Vultures, "a really beautiful film"
Awarding it as Best Foreign Feature Film at the Fabrique du Cinéma Awards, jury president Matt Dillon called it "a really authentic, beautifully made film". Claudio Borrelli answers us via Skype together with his wife and screenwriter of the film, Mercedes Gameiro, from his house just outside San Paolo, where he set his debut film. Vultures is a sort of docufilm starring Trinxas, leader of a band of pixadores, writers who climb very tall buildings to write their names up there, and his girlfriend Valeria, a student of art history.
Congratulations Claudio! Let's rewind the tape, how did you get to Vultures?
I studied cinema in Los Angeles and when I returned to Brazil I opened a production for commercials. However, advertising was a great school, I was able to count on excellent budgets, advanced equipment, important actors. I shot all over Europe, South America, the United States and, having a good success in this sector, I delayed my debut as a film director, even if that's what I've always wanted to do. It took me a long time to make Vultures, the first idea dates back to ten years ago, and right now I'm closing my business in commercials to devote myself entirely to cinema.
Vultures tells of a group of pixadores who climb tall buildings to leave their signature there. Is it a true story?
It is a story inspired by true facts, written by Djan Ivson, a true idol for the São Paulo taggers, collaborated. Everyone here knows the pixadores, their tags cover the walls of the entire city, but I started to really get interested in them while I was shooting a commercial for cars: I was looking for locations and it was almost impossible to find walls without writings. What is most striking are the letters that stand out on buildings up to 30 floors high: the pixadores climb up there without any equipment, risking their lives every time. But then, getting to know them closely, I realized how vital it is for them to leave their mark. I discovered a totally different world, with its own rules, which was not easy to approach and even more difficult to be able to involve in the film.
When was this movement born which for some is art, for others - as you show in the film - only vandalism?
The origins date back to the 80s, with the explosion of street art in the USA: some writers in San Paolo created their own particular alphabet, made up of "runes" (the pixos). Over time, gangs have formed, each competing to make their mark on the city walls, making themselves hated by most of the citizens who consider them hooligans. Only recently, thanks also to the success with international art criticism, something is changing in the perception that people have of them. As Vultures recounts, the turning point was the raid on the São Paulo Biennale in 2008: a group of taggers entered the temple of contemporary art to draw pixos on the walls. They were arrested, but the company attracted a lot of attention even beyond the border, so much so that they were called to exhibit at the Berlin Biennale [At this point Mercedes enters: "Then I'll tell you how it ended," says sibylline ndr]. However, the pixadores are against the system, totally anarchists: even if they are very poor and live in the favelas, they are not interested in money. For them it is only important to draw as high as possible to become famous in their community.
Vultures is also a story of encounter-clash between two very different worlds: that of the bourgeois Valeria and that of the favelas from which Trinxas comes. The two actors are very good at making it credible. How was the casting job?
The actors are all non-professionals, they are real pixadores, except Valeria (Bella Camero). They agreed to participate in the film only when they learned that I was financing the film and I didn't have any big company behind me: after all, it was impossible to find funding, given the movement's bad reputation. To prepare them I called Fátima Toledo, a very famous coach who also worked on City of Gods (4 Oscar nominations in 2004), whose method is not to give the script to the actors but to leave them free to play the character. Fatima recommended me: "Claudio, always say action but never cut!" She worked with them for 4 months. At one point the boys began to mix their reality with fiction, to the point that during an arrest scene Gustavo Garcez (who plays Trinxas) believed they were actually arresting him and started yelling and kicking furiously at. the car. He didn't understand that it was fiction, I had to calm him down and reassure him. However, he considers that during the filming, which lasted 23 days, the boys were actually arrested six times and once too.
You said that you are about to devote yourself entirely to fiction: what are you working on?
Soon I will be shooting a TV series for Rede Globo [the largest commercial television network in South America], but I am also working on the script for my second film. Fernando Meirelles, director of City of Gods, saw Vultures, liked him and put me in contact with his agent in the USA. I can say it will be a totally new story with a new language.
Mercedes, how did it end with the Biennale in Berlin?
In Berlin, the organizers gave the pixadores a special white wall inside an exhibition space inside a medieval church, and what did they do? They refused to stick to that space and, saying calmly "sorry, we are not your monkeys", They climbed the pillars and began writing on the walls of the church. They were obviously arrested. Djan, our consultant, who appears briefly at the end of the film, became famous and exhibited in prestigious galleries and foundations all over the world, but when at Cartier they gave him the cans of ink to draw and the money to pay him. He just took the jars and left the money there, to the bewilderment of all present. Even if they come from very poor families (Fátima Toledo confessed to me that she had never seen such suffering, not even in the favelas of Rio) and they were raised only by mothers - in the favelas fathers do not exist - for them only freedom counts . And their sign.