“A film based on a letter that a woman, a rape victim, wrote and read in court for her abuser. As an artist, we have always been impelled to work on issues that would impel society to understand and transform itself.”
Taís Alves, actress: As a woman, I had resistance to talking about rape, even living in a country where a woman is raped every 11 minutes. I realized that I had to face this taboo. I needed to raise this debate. The way I found it was to put my body and my creative energy at the disposal of Emily Doe’s words.
Rodrigo Séllos, director: As a man, as part of the problem, it was deeply important to think of the evils that machismo has done to women over the history of our society. I never wanted to make Emily’s story my version of what happened. Along with Taís and other women and men of the crew, our main responsibility and concern was to echo and empower Emily’s voice.
So sells YOU DON’T KNOW ME from creators Rodrigo Séllos and Taís Alves which screens at the 2018 edition of VIFF.
Congratulations on your film playing and welcome to VIFF! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?
Thank you very much! We are absolutely happy with this selection. We would like to be present, but unfortunately Brazil’s political moment did not allow us to raise the necessary resources for the trip. So we will not be in Vancouver, but we are entirely available through the contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for exchanges.
So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.
Taís: I have always worked as a theater actress. When I found Emily’s account, I thought about doing a monologue but soon realized that I could not bear to “recount” this story night after night in a season. A movie appeared as the only possibility. When Rodrigo and I met, I talked to him about a script project I was working on and he embarked as soon as he read it. This is my first movie.
Séllos: I studied Cinema in a important public university in Brazil and since then have been working as an editor and director. It’s been hard to develop my own projects but the struggle has been worth it. “You don’t know me” is my 6th film as director and now I’m working on my first fictional feature film, MACUXI, based on a indigenous true story, from the north of Brazil.
How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!
Taís: After reading the original letter, Rodrigo Séllos came with the idea to make the movie in a single long shot and then we began to work on the script. We read Emily Doe’s original letter again and started editing it to a smaller version. With the script ready, we recorded the voice over. Than we started looking for the partnerships that would make the film possible, and we found brilliant professionals and friends to compose the crew; most of our friends worked for free. The short is a self financed production.
Rodrigo and I started rehearsing in a deep search of how to solve the acting. We did labs in public on the streets and alone in a studio, producing in my body imaginary memories for Emily’s words. We filmed in July 2017, a year after the project began. We premiered in Malaga, Spain, in last April, where we received the Jury Special Mention Award. VIFF is the second festival in which the film participates.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?
Taís: Understanding the need to tell that story. And a few doses of insomnia.
Séllos: My life is cinema and that’s the way I try to express myself and tell stories. And I’m very connect to true stories, even in my fictional projects., there are always elements from people I know or stories I admire. And once I dream about a movie, I only wake up when it’s screened. The problem is that the dream can take many years.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
Tais: There were so many challenges. There are still some. Since approaching a theme that I found resistance even in myself. To venture in a language hitherto unheard of for me. Assume a partnership with a man for a project like that. To put myself entirely in the service of the story being told.
The most rewarding moments begin to multiply, in each movie session, each festival selection, the first prize. But I confess that the first time I saw the movie on the big screen, I realized that we had found a potent way to touch people about the subject of violence on women’s bodies.
Séllos: The biggest challenge was to find the right way to tell Emily’s story. Taís and I discussed the form since the beginning until the end, along with other women from the crew. After the first screening, I finally convinced myself that we took the right way, and the feedback we received from each viewer, encouraging discussion on rape and helping women to talk about it is the most rewarding thing ever!
I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
João Atala, our beloved and experient DP, did a tremendous job! I had some ideas but his conception for the film made the visual as strong as it needed to be. The long shot took a lot rehearsal, for the lighting changes, the focus variation and the slow and contínuos movement. But when we started shooting, it only took 3 takes to have the film done. We shot with a Sony FS7 Mark II.
After the film screens at Vancouver, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?
We have just received information of the selection for a very important festival in Brazil called the Rio International Film Festival. We are absolutely happy to be able to also display our film on Brazilian screens. In 2019 we plan to put it online.
What would you say to someone who was being disruptive through a movie?
Exercise your freedom. But do not forget that being free does not allow you to disturb the experience of other viewers. If the story told does not hook you up, you can get up and leave or stay and try a little more. It’s a choice.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?
For a technician we would say study, see as many films as you can. For an artist, we evoke Rainer Maria Rilke, in his LETTERS TO THE YOUNG POET: “Try to enter into yourself. Ask yourself at the quietest hour of the night: Am I even forced to do this? Dig deep within yourself.If it is affirmative, if you can answer the question with a strong and simple ‘Yes, I am’, then build your life according to that need.”
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
Tais: I am a lover of Almodóvar’s work. Volver is my favorite.
Séllos: My favorite film is Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (Black God, White Devil – 1964), from Glauber Rocha.
For more information on the film screenings at VIFF, point your browser to www.viff.org!