IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF MEDIDA PROVISÓRIA (EXECUTIVE ORDER)!
During this edition of the SXSW Film Festival, Medida Provisória, or Executive Order, is a film we couldn’t have missed. It focuses on a dystopian future where the Brazilian government activates an executive order to deport all African descendants from the country, leaving the remaining survivors and fighters to hide in bunkers and inciting protests all over Brazil. In the leading front we have How to Get Away with Murder‘s Alfred Enoch, international star musician Seu Jorge and Taís Araújo, a well renowned actress in the film’s motherland. We had a chance to talk with Lázaro Ramos, Medida Provisória‘s director, about his tackle on social injustice and how the film works for the world while keeping its origins close to the heart. Ramos is always with a smile on his face and is enthusiastic in pursuing a directing career and still remaining active in performing gigs. You can read the interview below:
CineAddiction: We have been fans of your work since Madame Satã!
Lázaro Ramos: You watched it?!
CineAddiction: We did! Madame Satã and Carandirú! And we were so happy to know that you would be present at this year’s SXSW Film Festival presenting your latest film! For how long have you been trying to adapt the play “Namibia, no!” to the screen?
LR: This play premiered in 2011 and at the second month of its running I thought “this would be a great film!” and since that moment I offered to some of my director friends the opportunity to direct it but they were busy with other projects and couldn’t do it. So I decided to direct the film in the absence of a director! But my wife Taís would say to me: “Lázaro, everytime you speak about this story, you are already directing it, and you already have an opinion about it!” and after a while I convinced myself that this was to be my first directing gig.
CineAddiction: This is a kind of film that the world is clearly needing right now, with racism unfortunately rising. How would you define the actual racial discrimination climate in Brazil?
LR: Well… The world is unfortunately suffering from a lot of political, racial and social conflicts right now, and it has a big inability of dialogue, and I will not exclude myself from that, and it’s not because working with activism or human rights, that we are not contaminated by this. We are living in a moment of a lot of distresses, but, at the same time, I want to believe that this moment allows us to create new possibilities in building new paths. When we see extremely violent people, who neglect life as it is, who turn a blind eye on the rights of people, we are also seeing other cases of people rising up and saying: “listen, this is our world too and we need to work so the world is fairer to everyone” and I tend to cling on this, because if I don’t, I’m tremendously sad. I come from a family, who has a lot of different mentalities in itself, who follows different religious beliefs, with different political ideals, and I remember during my childhood and adolescence, that even with these differences, we would always find common ground between us and celebrated life, and commemorated what united us. This is not what I see today. It’s a tough moment and this film (which clearly has a social theme attached to it, and it talks about racism, and it talks about identity and social explosion) has a strategy that, alongside entertainment, with all its comedy, emotion and thriller nuances, its purpose is to change mentalities. It’s an attempt, I don’t actually know if I will be able to, but it’s my contribution as an artist for that question.
CineAddiction: Medida Provisória has some iconic actors in it, one we weren’t expecting, Alfred Enoch, how was it working with these actors that are so different and yet so special, including Seu Jorge and your partner Taís Araújo?
LR: It was a huge challenge, because they are actors of origin, with different work ethics, and besides Enoch, Jorge and Araújo, we have Adriana Esteves, Renata Sorrah, and we have done something beautiful by bringing 30 theater actors from Brazil, and they all are very different. At the same time, I believe they are the the shiniest spark of this film and its story. It’s the opportunity of working with these actors, who gave their very best to this project, and were passionate about their roles. Passion was a present word in all of their work, but I had to learn a lot to know how to speak to every single one of them, because each one had their specific technique!
CineAddiction: We, in Portugal, are big fans of Brazilian soap opera “A Indomada“! It’s ironic how the character of Adriana Esteves is portrayed in the film! Any influences while creating this particular character?
LR: Adriana is my personal friend and we hang out and we frequently visit one another, and to me, she is always a surprising actress! The way she acts is never through an obvious point of view. Her character was a really challenging because she is a villain, but an actress like her, who has so many roles as a villain (Carminha, for example, and she is currently working in Mother’s Love (Amor de Mãe), a new soap opera where she plays the villain), she went after it with all her body and her soul! She manages to borrow different characteristics from previous characters, but at the same time, she has this unique and refreshing way to bring our Isabel to the screen. I felt very privileged by her accepting this particular role. She is one of the best actresses in our country, and I am very grateful for having her on this film.
CineAddiction: Medida Provisória doesn’t sound like a standalone film. Are you thinking of a sequel?
LR: Well, a lot!!! Now that I’ve made my debut as a director, I would love to keep having new experiences at it! This story has so much potential for other instalments and the year 2020, which was a year that I was on lockdown, I dedicated myself almost entirely to it. I worked on few projects as an actor, but I took that year to work on new stories, and I sincerely hope this pandemic goes away soon, so I can work on them.
CineAddiction: The Brazilian spirit always manages to spread optimism to the world and Medida Provisória is able to capture it even in the most horrifying scenario. What do you expect the Brazilian audiance to retain from it?
LR: This is a film that has the potential to incite dialogue throughout the world, because these issues have been erupting in different countries, but as we studied the impacts in Brazil, we inquired some people who said they found a deep emotional value in the film, which was better than I expected. The comedy was efficient, the dramatic components were also very impactful. The fact that the film captures images of the country, that uses a score with themes also from Brazil, has a bigger and deeper meaning for the people. The scenes that took place in the Afro-bunker, and all the settings’ tiny details, and when profilic songs from Rincon Sapiência and Elza Soares start to play, definitely generated an emotional response among the Brazilian people. That was what I truly ambitioned, and even if I want the film to incite dialogue all across the globe, I’m so happy and touched that my fellow Brazilian peers are also emotionally attached to the film. That was my main goal after all. In fact, Medida Provisória flirts with melodrama, especially because of that. We are so used to talk about these issues in a rational manner, that I wanted to make a film where people sit on a theater’s chair and have a good time, but that would feel touched by its message. I really hope that happens!
CineAddiction: It certainly will! There is a particular scene that we found extraordinarily touching, when Alfred’s character is at the balcony of his appartment and starts screaming “I am Brazilian!“, “This country is mine too!” Was that scene difficult to film?
LR: No, it wasn’t difficult at all! It was on purpose! That scene wasn’t written in the script! But, you know, Alfred is a very special actor, extremely smart and sensitive, and I invited him to come to Brazil for a month previously to the start of the shooting, and he came two months before and stayed here. He rode the bus here, he went to Lapa, he made new friends, he went to people’s houses, and all of that was to capture the spirit he needed to play his role. During rehearsals, something extraordinary happened: he found his Brazilian side again. He is the son of a Brazilian mother and a British father, so this opportunity to work in Brazil made him very emotional and excited. I would start making jokes with the people who wouldn’t recognize him on the streets, saying: “You know, he is an actor from the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, and I employed him!” and a lot of people would believe me! And then I said: “Alfred, when you arrive on that balcony, you’ll have to scream: “This country is mine too!“, so that he would enhance this feeling of belonging that he manages to capture on this film. Working on this film was truly special for him, not only does it rescue his Brazilian origins, but also because it was the opportunity of working for the first time with his own father, who was 95 back then, William Russell, and he thought he would never work with him due to his advanced age. He told me: “Lázaro, my father is coming to visit me here in Brazil“, and then I said: “Alfred, then ask him to film a scene with us!” and it was as a beautiful moment!
CineAddiction: As an actor, do you have future projects coming up soon?
LR: I have performed in some films that have already premiered before the pandemic hit hard, and last month I’ve finished another one, and I don’t know when they are arriving to the public, but I’m anxious. I’m hopeful that they come to Portugal’s film festivals. I was filled with joy when my films arrived there. I’ve also worked there, I don’t know if you know this, “O Grande Kilapy” and I’ve lived in Lapa for two and a half months, and I had a wonderful Portuguese team, made amazing friends with whom I still keep in touch and have a significant role in my life. When I returned to Portugal, I was extremely happy because I value our comradery, and I believe cinema can contribute to that proximity.
CineAddiction: Without a question! Medida Provisória is a film that has a big scale, are you open to direct some North-American films, with a blockbuster budget?
LR: That is a dream, of course. I confess that I am more in love with directing that I previously thought I would be. All the times I was directing, was because there was an important subject and I didn’t find anyone who would accept the challenge of embracing it, and now that I tasted it, it’s a life goal to keep doing it. I think I found a personal language that contributes to the art of cinema, because I believe when we, actors, make this transition to the chair, we need to understand in which way can we add something of value and new to the field. I am finding my own language and I’m happy for it and I want to direct even more.
CineAddiction: For you, which is the film that achieved a historical milestone for Brazilian culture and showed it to the world?
LR: For me, it’s really hard to answer that, because when we choose a particular style or director, we are limiting what the spirit of cinema really means for Brazil. For a long time we have been flirting with comedy, and it was inevitably something that became more mainstream and may look that it is only directed for the middle class, but it has a very important role that is registring a thought and an idea and putting it in a story, so even if I wouldn’t just pick comedy as a landmark, because there are also very important films with an extremely relevant social message that I identify myself with, like Cidade de Deus, Madame Satã, Central do Brasil, Que Horas Ela Volta?. These are essential films that illustrate what the Brazilian cinema is and means. But to me, personally, what characterizes our cinema is our actual diversity and that I hope we continue to invest in it. We have amazingly talented filmmakers and lots of diverse stories to be told, and these are our greatest trump card.
CineAddiction: So who are the filmmakers that have inspired your career?
LR: So many actually! From my home country I need to mention Karim Aïnouz, a director that I really admire, Sérgio Machado, Joel Zito Araújo, who directed As Filhas do Vento and some very important documentaries. These are people I really enjoy, but there are also people that use an experimental language to talk about issues that touch me right in the heart, who have been arousing my curiosity lately, like Jordan Peele, who is pushing forward to find new territories, or even Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight, who is bringing something beautiful and new. And, of course, I couldn’t forget my favorite ones Pedro Almodóvar, who I have been in love for so long, and also Quentin Tarantino, who I would love to film something the way he does!
CineAddiction: As we are wrapping, what is your opinion regarding the way streaming platforms are shaping the new cinema landscape. Do you believe they offer new opportunities or is the cinematic experience “dying” to make way for a new type of film consumption?
LR: I am going to give you a playful answer on that. I, myself, as a fan of the theater room experience, believe that you can never have that precise experience elsewhere. Nothing can replace it. The sharing of the room, the huge projection screen, are some of the things that touch deep in our sensitivity that cannot repeat itself in other means. My human education was achieved due to the cinematic experience. When I was a teenager coming back from school, back then you could buy one ticket and watch two or three sessions, and so many times I would go watch the same film. I am truly a passionate person when it comes to that experience. But we now have so many streaming services and platforms that I’m scared of the diffusion, that we can’t debate about the same subject, which was an experience that was exclusive to film theaters. I’m always fond of this memory of being in a theater room and the film inciting discussion between friends, colleagues, and this is such an important experience. It’s very transformative. Either because the film made you laugh, or widen your perspectives about it. But, taking into account the actual market reality, maybe streaming services can provide opportunities for us to keep making cinema, because it is harder now to shoot new stories and the money that streaming platforms bring is most welcome. But ultimately I find cinema to be an intelligent artform, that it will find its rightful place by itself. We keep reinventing ourselves, and when a difficult moment arrives, we always try to search for a new solution, otherwise we would only be listening to the radio right now.
CineAddiction: Thank you so much Lázaro for this wonderful interview! Best of luck to Medida Provisória and hope it finds the distribution and visibility it deserves for the whole world to have access to your story.
LR: Thank you too! It has been a pleasure!
THIS INTERVIEW CANNOT BE DISPLAYED IN VIDEO FORMAT TO RESPECT THE RULES OF THE PUBLICISTS!