• First Film Competition



Amanda Devulsky

In her film entitled Rough Red, Amanda Devulsky endeavours to tell History differently, to show the reverse angle of political action, as well as to postulate that another form of resistance is possible. By shedding light on the lived experience of those who are unseen in public space, she has authored a historiography of the hidden. We’re following the lives of Jô, Eunice, Alessa and Fabiana, four women who were still teenagers when they became mothers, at a time when Brazil itself was becoming a democracy, during the 1985-1995 decade, in Brasilia. Four women experiencing the strains of motherhood, and whose struggles were not played out in public but rather in the private space of the home. Blending personal archives with images shot in 2018, during the campaign leading up to Jair Bolsonaro’s election, Amanda Devulsky constructs a monumental narrative. By choosing a long time- span, she daringly presents spectators with an experience not unlike the trajectory of these women, who elbow their way into History, then extract themselves from it before entering it again. Long silences are in fact invitations to gaze upon the details of their world: views of buildings that are emblematic sites of power, snippets from military marches or from private homes. Although the abrupt camera moves do imply the very presence of shooting bodies, the director almost never shows them being shot, or else in very fragmentary fashion. Words and the sound of breathing weave their way into this silent fabric, between pixels and grain. The cropping of images establishes anew the materiality of archives and illuminate their hidden poetry. Intimate voices that were long silenced burst chaotically in the interstices of this living mosaic. Images are not merely traces of past times but also sites of an aesthetic experience, thus being granted fresh meaning, just like this stardust revealed in the detail of a film photo. Informed by a poetics of the gaze, Rough Red is also an invitation to observe the infinitesimal at the service of memory.
(Louise Martin Papasian)

Interview with Amanda Devulsky

Vermelho Bruto bridges the gap between the re-democratization of Brazil (1985-1995) following the military dictatorship, and the political context preceding the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president, through the archives of four women. In doing so, it shifts the question of political commitment from the public space to the intimate sphere. Can you tell us about the origin of the project?
I cannot escape the fact that I happen to be the daughter of a woman that became an adolescent mother in this period – I was born in 1991 and grew up in Brasília, which is the centre of the institutional and representational power of Brazil. The fact that I spent so much time alone in this deserted modernist space of Brasília had an effect on how I feel images and sounds for sure. When I was an adolescent myself, I started playing with my own self-representation with compact cameras and the internet. This was my first “cinema”. Then, we fast forward to January 2016… Dilma Roussef was still in power, the first female president in our country. Since 2014, I was coming up with feminist film initiatives after having had my first directing experiences, and we were trying to understand what was happening around us. These were some pivotal years for Brazil. At the same time, I was trying to understand my own life story, and I wanted to do it through hearing and connecting with the lives of other women that had been through a similar intimate and collective path… So, in 2016, I printed posters and put them on bus stops in Brasília, looking for women that became mothers between 1985 and 1995 and who had archives from that time. I started getting in touch with some of them, meeting with them and doing short interviews.

The materials for the film belong to four women, all of whom became mothers at a very young age, and whose social origins and life paths differ. How did you meet them? Who are they?
Alessa, Eunice, Fabiana and Jô were women we met during this research phase, through putting posters up in bus stops, Pedro B. Garcia and I. We did two rounds, one in 2016 and one in 2017. The “rules” were that they had to become mothers in their adolescence between 1985 to 1995, that they had some type of archival footage and that they had a real desire of creating a film with us. In reality, the process of deciding who was going to come along to build the film with us was all about chemistry and desire. Because we knew it would be a long process and one that would take a lot of trust and generosity in opening your intimate life, which is something extremely, extremely precious. Nowadays privacy has been made something that is taken for granted but I believe in the value of it so I saw this as a deep responsibility. I made sure to make this very clear from the start. Eunice, Fabiana, Jô and Alessa wanted to put their hearts into it. At the same time, of course, I believe it’s not only them in the film – they became in a way characters too, created by themselves and by us attuned to what they wanted to express. And there’s also a lot of me. A friend told me when he saw the final cut that it’s actually five women in the film. Anyway, a whole person is something too complex to exist inside a film, a film is something else. My challenge was to create something that could give a sense of the depth and richness of each of their universes, and I did that also by continuously discussing the film with them during these last six years. This was a big part of it.

One can imagine the immense work that must have been involved in editing all these archives; long silent passages take place between the moments when the women’s voices are heard. How did you work with the editor Luisa Marques? And why such a long duration?
The long duration was not a given from the start, in fact, back in 2016 I thought this would be a mid-length film, not even a feature. However, with the process I went through with the four women, and after they recorded their own contemporary homemade images in 2018, which coincided with Jair Bolsonaro’s election… When Luisa Marques and I have put together all of the material and started to work with it, it slowly became obvious that to shorten the film would lead to missing a lot of the sensibility and ambiguity with their discourse. Their personal stories as well as Brazil’s collective narrative are histories that have joy and also have huge trauma. We tried many times to make it shorter but it was inevitable that it would become simplistic; it seemed no longer like people and emotions but representations of ideas. In a film by Trinh T. Minh-ha I like, one character says: “the very idea of heroism is horrible”. To confine them into this would be using the “master’s tools” (cf. Audre Lorde, “The master’s tools will not dismantle the masters’ house”), it would be a contradiction. Luisa and I were very aligned with this, so we felt like we had to do what the film was asking of us. It took us years to edit it, with many stages, and I feel we honoured the proper path of the film.

Many of the images seem to be reframed and give rise to experiments in terms of their materiality and plasticity. What guided these formal choices?
I think that when we are dealing with women’s universe and experience, it’s important to remember what the act of being seen has meant for us historically. We’ve been observed for so long but it doesn’t mean being truly seen and recognized in our experiences. Also, what does it mean to be truly seen? I believe that some things should not be shown, it can be good to keep secrets, to whisper; not being completely visible to all eyes can sometimes be a means of self-protection or a strategy for survival. Who has the right to see and to register a form of reality? For example, in these archives from the 1980’s and 1990’s, men are mostly the ones carrying and/or owning the camera. Jô’s first photograph with her first son was taken by a tourist, her family did not own a camera at the time, and she never saw that photograph herself, but she remembers it being taken. On the other hand, in the contemporary images the four women shot, they often choose to capture details of their realities but not to show their faces. The way each of them films, the poetics of each, says enough. And then we have the materiality of the images and sounds themselves… The physical degradation of magnetic, the biological degradation of analog photographs, the pixels and noise in the compact cameras they used to shoot: images are not only what they represent or signify, they have a body too.

After the card at the beginning, the title of the film appears as “vermelho bruto ou o retorno do planeta” (“rough red or the return of the planet”). Can you tell us about your title and this subtitle?
When it comes to the title, it was so intuitive for me that it’s hard to elaborate on it. I believe Vermelho bruto talks about the rough foundation of the image’s body, as with the blood and all that is very primordial. Red is also connected in afro brazilian religions to the spirit of the crossroads, and the subtitle the return of the planet is, for me, a reminder of a narrative circularity that arose from the process of hearing these stories, being in contact with these images and sounds, and putting together this work.

The feminist platform Another Gaze recently celebrated films made by Brazilian women between 1978 and 1994. More recently, women directors have expressed through their films the need to return to the history of the dictatorship, through archives, such as Anita Leando in Retratos de Identificaçao (FID 2016). Do you see your film as part of the same gesture of reclaiming collective memory?
I think so. You see, the redemocratization period is a period that we talk less about in Brazilian film compared to the dictatorship period, although they are obviously connected. I also believe this is related to the fact that, in the turning point from the 80’s to the 90’s, all of the state organs dedicated to the promotion of cinema were destroyed, and the Brazilian film production diminished greatly in comparison to previous decades. With recent developments in Brazil, I think it has became more and more relevant to dive into these hidden historiographies, and there are many ways to do so, while what interests me is blurring the artificial lines that define past, present, future. Memory is always present.

Interview by Louise Martin Papasian

  • First Film Competition

Technical sheet

Brazil / 2022 / Colour / 206’

Original version : portuguese
Subtitles : english
Script : Amanda Devulsky
Photography : Fabiana Matos, Eunice Oliveira, Alessa Machado, Jô Carvalho
Editing : Amanda Devulsky, Luisa Marques.
Sound : Olivia Fernández, Thais Oliveira
Casting : Jô Carvalho, Fabiana Matos, Eunice Oliveira, Alessa Machado

Production : Pedro B Garcia (Casadearroz).

Filmography :
tente não existir, 2018
aulas que matei, 2018
a outra caixa, 2016
fantasma cidade fantasma, 2016.