Wednesday, December 7

María de Medeiros: “Lula’s victory, even if it was only a little, is an immense victory”

Music changed the life of María de Medeiros. The classical music that she was taught by her father; but especially the Brazilian music that she discovered when she was young, it opened her eyes as an artist. A politicized and committed look that she has always displayed. Her career as an actress has made her work with the best European directors, and even flirt with Hollywood productions. In Spain, she was also one of those faces that from time to time lent a shine to our productions. Unforgettable is her presence in that blockbuster that changed commercial cinema called Airbag.

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But Medeiros’s career has also been shaped as a director, a job where she showed her obsession with the fight for freedom, first in her fiction debut with April Captains, an ambitious film about the Carnation Revolution. Later with his work on the documentary, and now with his new film, Aos Nossos Filhos (Our Children), an adaptation of a play that is an x-ray of Bolsonaro’s Brazil through the relationship of a mother (victim of the military dictatorship) and a daughter who wants to get pregnant by artificial insemination with her girlfriend. A film that she presented last week at the Madrid Women’s Film Festival and which has now been seen at the Gijón Film Festival, where she has received the special prize of the contest that has kicked off with Armageddon Time, by James Gray.

Do these awards force you to think about the career of an actress, of a director?

It honors and moves me a lot, but I take it more as an incentive. I see that they remember my work and that they offer me this window to also inform about what I am doing, about my latest works. So I see it more as a promise for the future.

And what is that future like for María de Medeiros?

Well, a bit similar to the past, that is, you have to keep fighting. Fighting for love, for projects that always have quite independent lines. That is why the existence of festivals like this seems so important to me, which is a 60-year-old festival that gives birth to independent production.

Are there things you regret in your career?

Yes, of course, but they serve to learn. I always try at least not to repeat the same mistakes, but I know I will make others.

You have said that you have to fight for small projects, that you have to fight for them, have you had to fight a lot as a director and actress to raise those films?

Yes, because sometimes very fragile, very vulnerable projects come to me and I do everything I can to make them happen. Obviously when you are the director the struggle is much greater, because there you involve years of your existence. In fact, I think that making a film is very similar to having a child, although with a much longer gestation.

She also presents her new film as director, To our kidsan adult film, which deals with political issues, a cinema that right now is very difficult to build and is almost threatened.

Surely. This is a film that was made with very, very few means, but at the same time it was made thanks to a cultural policy that existed at the time we started making it in Brazil, which was very good, because indeed the years of Lula and Dilma were very good for the whole Brazilian society and in particular for the culture. I was fascinated with Brazil in those years, because I arrived there and saw that young people had the chance to materialize their artistic projects more easily than in Europe. People started their companies, presented projects, there were very good patronage laws… so we benefited from that for the start of the project, but at the same time we were affected by what happened in Brazil afterwards, a very large regression in relation to everything that is cultural and many other things, obviously.

Anything we do already has a political meaning. What is important is that we know how to read it, interpret what happens to us

Maria de Medeiros
actress and director

In fact, that climate that returns with Bolsonaro’s victory is in the film. I don’t know if they introduced it in this adaptation or if that state of mind permeated the film.

It was something that I did in a very premeditated way, because what I already liked in Laura Castro’s play is that she felt that it was something very close to reality, very vivid, that she talked about things that she knew very well, because in fact, she has three children with Marta, with another woman. She talked about very specific, everyday problems, about what homoparentality means, and I wanted to keep that in the film and make it a film that portrayed something that was already being perceived in Brazil. Finally we did a kind of x-ray of that very strong darkening of Brazilian society and the script was filled with much more distressing scenes, with testimonies of what prison meant and the torture of women during the military dictatorship. All that aspect much blacker and anguished and of general threat that there was, did permeate the film.

It is curious that we see the film now, precisely with Lula’s victory, it seems that it continues to dialogue with the political moment in Brazil. How have you experienced these elections, are you afraid that Bolsonaro will not allow the change in power?

There is a certain fear, indeed, but this victory, although it is a narrow victory, is a huge victory against a very organized and highly financed enemy. A very, very large machine of lies. So even if it’s just a hair’s breadth, it’s a huge win. But of course, you have to keep fighting hard.

You have always been closely linked to Brazil, also with music. Where did such a close relationship come from?

Well, curiously, it was born from the Carnation Revolution, because my personal history has meant that I lived my entire childhood in Austria, in Vienna, because my father is a classical musician and so I grew up listening only to classical music. I didn’t know who the Beatles were, or the Rolling Stones, it was a kind of ET, and yet it was wonderful to grow up loving Mozart, Stravinsky, Mahler, Beethoven… That was my musical reality. But when I arrived in Portugal, there I discovered other musical worlds that I loved. Jazz, of course, but especially Brazilian music, because it was my language and besides being very rich and beautiful from a musical point of view, it was very intelligent music, full of incredible poems, very subversive, very funny, very, very restless. The music of Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, of all those great great authors. I think that in the history of Brazil, music has always been a way of thinking about oneself as a country and as a cultural identity. So I can’t separate Brazil and its music.

His previous fiction feature filmApril Captains (2000), speaks of another dictatorship, the Portuguese.

Yes, but that was a civil dictatorship whose resolution was a military revolution, which is something that is original in the history of the world. It was the young soldiers who changed a situation of dictatorship, the longest in Europe, lasting 48 years, and a civil democracy was established. It is something almost never seen, but yes, it is obvious that practically all my films, also the documentaries, dialogue with that, with the fight for freedom.

I recently traveled to Lisbon and visited the Museo del Aljube de la Resistencia y la Libertad, dedicated to those who fought against the dictatorship. In Spain we have nothing similar. I don’t know if you think that the Carnation Revolution and that way of confronting Historical Memory have meant that the extreme right is not spreading as much in Portugal as it is in other European countries.

I think so, that this played an important role, that awareness that we acquired in society with the revolution, with that change and with the construction of democracy. Or the fact that every year it is celebrated on April 25 with a great mobilization of society. But fascist ideas are extremely organized throughout the world and try to gain ground in all countries, and they come up with practically the same words. It’s tremendous. There you feel that they are like a sect. They are those of the plot theory. They are like flat earthers. You feel that they advance with a hate speech that is, in reality, a totally empty speech that has only created anguish and a feeling of threat. And in Portugal they are also there, but they are in a more minority form in relation to other European countries, thank God.

There is a phrase that I like very much in the film ‘I make the revolution where I can’, is it one of the keys of the film, that speech that each person must do small revolutionary acts in their daily lives?

Of course, I believe that the private sphere is absolutely political. The political is in the couple. When a relationship of love, authoritarianism or abuse of power is established in a couple, we are already on a completely political level. But also with all ecological questions it is like that. In other words, the everyday has to be assumed as a political position.

Have your decisions as an artist also been small revolutions or small political acts?

I think so. Anything we do already has a political meaning. What is important is that we know how to read it, because today I think the pleasure of reading has been lost a little. And when I say reading, it’s not just reading books, it’s interpreting what happens to us. We are lucky to come after Freud, Lacan, currents of philosophy that have given us fantastic keys to reading reality to interpret what happens not only with others, but with ourselves. We have to interpret again, because if we interpret we may have a chance to change or improve things, but if we receive everything like an animal receives a beating, without reading distance, then we are increasingly alienated.

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