SANTIAGO, Chile – “Marighella,” Wagner Moura’s contentious directorial debut, is slated to bow in Brazil on Nov. 20 but Moura fears that its domestic release could be hampered by ongoing calls to boycott it by conservatives and the government of President Jair Bolsonaro who claims, among other things, that Brazil’s 21 years under military rule – between April 1964 and March 1985 – was not a dictatorship.
Budgeted at an estimated $4 million, a higher-than-average budget for Brazil, “Marighella” tracks the titular Carlos Marighella before he was gunned down by the military. Described as a Marxist politician, a writer and a revolutionary, he sought to end Brazil’s nefarious military dictatorship that began with a coup d’état in1964.
A scuttled domestic release is probably not an outcome Moura wants for his directorial debut. The actor-director-producer shot to fame with his lead roles in Jose Padilha’s “Elite Squad” films but his stardom rose to new heights with his three-season portrayal of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in “Narcos,” one of Netflix’s most popular show worldwide during its peak years.
In Chile’s capital of Santiago to open the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Festival (Sanfic), and celebrate the Latin American premiere of his political thriller, Moura reiterated that he was an actor first, and a director second. Asked whether he was ready to helm another film, he responded, “I’d have to be truly passionate about the subject matter.”
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“I’ll never be a director for hire,” he pronounced although he admitted that he has found directing easier than acting. “I watched my actors suffer through these traumatic scenes and thought how great that it was not me there,” he told Variety.
Having worked with the likes of Padilha and the various directors of “Narcos” helped him prep for his film.
“To be completely honest, it was so organic; I knew exactly what I wanted to do, had so much trust in the people I had hired and had discussed it ad nauseum with them that by the time I was ready to shoot, it was so easy,” he said. He admits that the post-production part was a mystery to him. “I had no clue about the process but I discovered how I loved working with sound design,” he noted.
The film’s producer O2 Filmes, the production shingle of Andrea Barata Ribeiro and Fernando Meirelles (“City of God,” “The Constant Gardener”), gave him free rein to hire his cast and crew, he said. His DP, Adrian Tejido, who had worked with him on “Narcos” and the upcoming “Sergio,” among other projects, protected and supported him. “Imagine a DP who tells you he’s not putting the camera where you want it,” he mused.
“Marighella” is 2 hours 36 minutes long but it could have been four hours. Moura is hoping to fashion the used and unused footage to craft a mini-series for Globo TV, a principal investor in the film.
Moura will next be starring in Olivier Assayas’ Cuban spy drama, “The Wasp Network,” which bows at Venice.