Where I Grow Old: An introspective stroll around the suburbs of Belo Horizonte
by Guglielmo Bettinardi
- Former documentary maker Marília Rocha brings a vivid image of Brazil to the screen in her debut feature, as she depicts the existential dilemma of two Portuguese ladies
Portuguese director Marília Rocha has presented her feature debut, Where I Grow Old [+see also:
film profile], this week at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The movie is competing for the Hivos Tiger Award in the Bright Future section.
Francisca (Francisca Manuel) is a Portuguese woman, on the cusp of 30, who has been living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, for almost a year. What has become a normal routine for her is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Teresa (Elizabete Francisca), an old acquaintance of Francisca’s. She is a buzzing ball of energy, and this element of her powerful character is what seems to both bother and delight Francisca at the same time. She’s happy to have a close friend around, but she also doesn’t want other people to have an “open window” into what is going on in her life.
The interaction between these two women, who seem to display opposite personalities, and the city of Belo Horizonte is a central element of the movie. Both characters are trapped in their existential dilemma; they keep questioning what the ideal place would be for them to grow old. Rocha masters the process of introducing the two Portuguese women to the audience, highlighting certain facets of their personalities that strongly influence their opinions on the environment that surrounds them. Both Francisca and Teresa have an artistic view on life; they’re pursuing images, sensations and feelings, and the public can easily share those feelings with the actresses thanks to the extremely realistic representation of Brazil provided by Rocha.
The third major role in the movie is played by the city of Belo Horizonte itself, the details and colours of which are captured magnificently. This realistic representation is also linked to the director’s past experience as a documentary maker. Furthermore, all of the actors in the feature are non-professionals, and although this is never apparent, this choice contributed a great deal to the successful portrayal of Belo Horizonte. The local culture of one of the less touristic cities in the country is brought to the screen with great flair by Rocha: customs, traditions, music and the local state of mind are blended together, resulting in a living painting of Brazil that almost literally drags the audience into the narrow streets of the Belo Horizonte suburbs, so that one can make up his or her own mind about the characters’ choices, depending on personal taste.
The film is a Brazilian and Portuguese co-production, produced by Anavilhana Filmes and Terratreme Filmes. The international sales are handled by FiGa Films.