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CANNES 2021 Directors’ Fortnight

Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes • Directors of The Tsugua Diaries

“The film was influenced by this feeling of having an alteration in the perception of time”


- CANNES 2021: The Portuguese filmmaking team discuss love and partnerships, the lack of joy in contemporary cinema, and the dilemmas of the COVID-19 era

Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes  • Directors of The Tsugua Diaries
(© Telmo Churro/O Som e a Fúria)

Considering The Tsugua Diaries [+see also:
film review
interview: João Nunes Monteiro
interview: Maureen Fazendeiro and Migu…
film profile
, playing in this year’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, moves forward by counting title cards down from “Day 22” to “Day 21” to “Day 20” (in the manner of Memento), perhaps the conversation below should be printed in the same way. It would only highlight Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes’ key concern in the film: the sense of an “eternal present” in the early COVID-19 era. They spoke to Cineuropa at the Fortnight’s beach pavilion, amid that day’s strong winds.

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Cineuropa: Could you explain more about the development of your co-directing partnership?
Maureen Fazendeiro:
We worked together before, but on scriptwriting, on Miguel’s project – not only the two of us, but with two more people. Maybe we’re used to working in a collective way – we call it the central committee. We have this collective way of thinking about the films and writing them. This one was the first time for both of us co-directing, but we also share our lives. To me, it was quite simple.

Miguel Gomes: It started with this desire to do something shared; everyone was just shooting with a phone, at home. Everyone was doing this, so we said, “This is ok, this is understandable, and it produces good films.” We wanted to do something else, which was to do a lockdown film, but together, shot on celluloid, not digital. And then we understood, when we went to this house and we did the PCR tests, that we really wanted to live and make a film together, a reaction to this idea of the lockdown.

It’s like a lockdown journal, but it’s also an anti-lockdown diary because there’s everything the lockdown journals aren’t doing, like exteriors, gardens, people together. A kiss was one thing – let’s do a kiss because it’s one of the most forbidden things. We were determined to do intimate things with the actors: we thought, “Let’s take the test and go inside. We’re not going to leave.” We were going to shoot in order, but then it would appear backwards, so we were doing the last day and the risk was quite manageable.

MF: With co-direction, you could also say that one of us had desires. Because the film has no script, it was all about talking about our desires: “I would really like to shoot this particular thing. That light, that colour, that tractor, that fruit.”

Listening to your post-screening Q&A, you talked about how the film was made.
We wanted to have the film structured by starting with a more conventional idea of cinema, which is this kiss at the beginning of the movie, and the trio. After the tension of the love triangle, then the film starts to open up. We had this idea that the movement of the movie should go from a more clichéd idea of fiction to what’s hidden by fiction. We follow this movement, even if I think that the supposedly non-fictional part of the film, the team, the crew, is just as fictional as the rest.

The notion of “pandemic cinema” is an interesting one. Over a year ago, we had the horrible prospect of all these Zoom films. Were these new possibilities ever on your mind?
The film was influenced by this feeling of having an alteration in the perception of time, and what we expect when time changes like that. We thought we were living in an eternal present, like Groundhog Day, and the concept of the future then becomes a different thing. We wanted to create something that would challenge this idea of linear time.

Is the audience’s reaction to things always at the forefront of your mind when devising a project?
For me, and sometimes for Maureen, there are sometimes things that are missing nowadays in arthouse cinema, or mainstream cinema. It is something I’m very fond of, and is mostly a subject that people don’t care about, which is the joy of being alive. The joy of being alive is the perfect subject for cinema. I love Jean Renoir, and he made lots of films about the pleasure of being alive. Being alive causes you trouble. If you’re dead, you don’t have these kinds of problems!

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