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July 2014


by Davi Pretto; opens November 06, 2014

Stills from Castanha

'What have I become? Me, a true 80’s creature?' is what the character played by João Carlos Castanha asks on stage, which could just as easily be directed at he himself: 52-year-old actor and transvestite João has his best years behind him. He’s ill, has lost both lovers and companions along the way and appears weary, even if none of this stops him from living the way he always has. João shares two rooms with his mother in a lower middle-class housing complex closed off to the outside; at night he performs in small theatres and gay bars. The film makes just as much time for solitary moments in shabby backstage areas as it does for João's performances and his unforgettable face, exploring a milieu at once tender, brutal and cruel with precision, its fleeting glamour only skin-deep. Its complex layers of documentary observation, staged sequences and fictional elements coalesce into a story of life and death: while João imagines himself as having one foot in the grave and is haunted by the ghosts of his past, he doggedly continues to celebrate life. 'I think I might go to hell. Hell is a rave. An eternal rave.' (Forum catalogue, Hanna Keller)

Davi Pretto was born in 1988 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He graduated with a degree in film from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre in 2008. Since then, he has made several short films as well as working as a curator and programmer for cinemas. Castanha is his first feature-length film.

The director on his film:
A feeling of freedom

In "Castanha", I strengthen my position on cinema: that it is about encounters between people; between those with a story to be told and those who want to tell stories. I also kept the same approach of working with small crews, like I had done on my short films. It’s cinema relying on intimacy and friendship. The film was shot with a budget smaller than that of a short film. I wanted to explore a certain spirit and used a mixture of genres with regard to the peculiarity of the main character. On the one hand, "Castanha" is an actor’s film: strong actors carry the film, as in the work of John Cassavetes. It also contains elements of imaginative fiction, where the suspense develops from situations in daily life, as in the films of John Carpenter and Roman Polanski. "Castanha" could also be seen as an observational documentary; intimate, led by chance, silences, and small details of daily life. I opted for a particular relation between camera and character, documentary and fiction. "Castanha" tells stories that are marginalised, forgotten in a country that can call itself globalised while remaining deeply conservative and rejecting modern points of view. Read on

Brazil 2014. Format: DCP, BluRay, colour. Running time: 95 min. Language: Portuguese. Version: with German subtitles. Director, screenwriter: Davi Pretto. Director of photography: Glauco Firpo. Production design: Richard Tavares. Sound: Marcos Lopes. Composer: Diego Poloni. Sound design: Tiago Bello. Editor: Bruno Carboni. Producer: Paola Wink (Tokyo Filmes); Sandro Fiorin, Alex Garcia (FiGa Films). Cast: João Carlos Castanha (Castanha) ), Celina Castanha (Celina, mother), Francisco Jairo da Silva (Jairo, father), Gabriel Nunes (Marcelo, nephew), Zé Adão Barbosa (Zé, theatre director), Lauro Ramalho (Lauro, friend), Elizabete Salimen Agrello (neighbouring lady), Jorge Maltoni (dead ex-boyfriend), Mauricio Torres (boyfriend in the club), Lói Luiz (Lói, killer). Production company: Tokyo Filmes, Porto Alegre (Brazil); FiGa Films, Los Angeles (USA). World premiere: 7 February 2014, Berlinale Forum.