“Bay of All Saints” director Annie Eastman was an associate producer on “They Killed Sister Dorothy” (SXSW 2008) and production coordinator and assistant editor on the Oscar-nominated “The Last Campaign of Governer Booth Gardner” (2010). While studying Biology in college, she discovered Capoeira, which led her to making “Bay of All Saints.”
What it’s about: As the last of the notorious water slums is demolished in Bahia, Brazil, will three single mothers face homelessness or rally for a better life?
Annie explains the journey that led to “Bay of All Saints”: I became enamored of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art from the slave culture of Brazil. I began shaping my life to practicing Capoiera and went to live for 18 months in a slum in Bahia, Brazil, working as a volunteer for a community-run arts organization. It was there where I first came upon the water slums, they were just meters away from where I lived. A good friend of mine, Coryander Friend, decided to make a short film about the arts organization in the slum, and I ended up helping her and learning a bit about shooting and editing.
Years later, in 2004, when I learned of the government’s impending plans to demolish the homes in the water slum, I picked up a camera and began documenting the impact this urban-renewal project would have on the impoverished families it displaces. I began to learn the lessons of observational filmmaking: while there’s no such thing as a fly-on-the-wall, patience is often rewarded. I also overcame some personal doubts: am I here merely as a voyeur gawking at poverty, or will my long-term commitment to film these amazing people actually spark change? Today, I remain committed to this community and will find new ways to aid their fight for suitable housing. But in addition to seeking socio-political change, I made the film because I loved making it.
Annie says: The story spans 7 years, 12 trips to Brazil and 20 weeks of editing. Each part of the process was deeply rewarding, but the most rewarding were the days I spent getting to know the characters and all my precious memories of our time. During production trips I slept in the water slums, in the homes of the film’s characters, at first to spare the hotel costs, and then because they became like family to me.
I really hope people are as impressed with the film’s characters as I have been all these years—and I hope that affects their view of people living in squatter settlements. The amount of slum dwellers worldwide are increasing; according to the UN, 1 out of every 6 human beings lives in a slum and that amount is set to double by 2030. You won’t get info like that from my film since it’s not information-driven! BUT I hope people take away a deeper understanding of what it really feels like to live in extreme urban poverty and the barriers that slum-dwellers face.
What challenges did you face making the film? The biggest challenge—and the biggest thrill—was not knowing how situations would unfold, or how they would ultimately be edited into the film. I came to understand that sometimes, good documentary filmmaking is just a matter of keeping the story options open, the camera steady and my focus sharp.
Initially, my biggest challenge was the fear of carrying an expensive camera in one of the most notoriously dangerous parts of the city. Norato (the film’s refrigerator repairman and poet-guide), has an impressive talent to win the respect of everyone in his neighborhood—including the rag tag gangs of semi-professional street muggers and drug traffickers—and so with him always by my side, I was able to carry a camera without fear.
Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
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