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Maria Camargo, Amora Mautner on Globo’s New Banner Series ‘Harassment’

The writer and director drill down on how OTT release and MeToo are forging new narratives in Brazil

It’s not only pay TV operators in Latin America that are launching and cultivating OTT services. Globo, the biggest broadcast network in Latin America, has just bowed one of its banner new Mipcom titles, “Harassment,” on Globoplay, its digital platform. A series in the social-issue line of “Jailers” and “Under Pressure,” it is not digital first but currently digital only: When it will air on Globo’s core free-to-air channel has yet to be determined.

“Harassment” will soon be joined on Globoplay by “Under Pressure” Season 2, which will double down on corruption in Brazil’s hospital system, released simultaneously on OTT and free-to-air channel Globo.

Though a fictional work, “Harassment” is freely inspired by the book “A Clínica: A Farsa e os Crimes de Roger Abdelmassih” (The Clinic: The Farce and the Crimes of Roger Abdelmassih, in a loose translation), itself based on a notorious true-life case of a Brazilian gynecologist sentenced to 181 years for sedating and raping 30 clients.

“This topic knows no boundaries and is fully in line with current international social movements,” comments Silvio de Abreu, Globo drama director.

Variety talked to “Harassment” lead writer Maria Camargo and artistic director Amora Mautner about a series which, in more ways than one, captures me of the directions Globo is now heading.

The series’ first episode seems like a psycho-drama with clear genre influence, from the “Silent Night,” sung by a child, to the blocked blue-green color tones, and often enclosed spaces. Could you comment? And will you continue with similar style in the rest of the series or does it evolve as you move from the lead characters’ suffering rape to their banding together to denounce Doctor Roger?

Mautner: Music, color and all the elements used in the series were chosen to create a mood for the story. “Silent Night” was used to build an atmosphere of strangeness, since it’s a children’s song accompanying a series about harassment. At the same time, it evokes the birth of children. It served to show those two poles very well. As chapters go by, that strangeness remains as language and increases. It doesn’t become horror, because that is not the genre of the series. This series is a psychological thriller.

One challenge is how or if to humanize a serial rapist, Dr. Roger. What directions did you give to Antoni Calloni on how to play him?

Mautner: Antonio Calloni is an actor with a very broad interpretation range. He can go from the most humane character to the worst monstrosity. I told him to pay attention to all sides of this character, no matter how bad he is. Even though Roger is the worst type of human, he’s still complex, with emotions and feelings. Therefore, it was important that he also had a somewhat more human side. Even if it only came to light through the love he has for his family, for instance.

The series is a Globo Play original series. Did knowing that it’s OTT affect how you directed the series?

Mautner: The fact that the series is meant for Globoplay really influenced the way I directed it. The premise was to make a product with OTT features, which are different from broadcast TV features. These changes cover various aspects: rhythm, color, light, tone, shapes and decoupage.

You’ve written some of the highest-profile recent series and movies about women: “Side by Side,” “Nise – The Heart of Madness” -and sometimes inspired by women’s creativity “Female Mail.” Do you think “Harassment” in some ways advances the conversation about women’s issues? If so, how?

Camargo: Yes. I’ve created strong female characters, very different from each other and with different approaches, but the main theme of those stories wasn’t necessarily the role of women in the world or predominantly female issues – except maybe for “Correio Feminino” (female mail, in a loose translation).  In “Harassment,” beyond the multiple female leads, the theme takes the spotlight. The story only happens because the leads are women with desires, vulnerabilities, and above all else, strength that is essentially feminine. The women make the world go round in ‘Harassment.’

Had #MeToo lifted off when you originally wrote “Harassment”? And how did its growth into a global revolution affect, if in any way, the development of the project.

Camargo: When I started writing ‘Harassment,’ #MeToo hadn’t yet begun, but there was already a very interesting movement on the web. It was in the air – never before had people spoken so much about sexual harassment, violence against women, sexism and rape culture. Women are still being abused, sexism remains, but now there’s also a very strong movement against it. Thus, #MeToo emerging while the series was being written was just a confirmation that we were on the right track.

The title of the series is “Harassment.” I believe, however, that much of it deals with the victims and supporters organization into a group which courageously takes on a powerful member of the establishment and, against odds, wins. Is that true? Could you explain briefly how the series is structured?

Camargo: The story basically has two opposing narratives: the doctor’s and his victims’. In the first half, the antagonist is on the rise and the women, to the contrary, are at their worst – they are introduced amid their suffering, one on each chapter, as a choir to which voices are added one by one. In the second half, the choir is complete – also with the presence of a third vector: a journalist. The women then come together, gain strength, and the doctor’s downfall begins.

About the title: It all starts with harassment: a socially tolerated behavior, often encouraged, which paves the way for terrible sexual violence. That’s what we’re talking about: a whole system that silently enables violence and abuse against women, and a women’s movement that breaks the silence.

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