Brazil’s Fellipe Barbosa and Clara Linhart are following up the success of their Cannes Critics’ Week player “Gabriel and the Mountain,” with “Domingo,” an intimate look at a bourgeoisie Brazilian family over New Year’s weekend during the 2003 inauguration of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The film will compete in the main competition at this year’s Venice Days, then segues to the Toronto Festival’s Contemporary World Cinema showcase.
“Domingo” follows two sides of an old money family, together for a weekend in a poorly-maintained mansion where the family matriarch spent much of her childhood. What starts as a typical barbeque finds its drama amongst the raging hormones of teenage boys, a rainstorm which drives the family into the confines of the home, and too much champagne, mixed with a hidden box of cocaine.
Just as the house from a bygone era shows signs of deterioration, so to do the foundations of this wealthy family, as Brazilian politics seem to be moving towards a world with no room for them.
The ensemble cast is highlighted by trio of standout female performers and Brazilian film and TV regulars in Ítala Nandi (“Ways of the Heart”), Camila Morgado (“Olga”) and Martha Nowill (“Entre Nós”).
“Domingo” was produced by Globo Filmes, Canal Brasil, and Arte France Cinéma and will be released domestically in January, just after the next inauguration. International sales are handled by Films Boutique.
What was the atmosphere like on your small set with such a big cast?
Linhart: The atmosphere was really great, especially because of the younger cast that brought their innocence to the set. We left the actors free to roam the set so they would feel at home. They would improvise until we found the scene and the choreography. The DoP, Louise Botkay, was very important in this process. She only used one lens, and shot every scene as a sequence shot (with one exception). That means we were very light and the camera was free to “dance” with the actors inside the house, like a waltz.
You’ve said before that sound was very important on this film, can you elaborate?
Linhart and Barbosa: One of the main functions of sound is to connect the house’s different spaces. The characters lock themselves in rooms in order to share secrets, unaware of who is on the other side of the door, about to catch them in some forbidden act. But this connection is always incomplete: It’s never as clear for the character who is outside the action as it is for the audience. From that difference of knowledge emerges a dramatic irony, a key element in a film that deals with the secrets that permeate this family gathering.
What do you think the state of a family such as this would be today, 15 years after the election of Lula?
Linhart: The fear of the rich people that they would lose their privileges, and that Brazil would become a communist country, didn’t prove right. Lula’s government was ultimately good for the upper classes. He was a conciliator who knew how to ride the wave, and Brazil experienced great economic growth during his government. Things changed for the lower classes who could imagine a better future for their children. With the affirmative action in public universities, the first generation of many families could go to university and change their destiny. 15 years later, Rita, the daughter of the maid, would likely have a different life from her mother.
What is the relevance of this film in today’s political climate in Brazil?
Barbosa: We have no idea yet. The film changed many times through the years. When Lucas Paraizo wrote the screenplay around 2005, we could never imagine the changes that would happen in the country. We certainly couldn’t have imagined that Lula would be in jail today. When the film is released in Brazil next January we have no clue who will be in power.
Linhart: All we hope is that we’ll have our democracy back, and that the winner takes the seat.
The film is based around the time of Lula’s election, but the story doesn’t seem exclusively Brazilian. What do you hope international audiences get out of seeing it?
Barbosa: Even though the film takes a critical stance towards the bourgeoisie, we hope that our international audiences feel like they could share their destiny. In other words, we hope that audiences don’t judge our characters, but identify with them. We also hope that audiences understand the cycle of oppression against the lower classes, and empathize with their plight.