O SANGUE È QUENTE DA BAHIA
Aurelio Grimaldi, based on the novel "E decise di chiamarsi Joao" by Mario Bertin
35mm - colour
festival & awards:
Two kids barely seventeen years old: Joao and Vandinha.
They have a baby boy and she’s maybe expecting a second child. She keeps this as a secret. They live in a favela. Joao is not a delinquent, but a kid who is constantly looking for any form of gainful employment. Every now and then he sells his body in the city's gay circuit, but neither Vandinha nor his friends know nothing about this. Like many others, he does his best to stay afloat, but without resorting to murder or behaving like a desperado. One day Joao doesn’t come back from the work at the new Salvador’s ‘Fonte Nova’ football stadium. He disappears.
Vandinha seeks after him in Itapuà, one of the most impressive favelas of Bahia.
This film is based on a true story.
My friend, Mario Bertin lived through the intense and complicated experience, later recounted in the book: 'And They Called Him Joao' (published by Gruppo Abele) of the long-distance adoption of a boy from a Brazilian "favela". Mario not only sent money and an occasional letter, he eventually went to Brazil with his wife (after studying Portuguese to be able to communicate with the boy), and met Joao (who in the meantime, had gotten his young sweetheart Vandinha pregnant). He befriended him and eventually bought him a small house in their favela.
But upon returning to Italy, he was informed that Joao had disappeared, abandoning Vandinha and their newly born son.
Then Joao showed up again and went back to living with Vandinha. She got pregnant again, whereupon Joao took off once more, shortly before the birth of their second child.
And that's when I haphazardly walked into this story.
I happened to be in Brazil for the presentation of one of my films at the São Paulo Festival and took the opportunity for a brief detour to Rio and, on Mario's urging - and with the assistance of the Macondo Center - I went to look for Vandinha. While snooping around, I asked for news about Joao.
I met the girl and her two little babies in an abandoned, multi-floor parking facility: that was where Vandinha lived with her babies, huddled with other women and children. A truly heart-breaking sight!
And meanwhile, still no news of Joao.
But someone let slip that he had caught sight of him in another favela with another girl, she too pregnant. The Community youths went looking for him there a couple of times, but without success.
I returned to Italy. Mario had had no further news about Joao, who, from the looks of it, had vanished from the face of the earth.
Up to here, was the real story of Joao, the boy who had been adopted by Mario. From this true story, I got the inspiration for 'my' story.
It is important to bear in mind that many other films have been shot in the favelas of Brazil. But they were all regularly and single-mindedly 'tremendous' social horror stories focused on the ghastly violence and desperate sociology enveloping those particular segments of humanity.
Our story, instead, is just a love story. No easy or expected social 'horrorism,' no tear-jerking or indignity-rousing sociology, no lengthy list of civil crimes and pathologies, but on the contrary, an opportunity to dwell on the favelas through the eyes of a person who is in love and another who, in all likelihood, loves no longer.
Brazil is capable of inspiring boundless love, and the country naturally lends itself to the telling and re-telling of stories involving its youth with all their most particular, surprising, one-of-a-kind energy and vitality.
The film will presumably be prohibited in my country to minors under the age of 14, wishing in no way to hide or underplay the great sensuality of its young protagonists. It’s entirely spoken in Brazilian Portuguese and shot in the real favelas of Salvador da Bahia with young local actors born there.
Nothing has been changed in depicting favela’s life.
The title is purposefully ungrammatical. Though it can be changed, I'm rather fond of it!
It’s important for me, anyway, to thank with all my heart and mind all the people from Itapuà-comunidade: without them it wouldn’t have been possible to shoot this film.