INTERVIEW: Cinema Neo-Novo: "Me You Them" Director Andrucha Waddington
by Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE
(indieWIRE/ 03.01.01) — Andrucha Waddington started out serving coffee for Brazilian auteur Carlos Diegues (“Orfeu“). He soon graduated to work on films with Walter Salles and Hector Babenco, moved up the ladder to assistant directing, and by his early 20s, began directing commercials, music videos and documentaries. In 1995, Waddington started pre-production on “Me You Them.” Five years later at the ripe old directing age of 30, Waddington is now Brazil’s star-filmmaker; “Me You Them” (his second film after 1999’s “Twins“) has picked up major awards from Karlovy Vary to Cannes, Havana to his native land where the film took top honors at the Cinema Brazil awards.
Based on a true story, the film stars Brazil’s beloved actress Regina Case (“Moon Over Parador“) as Darlene, a woman who lives, loves, and bares children with three men of varying ages in the beautiful, yet destitute lands of Northeastern Brazil. But this logline does little to reflect the delicate touch and emotional resonance of Waddington’s story. Untouched by the Miramax factor, the film isn’t sentimental, just subtle and smart, with a perfect final shot that was surprisingly developed during the 4th week of shooting.
At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, indieWIRE’s Anthony Kaufman attended a lunch with Waddington, producer-director Leonardo De Barros, and Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker, where the discussion ranged from the current state of Brazilian cinema, Waddington’s production company Conspiracy Films, to the film’s subtle conclusion and the music of Gilberto Gil.
indieWIRE: So what is your feeling about Brazilian film right now?
Andrucha Waddington: We’re back again. We had a great time from the 60s to the 80s and then it started to go down. The theaters started to close. The financial systems were destroyed. So in 5 years, from ’90 to ’95, we had four films. And then it started to go up in 1995, when the government made a law that there’s a tax reduction when you invest in cinema. It started to build up again. Now, we’re making around 35 movies per year. Walter Salles made a big hit with “Central Station,” it was really nice for the Brazilian film industry, because we understood that we could have a place internationally. When you make a film for your own country, a small story, well-told, it can travel a lot, because it’s sincere.
Now, there is a very interesting moment in Brazil. Because you have this new generation with Walter and me. He is very important for our generation, because he started something that now all of us are doing together. So it’s a nice time, because we’re all making films. We have this company called Conspiracy Films; we are eight directors, six producers and one investment banker. It’s like a cooperative. It’s a place where we can develop our projects, and we focus on one project at a time. I think that’s the best way to help each other. We’re planning to make two films a year.
iW: Can you talk about the settings and landscapes of the film; they’re almost surreal, and very beautiful.
Waddington: We did four years of research. We went there many times. I live in Rio and this is a special place in Brazil. It’s called the sertao, in the Northeast. It’s like a country inside Brazil, without frontiers. It’s as big as France. It has all this vegetation and the people are very proud and they have a lot of dignity. It’s a poor place, but they have dignity. Everybody lives in a quiet place. We tried to put that on screen with this film. So I think the rhythm of the film respects the way these people live. I think the first 20 minutes was made to put the audience inside of this place, to make them travel to this place and then the story turns on. It’s a slow build-up; then the story becomes more and more complex around the relationships of this woman.
iW: How was it getting Gilberto Gil to do the music?
Waddington: I made a documentary about him in 1996 and he was the first person to take me to the sertao. When he was 1-year-old, he lived in the sertao for 10 years. And he hadn’t been back in 40 years. In the documentary, we went back and he was crying, seeing the people who had seen him as a child. It was a really emotional moment. So he presented the sertao to me; he presented these people. After that, he had become involved in the project from the beginning. So we had lots of conversations about the script. He knew everything about the film, so when he started to make the score — we made all the editing without music — and then we started on the soundtrack. So there were five musicians in the studio and he created two new songs for the film, the opening and the ending. He also was a music supervisor and helped me to choose all the music from the local bands that are in the film.
iW: How did Sony Classics get involved?
Leonardo De Barros: Fernando Montenegro introduced Andrucha to Michael Barker and brought him to our company, Conspiracy Films and that was prior to starting principle photography. We just mentioned to him that we were shooting the film. And then we shot the film, and in post-production, Columbia/TriStar of Brazil came in as a co-producer. And then we had the first cut of the film, showed it to Michael, Tom Bernard and Dylan Leiner and they asked us to come to New York and they said, “we want the film.” Now Michael can tell you his story.
Michael Barker: What I have found in Brazil is everyone is related to everyone. When we did “Central Station,” Fernando Montenegro introduced me to Andrucha. It’s all family, like the Barreto family. It’s really true. Once you’re there, it’s like you’re all part of this cinema of families. It’s great. So when I was in Brazil with Sundance, I met with Leo and Andrucha. And Andrucha called and said, come and meet the people in my company. And I was so impressed with the company. You know what it reminded me of? In each country, there’s a company like this, like Good Machine in the U.S., like X-Filme in Germany that Tom Tykwer is a part of, and here is this new company run by some young filmmakers and some who are not filmmakers, that have a fresh look and fresh pictures. And so we met in their conference room and they showed me some footage of his earlier films and then we talked about his picture. And when the picture was in post-production, they showed us the film and right after the screening, we bought it in 5 minutes. Should I say that, Leo? We did.
De Barros: It was amazing.
iW: Without giving away the ending, how did that final scene come about? There’s something so right about it.
Waddington: It was written in the location during the last week of shooting. Michael, the ending was written in the location, in the fourth week of shooting.
Barker: How did it end before?
Waddington: It was terrible. I’ll never tell you.