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VENICE 2008 Horizons / France

Duret and Santana explore Brazil’s deprived areas

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Is it possible to make a documentary about deprived Northeast Brazil, taking inspiration from spaghetti-westerns? France’s Jean-Pierre Duret and Brazil’s Andrea Santana have done just that: their Puisque nous sommes nés [+see also:
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(“As We Are Born”) – which screened in the Horizons section on the Lido – constantly “feels and scrutinises faces and gazes, as in Sergio Leone’s films”.

The faces are those of two young inhabitants of deprived Northeast Brazil. Here, in this place of unspeakable poverty, 13-year-old Cocada dreams of becoming a lorry driver. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Nego prefers to make money working in the fields rather than go to school: anything, in order to escape from the favela.

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The film – shot over six months in a service station like any other – looks at the protagonists’ energy and above all their determination to resist a destiny apparently mapped out for them, amidst the absolute indifference of the authorities.

“We didn’t want to make a political film, but show how much the language of politics, for example that of President Lula, is far removed from the everyday concerns of the people”, explained Duret, a renowned sound engineer who has worked on some of the greatest French films and was nominated for two Cesar awards.

The director continued: “Many people come away from the film feeling moved. They see the protagonists’ stories through the lens of their own personal experiences; they understand the universality of situations such as these. They are forms of apartheid and slavery, which are not limited to Brazil”.

The two filmmakers – who make their feature-length debut with Puisque nous sommes nés – are no strangers to the problems in Brazil. Indeed, the film closes a trilogy that includes the shorts Romances de Terre et d’Eau (“Romances of Earth and Water”, about life and culture in the Northeast of the country) and Dreaming of São Paulo (about child labour).

As for the directors’ previous films, this third instalment was produced by Muriel Meynard for Ex Nihilo. The producer commented: “It wasn’t an easy venture, but we had backing from the National Film Centre and the Media Programme”. Duret felt a further responsibility: “When you receive public funds, you take on a commitment”.

Financed also by France’s Kissfilms, in co-production with Mikros Image, Puisque nous sommes nés is being sold internationally by UMedia.

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(Translated from Italian)

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