CANNES, France — Beatriz Seigner’s debut “Bollywood Dream” was the first Brazilian co-production with India. Her second directorial outing, “Los Silencios,” screening in the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight, follows a widowed mother and her children trying to make a living on the Colombia-Brazil-Peru border at a place where the life live with the dead, after the family’ father has apparently been killed during the Colombian Farc conflict. It is co-produced by Brazil’s Enquadramento Produçoes, Seigner’s company Miriade Filmes, Colombia’s Diafragma and France’s Ciné-Sud Promotion, International sales are handled by Paris-based Pyramide International.
“Los Silencios”‘ is set on the border between Colombia, Peru and Brazil. What do you believe is your— and Brazil’s— cultural link with a country like Colombia?
Currently, Colombians comprise the second largest body of immigrants coming into Brazil, ever since 2006 when President Lula approved a law allowing immigrants to work and receive social security in our country. When I heard this story from a Colombian childhood friend of mine, I was really moved; it pursued me through my dreams. It reminded me of some similar situations from my childhood, so I decided to write it down.
I believe most countries going through this process of decolonization have similar issues: the need for land reforms, the need to eradicate social injustices and inequity, the need to end the war on drugs— which is actually a war against black, indigenous and vulnerable populations— the need to value our original cultures and wisdoms, the constant need to fight for democracy and freedom.
As a colonized country, we tend to always look up towards Europe and the U.S. I’d like to set our sights elsewhere and look for inspiration, to our neighbor Latin American and BRIC countries and cultures, with whom we have so much in common.
In addition to concrete references to Apitchatpong Weerasethakul (such as in the film’s atmosphere) and other filmmakers such as John Cassavettes or Lucrecia Martel, the film represents the exuberance of Colombian culture, and also the documentary and neo-realistic/Cinema Novo tradition of Brazil…
I’m very glad you also saw those references in the film, because ahead of being a filmmaker I’m a film lover, and I’m sure that every film I love lives in me, and appears somewhere in what I do, or in the way I see the world.
Fabio’s character, for example, reminds me of Satyajit Ray’s character Apu from “The Song of The Little Road,” a masterpiece of Indian Neo-realism. Scenes with Coyote, his friend, remind me of “Accatone” by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
I also believe the indigenous cosmology in Latin America has a lot in common with that of Asian cultures, especially the cyclical way of seeing Life, Death, and its interactions.
It’s a film about life and death and its emptiness. This also links cultural traditions from Colombia and Brazil. You tackle the subject in an unpretentious way.
I think that maybe because of our indigenous and African roots, which are very connected to the power of nature, it’s very usual in our cultures to live and talk with the dead, our ancestors, to offer them food or drink, ask for their advice and blessings, and sometimes even fight with them.
It’s a way to process death, and to stay connected with that which enriches our life, that being that lives with us, somehow.
In some parts of Colombia, even if a missing person isn’t found, you keep doing everything you used to do with that person, keeping them alive.
“Los Silencios” depicts the difficult living conditions of the island’s inhabitants and the aftermath of the Farc conflict. How do you analyse the current situation? Will the pardon impact the country?
I have great admiration toward Colombians for facing this challenge, and even when it’s not possible to forgive, for considering what they need in order to live together and make the future less violent and traumatic for subsequent generations.
But of course, for the peace agreement be successful the government will need to promote the social inclusion and justice that have been promised. I hope the whole world will support them on that. And, I hope that in Brazil we will be inspired by this as well, because Brazil is also a very unjust and violent country.
You have your own production company— Miríade Filmes. Do you plan to produce films by other directors?
I created Miriade Filmes in order to be independent, access Brazilian public funds and have full autonomy on the final cut of my films as well as on choosing the cast and crew and making sure our budget is shared on an equity fair basis between everyone. I’ve co-produced a few films directed by friends, mostly documentaries that needed to be shot quickly. However, since I’m really devoted to making excellent handmade artistic films, and need time for immersion and research, I’m not able to give the care and attention that too many projects demand.
However, I do have a distribution company in Brazil, together with my partner Ibira Machado, called Descoloniza Films. Our goal is to finance and distribute commercially films directed by women from peripheral places. I’m extremely happy to be a part of this company.
I’m finishing editing a documentary called “Between Us, a Secret,” about the Djelis of Mali, also known in the West as griots, who are the traditional conflict mediators and storytellers of the West Africa. It should be finished by the end of the year.
I’m also writing a couple of scripts of my next feature films, which are currently at different stages. Hopefully we will be able to start applying for grants this year.