Sog.: Walter Salles. Scen.: Marcos Bernstein, João Emanuel Carneiro. F.: Walter Carvalho. M.: Felipe Lacerda, Isabelle Rathery. Mus.: Jaques Morelenbaum, Antonio Pinto. Int.: Fernanda Montenegro (Isadora), Marília Pêra (Irene), Vinícius de Oliveira (Josué), Soia Lira (Ana), Othon Bastos (Cezar) Otávio Augusto (Pedrão), Stela Freitas (Yolanda). Prod.: Arthur Cohn, Martine De ClermontTonnerre, Walter Salles. DCP. D.: 113’. Col.
We tried to put a human, as well as a physical geography back on the screen. We started in Rio, but we wanted to avoid the cliché image of the city, so this might be the first film shot there in which you don’t see the beach or the middle-class resort areas. Instead you have the reality of suburbs and of an underground society rarely portrayed. Then we tried to find the Sertão, a part of the country abandoned by official politics, because though this might be the most backward area of Brazil, if innocence and solidarity still exist anywhere it is here. The land structure is so impossible that the government has to create town – like the ones we see at the end of the film – that are absolutely artificial. They are in the middle of nowhere and there’s no work around so they become ghost towns in five or six years. It’s like an immense parking lot for humans.
When you do a ‘road movie’ you are constantly coming into contact with the unknown. I love road movies because they allow the characters to change as they are confronted with things they can’t control. They have to abandon their initial perception of the world and face up to things they don’t understand. For instance, when we installed Dora’s table at the train station on the first day of the shoot, several of the 300.000 people who pass through the station every day came up to ask her to write letters for them. We used a small camera and we hid it as much as possible. Those people really needed to dictate letters and most of them were camera-innocent. And we realised that the letters they came out with had a much more honest quality – or should I say poetry? – than the ones in the prize-winning screenplay. Our letters had a kind of Brechtian distance; theirs were dictated by a need to be heard and they brought an incredible emotional charge we never expected. They broke through all the frames we could put on reality.
Nick James, Heartbreaks and Miracles: interview with Walter Salles, “Sight and Sound”, n. 3, March 1999