What do you get when you put together football, capoeira, music, dance, and kites?
The answer is the documentary Cadência, directed by Daren Bartlett. Trying to engage people to better understand some nuances of Brazilian society, the director came up with a film that in 70 minutes mixes interviews, collective cultural manifestations and analysis of the biggest of Brazilian passions: football. Jungle spoke to Bartlett about Cadência and the connecting of all these elements.
JD: When and how did you start being interested in Brazilian culture?
DB: My first contact with Brazilian culture came in 1993, when I was lucky enough to be introduced to capoeira. I was captivated immediately and now some 17 years later I am still playing the berimbau and jumping around the roda. Through capoeira I discovered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have been training for 10 years now, I was very fortunate in being able to practice both these wonderful arts.
JD: And what about your experience in Rio?
DB: My first trip to Brazil was in 1996, but it was in 2002-03 in Rio, I found myself on Copacabana beach on New Years Eve…. Lula was just to be inaugurated the next day, I remember there was a real collective feeling of hope and anticipation. It felt like the Brazilian people were on the eve of a whole new era, and that was an exciting moment, which I think coloured my view of Rio, which has stayed with me until now. So this all created a catalyst and having such close contacts with capoeira and Jiu-Jitsu gave me a strong sense of belonging, a feeling of being (em casa).
These are both powerful and creative art forms, and if you enter into them seriously, you will not only learn the art form but also learn about yourself. Ultimately this fortified me in ways I could not imagine, all of these factors helped me feel comfortable to work in this environment as a creative filmmaker. After spending so much time in Rio learning the language, pursuing my chosen art forms, I feel that the generosity, attention and care the Brazilian people have shown me is reflected in the work I can produce about their lives and their cultures.
JD: What made you think about linking the elements in the film?
DB: I set out to articulate the ambiguous essence of Rio de Janeiro’s symbolic identity, through its people, passions and traditions. I had come across some of the cultural manifestations covered in the film, during the course of filming other projects in Rio, and realised that all this creativity and tradition had to in some way have influence within more mainstream activities. So this all created a catalyst for Cadência. I have always tried to adopt an sociological approach to my films, this interests me, I had released a film called O Zelador in 2008 (www.o-zelador.com), which had opened my mind to this principle of Afro cultures being interwoven with each other, so the challenge with Cadência was to see if there were any common denominators which bind Brazil’s passion for the beautiful game, and other forms of cultural expression.
So the chance was there to explore some of the less obvious forms of expression. One interesting tactic I use when interviewing a subject is to try and stimulate them with a line of questioning they are not accustomed to hearing. For example, Socrates made a connection for me between the freedom within kite flying and the freedom that exists within football. He was surprised at my questioning, but it was his spontaneous answer that surprised me even more, this is one of the rewarding factors when constructing a documentary, the feeling of creative flux, of discovery.
JD: What was your intention while doing this film? What do you expect the viewer to get out of it?
DB: My intention was to show Rio as the positive place it is – yes there are social problems… Rio’s suburbs especially are often stigmatised in the media, seen as violent, undesirable places, but for me these impoverished areas have always been far more interesting than the beaches and bars of the south zone of Rio. For me they are a wonderful example of what is good about Brazilian society – poor though it may be, the people are warm and generous, caring and talented. I would hope that people seeing Cadência will be engaged.
JD: There’s a lot going on, interviews, archive images and sounds, actual footage and even animation. Did you find it hard to balance all of those elements?
DB: Balancing all the media formats was not a problem; the only real problem was what to leave out to be honest. I have now gained enough experience as a filmmaker to see people in general are often sold short with TV etc, the way programs are made now, seems to insult the audience’s intellect. People want to be challenged, work things out for themselves. We, as humans, have a tremendous capability to deal with information, but we are simply not challenged enough in my opinion.
JD: The short animation piece featuring Brazil’s victory in Mexico – 1970, is just amazing. Who did it? How did you come up with the idea of inserting animated scenes into the film?
DB: Yes, the animation was a lot of fun. I had made contact with the animator Jiwon Park a few years before the Cadência project. She is a very talented animator. We had spoken about her creating some animations for a documentary film I have been working on for nearly seven years about The Gracie Family fighting dynasty, so when the Cadência project was realised she was an obvious choice to contribute her talents. As a film maker you are always trying to find new ways to tell a familiar story, so animation was a very effective way of showing exciting moments of great beauty in a new context.
Interview by Ana Brasil
You can check out Cadência online at babelgum.com/cadencia and find out more here too: nikestadiums.com
And there are a couple of screenings with Q&A’s during June in London:
Friday 18th June, 9pm
Riverside Studios, Hammersmith.
This is a free, public event with a suggested donation to charity. Part of the Riverside cinema programme.
Sunday 27th June, 12 noon
The Curzon, Soho
This is part of the Curzon docdays programme.