First feature-length production from writer-director Davi Pretto, Castanha, tells the story of 52-year-old João Carlos Castanha, who plays the actor of the same name. João divides his time between caring for his elderly mother, working as a cross-dresser in clubs at night and participating in children plays during the day.
While quietly dealing with health issues, João has a lot to carry on his shoulders. He provides vital balance to his family, through his companionship he remains a positive and loving energy everywhere he goes. In a mixture of documentary and fiction, Pretto beautifully portrays the life and struggles of Castanha.
Selected to participate in the Berlinale Festival, Davi Pretto talks to me about Castanha and the process of making it.
Gomes: How was the filming and how long did the project take from start to finish? Was there a definition of a script?
Pretto: The idea came in 2011 but we got only got a small funding for it in December 2012. In January 2013, we did an intensive research and started the pre-production process; we re-wrote the script, interviewed João and his mother Celine while watching him in the places he feels comfortable at, like his work and his house. The script was about 40 pages and we had approximately 90 scenes, including personal stories that João told me. We shot in 19 days in June and edited in about two months, the sound mixing ended up being much faster than anticipated because of the selection at the Berlinale. It was a very free and fun process intimately related with the daily life of João and Celina.
Gomes: After working with João in your first short film, you had the desire to do a movie with him. Why João inspired you about to make a film about him?
Pretto: I was initially inspired by him as an actor and his physical presence in front of the camera. While shooting the short, we got closer and I got to know about his life story, met his mom, learned about his work and that fascinated me. It inspired me for being a very unique life story. João is a person who is enthusiastic in his way of dealing with problems, and that was very exciting for me. The fact that he carries many lives within him while he performs, I find it extremely fascinating.
Gomes: In this work, you used a different concept from traditional documentaries that we see in the industry. By mixing real and fictional elements around the life of João, we could fully grasp his true identity. How did you decide to use this style to display his story?
Pretto: For me, just like in real life, cinema has to be free. If not, it would be meaningless to make movies, as would also be meaningless to live following a pattern. To me, a camera filming a train coming, chair, a wall, an actor talking about something he memorized out of a script or something that he truly feels … it's all the same. It's all fiction. It's all documentary. Maybe I am just unable to understand the differences between documentary and fiction that teachers tried to teach me in college, but I do not see a difference. In the end, coincidentally or not, I think it was a very honest and consistent way to film his story.
Gomes: Who or what inspires you to keep creating and making movies? In the art world, who is your idol?
Pretto: Who inspires me to keep going are the people who are close to me. My wife, our animals, my business partners (Richard and Bruno), my friends and family. I don’t have idols. I like to think of art, as the name implies, as something artificial. I have people that I admire a lot in life. Some of these met through art and began to admire them as people. But any citizen who inhabits this strange planet and stands up against any sort of injustice has my admiration.
Gomes: What’s next for you now?
Petto: Currently, I am developing and seeking funding for a short called Metade Homem, Metado Fantasma (Half Man, Half Ghost). This project is a preparation for my second full-length film called Até o Caminho (Until the Way) that I am now writing with my partner Richard Tavares.