Every day through the end of the Sundance Film Festival, including weekends, indieWIRE will be publishing two interviews with Sundance ’06 competition filmmakers. Sixty filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an email interview and each was sent the same questions.
Brazilian director Andrucha Waddington wrote and directed “The House of Sand,” screening in the World Cinema Competition: Dramatic section at the ’06 Sundance Film Festival. The film is the story of a woman across three generations, living in an area of remote dunes in Brazil. The woman spends her entire life there while an entire century passes her by. Waddington has written, directed and produced many features including Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard winner, “Eu Tu Eles” (2000).
Please give a quick synopsis of your background.
I am 36 (on the 20th of January 2005), born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I also grew up and live in Rio.
Did you go to film school? Or how did you learn about filmmaking?
When I was 16 I decided to become a filmmaker and I directed a no-budget short film. When I noticed that the film was very bad, I understood that I would need to learn. I quit studying at the University and I started to work [on the production of] Carlos Diegues’ “Better Days will Come,” serving coffee, cleaning the set and helping as much as I could. I [then] worked for three more features as PA and AD (Walter Salles’ “High Art”, Hector Babenco’s “At Play in the Fields Of The Lord” and Andre Klotzel’s “Selvage Capitalism”). In 1991 the film industry completely stopped for five years in Brazil, so I started to produce documentaries for Salles and direct commercials and music videos. In 1996, when the film Industry came back, I became partner of Conspiracao Films and I started to develop two projects: “Twins” which I directed and produced in 1999 and “Me You Them” in 2000.
How did you get the initial idea for your film?
The idea for “The House of Sand” came from Luiz Carlos Barreto. He [returned] from a trip to the north of Brazil and described to me a picture that he saw on the wall of a bar with a house half covered by sand. He said that he had asked about who was living there and the bar owner said that there was a woman who had lived there for 60 years, and spent her live fighting against the sand. He said that it was a perfect story for me to make as a movie. We created an original script based on this woman’s story, and Elena Soarez wrote it. I actually never saw the picture.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making the movie?
It was a very difficult project in terms of production. We spent two years (2002 to 2004) exploring the region to find where and how we should shoot (we shot in a giant desert of white dunes full of
lagoons in the north of Brazil called Lencois Maranhenses). [Regarding] the script, we were very influenced by the first location scout. We added many [characteristics of the locale] to the script. Since the film takes place over 59 years and Fernanda Montenegro plays three roles and Fernanda Torres plays two, we also made a tough decision to shoot the film chronologically to help the actresses in the development of the characters during the film . It was a very good decision.
“The House of Sand” is a co-production with Conspiracao Filmes, Globo Filmes and Columbia Tristar Filmes do Brasil [and] co-produced by Walter Salles as well as Lucy and Luiz Carlos Barreto. It will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in North America and Fortissimo is our sales agent for the rest of the world.
What are your biggest creative influences?
I think we are influenced by our experiences in our lives — by other [people], by theatre, paintings, music, photography and, of course, by the great movies that stay with us for years. I can’t say that I have one main influence.
Please share about the moment you found out that you were accepted into Sundance.
I was at the office in Rio [and] I was really happy and honored with the great news. The script got the 2004 NHK/Sundance award and I was very curious to know [how] Sundance would react to my baby.
What do you hope to get out of the festival, what are your own goals for the experience?
Sundance is a fantastic festival where you meet people from the industry and it is especially a wonderful place to see movies, movies, movies. My biggest expectation is to share “The House of Sand” with the audience.
What is your definition of “independent film”?
Independent film for me is a term used for films that we have total freedom as a director and/or producer to make… films that you don’t depend or need to follow the standards of the industry. Films where the producer makes the decisions.
What are a few other films you’re hoping to see at Sundance?
As many as I can.
If you were given $10 million to be used for moviemaking, how would you spend it?
First I would need a great script and then the money.
What are one or two of your New Years resolutions?
To keep making movies.
If you took President Bush’s job, who would you hire/fire and why?