Wrapped around feelings of abandonment against a dull city of Porto Alegre, Tinta bruta [Hard Paint] — Brazilian film making pair Filipe Matzembacher & Marcio Reolon’s second feature after their marvelous Beira mar [Seashore] — follows Pedro’s painful journey of self-discovery as a young loner who makes money performing in front of a webcam.
This emotion-driven, greatly acted Berlin Teddy Award winner touches upon the interesting topic of online personas and how people portray themselves in an idealized way on social media. It set against a somber city and wrapped around feelings of abandonment.
At the 33rd Guadalajara International Film Festival in Mexico, we talked with Matzembacher, Reolon, and protagonist Shico Menegat about the feelings of anger and abandonment, the city of Porto Alegre, social media, and the filming of Tinta bruta.
Berlin, Guadalajara… Tinta bruta is following Beira mar’s same exhibition path. What’s been different in producing your second feature?
We produced Beira Mar completely independently. Even though we got some funds for post production but we had no money for the shooting. Alternatively, Tinta bruta was a story we had been developing for some time and we had the time to apply for funding. We got a grant from the Hubert Bals Fund to do the film. It would have been so much harder to make this film without money.
How did the idea of Tinta bruta come about?
(Filipe) The film is based in a short film, Empty Room, that I directed where Marcio is the main actor. We worked around the idea of feelings of abandonment. After finishing it we wanted to make it a feature film.
You guys have a great ability to portray human emotions a love story between Pedro and Leo. And the film also has a social media, technological aspect. What’s your take on technology shaping human interactions nowadays?
(Filipe) With technology and social media, you make connections in a virtual space, not with actual people but with personas who are very different from the original ones. They are more about what they want to be.
(Marcio) You can filter what you’d like to the online personas. They’re not necessarily a reflection of yourself but they’re their own creation. That’s what we wanted to portray in terms of social media and technology. We do not feel the film is a love story, we think of the film more like the internal journey of Pedro. Of course love comes in between and it’s a huge part of it, for him to outgrow his situation, but in the end it’s about him struggling almost for survival.
It does feel like an ordeal for Pedro. He goes through some dramatic changes. In the end, he is a very different Pedro.
(Shico Menegat) He is a very complex character with a lot of feelings, a lot of anger, this feeling of abandonment. He has these sad eyes. It was very complex to mix all of these feelings. This journey of Pedro self-discovering himself and his body, connecting with other people to find himself, meeting Leo, and dealing with his sister.
The relationship with his sister is very touching, and with the grandmother later in the film. Very different from the relationship with Leo.
(Shico) Yes, they connect in a very different way. They have respect for each other’s space. They don’t talk too much, they just have this feeling that they can trust each other. And the scene in the shower is very emotional, when his grandmother hugs him. The grandmother is really special for Pedro.
How did you guys work Pedro’s character? I remember that with Beira Mar you spent several months rehearsing…
(Marcio) We did a very similar process. We rehearsed for 7 months. Filipe and I were actors before being directors, so we like this long process that is closer to stage acting than film acting. We really like to take the time to get to know the actors, and them to know us. We get confidence and develop trust. This is one of our favorite steps in the process of making a film, so we really invest a lot on it.
(Filipe) Bruno Fernandes, who plays Leo, had experience acting for the stage but he had never made a film before. We saw him act in a play in Porto Alegre and we liked him. While for Pedro’s character we were looking for an actor with a fragile look and at the same time with aggressiveness. We met Shico at a party and we told ourselves, ‘we can think about that guy when we write the script.’ So we started doing that with a draft of the script and afterwards we contacted him. He said he had never worked as an actor before. It was a very nice process the 7 months of rehearsing with both actors.
How did you feel about being an actor in a movie?
(Shico) We talked about the project and they told me about the story. I really connected and told them ‘let’s do it.’ I really liked being challenged to do something that I had never done before. They told me that the film would have some really intense scenes, sex scenes, really emotional. They asked me whether I’d be prepared to do it and I said ‘yes, I trust you.’ So we had this process of 7 months of watching movies, talking about our feelings and connecting between Pedro & Leo, Chico & Bruno, the actors and the characters. It was a beautiful process.
And after the 7 months of rehearsal, with a tight script I suppose, were one or two takes enough during the shooting?
(Marcio) Apart from a couple more improvised scenes like the dancing and party scenes, most of the film is very faithful to the script. We’re very strict during rehearsals and on the set, we do as many takes as necessary. It is very rare that we’re satisfied with just two or three.
(Filipe) It’s usually more like 8, 9 or 10 takes.
(Shico) Once on the set it was very different with the camera and the crew. It was really intense. But everybody was respectful and talking in low voice, trying to focus on the scene. Right before shooting we had time to concentrate and rehearse. And the guys were pushing us to put all the energy that we had in every scene. So every time that we shot one take we’d stop and talk about it, what was good and what we could do better. They’d tell me ‘you have to…’ and then another take. It was really good to know how they felt about each take.
That energy certainly comes through in the final cut.
In one of the scenes you can see ‘for sale’ signs in an apartment building. Are you guys thinking about moving from Porto Alegre and making a jump in your film career?
(Marcio) Not necessarily that we’re thinking about it, but many people are. Those signs were there when we were filming.
(Filipo) In the past few years a very right wing mayor was elected in Porto Alegre. The city is becoming more violent and empty. You do not see many people walking on the streets. And at the same time the city is becoming sadder, which is funny, given the name of the city.
(Shico) Youth specially, they rather go somewhere else.
Wouldn’t you rather be making films in more thriving towns like Sao Paulo or Fortaleza?
(Marcio) So far it is the place that we chose to portray. I do not know whether it will be forever, but at the moment it is where we are filming our stories.
(Filipo) We feel this need to portray Porto Alegre, how we feel it is today, that’s important.
If someone watched Beira Mar and Tinta bruta fifty years from now they would get an idea of what Porto Alegre was like in the mid 2010s…
(Marcio) I hope they’d say ‘now it’s a lot better.’
When we last talked in 2015 Dilma Rousseff was being impeached and there were huge protests in Brazil. How’re things in your country now?
(Marcio) The process of impeachment was very hard for Brazilians and it was happening during the writing process of the Tinta bruta. Much of the anger of the character comes from it. It was very hard to watch the conservatives taking power by force.