrating the diversity of cultures in such a large country. These films have gotten a good space in major film festivals in the world.
Amitava: What plans you have for your next film?
Eduardo: I’m working on adapting the novel A Happy Death by Albert Camus. It is a book I read when I was young and I really liked it. It is not easy for a film adaptation, to portray the philosophical thought of Camus that permeates the novel. But it’s a very exciting challenge. The screenplay was awarded the Hubert Bals Foundation (Festival Rotterdam) to develop the argument, and I believe that – in a year – we start filming.
Amitava: Is this (Nov 2013) your first visit to India? How you find it? What you think of the Indian cinema?
Eduardo: It is my first visit to India. And I was fascinated with the country. I knew very little and still want to return often. But the entire Indian culture is very powerful and there is no way to not let yourself be enchanted by it. Still know very little of Indian cinema, but I know that the Cinema is not limited to Bollywood films. Festival in Kolkata saw some movies I really liked. And of course, I’m a fan of the films of Satyajit Ray.
(All pictures are taken from the Internet)
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