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Switzerland / France / Germany

Georges Gachot • Director of Where Are You, João Gilberto?

"If people tell me something is impossible, I'll try it anyway"


- Franco-Swiss director Georges Gachot talks about his unique documentary, Where Are You, João Gilberto?, in competition in the LP Doc section at Seeyousound in Turin

Georges Gachot • Director of Where Are You, João Gilberto?

After a premiere at Visions du Réel, a stint at Locarno Film Festival, a trip to FAME - Film & Music Experience in Paris and then a screening at ZagrebDox, Where Are You, João Gilberto? [+see also:
interview: Georges Gachot
film profile
 (international sales: Doc & Film International) stopped by Seeyousound, the festival dedicated to music-themed films, which has just wrapped up after a very successful run in Turin. We talked to the director Georges Gachot about his documentary, a Swiss-French-German co-production that is halfway between an investigative noir and a road movie, and which sets out on the trail of the legendary creator of bossa nova, who has been absent from the music scene for many years and has now also disappeared from his own private life.

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Cineuropa: Your documentary uses a book by a young German writer, Marc Fischer, as its starting point. Fischer set out on a mission to meet João Gilberto, without succeeding. Why did you decide to take up the challenge?
Georges Gachot
: I had already made three films about Brazil, which focused on two very famous singers and samba. I said to myself: ok, I'm done with Brazil, but then there was still João Gilberto. I wanted to meet at least once, because he's the key to everything. I love classical music, and I consider him to be one of the most classic musicians out there. He can be compared to pianists such as Glenn Gould, who coincidentally also closed himself off from the world and no longer does concerts. I tried to arrange a meeting with Miúcha (Gilberto's wife, ed), but had no luck. So, I abandoned the idea for a bit. Then I came across a book by this German man and it allowed me to paint a portrait of Gilberto without really meeting him, based on things you can’t see but are able to imagine.

The film is set out as a double investigation: you follow Fischer's tracks, who was in turn on Joāo Gilberto’s tail.
Some people might find it a little complicated. At one point we decided that I would make a physical appearance in the film, otherwise we would only get to listen to what Marc Fischer had written and what the people he met said, and it all risked becoming very educational. I didn’t find it difficult at all because that’s where my life is, I feel at home when I’m in Rio. I retrace Fischer's steps, I am in his shadow, but nothing is invented. At first, you see me reading a book, then at a certain point Fischer’s voice enters the frame, his words are read out by Max Simonischek, a very good German actor. Identifying myself with Fischer also frightened me somewhat. It was difficult to step into the shoes of someone who committed suicide (the writer took his life a week before the release of his book, Hobalala, ed). Miúcha and João Donato told me to be careful about getting close to Gilberto, that I might end up like Fischer. All the people who appear in the film have actually met Marc. It's essentially a story about Marc Fischer in which I lost a little bit of myself, but it also amplified certain aspects of my personality: it was a wanted, necessary confusion. 

Why look for a person who doesn’t want to be found? Why embark on an impossible mission?
Because I really believed in it. I made so many attempts. We said to ourselves: we'll rent a hotel room, we'll shoot from outside the window, we'll film Gilberto like a Chinese shadow while he plays, but it was impossible. However, I never give up, it's what gives me life. If people tell me something is impossible, I'll try it anyway. The screenplay was actually written as a fictional film, with 42 scenes and dialogue, which were enriched by various documentary situations that we weren’t expecting. The film does take it’s time though. It has a certain saudade slowness to it. Bossa nova is a very inner, intimate music that plants a seed inside you and leaves a very strong mark. 

In the end, we’re left in doubt: did you get to meet João Gilberto or not?
It’s an ongoing search. The film is written as a means of giving hope. The final scene is a gift I gave to Fischer and his parents (I would never have made the film if they weren’t on board). It is also a gift that Gilberto has given to me and Fischer, and to all the film’s viewers. It's all very concrete: it’s like there’s a corridor and you can sense that there is someone standing behind the door. For me, it was very a strong feeling.

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(Translated from Italian)

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