One thing’s clear from the 2021 Berlin Film Festival’s get-go:  Its Berlinale Series strand grows stronger every year, and features for the first time two Latin America series which underscore the creative excitement of the limited miniseries format.

“The Last Days Of Gilda,” Gustavo Pizzi and star Karine Teles’ adaptation of the same-titled stage play by Rodrigo de Roure is in its style, a playful portrayal of a woman trapped in a political and social tsunami now storming Brazil.

Produced by Pizzi label Baleia Filmes, in association with Nostro, and backed by Canal Brazil and Globoplay, the fastest-building domestic SVOD service in Brazil, the four-episode series frame a tour de force performance from Teles as a hero-figure whose femininity embodies a humanity shines strong in a dark contemporary Brazil. Artistically ambitious, platform-backed limited miniseries pushing the envelope on many levels – style, social resonance, and especially narrative – are still a fledging format in many parts of the world. “The Last Days Of Gilda,” is, however, a shining example. Variety talked with Pizzi as the show sparks buzz off its Brazil premiere and Berlinale selection.

Introducing each episode, you place Gilda in a stage-like space, dressed in traditional Brazilian garb and sharpening a large knife. It seems unclear whether these scenes represent her imagination or a heightened reality but as the show progresses and comes back to the same space with Gilda caught in different contexts, they gain more and more weight. Could you comment? 

It’s a kind of dialogue from the theater play but played in a completely different manner. For me it’s the idea of some other space. Not a daily space, nor daily life. I think it creates more meaning. As you said, at  first moment,  we have Gilda in that space and you could think it’s her imagination. Afterwards, it doesn’t seem to be the case, or it could be a mix of different things. I like that, I like to give to audiences a chance  bring their own interpretation. Of course we had rules about it. It’s also a kind of narrative, [allowing us to stop and take breath. It’s a lot about breathing. Giving us time to think about what’s just happened in a different way.

You also use title cards that follow Gilda’s lines of thought. Do they comes from the play. If so what advantages did you see in translating them to a mini series? 

Those moments are taken from the original play, the way the playwright deals with those phrases is really important to me. They allow you to think with other parts of your brain and creating different sensations for the audience. I really liked having the opportunity to write on screen. If it were a movie, I’d probably wouldn’t have used them. But I’m trying to understand what kind of format this series is. We have the chance to discover new possibilities for narratives.

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Gustavo Pizzi Credit: Bianca Aun Benzinho

The series shows Gilda with multiple lovers or sexual partners, her living her sexuality to the full -and making no secret of it – becomes a gesture and act of rebellion to her far right neighbors – thanks in a part to how that intimate scenes are shot and staged. What was your approach when handling the sex scenes? 

It’s always really hard to shoot sex. You should only bring to the screen what you really need. From the first, I determined that the bodies of the male actors should appear equally or more than the female actresses. Gilda has a lot of lovers, but for me that’s natural for the character: That’s her life. So I tried to create with the actors an atmosphere where we could always talk about the scenes, and to decide together the angles, the relationship with the camera and lightning. Thanks to that relationship with the actors, we brought more meaning to each moment. I talked a lot with Karine about how to expose her body, for example. We make a statement by just showing that character with no comments. That is just her body, it’s not more than that.

The show is an unflinching take on contemporary Brazil. Could you comment? 

We’re facing a moment where the series’ story could become reality. When we were making the show [right before Brazil’s latest general elections], we were all worried about what would happen to our industry. And lived between fear and hope. There was huge uncertainty about what would happen. We wanted to make a statement against what we were facing then  – and still are. Brazil’s industry employ’s 300,000 people.  Nowadays, only a few titles are going into production. Some of our friends and crew members have had to start to work at other jobs things, just to survive. Oe who I know is going to work as an Uber driver another in food delivery. It’s really hard to start to understand that maybe your industry doesn’t exist anymore.

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The Last Days of Gilda Credit: Baleia Filmes y Nostro