INTERVIEW WITH ANITA ROCHA DA SILVEIRA

HANDEBOL

a film by Eliza Hittman

As the writer and director, what inspired this particular story? Do you enjoy one or the other more?

This story was inspired by experiences I had as a teenager and the desire to talk about the way young people experience Death. The willing to die without stopping to live; to feel everything intensely. Apart from writing and directing, I also edit my films, and that is what I enjoy the most.

Was HANDEBOL a thesis film or student project? As far as I know, your most recent short, Os Mortos-Vivos, which premiered at Cannes last May, was made after you graduated school.

No, Handebol I also made after graduating in college. I have a “Communications degree,” so I had just a few classes on cinema in college.

The song played in the beginning, reminds me of a mix cd made up of worn out 70s disco I heard in middle school. Every single day of physical education. Did you have this song in mind when you wrote the film?

I really enjoy Beach Boys, and my short before Handball, “The noon vampire”, ended with a Beach Boys song. I really like the nostalgic feeling of this music (God only knows), that can make anyone recall that was a teenager one day. And, it is a song that still today is listened to by teenagers. Also, I think that the lyrics helps show the unconditional friendship between the girls.

I just love the writing (everything about the sequence really) right after the second scene showing the girls at handball practice. The writing is so organic. The performances are spot on as well. Did your cast live and die by your scripts or is there any room for improv?

I spend a long time preparing the girls and rehearsing, some of the dialogues I had written and others come from improvisation between them.

Again, there are many really wonderful performances in this film. What was the casting process like?

Most of the girls had already taken theater classes. I tested almost 100 girls to end up with a group of 10. They and the crew all worked for free, so for me it was really important to work with people that really wanted to be part of a film, instead of trying convince non-actors.

What kinds of challenges did you face?

Budget challenges. It’s always sad not be able to pay our crew, and also having to change some scenes and ideas to accommodate to the microbudget.

What is your favorite moment in the film?

The fight at the end.  It was very difficult to put that together. It took a lot of takes to finally get one that worked.

Were there any specific films you looked at at when you made this film?

For this project, my main references was Gus Van Sant and Claire Denis films.

I noticed the cinematographer in this film also shot Os Mortos-Vivos. The images are just really gorgeous. How long have your worked together? And how has that relationship maybe changed over the course of your collaborations?

Handball was the first time I worked with João Atala. Before starting preparing we were just acquaintances. And during the process we started a friendship. Then, he was also the DP of my other short film, The Living Dead, and he will be the DP of my feature project (currently in development). Today, João is one of my best friends, and is really good to work with someone that knows you and understand you.

You are based in Rio, I believe. How is independent cinema in Brazil these days?

The situation here is better than in most Latin America countries. But since Brazil is a big country, it works different depending on where you are based. In areas like Pernambuco its really wonderful now for independent cinema, with a lot of funding. And now we can see a lot of features from this area going to great film festivals abroad, like O Som Ao Redor, Eles Voltam and Domésticas. But the situation isn’t so good in Rio… Most of the resources here are given to films that are very commercial.

Anita majored in Cinema in 2008 and has since worked as a scriptwriter, director and editor in Rio de Janeiro. Her previous short film was presented in several festivals, and won the FIPRESCI Prize at International Short Film Festival Oberhausen 2011. Now, she is developing her first feature film.