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Bruno Lourenço

Bruno Lourenço
In the Montesinho natural reserve, in the north of Portugal, the extravagant reappearance of a bear triggers a series of reactions and diverging interests. A beekeeper claims to have seen the beast destroying his bee-hives but having been unable to film it because of his low phone battery. A young forest guard proudly claims that having seen bears on TV, she would doubtless be able to recognize one in real life. Under the cover of a hilarious criss-crossing of roleplays and red herrings, of tales told by unreliable narrators, Bruno Lourenço delivers with Oso a chronicle of youth, depicting interactions between generations and drawing the portrait of a rural community. (Nathan Letoré)

Interview with Bruno Lourenço

The film is in many ways a portrait of a place and a community. How did the project originate ?
Originally the movie Oso was another movie. At their early stages films are always different, but in this particular case it was literally another film, with another name, another story, other characters and shot elsewhere. For budgetary reasons I could not film the script initially proposed. I kept the premises of the previous project, with a small team filming matter and the elements that framed lonely characters in a community that is strange to them. A series of news reports that referred to sightings of a grizzly bear in the north of the country, probably a young male from the Spanish colony of Asturias, was the starting point for the film’s script. Together with Telmo Churro we wrote the script of the film trying to leave room to shoot what we had not written. I knew quite well the area of Montalegre, one of the two places where sightings were reported, a nowadays aged and deserted rural area far from the agricultural and mining strength of other times. The enthusiastic support given to the project by the municipality reinforced our conviction that we had found our place.

The central female character is our main (but not only) guide through the film’s world. Why this central figure ? How did you work with the actress, and what role did she play in developing the character ?
The proposal was to have two narrative sources, one centred on the actions of the male character and the other on the voice off from the female character that talked to us about the community in itself and in its relation to the bear. This part of the country has a very specific accent. In the process of writing the script we imagined that the absurd actions that we would see our character play would be well combined with a voice off from a young woman from that area, not necessarily from that community. We organized in Montalegre a casting that was quite popular and the classic situation happened, we found our character in a girl of 16 years who was just going to accompany a friend to the casting. The fact that Sofia is a very intelligent and very intuitive girl made our job a lot easier. I think her perception of her own community and its relations with foreigners helped her better understand the character of the young ranger. Her texts were already written when we found her and there were only minor adjustments depending on how they sounded read by her. In fact, the short preparation time with Sofia was centred on reading the texts for the voice off as her character acted in just a few scenes. Sofia is clearly a “natural”, later I regretted we didn’t write any more scenes to shoot with her…

Your film is also in some ways a meditation on the art of acting, with a bear being the role to be acted. Could you tell us more about these comic sequences, which also have a serious aspect in their economic consequences for the characters ?
I think this is a sad film, despite the humorous notes. Two lonely characters, displaced from their origins, try each in their own way to relate to a particular community where they are now temporarily living. The script was written thinking about the actor who would play the male role and one of the bases of our commitment was that we would have fun making the film and for that we needed freedom. This freedom was already present in the production model we have chosen and in the fact that we have left the script open to whatever came across in the way of the film. Also the circumstance that Antonio Mortágua had a double role in the film, that of a man and a man in bear mode, so to speak, allowed him, and all of us, to have a lot of freedom when filming, giving us the opportunity to try and experiment different things. The idea was so weird from the beginning that it was inevitable that a humorous tone would come to surface.

A constellation of secondary characters exists around the two main ones, and the viewer would like to imagine that they play their own roles. Was this the case ? How were the characters and their relations elaborated ?

Except for the main actor and the person who plays president of the parish council, Joaquim Carvalho, our production director, all the people who enter the film are inhabitants of the place where we filmed. The logic behind the existence of the secondary characters and their interactions with the main characters was always functional. Almost like a shortcut or a narrative stand. These characters arise when for reasons of narrative economy any question became easier to understand for the viewer. In that way we could save time for what really mattered to us, our bear actions, the ranger’s reports and nature. We were not exactly interested in the relationship of the main characters with the secondary ones since the focus was on the two solitary characters, being the man clearly misanthropic, and on the way they progressively get involved in the nature.

Interview by Nathan Letoré

  • Sentiers expanded

Technical sheet

Portugal / 2021 / Colour / 16 mm / 29’

Original version : portuguese
Subtitles : english
Script : Bruno Lourenço, Telmo Churro
Photography : Hugo Azevedo
Editing : Telmo Churro
Sound : António Pedro Figueiredo, Miguel Martins
With : António Mortágua, Sofia Pires, Joaquim Carvalho, Paulo Barroso
Production : Luis Urbano & Sandro Aguilar (O Som E A Fúria)
Distribution : Joaquim Pinheiro (Agencia – Portuguese Short Film Agency)
Filmography : Tony, 2019.