Alice Furtado after her premiere in Cannes

Kristina Zorita
Kristina Zorita

Brazilian filmmaker Alice Furtado shows the intensity of first love in her debut feature premiered in Cannes

The 72nd edition of Cannes Film Festival has been stuffed with genre films - from Jarmusch's and Bonello's zombies to Diop's ghosts, to mention a few. Voodoo is also at the centre of Sick, sick, sick, the debut feature by Brazilian filmmaker Alice Furtado. The film's main character, Silvia, is a high-school student who has a brief romantic relationship with Arthur, a haemophiliac co-student. When Arthur bleeds to death, Silvia becomes obsessive; her goal is to bring Arthur back to life. The film competed in the prestigious Director's Fortnight. Furtado’s first short film, Duel Before Nightfall, premiered in Cannes’s Cinefondation section in 2011. A horror and zombie films fan, Furtado talks with EWA during the festival about the film and the situation of Brazilian film industry for young women filmmakers.

By Kristina Zorita

There is a lot of genre film in this edition, why do you think that might be?

It could be a question of synchronicity in all the countries of the world. Maybe it's due to the state of the society, the state of capitalism when we have a lot of conservative values uprising. Maybe the horror, the monsters and the nightmares are ways to try to understand this reality through a fantastic point of view.


How do you approach this particular subject? Is voodoo important in Brazil?

We have a similar religion that comes from the same origin but it`s a bit different. When I thought about going that way, I feared that since I don't come from there and I don't have any personal relation, it would be weird so I decided to go further. So my perspective is closer to the Jacques Tourneur´s film, closer to Magic Island, the book that appears in the film, closer to zombie and voodoo through pop culture rather than real tradition. I didn’t' want to say that this is voodoo, it's something that she thinks is voodoo. So when I edit the ritual, the soundtrack is electronic and the choreography is closer to contemporary dance.

So why was it so important for Arthur to be a haemophiliac ?

Haemophilia came to me from the beginning when I started imagining the story of the love of this couple separated by death. I thought about haemophilia as a way to put blood in the centre of the story. It makes everything more sensual, more fluid. It blends fear and desire.


Is there too much blood at the end?

It has a tragic side. Once you get so obsessive and think so much about your own desire you don't think about other people.  She doesn't assume the horror she is generating could make her desire real. For me, it's more like Orpheus and Eurydice, confronting chaos and confronting horror to get love back. She should be this way. It couldn't be gentle, I think. It has also a dark and selfish side.

The idea of blood appears in your title in Portuguese, Sem Seu Sangue (Without your blood). But the title in English is Sick, Sick, Sick. Why this triple use of the word "sick" ?

For me, conceptually, the film goes through three kinds of sickness following her different body states. The first one is love sickness - she feels very intensively the desire, the passion, and the love.  When she loses the boy she somatises his death so she feels for a moment physical illness, in a very feverish state. And then the third kind of illness is obsession that at some point comes to trance.


It is a film about love and desire - why do you focus on her sexuality?

Because I wanted to focus on her desire and her feeling of the whole relationship. I want to have a feminine perspective. I want to tell the story from her point of view, presented through her voice.

How easy is it for women to make films in Brazil ? Because when I think about Brazilian filmmakers, only male names come to my mind.

It's true. Our country is very patriarchal, now for rights, it's very important to show female characters and have female directors. It's very difficult because traditionally we didn´t have so much place but recently we had a lot of support for independent production. The Brazilian agency for cinema, Ancine, had a new funding for films with innovative language and artistic relevance that make small production companies started working. Those companies have their policies. The Éstudio Giz which I work with has its police of working with women directors.


How long could it last ?

I don´t know. Now it´s very difficult because things are going back to how they were. The criteria for funding has changed a lot - the Jair Bolsonaro's government has suppressed the new funding, for instance. The new criterias are less based on the quality of the project but more on the experience of the production company or the director. So it's much easier now for someone who is big to produce and to reach public funding, but for small production companies and for auteur directors it is very difficult.

Do you have any female references ?

Sure. I really admire Claire Denis’s work. She was also a tutor in Le Fresnoy (Studio National des Arts Contemporains), where I did a residency. She taught me not only style but how to be a strong filmmaker and defend my idea. She was a very important model for me.


What are you doing next ?

I have a documentary project that I want to do with the choreographer for the ritual in the film. She has a project that mixes dance from the favelas and contemporary dancing. It's very special and I want to follow the process. There is also a fiction I will like to do, something sci-fi with a political aspect but it's at its very beginning.