Interview: So Hard to Forget, dir. Malu de Martino
Out on DVD today, So Hard to Forget is the latest release from acclaimed Brazilian director Malu de Martino. BEVer Emily Vermont catches up with her to ask about the theme of this heart warming story about love lost and found.
Julia is a 35-year-old English Literature teacher struggling to come to terms with life after a painful breakup from enigmatic girlfriend Antonia. Moving into a new house with gay friend Will and his friend Lisa, she’s thrown back into a life shared with friends rather than a lover and at first not sure how to deal with this new communal lifestyle. The help of these friends is, however, what teaches her how to find love again.
As a film focusing on gay/lesbian relationships, how was So Hard to Forget received in the relatively conservative Brazilian community?
It was received surprisingly well. We were expecting less of a good reception from the Brazilian community because, as you know, it’s a Roman Catholic country and we had had a pretty hard time finding sponsorship for this film. Of course it’s difficult for anybody finding sponsorship but especially the aspect of it being a gay film made it harder.
Having the beautiful and well-known model/actress Ana Paola Aròsio (playing Julia) on board must have helped with the search for financing?
Ah no, I hoped it would but it didn’t work like that. It’s because really there are two difficult aspects – first is that it’s a lesbian film, and the second aspect is that it’s about loss. This isn’t something people want to hear. I would take the story to the marketing department of a big company and they’d seem interested, then they’d start to shift about and cough then say they’d get back to you later. It’s really difficult and I understand that system now.
Another aspect was that there was no sexual conflict in the film. The lesbian community disagreed – they wanted to see something that dealt with the prejudices and other problems that this community suffer in Brazil. But this was not what I set out to do. What I wanted to do was to take the characters from ordinary life – not making stereotyped characters of this type of lesbian or that type of gay person. The film is primarily about loss, not about being gay.
Have you always focused on women in your films?
I like the female universe, so my first feature film was called Women of Brazil, and the film I’m shooting at the moment in London is about a British botanical illustrator who lived in Brazil for a long time called Margaret Mee. And my next film is about a female cab driver-detective!
So Hard to Forget is an adaptation of a novel (Como Esquecer) by Myriam Campello. How did you discover the book?
A friend of mine in Rio told me about the book and said I could turn it into a great film. That’s how it works – I don’t write, but I listen to people. After that I start to work with scriptwriters, doing one or two versions with different scriptwriters until I find the right one.
A striking feature of this film is that Julia is central to every scene, whereas Antonia is only seen through home video footage. Does that reflect how they are portrayed in the book?
Yes I think so. The portrayal of Julia is only natural since the story comes from a novel written in the first person, and with Antonia I chose to show her in this way because I didn’t want the audience to have any connection with her at all. I wanted to manipulate them in this way. If some started to decide that actually Antonia was more interesting, or Antonia was more beautiful, or thinking “Why has Antonia left her?” this isn’t the point – Antonia could be anybody. The point is about being rejected.
What advice would you give to women wanting to become filmmakers? Just work hard and keep at it – it can get hard, it’s a lot of work and you have to love film to do film. But it’s a great pleasure at the end of it when you sit down in the theatre and see the film on the big screen – it’s incredible. It’s all your work, and each film is like a life work.
So Hard to Forget is released on DVD on 4 June 2012. More information and a trailer can be found at the Peccadillo Pictures page here.