Jules and Dolores director, Caito Ortiz, had a fantastic chat with Elliot Burr & James Baxter-Derrington about his film, football (naturally), and the feeling of Rio de Janeiro in 1983.
Congratulations on being nominated for Best Feature – were you surprised at all?
Thank you, I was super surprised! What happened is, we made this film, and we thought it was super Brazilian! Does it communicate outside? I have no idea. We premiered it at South By Southwest, which is the Texan/Austin/American festival. And it’s an awesome festival because it mixes music and technology, and I think it’s more fun than just a film festival that just focuses on film or whatever. And then we got the Audience Award, so that was a surprise. So, hey, maybe we were doing it right! Even speaking Portuguese was working and then we get invited to Raindance, we didn’t even apply. So that was one first surprise, the second surprise is that we were in competition and to me, my biggest happiness about all this is that my main actor is in competition for Best Actor – that was the biggest surprise of all! Just being involved in the festival… I wasn’t familiar with the rules of it or anything, ultimately we’re in competition. But then to have your main actor in competition, I was happy about it.
“And there you have Kubrick talking about the bomb with that funky, black humour, craziness and I thought: there’s something here”
I’m a big football fan, but I was actually unaware of the real events that take place in the film. How much of the film was based on true events?
That’s the question I get all the time and it’s hard for me to really measure it, but it is a lot of real events in it, and it’s very surprising really that we got away with all of that. I’ll tell you that… the fact that we know out of that story that the guy, Peralta, the guy who is the mastermind behind the robbery – the “mastermind” [laughs] – he was in debt, so he really needed the money. He was in debt because he was a super gambler, y’know? So we kinda romanticised the character of who he owes – The Reverend – but he was owing to someone! But we never knew who. He worked at the Federation headquarters on and off, he was trying to help one of the Brazilian teams there. He wanted to be involved, he had big dreams of being part of the football world – that’s a fact. We know that he thought he was stealing the replica. And that’s like… c’mon, this can’t be true, it is true! We know that nobody wanted to buy the real trophy right after he stole it because nobody wanted to touch it. I don’t think it was because of Brazilian pride or anything, it was like “I’m not gonna touch it, this is too hot!” But the guy who gave them away was one of the guys they tried to sell to, so that is also true. We put into his mouth kind of a Brazilian feeling of honour like “you have to give this back, you have no shame? What are you thinking?” So… that is true! Another thing that I love… there was some stuff with the police that we left out of the film because it was way too crazy. They got arrested once and the police just got their money and one of the guys bought a car, and the police kept the car and released them. The totally corrupt police just kept the money and released them! So there you go, we thought it’s gonna be too much. And then at the end they get arrested and the Argentinean… it’s true also that they sell it to an Argentinean, which, I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with – Brazil and Argentina have a very big rivalry in South American football – so it’s all true. It’s just the way we make it, it’s the way we get from point A to point B to point C that was like a fictionalised… and the character Dolores is fully fiction. There’s no record of a wife, somebody that would help him out, to think about it. The Argentinean guy was only arrested years after. Peralta and Beard, who was actually two guys that we made one, we turned two, actually three guys, and we made him into two guys. Beard is the combination of two guys and the Argentinean was only arrested many years after, and they said “you’re the Argentinean who melted the cup – where’s the cup? Where’s the gold?” and he said “oh, I melted it.” But nobody’s really sure if he melted it or not, because if you think about, it was gonna be worth… the amount of money you would pay for the real trophy would be more than the gold, so nobody’s really sure. As we speak, FIFA in Zurich have decided to look for the trophy. I’m not kidding! They’re putting a force together to look for the trophy because they don’t believe it’s been melted, yeah!
That’s really cool!
My dad says “THAT’S BECAUSE OF THE MOVIE!” [laughs] So I say, “I don’t know dad, I’m not sure.”
I like that, in the movie, the whole of Brazil is in a frenzy, but you linked it to football. So all of the enemies of the police were Argentinean, and at one point they’re German. You’ve made a documentary about football before – is it football that gave you the biggest inspiration for the film?
My friend, I’m a big fan of football and I think it’s much bigger than a sport. It’s a cultural aspect of a country, right? As we speak, football shapes the hearts and minds of so many young kids and the rivalry, the concept of representing something, the sport is all good. The documentary I shot was about Brazil, at the time five times champions of the world when we shot in 2004, going to play in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which is like the poorest country in America, right? Because Brazil was fronting a UN peace force, you know the UN peace – the Blue Casquettes? And I remember the power the Brazilian team had in their minds and their hopes, the hopes of the Haitian people, it was like… it was… we knew there was a good film in it. We jumped in a plane and went to shoot it, spent fifteen days in Port-au-Prince. But I had no idea the strength of the projection of the Brazilian success at the time onto the Haitian people. And I remember seeing the Brazilian military just walking around town and giving Brazilian flags out. People were getting the flags and I was shooting as a documentarian like “What is going on here?” because if they were giving away American flags, people would be very bothered by it, it’s so weird. And there’s a line in the movie that I love that… Patrice Dumont was a commentator, a very strong sports personality in Haiti, and he says that Brazil is much more dangerous than the United States because it has the soft power: the power of enchantment, the power of music, the power of the game. So, I truly believe that football is a very cultural aspect of a country and every time you talk about football, usually it will hit a chord everywhere with everybody. And with this film, we know we hit a chord – even though it’s not about football, but you have that layer that gives it a thicker form if you will. I love the way that we put a girl talking about it and explaining to everybody: “Whoever won it three times would get to keep it.” She also explains the vibe of the time – this 1983 in Brazil – how was it? It was like that. We had the hope again from the 1982 team, who arguably many people would say is the best ever, the best we ever had! And of course we had to talk about Paolo Rossi, you know? The guy who murdered us way before Podolski and his people.
“My friend, I’m a big fan of football and I think it’s much bigger than a sport”
That was terrible, wasn’t it?
That was – I was at the game, man! I was at the game – I took my father to the game! I still haven’t recovered, man, even gold at the Olympics hasn’t done much for me. I’m still suffering…
Did you take any inspiration from crime films?
Yeah! I love heist films. I’m a big fan of heist films. And I have to say that the reason why I wanted to do this job was because I read an article – a very well written article – some years ago, that pinpointed incredible facts that people don’t know about the heist, the robbery. And the Argentinean bit was there, I didn’t know. The replica thing was there and I didn’t know about it. It was an embarrassment so I think they kept it low. ‘Cause it was a military government at the time and they had a lot of control about whether information got out or not, and I think they really played it down. So the Brazilian people are not really familiar with the retelling of the story, they just know the general thing: they robbed, they melted it, they got arrested. Some people don’t even know if they got arrested or not. “Did they get arrested? Ah, I’m not sure!” So I thought that would be a good story already. But what would be the genre? And I honestly thought about making it for real, a serious film, like a thriller or a heist movie. I was lucky enough, that weekend, they were doing some re-runs on Kubrick’s work and I just stumbled into Dr. Strangelove – I hadn’t seen that film in ages. And there you have Kubrick talking about the bomb with that funky, black humour, craziness and I thought: there’s something here. Maybe we can use this to talk about what happened to us, and make fun of us. We’re gonna be making fun of ourselves, so we embraced the concept of making fun. I wouldn’t say making fun, just not taking ourselves too seriously on that matter because… simply because of what happened! C’mon, the replica was in the safe and the real one was exposed, whoever wanted to rob it would be robbing the safehouse – how do you seriously shoot something that’s about that? I was lucky enough to… I was brought up in the 70s and 80s watching Italian comedies: Mario Monicelli, Ettore Scola. And I watched a lot of Italian comedies and I love the level of craziness that they’re able to achieve and get away with, how you can have super crazy characters in front of the camera. Like Parneti Serpenti by Mario Monicelli, it’s like… amazing amounts of craziness. And it’s a funny film but it’s kinda sad, and it’s kinda awkward and it’s kinda funny, and I wanted to touch that realm, that genre, not just a broad comedy. And I’m very happy with the result. You know, it took us a long time to write that script, but I think we really pulled it off. A lot of it has to do with the main character. His level of energy, of intensity, and how much he fucks up! And you still wanna root for him, like “Man, stop fucking up. Stop fucking up! WHY ARE YOU FUCKING UP? WHY? Why don’t you just pay The Reverend? Oh, don’t… no, no, no… ah, he’s fucked up.” So, again, we don’t know if he paid The Reverend or not, but we know that our character, Peralta, would not pay The Reverend. So that’s what we went with, y’know? Since we were familiar with the characters and the forces – what they wanted or not – me and Lusa Silvestre, who’s my co-writer, once we knew exactly who they were, we knew that Peralta would always fuck up. So let’s keep that there, and I was very confident that that actor, Paulo Tiefenthaler, could pull it off because he’s been my friend for 20 years and I know him so well and he’s in many ways like that. He’s a big, big Labrador. You know, he keeps breaking things and it’s like “No, it’s ok, no worries! We’ll fix it! Go ahead, keep doing your craziness!” So… that’s it, we’re happy.
I loved his performance, he was so charismatic –
– isn’t it great? C’mon, man. I’m very happy also with the level of the technicality of the filming as well. Sometimes people walk into the concept of shooting a comedy and not paying much attention to camera moves or the director of music or the aspects of making a really good film. From the beginning I wanted to do a lot of long takes. We had a lot of scenes that were under two minutes and I said I’d tackle them as one long shot, ’cause that also gives space for the actors to play, y’know, to improvise. Even in the way they move, especially in timing, you don’t really have to change what’s written, but the timing of the scene – once you get it, you know you’ve got it, instead of go find a rhythm in the editing room, which is also a very good way to do it. But I wanted to try and get a flow of it and have the camera floating around. And that took us a long time to figure out how to do it, but once we got it, I think it really feels like… there’s a lot of one-takes, and that’s where the actors have so much room to move and I think they did a really good job.
“Man, stop fucking up. Stop fucking up! WHY ARE YOU FUCKING UP? WHY? Why don’t you just pay The Reverend? Oh, don’t… no, no, no… ah, he’s fucked up.”
Because it’s set in 1980s Rio, did you have any challenges having to make a period set?
I had many challenges because it was set in 1983 Rio, and the 1983 Rio is not there anymore. It’s gone. They’ve torn it down and built it up again. Especially because of the Olympics and the World Cup. So I got away with shooting all of the interiors in Sao Paulo – that was cheaper to do. I built one set – that was their apartment – because there were gonna be so many scenes in their apartment, so it made sense financially. I shot in Rio only the exteriors, the real exteriors, and I shot some scenes at a beach town near Sao Paulo, it has Portuguese colonisation and looks a lot like Rio did in the 1980s, so we have a lot of that. The opening shot in not in Rio, it’s in this town. But there are many challenges. There was also the challenge of shooting a film that’s a memory to me, y’know? I remember that period, I was 12 years old when they stole the cup so I remember how Rio was, how it felt, how hot it was. Nobody had air conditioning – people were sweaty a lot. There was a lot of colours, people were out on the street, always on the move. I remember that very well. Right off the bat, I told my director of photography that we’re not going for a period film, we’re really trying to tackle an emotion memory of what Rio will be like, so we kept thinking about how to shoot it and how to make it not an obvious period style like… putting a grain in it. No, no. Very early on, we came across some chrome, some slides, from Kodak, and we kept seeing ourselves as kids with cousins and uncles and just projected them. And you can see the rich blacks, the skin was always very reddish and warm, there was a lot of oranges in the stills we were looking at. So, we really decided with our direction to go warm and thick and have a lot of colour in it and try to make it as dark… y’know, I remember those chromes, every time you missed a little bit of exposure they went really dark. We tried to make the film look very dark. There was a lot of darkness there. When you walk into The Reverend’s place of gambling and inside their apartment, they’re super well lit, no, it’s dark at night so, I have these memories of my grandma’s house being very dark, not a lot of light at night so… that’s where I got the look of the film from, my emotional memory of Rio de Janeiro.
Is this a style of film you’d like to do again with a different story? This farcical element, or would you go back to documentaries?
See, once you put documentaries and… this film has been called a ‘dromedy’, I love that word, once you put these two in a bowl, they’re so different. There’s so much you can do in between. So I’m not really interested in shooting one genre for the rest of my life, but I’m definitely interested in shooting stories that really touched me, touched my feelings, like… every time you shoot a real story, you get away with so much because…”IT’S TRUE, MAN!”, “Oh, come on.”, “Well.. it’s true.”, “Oh, come one.”, “No, no, I’m serious! It’s true!” I remember the Texans saying like “IT CAN’T BE TRUE!” and I’m like, “Yeah, I think so too, but it’s true man.” So I’m really a sucker for based-on-reality stories, I really love stories that have a lot of crazy characters in it. I love stories that have twists and turns and keep you on the edge of the seat. I have a few projects developing right now, I have a production house in Sao Paulo called ‘Prodigo Films’ – which is the production house that did Jules and Dolores – we’re shooting 8 documentaries for HBO Latin America right now, so we do a lot of stuff. So we’re covering a lot of ground and the next project, I don’t know what, but it’ll be something fun. I really have to throw a little bit of fun into everything I do, ’cause that’s the way I am really – not a dark person at all.
Was there anything else that you wanted to say in particular about the film, about its future?
Good question, first of all I’m just super happy to be here, man, to be invited to Raindance, like… awesome. Seeing how the film travels, it’s really – I don’t think I explained myself well at the beginning – it’s just really interesting to see how it touches people from everywhere. Right after the screening, we went to a pub with friends from all over the place, and it was like “Ah! I remember this, I remember that! I loved that scene!” That scene when he dances with the cup in his underwear – we knew that was an instant hit when we shot it, we knew that was gonna work. That’s a very fun scene that I have… and my favourite scene in the movie is when he comes home, and she is super fuckin’ pissed. And he’s like, explaining himself, and she’s SUPER FUCKIN’ PISSED! And she’s like “I don’t wanna hear about it…”, “No, no, no”… he knows her. He knows how to push her buttons. And they end up having sex. That was a very hard scene to shoot; how do you get these actors from here to there? There’s a lot of directing involved so the scene flows beautifully. I was afraid that I wouldn’t pull it off, but it does… people really go with the scene… she starts to get the giggles… “oooh, we got ’em”.
“I really have to throw a little bit of fun into everything I do, ’cause that’s the way I am”
He turns into a sexy criminal!
Yeah, it’s like, how do you get away with robbing the cup, y’know? Your wife is gonna kill you! And they end up having sex. This guy is good. [laughs] See? That was the genesis of the character – if he can pull that off, he can pull so much off, until he can’t, he gets caught.
That is fantastic, best of luck of luck with the film.
P.S. We continued to talk over a beer, at which point Caito gave us some fascinating insight into film distribution, which you can read below.
The way films are financed in Brazil, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same here in Britain, is you need grants from the government, and you need some television money, and you need some distributor’s money and then you can really pull your finances together. So when we were trying to work the finances for Jules and Dolores we went to Globo Films, which is the film branch of Globo Network, which is a big network in Brazil. Globo. And they, at first, wanted the movie and the World Cup was getting closer but they conditioned the success of the movie to the World Cup. And it was very clear that we could not finish the movie and release it before the World Cup so they jumped out of the project which stalled us. Everything was right but the timing and they, for some reason, some executives thought it was the right reason to withdraw it, get out of the film. So, we really tried to convince him a few months later and he was very stubborn and then Netflix came looking for a project to put some money in. And Netflix saw the script and said “We love it, we want to give you money” which is pretty much the best partner you can have! “We don’t wanna tell you what to do,” – which Globo would, – “we don’t wanna tell you anything, just go there and make the best movie you can make!” So we got away with the best possible condition to shoot a crazy movie like ours with a fantastic partner like Netflix, it was like a dream come true. You have the money that you need, with the artistic freedom that you want and sometimes when you have money you don’t have that, so it’s a very good combination. And this is gonna be the first film Netflix has put money in in Brazil. It is a big breakthrough and we’re excited, man. Netflix is a really good partner and they’re growing. We’re developing a series for Latin America for Netflix. Netflix Los Angeles. They’re just bold and they wanna hear your ideas and they say “We wanna be a part of it, we love your film, we love our film, keep coming back with ideas, whatever you have.” The guy we talked with is a fantastic executive, a Mexican executive, and he’ll say “Don’t waste your time! One line, one page, just send my way – don’t develop with a writer, we’re interested in the idea. The idea is good, we’re gonna develop it.” So right now, we’re very happy with the partner.