The Making of The Moving Creatures

Writer/director Caetano Gotardo talks about the creative process behind THE MOVING CREATURES:

FernandaQ: What was the origin of the film?

Caetano Gotardo: Between 2005 and 2007, I discovered three tragic (and very moving) stories about parents and sons in the Brazilian media. As time went by, these stories kept coming back to my mind, and when I thought about one of them, the other two would always come to surface as well. So I noticed that these stories were somehow connected, and that together, they sort of illuminated each other in really interesting ways. So I began thinking about creating a film that would take them as an inspiration.

I knew that didn’t want to go back to the real stories and make a faithful portrait of what happened; what interested me was to imagine the characters and observe them in their everyday life, dealing with time and affect. So I started writing the screenplay without going back to read the original stories, just so I could feel totally free to create the characters and situations while staying true to the feelings I had when I first encountered these stories.

Q: You’ve directed five short films before making your feature debut with THE MOVING CREATURES. What are the main differences between your short films and this work? 

Caetano Gotardo: One of my main interests in cinema is to think about time, the duration of things, the experience of being in the present. So a feature film allowed me to deepen this research. In this film, I was able to tackle different scene rhythms and also, be more faithful to a character’s experience of time. It was also interesting to deal with a longer structure; even though the three stories are independent, the film was conceived as a single piece, with an emotional structure that moves from one segment to the other. But as far as the shooting experience goes, I’ve tried (as much as I could) to stay close to what I did with my short films.  I certainly didn’t want to feel tense or rushed. Instead, I wanted the crew to stay focused and create the right conditions for the actors. And we had a great experience that way.

Q: The songs play a major role in the film. How did you go about writing, editing, and choosing a place for them in each segment?

Caetano Gotardo: When I decided to create a film dealing with these stories, I knew I didn’t want to have a fatalistic take on the characters. Even though they go through some tragic events, I wanted to give room for them to exist beyond these events. We’re never just one thing; one event in our lives can never fully define us. That’s one of the film’s themes, I think, so I wanted to look at these characters in some simple, everyday situations. I wanted to see how they experience joy, even though they experience sadness in a deep way as well. And that same feeling made me want to create something lyrical for the most tragic moments. The three mothers have to deal with a lot of pain, and the only way for them to express themselves in these moments is singing. I wanted the film to overflow from the most naturalistic representation of pain to some possibility of lyrical representation. Because those things are, in some way, impossible to reproduce; they are beyond representation. I wanted to assume that, and the songs came from that assumption.

IMG_6983So I wrote the lyrics as if they were part of the dialogues, but at the same time, they say things that the characters wouldn’t say in any other way. After that, I’ve worked with Marco Dutra, the composer, to find the mood for each song. I thought about the characters and the specific moments in the film. And then we recorded the voices live, during the shooting. We couldn’t imagine those songs being dubbed, since the scenes are driven by emotions.

Q: Your characters take time to think, consider the facts, elements, and space around then, and even stay silent. How did you work with the actors to achieve such a consistent tone? 

Caetano Gotardo: I love working with the actors. It’s always one of my main pleasures as a director. In this film, we rehearsed during the month before the shooting, and  most important thing for me was to creating a connection between the different actors of each segment, and to let them start getting close to their characters.

We’ve improvised some scenes from the screenplay and also, some moments that are not in the film. I proposed some banal activities to them, so they could experience simple actions. I did a series of simple interviews, in which they had to answer as their characters, just to help create a subjective universe for them. And when the shooting started, the set was organized around the work of the actors.

We also had some time, in the set, to work before shooting started. That was an important part of the process of finding the inner rhythms of each character and scene. I wanted to see those characters thinking, looking at things, doing nothing… I wanted to construct them through action and inaction, for we are not in activity all the time.


A Talk with the co-directors of I Touched All Your Stuff

After a US Premiere at the Museum of Moving Image earlier this year, Maira Buhler and Matias Mariani’s I TOUCHED ALL YOUR STUFF is set to have its theatrical  premiere on August 28, at Cinema Village (in New York) and Arena Cinema (in Los Angeles).

This interview with Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani was originally published in the Montreal International Documentary Festival.

How did you discover the story of Kirk, and how did the project of the film start?

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Christopher Kirk

We were working on the research for our previous film, She Dreamed That I Died, in which we painted a broad canvas of foreigners arrested in Brazilian prisons. During the research we interviewed over 500 people, pen and paper at hand, always asking the same question: « Tell us about your life? ». From all those interviewed, Chris was the only one who refused to answer this question. Instead, he asked us a series of questions, on the film we were planning to make, and said he would only talk to us if he had 8 hours to tell his story directly to the camera. We were, to say the least, and what he told us, the so-called V. Story (a tale about his love and obsession for a Japanese-Colombian woman), was our point of entry to what would become this new film,.

There is a real narrative construction, that’s why the film is so fascinating. How long was your “investigation”, and what choices did you make during the editing process?

The investigation took the better part of five years, in which we dedicated ourselves to the project as well as other stuff (we didn’t have any funding through most of that time). Early in this process Chris directed us to find a 80 GB hard drive which he had left with friends in Olympia, and which contained his systematic cataloguing and registration of this relationship he had with V., and that’s when we made what would probably be the most important conceptual decision of the film: that his story would be told through this hard drive, that the information in there would guide our creative process. That, together with another important decision – not to interview V., and focus the whole film on his perspective of the story – were the leading motivations for our editing process.

Kirk is a storyteller, and sometimes we don’t know what to think listening to him. Did your relationship change during the shooting, and how did you decide to interact with him?

Yes it did, at first we were very entranced by his narrative capabilities, by how well he was able to craft his tale. However, even in the beginning, there were parts of his story that seemed inconsistent, or that he simply refused to talk about. And that was a motivation in itself, not a motivation in « finding out the truth » (an act we, as filmmakers, abhor), but a motivation in making his story more absorbing and intricate by pointing out – through editing – where he somehow lost of control of the story, and it developed more of a life of its own.

Have you been in touch with Kirk after you finished the film?

Yes, we’ve  been in touch with him. When we finished the film we went to Olympia-WA to show him the final cut before premiering it in Marseille. As he had gave us total freedom to work, we thought it would be nice of us to show him in a private situation before going public. After that Chris also went to Marseille and was able to be in the Q&A with us. Besides that, we keep him updated about festivals, critics and all matters related to “I Touched All Your Stuff .”

Hippo#1Did you ever think about finding V.?

When we first heard the story we did. But as soon as we got the HD we understood that V. would be always a kind of « hidden » character, someone that is not objective but that is a projection of Chris’s own perception about her. We wanted to built a subjective portrait more then anything else. Of course that had to do with the choice of never showing her face and keeping her mysterious, conveying this in-apprehensible aspect of « the other » in human relationships.


An interview with the director of LOOKING AT THE STARS

Before the film’s NY premiere at the Dance on Camera film festival, held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in early 2017, film critic Gary Kramer interviewed director Alexandre Peralta about the making of LOOKING AT THE STARS. Read here.

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