Brazil's Karim Ainouz on His Competition Title and Why He Won't Work for A Big Studio (Berlin Q&A)
His drama "Praia do Futuro," starring Wagner Moura, is a Brazil-Germany co-production and part of the competition at the Berlinale.
SAO PAULO – Brazilian director Karim Ainouz (The Silver Cliff, I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You) portrays fear, courage and worship in his newest feature, Praia do Futuro (which translates as "Future Beach").
The drama tells the story of Donato (Wagner Moura), an experienced lifeguard at Praia do Futuro in Fortaleza, Brazil. After failing for the first time in a rescue, he meets the German Konrad (Clemens Schick), a friend of the victim. Donato decides to start a new life in Berlin, leaving behind his family. After some years, the young brother Ayrton (Jesuíta Barbosa) sails to Europe to look for his brother and hero.
Praia do Futuro plays in the competition at the Berlin film festival. A co-production of Brazil and Germany, the $3.5 million film will be released in Brazil on May 1.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Ainouz about what inspired him to make the film, how he cast Moura and his future projects.
THR: What inspired you to make Praia do Futuro? How did you come across the project?
Ainouz: What really inspired me to do this film were two things: I wanted to make a movie about courage and fear. I think that we live in a time when the world is so ruled by fear, is dominated by a certain conservatism. So I wanted to talk about characters who are adventurous, who venture into the world, characters that are as courageous as Superman, you know, like superheroes. The film tells the story of a lifeguard, played by Wagner Moura. I also wanted to make a film about two places that I like a lot, which is Fortaleza where I was born, and Berlin, where I’ve been living. But before anything I wanted to work with male characters, talk about fear, courage and risk.
How did you decide to tell this story based on the relationship of two brothers and the admiration between them?
It’s hard to answer this question without getting personal. I don’t have a brother, I am the only son. I’ve always imagined what it would be like to have a brother, how a relationship with a brother would be. I also wanted to talk about two brothers who have an age difference, where the young brother would have huge admiration for the older sibling. What happens when you admire your older brother and all of a sudden, it’s not that he betrays you, but he leaves you, abandons you. How do you deal with this? The fact that I don’t have a brother has always made me imagine what if I had an older brother and he disappeared.
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Also, there is a quote in the movie: "What would you do if you could start your life again?" I think this is very important in the story. Wagner’s character leaves everything behind to start a new life. I think that everyone has felt like doing this at a certain point of his or her life, but was scared…that’s why I talk about fear and courage. "What would you do at your age if you wanted to start over your life? What if you could become another person? Are you courageous enough to do that? What is the price will you pay in order to do that?"
The title of the film comes from the “Praia do Futuro” beach in Fortaleza. What were the reasons you chose this title?
I’ve always wanted to make a movie with this title. Praia do Futuro was supposed to be like Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro, but it didn’t work out. There was too much salt in the air, the concrete of the buildings started to shake. There was a promised future that didn’t happen. So I always found this place beautiful with a promise of a future that was corroded by time. The title is beautiful because you don’t think about the beach at first, there is another meaning, the future, something to come, but in reality it is the name of the beach.
What would be the English title or are you going to keep the same title in Portuguese?
We’ve decided to keep the same title. We spent some time with the sales agents thinking about an English title, but its international title will be kept in Portuguese so each territory can choose their own title. We want to release the film with the Portuguese title because it is important as a cultural demarcation. It was a market decision. It is the story of a Brazilian character, so we kept the title in Portuguese.
How did you partner with screenwriter Felipe Braganca in this project?
Felipe has worked with me on Love for Sale (O Ceu de Suely), and we became really close. He also helped me pen the script for the series Alice for HBO, so when I started writing the script, I thought about him. In fact, it was his idea to shoot the film in both countries. I had just returned to Praia do Futuro from Berlin, where I had lived for a year. I wanted to do a movie about Praia do Futuro, but I also was missing Berlin and wanted to work on something there as well.
Felipe suggested we could make a film in both cities, something that would make sense to be shot in both places. Since the beginning of the script, we were trying to understand the relation between both places. Praia do Futuro has this future that didn’t work out, and Berlin, which is a city that has been slaughtered in the past, was divided for a long time and now points to the future. Berlin was split, and the film is a story about these two characters who are separated for eight years and reunite.
How did the co-production with Germany begin?
Out of necessity, because the film was going to be shot in Praia do Futuro and Berlin. Naturally, we needed a German co–producer, and the film was only partially financed by Brazil. We have an investment from German funders and received funds from the federal government and the states of Berlin and Hamburg.
Have you thought about the actors as you were writing the script? How did you cast Wagner Moura?
We didn't think about them at first. Wagner came on board because we had worked together and we wanted to do a film together. So when we started writing the character Donato, it became clear that he was the one. I wanted somebody from Fortaleza, and Wagner fits the stereotype of people who could have been born there. To find Jesuita was harder. We spent two years looking for him. It was difficult, because I needed an actor who was an 18-year-old and there aren’t as many actors [around that age] with experience out there. Also, I needed a young actor to play the same character 8 years before. I wanted to find someone from Fortaleza, who had a local accent, so we did a casting call and found Jesuita and Igor. It’s funny, because we did all this work, and then the actor's career skyrocketed (laughs) Jesuita Barbosa was the highlight of the Rio Film Fest where he took home the best actor award for his work in Tattoo. He has been featured in many films since, including Trash and Bald Mountain.
How did you react when Praia do Futuro was chosen for the Berlin competition program? In recent years, Brazilian films weren't selected there.
It was incredible. There are moments when I ask myself: "Is this really true?" This is my fifth film, and the others had good receptions in Cannes, Venice etc. It’s funny because I had a short film selected at Berlin many years ago, and I hadn’t gone back after that. It’s a joy that the film was shot in Berlin and it’s selected for the competition section. It’s the best thing that could happen to the movie.
Does the film already have international distribution besides Germany?
Not yet, we have been waiting for the premiere to begin the sales.
What are the projects you have been working on lately?
I have another project at Berlin Special this year – Cathedrals of Culture, which is a collection of 3D documentaries about architecture. It’s a collection of six episodes and I directed the one about Centre Pompidou in Paris.
I also have three other projects I want to do, two of them in Brazil and another one in Japan. I want to work with visual arts, do a photo album. I also think about working on TV again because TV has been reinvented, and I feel it’s an exciting moment for television nowadays.
Would you like to direct a project in the U.S., work for a big Hollywood studio?
Not really. I don’t want to direct a movie where I don’t have the final cut. I don’t think it’s fun, and that is part of the conditions when you agree to do a project with a big studio. But I would love to shoot a film in the U.S. I’ve lived there for many years. But I think that it has to be within parameters that give me control.