Friday, July 30, 2010

British Auteur Ken Russell Makes Rare Appearance

One of the greatest directors of all time, the 83-year-old Ken Russell, is enjoying a retrospective at the Lincoln Center Film Society, Russellmania, starting this weekend going on through July 5th. This is one filmmaker who pushed the envelope both creatively and professionally -- and in many ways changed both the face of cinema, inspiring many of my generation both aesthetically and personally,

Not only will nearly all of his best films be screened there -- from some of my favorites such as The Devils (1971) and Savage Messiah (1972) -- but some of his most widely acclaimed films such as his Oscar-winning Women in Love (1969) and his extravagant version of The Who's Tommy (1975) will get a proper showing again.

More importantly, the eccentric British filmmaker will also make an extended appearance here, spending six nights providing conversations with the audience about several of his most memorable and provocative films.

Tonight, he discusses his experiences in making The Devils, his torturously graphic telling of an Inquisition-like persecution inspired by Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudon (with Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave). Though he had been in New York not long ago when his production of the play, Mindgame, was seen here, he has not been around the city for such a substantial time to really talk about his work publicly in years.

On Saturday, July 31, Russell will answer questions about his sexually ground-breaking version of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love. The film starred Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed, and Alan Bates and is unforgettable for its nude wrestling scene, which showed male genitalia.

On Sunday August 1st, The Boy Friend will screen with Russell in attendance. This is one of his many musically-inspired films, this time harkening back to the Jazz Age starring famous model Twiggy and Glenda Jackson.

On Monday Aug. 2nd, the burly director will join the audience in discussing Mahler, one of his several biographical films inspired by the life of a classical composer. Another one of those fascinating cinematic re-imaginings, Lisztomania, will have Russell on hand this coming Wednesday August, 4th.

Finally, on Thursday August 5th, the Film Society will show his incredible visual fantasy version of the Who's landmark rock opera -- to be dissected by director and audience alike.

Friday 30
2:00 Women in Love
4:30 The Music Lovers
7:00 The Devils + conversation

Saturday 31
1:00 The Boy Friend
3:45 The Devils
6:00 The Music Lovers
8:15 Women in Love + conversation

Sunday 1
1:15 The Devils
3:30 Mahler
6:00 Savage Messiah
8:15 The Boy Friend + conversation

Monday 2
2:30 Savage Messiah
4:30 Valentino
7:00 Mahler + conversation

Tuesday 3
3:30 Lisztomania

Wednesday 4
4:30 The Boy Friend
7:00 Lisztomania + conversation

Thursday 5
2:00 The Boy Friend
4:30 The Devils
7:00 Tommy + conversation

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Alice Braga Battles Predators and Repo Men

Interview By Brad Balfour

Maybe it's because of her Brazilian genes that Alice Braga looks good even when sweaty after a jungle trek. Braga has become the go-to girl for sci-fi action thrillers with another one coming out this year not long after Repo Men -- the recently released Predators. This time, as the bust-ass female lead, IDF sniper Isabelle takes charge -- with co-star Adrien Brody -- of a pack of errant mercs, para-military, rebels and hardcore criminals who are forced to band together in order to survive after they are mysteriously chute-dropped into an unknown tropical forest on a distant world.

Chosen because they can kill without conscience, these warriors, some trained, some not, battle a pack of 10-foot-tall Predators who are hunting them as prey. In this vast jungle, these human predators must learn who, or what, they're up against, and test the limits of their abilities, knowledge and wits in a battle of kill or be killed.

Having appeared in several films, most notably as Angélica in 2002's highly acclaimed Cidade de Deus. she landed her first U.S. blockbuster with 2007's I Am Legend. Who else has starred in two apocalyptic films about the world's end within a year -- I Am Legend and Blindness (2008) -- and survived.

Braga has learned to endure all kinds of abuse whether it's rolling around in slimy traps, or having a hand rammed into her gaping wounds. Maybe because she neither has the tough-as-nail glare of Angelina Jolie or the towering power of Uma Thurman, she suggests both intelligence and vulnerability.

Coming from a cinematic family -- her aunt is the great Brazilian actress Sônia Braga -- 27-year-old Alice Braga Moraes got started at eight-years-old being in a yogurt commercial. Besides her native Portuguese, this native of São Paulo, Brazil also speaks English and Spanish, and shows a sort of pluck that propels her career.

Q: You've done a lot of futuristic movies lately; do you have an affinity for them? Do you look for science-fiction scripts or do they happen to find you?

AB: It was a happy coincidence. It was something that my mom always loved, so I grew up watching those types of films, but it wasn’t something that I focused on. These scripts came to me; I read them, had fun with them and liked them. I really had fun because this type of film really opens a door for your imagination. It was a happy coincidence.

Q: Meeting you here, it's hard to believe they cast you as a tough "guy."

AB: Everyone tells me, “You look so much taller in the movies.”

Q: Your character is Israeli military?

AB: She is a sniper. She’s a special force lady.

Q: So are you chasing the predators? [chuckles]

AB: I’m being chased.

Q: When did you finish it?

AB: We wrapped the second week of January [2010].

Q: How was that experience?

AB: It was great, really nice, a lot of running around -- running for my life as fast as I can. A great cast and crew. The photographer, Gyula Pados, was amazing. It looks really nice and the predators are dark, and really, really, scary.

I think the fans are really going to be happy with it, at least I hope so. The director, Nimród Antal, is a fan of the films, so it was like a fan directing us. He was like a kid on set, and having that energy was really special.

Q: Was Predators a tough shoot?

AB: It was a fun shoot. It was hard because of the weather conditions -- really cold and working outdoors. But it was a blast, and I think it’s going to be interesting.

Q: What’s it like acting next to some guy in a suit?

AB: Awesome. Truly, I had so much fun because in I Am Legend they were wearing suits with dots, so it’s like Teletubbies.

I remember I took a picture when I met the guys because one of the guys who played the Predator, Derek Mears -- he also played Jason -- he’s so big, and I was next to him barefoot. He’s great. Having someone that tall, that big, with me -- and I’m like 5’3” -- that kind of vibe was great because it gives you [a sense of] that desperation.

Q: What was it like working with such different people on Predators? It has such an interesting collection of actors, like Topher Grace and Adrien Brody.

AB: It was great because I think they wanted to do something different. Having Adrien as the hero was not the obvious choice, but he did great. I thought it was a great choice just to play around with acting in an action film.

Q: It was R rated; was it ever going to be a PG-13?

AB: I don’t think they could have because there are some [really] dark scenes in it, like any other of this type of film. So I think it’s going to be hard. We never know what’s going to happen or what the studio’s going to do in the editing. But it looks really dark, and I had fun doing it.

Q: Will you get your own action figure for Predators?

AB: I hope so. We did the scanning. I don’t know if it was for action scenes or post-production things, but I really hope I have an action figure. I would love that.

Q: Do you think it one-up the old movies?

AB: I don’t know if it will one-up [the original]. I hope it adds up more than anything else. I don’t know if it ones-up the other ones. I think to become successful as the others I think it needs to add up. You cannot try to make something different because then you lose the fans. The best thing is to make a film for the fans. That’s why we’re making it.

Q: Is there a possibility to get your own franchise out of this Predators movie?

AB: I don’t know. I would love to, but I have no idea. I’m totally open for anything. People ask me, “What type of films do you want to make?” I want to make films. I have a blast when I’m on set. Seriously, I’m a kid, ask anyone that worked with me or saw me on set.

Actually, what [director] Fernando Meirelles used to do with me on Blindness is he would keep me for last so that he could keep me on set. He knew that I wouldn’t leave. So if it comes up, definitely I would love to do more action and more stuff. I’m open for any type of acting.

Q: Have you talked to Fernando recently? Do you have any idea what he’s going to do next? Are you going to work with him again?

AB: I heard that he was going to do something with a Janis Joplin story or something, but I’m not sure. I heard that at a party at midnight in São Paulo, so that’s not a trustful source.

He was doing a really wonderful TV series in Brazil about Shakespeare. He’s been writing, and I think he’s probably in pre-production or something. As I was shooting Predators I was away for the past few months so I’m not sure.

Q: If you could work on any action film franchise or remake, do you have that ideal role in your head where you could be another kick-ass character?

AB: I never thought about it. I’ve always been a small, short girl so I never thought about myself running around and kicking ass and punching and shooting. In Predators, I’m a sniper and truly, my gun was the heaviest gun on set. It’s 14 pounds and everyone is with a knife, a pistol, and I’m with a [huge] rifle.

I totally love the challenge to portray someone like that character. It would be great if something comes up as another action figure. It’s a nice challenge physically and emotionally.

Q: Your career seems to be moving not only in a sci-fi direction but in an action film mold. The world needs a really big Latina action star. They’re looking to cast Wonder Woman right now.

AB: That’s great! But Wonder Woman is not going to be Latin for sure. With my accent?

Q: Linda Carter is half Mexican.

AB: Oh yeah but she didn’t have an accent like I do. That would be great though; Wonder Woman Latina. But I did City of God and Lower City and independent projects, and then I did some dramas. It was nice to face a film like Repo Men that has some drama, is a character that has some hard background stories but at the same time is running and training and firing. It’s cool.

Q: When did you do Repo Men?

AB: Right after, actually. I was shooting Blindness in Toronto and went to LA to audition with Jude [Law, co-star of Repo Men with Forest Whitaker] on a Saturday. Then I went straight back to Toronto to finish Blindness. Then I ended up shooting Repo Men in Toronto again.

My mom always asking me, “When are you going to do a romantic-comedy without monsters?” and I’m like, “Okay, that’s coming one day. Let’s work for it.” But this is a happy coincidence.

Q: Did you think of yourself as a female Terminator?

AB: The way Beth’s going, she probably can be a Terminator because the only thing’s real are the lips.

Q: One of those scenes near the end where he’s taking the parts out of you is really sick but also sexy in its own way. It recalls the movie Crash. In filming that scene, how did you play it so that it was both passionate but kind of sick and crazy at the same time?

AB: When Miguel told me that he wanted to do that scene as a love scene I couldn’t picture it. Once we started doing it I was just trying to figure out how to play it, not to be overly painful or only love and forget the pain. I tried to stay in the middle and to just bring truth.

It’s interesting that both characters are so in love and they’re fighting for their lives, yet they’re so connected at that moment in the film. I think pain and love go together. If you’re in love, you’re going to feel pain and the passion increases the pain.

It’s hard to explain with a logical answer, but mainly I do think that’s what Miguel wanted, and I tried to put my heart into it and just bring it alive. It was fun to do it because it was so free to create anything. We are in sexual positions actually; it’s like we're making love. It was a great idea.

Q: Do you think your character, Beth, in Repo Men was plagued by a love for the surgery? Do you think she was addicted to the surgery or she was just going along trying to fix things?

AB: Miguel [Rosenberg-Sapochnik, the director,] and I spoke a lot about her past, about what she’s been through, what happened in her life, what was her background, why was she in that situation when we first see her in the film, just because I love doing that and Miguel also was really involved in the story.

We wanted to understand what kind of emotional state she would show up in. It’s just life; we created a little background, like some disease, some problem, some lack of health, addictions maybe. As soon as she started getting new ones then it became an addiction I think, because it’s kind of hard to say she had all those problems. It was mainly an addiction, but it’s hard to say that it was only that.

There was a line that ended up not in the film but is really fun. I looked at him and was like, “Did you get upgraded? Come on!” And that kind of line shows that she was always trying to keep up. It’s like us; you guys don’t have tape anymore.

We’re always upgrading, always doing something new. Everyone has the iPhone; in a week everyone’s going to have the iPad. We’re always upgrading all the time, so I feel that’s what Beth did. And it’s nice. If someone’s boring talking to you, just turn it down.

Q: How do you find the right level of empathy for a character that has so much of her body turned over to science and is a drug addict and does all those deals? How far do you go to make that character empathetic, and where do you stop?

AB: Empathetic in what sense?

Q: You want people to feel sorry for her so that you worry about her, but where do you stop? Because you also want her to be tough.

AB: I don’t know if I want people to feel sorry for her. I never felt sorry for her. I always try to not judge the characters that I portray. I try to just understand, and get meaning and belief in the characters. But I always tried to make her as human as possible.

All of us endure pain, sadness, loss. Life is not only happiness. But on the other hand, you can find love or happiness, or you can find anything else, so that’s the change she goes through her life. She’s giving up on herself when he finds her and that’s why I punch him in the face and am like, “Why? Why did you do that? You’re not going to save me right now. You’re going to go away.”

Who knows, maybe 10 guys did with her, or her family did with her, we don’t know. I just tried to create a character that was human more than anything. I think feeling pity is a really strong thing to feel for someone.

Q: Apparently, in the book version, your character had cancer which ravaged most of her body? Her husband at the time had been a doctor, so she got a discount, which is why she got so many body part upgrades -- he was just trying to keep her alive. By that time she was 74% artificial, and he couldn’t be with her anymore.

AB: [Miguel] didn’t say anything. No but I wish he did. The script was so different in a sense, so we tried to build the story and background. There were a lot of different versions of Beth and Remy’s love story in the beginning, and then it changed through the course of the film until we started shooting.

Q: Miguel said your character started out in a different relationship with Remy. What’s your reaction as an actress? You play a part a certain way, and then it’s edited and somehow it works in a completely other way that you hadn’t intended. What did you think when you see that?

AB: My mom’s an editor, so I totally understand editors, which is great -- It helps. I’m kidding. I grew up in this world. My father’s a journalist, but he directed a lot of TV shows in Brazil. I never think too much about what they’re going to do. I always try to grab the script and learn it by heart and focus on that, and whatever they want to do later they can do it. I don’t mind.

I’m passionate for the story and being part of something. That’s the most important thing. Funnily enough, in Repo Men, I prefer what I saw on the screen than what we shot. It works really nice. I don’t know how, because we had such a background in our minds –- me and Jude, Beth and Remy –- all the time that drove us through the journey towards the end of the film, and once we cut the part before they meet, where we meet them in the film, it could have gone wrong.

What is great is that it was done perfectly, and it was even better. I’m glad he took it off because the story is even sharper. I think more important than you as an actor is the storytelling. Of course as an actor you want to show your work, you want to be on screen, but being part of a nice story, it’s really special. So I do think as an actress you need to know how to understand and how to put yourself into it. Everything matters; don’t take anything for granted. Be present in the moment. That’s the best thing to do.

Q: At the end you’re still alive. Is there hope for a sequel that would include you?

AB: Maybe. I'll give you Universal’s number so you can ask them. Then I’ll give you mine, and you call me. I have no idea what they think of it. I don’t think so. I think the story’s done.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Actress Christian Serratos Stays Human in The Twilight Saga

Exclusive Interview by Brad Balfour

As the ardor heats up for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, its leads and various beasties such as the vampires and werewolves, it's easy to forget all the humans except that most desired one -- Kristen Stewart's Bella. But there are the others, from the ever-surging actress Anna Kendrick as head geek Jessica to Billy Burke as poppa Swan

And then there's actress Christian Serratos's bespectacled Angela Webber, who kind of reflects the film's own core girl-geek squad.

After the 20-year-old Serratos made it into The Twilight Saga, she started to tour the con circuit making sure that the humans other than Bella weren't forgotten. So she made it to New York last October, to Anaheim this April and has had time to bare all for PETA. And her few moments of screen time in the installments reveals real flashes of talent -- part of what she discusses in this exclusive interview conducted during one of those con excursions.

Though she has limited screen time again in the third installment, she does have this incredible ringside seat to see this Virgin-Vamp saga emerge and see how everyone has evolved in doing it. As close up to the center of the media circus as anyone, Serratos has not only witnessed the Twilight phenomenon from the inside out, she has felt the glare of that white hot spotlight that Kris Stewart and Rob Pattinson have been subjected to throughout.

Q: Now that you know the characters, do you just go with it or do you rehearse?
CS: We definitely go over our stuff, our lines and work together, even off-set when we want to. The only real rehearsals are to get the stunts down. So the Cullens and the vampires have to deal with that.

Q: Did the mood on set change over time since everyone was already like a family, or was there more pressure because of the success?

CS: If anything, it went the other way. Once everyone realized how intense it was, everyone calmed down and relaxed. "Let's not think about it. Let's just do what we're here to do, make the fans happy and go home."

Q: Are the scripts tight or are there some things you get to make up while you're shooting?

CS: A lot of the improv was literally us trying to make each other mess up. It ended up working. It's really cool. It's funny to see what scenes they end up taking.

Q: It seems like all the actors have built a real sense of family.

CS: It has.

Q: Your character lasts throughout the series so you're there for the long haul.

CS: Yeah. It's been great. Everyone is definitely close knit. Everyone is family, we all take care of each other. We all pick on each other and so it's great. I love everyone.

Q: Do you feel you learned anything from the more experienced actors on Twilight?

CS: Peter [Facinelli] who plays the dad, Dr. Carlisle -- he's pretty fatherly on set. But we all learn from each other.

Q: Do you crack each other up on the set?

CS: Yes. They're not specifically planned, we just mess with each other in general. I'm usually picked on the most. I'm not kidding. I'm an easy target. They like to mess with me.

Q: What did you do to immerse yourself in the whole vampire universe?

CS: What was really cool about this particular project is that we didn't have to. I mean, we did and we could, but we had the book.

Q: So you read the book beforehand?

CS: Oh, yeah.

Q: Some people advise that you shouldn't read the book before the role and others go the other way.

CS: I couldn't help it. I remember being on the third one, and the fourth wasn't going to come out for another week or so. I could not possibly read just one page a day. I would go through a hundred pages a day. So I would force myself to just do one page a day, because I had to have my daily dose, but I didn't want to finish because I didn't want to have to wait.

Q: Have you met the Twilight series' author Stephanie Meyer?

CS: Yeah, she comes to the set a lot. She's really hands on. She's really cool. I got a chance to meet her kids and talk to her about the movie and how she came up with it. She's really nice.

Q: Did you ever discussed your character with her?

CS: Yeah. She gave me solid little tips and stuff and told us little tidbits about our characters. I think that a lot of what she told us is now in the public and so everyone really knows the inside stuff.

Q: Who is your favorite Twilight character?

CS: It would probably be Edward. Edward and Alice. He's like the perfect guy ever and [she] is pretty, sassy and cool. She's got a lot of great one-liners.

Q: Have you seen other vampire movies?

CS: Yeah, I've seen other vampire things, but not necessarily for research.

Q: Did you see Daybreakers, where the blood supply is disappearing and all the vampires are going to die because they're losing their food supply?

CS: That sounds cool. I definitely want to go watch some of the other vampire flicks. I guess I have to go see that.

Q: What do you think of all these vampire TV shows like True Blood and Vampire Diaries?

CS: I think it's cool. A vampire phenomenon. I have not watched any of them. I really want to get into True Blood because that's the one that everyone talks about.

Q: Do you have any dream projects you'd like to do?

CS: Sure. I'm very open to anything. I'd love to play someone who's insane or something, just so I can go flake out. I like a superhero. I know that's ironic. That's where we are, but seriously, it'd be really cool to play a superhero.

Q: Are you an anime fan?

CS: Not really. I'm not a really big comic book person. I know the typical ones -- Spider-Man and Wonder Woman and Storm and that stuff. But don't quiz me, because I'm not good at things like that.

Q: Are you a fan of any specific characters?

CS: I guess if anything, it would be [I Love] Lucy. I do have a lot of Lucy stuff.

Q: What about being in a Lucy biopic?

CS: That would be so cool. I know every single episode. The newer stuff would be Friends. I've seen every episode one too many times. I watch them for like the fifth time, each episode, and I still think they're funny.

Q: You seem to have your share of one-liners. Do you have a comic side to you?

CS: Yeah. That's how I started.

Q: When you think about your next project, do you want to look for a comedy, coming off of Twilight?

CS: I really like comedy. I'm into doing comedy. It'd be fun. [And] I would definitely like to do something a little more dramatic.

Q: Do you also sing?

CS: I do. I took a break from that when I got Twilight because it took up a big chunk of time. I'm going to get back at that, though.

Q: What are your influences?

CS: I listen to the Mars Volta and Fiona Apple every day. I feel if you do write music, you write what you listen to and you couldn't possibly write in another genre. So those are the two that I usually use.

Q: Have you thought of bridging the two interests and doing musicals?

CS: That would be really cool. It would have to be a really bomb musical.

Q: A vampire musical?

CS: A vampire musical. That would be really cool. I'd be down for something like that. It would have to be something really creepy, like Repo The Genetic Opera. I feel if it's going to be a musical, it has to be really edgy.

Q: Can you imagine a Twilight musical?

CS: Imagine Robert [Pattinson] singing as Edward Cullen? That would be cool.

Q: The emotions in the film would [work] for breaking out into song.

CS: I feel that, too. It's actually funnier when you really think about it.

Q: Who else do you admire?

CS: I love Sandra Bullock. I think she's really cute. Chelsea Handler, although she's more of a comedian, but I still really love her. Ian McGregor--love him. Parker Posey. So many.

Q: Do you have actors you admire that you want to work? I can see you doing something on the order of Parker Posey, who does all kinds of interesting roles.

CS: Right, and that's why I love her. There's nothing ordinary about the things that she picks. I think that you have to have guts to do some of things that she's done.

Q: What would be the one person, the one choice that you think would be most unlikely?

CS: Probably Parker Posey. She's probably number one on my list, but I think that's the most unusual because of the things she chooses.

Q: Are there directors that you want to work with?

CS: Gus Van Sant would be really awesome. I like Gus Van Sant. I like Steven Soderberg. The guy that did Pan's Labyrinth -- Guillermo del Toro. And Steven Spielberg, naturally, just because he's Steven Spielberg.

But there's a whole list of people. I wanted to work with Catherine Hardwicke before I got to work with Catherine Hardwicke. So I got to check that off my list and that was really cool.

Q: Would you work with her again?

CS: Oh God, yeah. I love Catherine.

Q: Who do you get excited about meeting in the business?

CS: The J's from America's Next Top Model. I saw them at this US Weekly party and they were fabulous. I couldn't even go up to them. I just wanted to watch them, how they work, so that I can imitate it. They're so cool. Love that show,

Q: Do you get recognized a lot for Twilight or even for Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide?

CS: It's usually when I'm in a Twilight-oriented environment. I do a lot of the Twi-Cons and I get recognized a lot. But I don't wear my glasses on a daily basis. Those are the ones that I wore in the film. So it's pretty easy. I just take off my glasses.

Q: You haven't had to suffer too much from the press, right?

CS: Not too bad. There have been a couple of incidents. You think that you can ease into it. Not with this project. It's going to be hardcore.

Q: Do you keep the fans in mind while making the film?

CS: Absolutely. When we first started working on it, we all did our research. We went online and saw what the fans had to say because this is definitely a fan movie. We love the fans.

Q: Has there been something that a fan did that made you nervous?

CS: There was one guy in Vancouver. I don't even think he was fan. I didn't get close enough to ask. He sat outside our place. We had a Starbucks across the street, so we'd go over there every day. He would follow me.

My friend came into town and I told her about it. We were having fun with it and trying to get away from him. We went behind the Starbucks into the alley, to go home because it connected. So we were strolling along, cracking up because we lost him. All of a sudden, he comes up the alley.

Q: Do you think about not taking parts that give you a high profile?

CS: You're definitely right, yeah.

Q: You were on Hannah Montana?

CS: I was on one episode and in one scene. Alexa -- that was the character's name. I was having a party and I wanted to invite everyone, and that was it.

Q: Was it a big adjustment living in Vancouver?

CS: No, I love traveling. I love going to other places. It may be hard when I get there, like it was in Germany. I don't care. I like seeing a new place.

Sometimes we're only there for a millisecond and all you get to see is things on a taxi ride to the airport. I still think it's cool. You walk away with souvenirs, like different currencies and stuff. That's fun.

Q: What's the furthest you've traveled so far?

CS: Germany. It's so cool. They have amazing architecture. That place is beautiful.

Q: Do you get jet lag traveling all over the world?

CS: I don't anymore. I think I've gotten use to forcing myself to fall asleep at a certain time because I have to wake up early.

There are definitely days where I feel too tired and I feel my body can't take it and I feel like I'm going to pass out. Other days I'm just stoked.

You have to wake up around 4:00 in the morning because we have 4:00 A.M. pick-ups. So sometimes we're like, "No, we're not getting up." That's why it's really cool to have everyone living next door to you in this big house. They just bang on your door. I don't know how many times we've woken up each other banging on the door, half asleep, saying, "Get up."

Q: How much time do you have in between to do other projects and what opportunities has this opened up for you?

CS: It's opened up a lot of doors. There are a lot of opportunities that get shot our way, which is great. But they've been doing these so quickly that no one really has time to do anything else. When they do, it's very planned out and very coordinated. So there's really no time for random things.

Q: You started out pretty much as a kid. How does it feel maturing through this whole process? Do you take it less serious because you see it for what it is?

CS: I don't think I take it less seriously...

Q: Will you do more risky roles, ones with more sexuality or nudity in them?

CS: I don't know about that. But I don't mind risqué or edgy. Nudity? I feel it's super-important when it comes to some projects, and I feel it's completely ridiculous and stupid when it comes to other. So it would definitely depend.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Very Different Elvis & Madona Hit the Film Festival Screen

Interview by Brad Balfour

When the 8th Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil screened its 15 films in June, it wasn't the end of this traveling festival but only the beginning. As part of a growing trend this fest has become a huge promoter of Brazilian cinema worldwide. The fest moves to Vancouver in July (from the 15th to 18th
), then Miami in August 13th to 21st
, and on to London (Sept. 1st - 5th)
, Montevideo (Sept. 23th - 29th)
 Buenos Aires (Oct. 14th - 20th) Rome (Nov. 24th - 28th
) Madrid (Nov. 30th - Dec. 4th
) and finally, Barcelona (Dec 10th - 16th).

Among the films seen during the festival (and earlier at the Tribeca Film Fest) was Elvis and Madona -- an off-beat, low-budget, sort-of romantic comedy timely in a special way. In light of the recent GayPride celebrations and the-soon-to-be-released The Kids Are All Right, it also envisions an alternative family, Brazilian style. Enhanced by a serious social message as well, with a bit more drama and soap opera (it's a lot less Almodovar and a lot more tele-novella) Elvis and Madona is more than a broad domestic-borne rom-com.

Though promoted as a unique, fun comedy, Elvis & Madona offered some controversy for members of the gay and lesbian crowd and garnered some critical razzes as well.

Written and directed by straight director Marcelo Lafitte, the film lightheartedly posits an enduring romance between a transvestite-maybe-transsexual hairdresser and his young bi-sexual lover who get knocked up so they live together struggling to produce his drag show. If successful it end all their financial troubles and make for a functional family.

Set in the vibrant Copacabana district of Rio de Janiero, Elvis and Madona's unlikely love help them chase dreams, deal with the obstacles that arise along the way and fulfill Madona's plans for a spectacular drag show that redeems everyone.

At audience Q&As, the film prompted its share of contention and praise for unique sexual stance. And director was bothered that so many descriptions of the movie (even in Tribeca's program) described Madona as a drag performer. The director pointed out to audience and critics alike that in Brazil, they would call Madona a transvestite not drag queen though it's not sure he saw the distinction between transvestite and trannie.

Through the haze of terrible interpreter and a couple of prickly journalists, Lafitte tried to set the record during a small roundtable held in May.

[Marcelo & Igor (r)]
Q: So what prompted you to make this as your first feature film?

ML: This film had been [brewing] in me for a long time. I came out of doing documentaries; I even used to be the president of the Association of Documentary Filmmakers but I also did four shorts before Elvis & Madona. Though my name is so strongly associated with being a documentary filmmaker, for seven years I have been doing fiction films; I did the four fiction shorts because I thought it was important before I did this feature film because all the learning I acquired.

Q: But why this theme?

ML: I wrote the script for Elvis & Madona a long time ago, in 2001, when I did my first short film. That’s when it came to me. I had been to a show with a transvestite and there was this story about a transvestite that had left his hometown as a man and years later comes back and he’s a [drag queen]. His father had remarried and he falls in love with the daughter of his father's new wife and he’s madly in love. That’s how I [got the idea] for Elvis & Madona back then.

At first, my idea was to get a real transvestite/transsexual to do this, but then it was like where is the right one? I was searching and it was in the air but 10 days before the date when I had to have someone cast as Madona I was introduced to Igor [Cotrim] by a common friend and there you go.

Q: The chemistry between Elvis and Madona is the whole fabric of the film. Was the audition process was complicated?

ML: It was of no use to find the ideal Elvis or ideal Madona if there was no chemistry between them. At the end of the day, it had to be Elvis and Madona. They go together.

Q: So this has been a long process?

ML: It’s taken 10 years to make this movie. This is a movie of a lot of struggle and making dreams come true. And in a way, the film also talks about this: people trying to find and realize their dream.

Q: So who is this movie made for? Is it for heterosexuals to enjoy lifestyles of people they may not understand.

It's to reach for this social inclusion. And yes, there is this tendency in society to look at this issue and bring about the need for the social inclusion.

Q: Though many people feel they’re born a homosexual or a lesbian, It does not mean that they’re incapable of having sex with the opposite sex, and your comedy is about how that can happen. But in the eyes of some viewers, it could be seen as though you're saying, "Oh they just have to find the right opposite sex person to balance them out.

ML: My gay and lesbian friends in Brazil love the movie because they feel that it shows it as normal. The way it’s treated, the way it’s shown, it’s like everything is normal. Not only in Brazil, in Melbourne too, where the film has been seen, the gay and lesbian communities, and friends, they all liked it because they like how the normality, how the issue is approached. But in Sao Paulo, one lesbian came to say, “You are homophobic! Because at the end of the day what you’re saying is that a man can only be happy with a woman.”

Q: You were confronted by someone who is offended by the film, she’s making a serious critique. Without sloughing it off, how do you as an artist and filmmaker -- trying to do something serious in this movie -- reflect upon that kind of criticism?

ML: Maybe this person didn’t really get the idea of the film. Or maybe even she didn’t even get the idea of herself. If 99% of the people got it or enjoyed it and 1% was offended and hurt by it, there’s something being said right there.

The one thing that is the mission of this film, and my mission as an artist who created it, is that it’s bringing about the debate, the issue to be approached. My mission as an artist is not to create the truth, a truth that he doesn’t even have himself, but just being able to bring the issues up to the discussion table and have people face it.

Obviously Madona's tale is like a fable, that maybe in real life you’re not going to find a story like this, but maybe there will be a story like it. So it’s like a reference.