Pedro Costa: the trembling moment

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After Vanda's room, although you work in a similar vein or approach, the structure is different. What was your intention?

In Vanda's Room was a project that was almost done alone. The shooting, the production and sometimes I had a friend helping me with the sound. Sometimes I had a friend helping me with small things which we call production, which just involves a car. And with this one, we actually got a little more money, here and there, in Switzerland and Germany. So before we started Colossal Youth, we had this small budget and were allowed to have a small crew. We were four, so I managed to put one year, with almost 2 years of shooting with four guys and plus, we could pay the actors for all the shooting, and that changed a lot because it creates a normal film crew schedule and routine, so we tried to keep a very disciplined schedule, from Monday to Saturday. And Sunday we didn't shoot. This went on for a year and a half, so it's very different. But I wanted to try and see if we could do it. Because when you do a film, it's generally five, six or seven weeks at the most. We had the ambition to do it for a year and a half, and that changes a lot of things and we were not in the same state of mind. You don't see the end so near. What you talk about, what you live during this long period is not the same as when you're doing a shoot in five weeks. In five weeks, you talk about everything except the film. You talk about girls, cars and money (laugh) like in every shooting and you just hope it's over soon. When you spend a year and half with the film, you are just there and life is much more together. You have lots of other things. You have people who are born, people who die (laugh) and seasons change. So the film becomes, really, almost organic. You don't really think about the film. Or you think about the film and life at the same time. So it's good. It's because it brings down the importance of cinema (suspiciously). The balance is more correct, I think. In what you live, that a film should not be the main thing in your life. Perhaps it's one of the things. It's your work. It's like the guy in the office, or the guy who makes food, or the guy who makes shoes. They do it everyday, from 9-7. It should be the same thing. Photography too. This idea that you're making film, that you?fre making art, is a special moment or aspect, or a thing for the special kind of people, was never for me. It's like the idea of trying to make it all your life, because I like it, it's what I chose, and make it day to day, everyday. Just very simple, very simple, but very tough and very boring sometimes. (laugh) Sometimes it takes a lot of work. Taking a photograph can be very boring and making a film is not always wonderful. If you think there's always a wonderful moment and you meet beautiful people, no it's not. It's not! (laugh) It could be tough, a tough job. But, it's also a privilege to do it, because, it's something that I chose. I wanted to do it, and I can do it well. And with this small budget crew and in this place where people are very generous. We can do it on a very daily basis. We're not doing art. Even if the actor, the film you see is something mystic or beautiful or good.

The audience who see your film, see them as art films. But how do you see your audience?

When we make this kind of film (pause/laugh) we have so much confidence in our audience, we trust the audience so much, that at the same time, we don't care about them at all. It's very ambiguous. We don't think about them. And at the same time, we do things for them, of course, because it's very human. They are very human films. We don't talk about possible strange worlds. They do not talk about things that do not exist. They do not tell stories. They don't tell fantasy stories. I think what we are talking about is something that can touch people here, in Africa, in Argentina. It's about human beings. So we just expect they are just as responsible. If they can't hear about the film, they should be responsible, or as responsible as when we did the film.
Because I assure you, we did the best we could. Especially them, they did the best they could. And so I hope the audience will do the best they can. (laugh). The audience should be also very responsible. It's very difficult to see a film. It's so difficult to see a film as to make one. As to take a photograph or work in banking. It's difficult as making a film. It's very difficult to go see something. But if you're not capable of seeing something, you should go away. So I have the highest respect for the audience. At the same time, I don't know who they are. I don't really think about them.

The point of view of this film is Ventura?fs. How did you find him?

He is the force behind the film. With no Ventura, there would have been no film.

Did you have the image of Ventura before you met him?

Well, he existed. He was there. That's the funny part. He was always around that place when I shot the other films. So I cast him in the morning, at night, and he was a strange mysterious guy that I saw sometimes that said, good morning, when I arrived to shoot. Sort of like, hello, and another day, difficult, and say, yes, good luck, see you tonight. This kind of thing. Very gentle, very mysterious. Very dangerous. Dangerous in a sort of?... He's a very tall guy. You know. Very big guy, yes. A man. Really a man. So yes, after two films, when I thought of doing something that could tell a bit of the story of the past about the neighborhood. Some kind of past. The first man, the first shack, the barrack, and how it all started. I thought immediately about him. And so I asked around a little bit and then approached him afterwards. I asked him. When did he come? What is his story? I wanted to know a little bit about the secrets before; the magic. People told me, yes, he was one of the first ones who came. He was 19 years old. He was a very beautiful teenager, this black colossal guy. Always with a knife in his pocket. A lady's man. (laugh) Very tough, very energetic, a sort of young immigrant that would come to work in Lisbon. And then, this was in '71 and then 3 years later, 73 or 74, I think he had this accident; this working accident. He fell from this building he was working. He fell and he was destroyed. His head was not the same after that. His hands lost a bit of movement. He's not totally handicapped, but he was not well, he couldn?ft work anymore, not in construction. It was a tough job. So he became a wanderer who just walked the neighborhood. But I thought this could be the ideal guy who could tell the story about this place. Because he has two sides. He has this pioneer side, this immigrant that comes with nothing, with just some coins, a knife and energy. The pioneering side and the tragic side. It's the tragedy that he is always a part of this immigrant history. I mean, the very dark story, the lonely story, the suffering and the delirious thing in his head.

Is he a victim?

Yes, of course, he is a victim of injustice in our world. They all are. It's totally there, here. Of course they are victims. But I thought I should give him a voice or image or a place in the film because we could show this double side. He could be this attractive, very fascinating man, but at the same time, the sad part of it, almost like, there?fs this side in Ventura, it's lost, things are lost before they become lost, for us, for them. We have no chance. It's been always like that. We had no chance. We thought we could make it. We had dreams of making it, but like I said, everything is very hard for them. Unemployment, police, housing problems or money problems. It's what comes after that, in the head, because it's so difficult.

Is the character Ventura we see in the film, fabricated between you and Ventura?

Yes. It's made by what I think about him and what he probably thinks about me also. So yes, it's probably something between me and them, me and him. I always say that the film is made around the difference that is in the middle of me and him. How should I explain it, it's very simple. Ventura says, when we are shooting everyday, when we were shooting for a year and a half, or two years, which is a long time, it is work. It's tough. It's sometimes difficult. We fight, or I try to do something and he can't, and he tries to do something, and I don't understand, like any working relationship. And he used to say something very simple, sometimes when he was a bit more angry. This is a film but do not for one second think that you can understand me, that you can know what I am, that you can even get inside of me. Just because you have a camera, doesn't mean you can! And this is very true. You can never understand, you can never be with the other. It could be a man and a man, or a man and a woman. You can never be that. You cannot have this fusion. So I think it's better to think that there is a space, that there is a difference, a distance between two human beings. And this is good. This is what creates possibilities. It's possible for us to live together because there is a space here. And this space thinks and works. It's the space that makes you think, that makes you work. So I think the film was made around that. He said, don't think your camera has a magical power, that you can capture all my sufferings, all my past years. Let?fs simply do the film. Let's keep on going. So that calmed me down a little bit. I like to work with people like this because they tell you things like this. An actor would never say this to you. An actor would never say, don't film me like that because you cannot understand me. The actor always says the opposite. I want to try more. I want to express more. I want to reveal more. I like to work with them because they don't reveal enough. They keep things inside. They keep secrets. They keep a mystery. I think that there is a mystery that will never be revealed and that's very good. That's the magic of it. To feel that something has escaped.

As a film director, do you try to go in further?

In this film, we got to places. There was a real collaboration between me and him, for instance, creating something. But creating in a very daily, simple thing. We start with an object. And I said, yes, you could be like that, and play with that, then it's this way of doing something, which is already strange. His movements are strange, his timing is strange. He's thinking about something when he does this and I say, then you should say something, and then he says it in a way I do not expect, so this is a good collaboration. Again, it escapes your direction. I like people that escape my direction. Because I don't think I have that much imagination. (laugh) I depend a lot on the imagination and the collaboration of the other person.

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