It’s been rare in recent decades that Latin American free to air tv has ventured into social drama as the realism needed to handle the genre has often been deemed to gritty to be entertaining.
That’s not been the case for Brazil’s Globo however, which has moved waves and dales, which reaping prizes, with series such as “Under Pressure” or “Jailers,” that grip audiences while examining the lives of doctors and prison guards.
As the Brazilian broadcaster presented its new lineup at Mipcom, Globo shared a sneak peek of its new series “Second Call,” an ensemble series which follows the daily life of the teachers and students at a state school on the outskirts of São Paolo.
Co-produced by O2 Filmes, which is co-run by “City of God’s” Fernando Meirelles, directed by Joana Jabace (“Harassment,” “Rules of the Game”) and written by Carla Faour and Julia Spadaccini, “Second Chance” stresses the importance of education as a vital tool of transformation for both individuals and society.
The story follows Lucia, played by Debora Bloch (“Land of the Strong”), a professor who, after a traumatic event, comes back to teaching nights at the Carolina Maria de Jesus state school.
Alongside geography professor Sonia (Hermila Guedes, “Harassment”), art teacher Marco Andre (Silvio Guindane, “Pride and Passion”) and math teacher Eliete (Thalita Carauta, “A Second Chance”), Lucia’s dedication and feeling of responsibility towards her students means that she shares their conflicts as each struggles to continue their studies in the face of harsh realities outside the school.
Variety interviewed the series’ team ahead of Mipcom.
The directing style leans heavily on naturalism, bordering documentary. When casting did you look for natural actors, professional or a mix of both?
Jabace: To me, one of the main assets of this series is the cast and actors’ performance tone. I’ve chosen artists that were familiar with their characters’ plot to reinforce the series’ naturalism. The actors are all professionals of varying TV experience, although they are not well-known, which is an asset. I tried to create a mosaic of faces and accents that demonstrates Brazil in all its expansiveness.
What was the process of investigation like for the writers and the director?
Faour and Spadaccini: To understand the night school universe better we did extensive research that included talking with several teachers and students, as well as visits to schools in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. We studied students’ profiles, conflicts and diverse stories so that we could fictionalize the material we had gathered.
Jabace: Concerning the direction, I flirted with docudrama a lot, with a very strong realism. I chose to shoot all series on location and fought for a real school. I looked for and visited several places until I found the old Jockey Club of São Paulo School. Immediately I noticed a place marked by strong stories and, with the art director, I decided to keep the precariousness of the building. It communicates the reality even if ours is a work of fiction. Since the beginning, I have been very careful to be faithful to what’s happening around us. The school of the series is a mirror of so many schools in our country. Shooting in a real school also has other advantages. It allowed the actors to always be on the move; a scene that starts in the classroom, then goes to the stairs and ends on the schoolyard, for example, without interruptions. This contributed truth and organic sense to the story.
This isn’t the first Globo series to address issues that are often seen as taboo in Latin America, but it does highlight the lack of conversation around some of those issues. How do you approach these themes are creators?
Faour and Spadaccini: This is a show that speaks about social reality. As authors, we take a put critical look at these real-life conflicts. We think that drama, more than just being entertaining, must fulfill the role of raising debate and reflection about different themes. Making a series that can combine entertainment and social relevance has always our main objective.
It doesn’t seem a coincidence that a series pointing out the importance of education and educators in a profoundly nuanced drama is written and directed by women. What do you think the female gaze can bring to the subjects?
Faour and Spadaccini: It is always a delicate issue to make a distinction between projects led by women and those led by men, because it seems that we still occupy a position of exception. Little by little this is changing. We see a positive evolution. That said, looking at this project, we do believe that we can point out some particularities of the female look on the outcome of the series. We have three main characters, three strong women, that have not succumbed to difficulty. They face bravely the challenge of taking care of their personal lives, the exhausting work and still show their commitment as educators. They are three warriors who, each in their own way, get emotionally attached to their students’ personal stories. These three women are aware of the transformative role that this school has in their lives. We also approached themes that often relate specifically to women: Abortion, breastfeeding and domestic violence. We approached such issues without judgment. We are more concerned with creating a debate than controversy.