Aly Muritiba Talks About Biennale Giornate Degli Autori Title ‘Private Desert,’ Brazil’s Sun, Masculinity

After having swept San Sebastian’s Films in Progress with his second feature, “Rust” (2018)  and quickly consolidated as one of the most talked-about of emerging talents in Brazil – a country of many talented young filmmakers – –Aly Muritiba has come to Venice’s Biennale to screen his latest film, “Private Desert”(“Deserto Particular”), at its Giornate degli Autori.

It’s a heartwarming love story that reconfirms the director’s control over his craft. Co-produced by Grafo Audiovisual and Fado Filmes, the film follows Daniel, played energetically by Antonio Saboia. He’s a police man who, after being discharged due to violent behavior, crosses the country to find his online love who has suddenly vanished.

What follows is a delicate tale that widens Daniel’s horizons and those of his lover Sara under a scorching sun.

Aided by cinematographer Luis Armando Arteaga (“Ixcanul Volcano,” 2015 ), Muritiba’s shimmering camerawork elegantly constructs the love story. The art direction of Fabíola Bonofiglio and Marcos Pedroso packs the screen with beautiful images, full of color and depth. will be distributed by Intra Movies.

Variety talked with Muritiba just before his film screened on Tuesday at la Biennale Giornate Degli Autori.

Due to the latitude, films shot in the Tropics always have to handle a raging sun which often gives a very specific look to the images. This is not the case of your film, which displays a lush cinematography brimming with colors and deep shadows. What was the process, with Luis Armando Arteaga, of achieving that?

When I decided to make this movie it was important to look to my country and  to find a kind sensation,  of personality and of image. As the main character in my movie, I’m from the north, I’m from Bahia, I was born there, but I’m living in the south of Brazil. Both parts are totally different in the sense of the weather, the color and the behavior of the people. And when I invited Arteaga to make this movie with me, I told him, “You need to come to Brazil some weeks before because you need to feel the hot sun, your skin, the shining colors of Bahia and how green, cold and dark the south can get.” We talked about the light, about the position of the sun and we started discussing the shadows felt in our movie.

Your camera has very few flourishes, it rarely moves and it never points attention to itself. Yet it always finds dynamism and brings out emotion through very subtle changes. What was your guiding principle when defining the camera movement?

For us the most vital thing is the character. So the camera moves according to his feelings: If he’s calm then we can remain static and if he’s anxious it is only natural to use hand-held. It was always a three-way work, every time we set up a scene we discussed between Arteaga, Antonio [Saboia] and me exactly how the character felt. Finding out how Daniel felt in each scene would give the key to how to frame him and how to move with him and that was a joint labor that became a constant conversation through the shooting. The result was a slow transition from the static life of Daniel to the hand-held camera that follows him at the end.

Both the police force and masculinity are now profoundly questioned. Furthermore in Latin America the figure of a police officer has become increasingly associated with that of a victimizer. Yet the film paints a colorful spectrum of masculinity, adding hues and shadows out of precisely a character who is a cop. Could you comment? 

This is a topic close to my heart as I worked as a prison guard for seven years and stopped quite recently. I was still finishing film school during the day and in the evening talked with both guards and inmates. I had a very intimate contact with the people working in the justice system. Many film classmates distanced themselves as soon as they knew I was a guard, they thought of me as an oppressor. But I am not only that. I can be so much more: I’m also a student, I also write poetry, I can feel so many things. And so when making this film it was clear to me I wanted to do a love story in a country that is fighting, torn between its own contradictions and led by a man like Bolsonaro. I thought if this love story could be lived and felt by not a film school student or an artist but by a policeman, who discovers that he can love, even for a day or a week, another man, then this could be a great success.

Could you talk about the role of virtual communication in the film? 

I have a sort of obsession with virtual communication. I find it such an incredible and amazing tool that can have such devastating consequences. This love story would have never happened without these new technologies that allow us to speak and see one other live in two different countries. The problem of course is not in the tool but in how we use it. In “Ferrugem”  (“Rust,” 2018) it can drive a teenage girl to suicide and in “Private Desert” it can bring Daniel to love someone whom he most likely would never meet. I find it immensely interesting how these tools can lead us, become new narrative tools and have beautiful uses and then I’m constantly reminded that our current president won the elections by mostly intelligent use of such tools.

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