The actor and director says that his film about the guerilla ‘will not be impartial’

Wagner Moura directs a film about Carlos Marighella – Bob Wolfenson/Promotional Photo


12/1/2017 4:30 am   updated 12/1/2017 10:31 am

RIO – Wagner Moura knows that the subject that he’s chosen for his first film as a director will be seen as a political manifesto by an actor associated with leftist ideology. But he doesn’t care; in fact he welcomes this: “We have to get ourselves off the ropes and go on the attack,” he says.

The attack will begin tomorrow, the first day of filming for Marighella , the feature film about Carlos Marighella, a guerilla from the Brazilian state of Bahia. Produced by O2, the film will follow the life of Marighella from 1964 to his death in 1969 in a police ambush in São Paulo.

Ever since, Marighella has been remembered by one side of the political spectrum as a symbol of resistance, and by the other as a terrorist who waged an armed war against the dictatorship. The title role will be played by Seu Jorge, who’s part of a cast that also includes Adriana Esteves and Bruno Gagliasso, among others.

In an interview with Globo, Wagner explains that he intends to make his film Marighella more about today than about the past.

You’re about to begin shooting your film about Carlos Marighella, a story that you’ve always referred to with fondness and have been developing for a long time. Is it your life’s work?

I started working on this story at the beginning of 2013. It’s a project that transcends cinema, because making a film about Marighella in the Brazil of 2017 is not a simple thing. It’s not just me. Everyone who’s signed on for this film has the urge to talk about resistance, to not speak of Brazil in 1964, but Brazil as it is today. And this is what we’re going to talk about, people who decide to resist and say that they won’t submit. Everyone involved knows that we’re not just simply making a film; it’s a work that captures the current zeitgeist and that’s going to face a lot of resistance.

What does Marighella represent in today’s society? People have the impression that there’s a certain passiveness in the face of everything that’s going on. For example, the protest in front of ALERJ on the day that the deputies voted to release Jorge Picciani was much sparser than other protests have been.

This film will not have any meaning if it doesn’t represent something, above all the people for whom he fought. Telling the story of a black man who led the largest resistance to an oppressive power of the 1960s is not talking about that time. It’s talking about today. The other day I went to a camp of the MTST, the homeless workers’ movement, in São Bernardo do Campo (outside São Paulo) and saw how even in moments of dystopia, great things can arise. It’s no accident that the most pungent art that Brazil has produced appeared during times of oppression in the 60s and 70s. I want people to see Marighella as a model of resistance, as a man who gave his life to the revolution, to others, to a cause. He didn’t think it was normal that people didn’t have homes, and wouldn’t have thought it normal for Picciani to be released by his colleagues at ALERJ. But of course this narrative doesn’t please everyone.

During an election year, the reactions are even greater, aren’t they?

We’re prepared for that. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to release the film before the election, but if I can, I will. I want this film to be our testimonial against hostility, injustice, fallacies, oppression, and coups. Against the coup. There’s no need to say that this film will be impartial. My film won’t be impartial; it will be a film about those who are resisting. The left is in a difficult situation; we’re on the ropes. It’s gotten to the point where artists have to say that they’re not pedophiles. We have to get ourselves off the ropes and go on the attack.

Do you fear a boycott of the film due to its content?

It’s funny. They wrote in a magazine that the film’s budget will be R$ 10 million. And put it in such a way that just confirms this hatred of artists. We’ve been approved to raise this amount, but haven’t been able to get all of it. In any event, we’re going ahead (around 60% of this total has been raised).

Have sponsors explicitly said they won’t support a film about Marighella?

Some have in a vehement way. Others have used a more tangential approach. I’m an artist who’s been talking a lot and I’m making a film about Marighella to boot, so there’s a group of people who fear getting involved.

In terms of the boycott, could it be that this persecution has generated distortions on both sides? I remember that during the release of Real – O Plano por tras da Historia (Real – The Plan behind the Story) and Federal Police – No One is above the Law, there were people taking ideological stands criticizing the films without seeing them.

Polarization always tends to be stupid, for sure. Intelligence lives some place between one extreme and the other, and I’m completely against any type of boycott. But it’s natural that the heatedness of politics influences which film or play you’re going to see. I haven’t seen either of these films, but I do know that the film about the Lavo Jato corruption scandal (Federal Police) cost R$ 16 million, e no one knows where the money came from. Meanwhile I’m being called the “thief” of the Rouanet Law (which provides government backed film financing), and that some people are able to do their work more easily. I’m not judging them and don’t even know them, and I hope that the film was successful. But during times like these, polarization generates distortions like this. It’s been very difficult for us to raise funds for this film due to its subject matter, and it seems that it was easier for them to make the other film.

In the middle of pre-production, there was a switch in terms of the actor who’s going to play your protagonist: Mano Brown left and Seu Jorge came on board. Why?

When we began this project, I had Brown very much in mind because he symbolizes a lot of what Marighella represents. Symbolically, Brown is a Marighella. But we were unlucky in that the month of October was when the Racionais had more shows. I’m sure that if they’d been solo concerts, Brown would have cancelled the shows, but the Racionais are not just him. And it was very difficult to combine rehearsals with the travel he needed to do for those shows. So we mutually agreed that it wasn’t working. Instead, we found someone who has more experience, whom I admire a lot, who’s my friend, and whom I’d already considered for the role, Seu Jorge.

What kind of director do you want to be?

I’ve surprised myself. What I’m going to say will sound pretentious, but I’ll say it anyway: it’s come naturally to me. I’m also surrounded by a great team that I’ve already worked with before. This will be a film that’ll use a hand-held camera constantly, and I’ll try to imprint this energy on the film’s scenes, and of course it’ll be a labor of love. Che Guevara said that the main sentiment that guides a revolutionary is love. It’s the same for a filmmaker.