Marta Ribeiro and Joana Peralta • Director and producer of Undergrown
“The main element that characterises the film are those youthful emotional impulses”
- The winners of the Eurimages Lab Project Award at Thessaloniki, director Marta Ribeiro and producer Joana Peralta, discuss their project Undergrown with us
Undergrown, a drama brimming with magical realism, written and directed by first-time Portuguese filmmaker Marta Ribeiro, was the big winner of the €50,000 Eurimages Lab Project Award in the Thessaloniki International Film Festival’s Agora Works in Progress (see the news). Undergrown is being produced by Joana Peralta for Lisbon-based VIDEOLOTION, a company that Ribeiro also co-founded. Cineuropa talked to them both about the creative part of their project and how the award will help them to finalise it.
Cineuropa: Undergrown is described as a magical realist drama. Could you give us some more details on your project?
Marta Ribeiro and Joana Peralta: The film is about Simon, a teenage boy who is desperately looking for the ultimate freedom. As he gets more and more committed to this, since everything around him starts to fail and falter in a way he was not expecting, then the concept of “reality” starts to get a little subjective. As a result, and for a couple of seconds, we, as the audience, have the chance to see what Simon is also seeing. From that very personal point of view, some magic may happen.
According to the jury’s statement, your film “changes our perception of time and space”. What do you think is the main element that sets your project apart?
As the film doesn’t regulate itself through an ordinary timeline, and scraps of the past appear in the present, it becomes easier to guide the viewer through the characters’ own emotional perspectives, instead of just depicting their present actions. With this kind of approach, the viewer will be able to see from Simon’s point of view and enjoy a more immersive experience of what the hero is feeling. The main element that characterises the film are those youthful emotional impulses, which can lead you to spend all your savings on a utopian one-way ticket to the USA, or to use a slingshot to make your new mother’s boyfriend’s car explode. All of these surreal scenes make sense in Simon’s mindset and his method of approaching what’s around him, as they become an easy solution to his problems.
How helpful will the Eurimages Lab Project Award be for you?
Undergrown started as a project back in 2015, with Marta’s own financing behind it. When the budget ran out, the film was still in the middle of production. VIDEOLOTION, which, apart from us two, was also co-founded by Pedro Cabeleira, Tiago Simões and Víctor Ferreira, was starting at the same time as well. So we managed to gather some money and fund what was left to shoot, but unfortunately, we still need to film some more scenes. This award will give us the chance to shoot these final scenes, to finance the post-production and to turn those very specific surrealistic scenes into a reality with VFX animation, something we would never have been able to do without this award.
What were your expectations for Thessaloniki’s Agora Works in Progress? What else are you looking for now?
We had no expectations at all when we applied to Agora Works in Progress. For the last three years, we’ve been applying for several different funding schemes, and none of them said yes, so this was just another try. We were very surprised when we got an official invitation to Thessaloniki IFF, and we arranged everything as if it would be an opportunity to get to know possible investors and co-producers. After getting some unexpectedly good feedback on the film, this made us see its potential again, as this was something that we had almost lost altogether because of the long and exhausting process we’ve been through. We couldn’t really believe it when the jury said the name of the film out loud, as this was all that we had been waiting for, for the past few years. We are still looking for more financial support, however, as we still need to pay the entire cast and crew who began Undergrown with us.
Do you have any plans for after the Eurimages Lab Project Award and Thessaloniki?
For now, we just want to focus on shooting those last few scenes and finishing the production phase, so that we can start post-production with a whole different approach in terms of technical quality. The next step will be to find the ideal strategy for the film regarding its world premiere.
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