MUBI is exclusively showing Clarissa Campolina and Luiz Pretti's While We Are Here (2019) as part of a collaboration with the Film Society of Lincoln Center for their Art of the Real showcase of innovative voices in nonfiction and hybrid filmmaking. The film is showing April 30 – May 29, 2019 in the United States.
Our country is living a sad and obscure historical period. Since the coup against Dilma Roussef, the value on Brazilian artistic production has been questioned daily. In 2019, the far-right government terminated the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, created in 1985.
For us, making films is a way to position ourselves in these hard times. The fight goes on. We sincerely hope the light shining from the projector becomes a light of hope and defiance, looking out for better days so that dreams may be lived in cinema theatres but mainly in our lives.
With the withdrawal of Brazil as one of the signatures of the Global Compact For Migration, the end of Visa reciprocity between Brazil and the USA, and statements from the Brazilian president referring to Brazilian Immigrants as people with no good intentions, we feel that While We Are Here becomes a response to all these irresponsible gestures. The story of two immigrants, from different parts of the world, who meet and fall in love, could be the story of any of us. We firmly believe in the cultural gains one has when different cultures meet. The main character of our film is played by Mary Gatthas, who is from Syria, and Brazil was the place where she and her family received refuge when war broke out in her native country. She now has a Brazilian daughter and Belo Horizonte is her home. Needless to say, her situation underscores the importance of a generous and well done compact for migration.
When we started shooting While We Are Here we were ourselves living as immigrants in a foreign country. Unlike the characters in the film, ours was a privileged situation, yet, the experience of living in a new country and facing all the cultural differences as a foreigner defines the way one looks at the world.
An image: in a playground in Berlin, under a slide, our son of one year and eight months watches everything happening around him while at the same time managing to keep out of sight from the other kids passing through (even though it was evident that his biggest desire was to play with the others). This scene strikes us as a fragile yet visual representation of the boundaries that divide the sense of belonging from the one of alienation.
Guided by these feelings and the memories of other periods of our lives where we had lived abroad, we began to shoot images around the city while imagining the narrative of the film. In While We Are Here the process of writing the script was done at the same time as the shooting, the editing, and the selection of material in our personal archives. In spite of its documentary aspect, the narrative of the film was constructed in a way so that fiction could emerge and gain independence from our personal experiences, thus expanding the film’s horizon and drawing attention to its social-political aspect.
In a mix of film essay, diary, literary fiction, and collage, In While We Are Here tells us the story of Lamis and Wilson through the reading of letters, text excerpts, and a narrator in third person. Different voices sum up to put together the complexities of the narrative. Intimacy and community (the private and public) are entangled. The personal and the universal exist in relation to one another.