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"What I try to do in my films is bring about encounters"

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Margarida Leitão • Director


- Gypsophila, in competition at IndieLisboa, is an essay about memory and the relationship between director Margarida Leitão and her grandmother. Cineuropa met up with her

Margarida Leitão  • Director

Gypsophila [+see also:
interview: Margarida Leitão
film profile
, which is currently being presented in the national competition of the 12th IndieLisboa, is a cinematic essay about memory and the relationship between a grandmother and a granddaughter, shot in a microcosm of memories and everyday experiences in a flat in Lisbon. Cineuropa chatted to Margarida Leitão, the director of this simple, moving and totally self-produced documentary.

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Cineuropa: How did the idea of making Gypsophila come up? Was it easy to get your grandmother involved in it?
Margarida Leitão
: It arose from a need to shoot an intimate reality that was close to me, before too much time passed and altered that reality forever: ie, my relationship with my grandmother. On the other hand, after a number of years directing shorts and documentaries, I felt the need to have a different shooting experience. I was looking for a more direct and personal relationship with film. That was partly motivated by my return to film school to do a Master’s. I was interested in shooting alone, far from the routines of fiction and documentaries that I had been involved in before; I wanted to rid myself of all those cumbersome tricks of film production, which had been such a close reality for me. My grandmother willingly accepted the fact I was there with the camera, and surprisingly, she even took an interest in the whole shooting process, made suggestions and listened to my explanations.

Apart from the scene that you filmed on the balcony, in the sunshine, the entirety of the film was shot indoors. Why this confinement, and to what extent did it condition your work as a director?
That confinement was a decision I took that was fundamental to this movie. Thanks to my latest documentaries, I have travelled to faraway places, such as Venezuela and Mexico, but afterwards I felt the need to confine myself to an intimate space. I wanted to shut myself away in a single space and work in a very specific way on the components of that space, like the light, sounds, the people who inhabit it (a grandmother and a granddaughter). The flat turned into a little film studio where I could experiment with and try out all those elements. It was a continual process of discovery and revelations.

Were some of the situations between you and your grandmother scripted, or is what we see on screen 100% the result of coincidence?
The shoot began on 25 April 2012, and over three years, everything was filmed in a very irregular way and with various gaps. Right from the start, getting out the camera during the visits to my grandmother felt very spontaneous and natural. The experiences that occurred and that were filmed between my grandmother and me triggered or led to new takes, but there was never a script that had been written previously. The process of constructing the film all happened throughout the editing. That was where the themes took shape, making them appear and disappear, in a way that they merged into one another.

The film shows the intimacy between the two of you and includes some moving scenes, like the ones in which you talk about death and solitude. What were the boundaries you set so that this exposure of your intimacy would not be too intrusive?
For me, the main subject matter of films is the people. What I try to do in my films is bring about encounters. When I started to visit my grandmother with the camera, I very quickly became aware that I could not go on hiding behind my traditional position as a director. I had to inhabit the space and the film just as much as she did. It was the first time that I had stepped in front of a camera. After having directed various movies in which people very kindly let me enter their lives with it, the moment had come for the camera to enter my life, but, as in my latest documentaries, there was always a “correct” distance from which to paint a portrait of people. The length of that distance was decided during the shoot, together with the people involved, and afterwards, during the editing process.

(Translated from Spanish)

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