Que Horas Ela Volta? Or, Powerhouse Director Anna Muylaert’s Contender from Brazil

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Sometimes you see a film and think, ‘is it just me, or is this movie really good?’ And, in the case of Brazilian Director Anna Muylaert’s new film Que Horas Ela Volta?, titled The Second Mother for US audiences which opened this past weekend, it’s clearly a critical hit. Meaning other critics and reviewers have weighed in with surprise and delight. But this politics-of-the-nanny story is made all the more remarkable once you get a chance to talk with the filmmaker. Even language barriers can not hold back Muylaert, whose background as a photographer and visual artist collided into some powerhouse visual storytelling skills with her movies. She’s personable, she’s political, and she pulls no punches. A snapshot bio is that Anna Muylaert attended the University of Sâo Paulo, then transitioned into assistant directing for such directors as Paul Mazursky on Moon Over Parador (credited as Ana Luis Muylaert). She then took a prolonged detour into TV, and literally wrote her way back into movies as a writer/director. The Second Mother, released by Oscilloscope Laboratories, came about based on her experiences as a single mother slogging through those inevitable mother-worker dilemmas with childcare.

CaseMichaelWhen Muylaert speaks about the making of this film, produced by Brazil’s well-known Gullane Productions, the call drops a few times and you wonder if it’s censorship or a bad connection. But it matters little, because nothing can prevent her from voicing breathtaking opinions.  “I would like to talk about men and women and sexism in Brazil,”she announces at one point. Then pins the film as: “If you are a woman, it speaks to you, if you are a man, it speaks to you.” Without running down the plot twists, a nanny who is also the housekeeper and heart of the family has her own adult daughter intrude on the quiet balance of her role as subservient doormat. Spectacularly played by Regina Casé, Val is so authentic and inadvertent that you can feel the cringe when she is upbraided, demeaned. When she finds her way to a perspective of self-respect, you exhale.

The instrument of her enlightenment is her estranged daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila), who is as politically aware of the congenial oppression of the ersatz mother position as her mother is unaware of her circumstance when the story begins. Márdila’s acting is fabulous, just rips the hypocrisy wide open. This resonates not only in the house of her mother’s patron, but writ large for any woman anywhere in the world who has ever had help with child-rearing. It is significant that this second “child,” Fabinho whom Val practically raised herself, is a boy. Michel Joelsas who plays the nannied child is also really authentic and inspired.

CaseMardillaA sense of emotional genuineness permeates the film, and Anna Muylaert’s skill as a storyteller, with high’s and low’s in an intimate setting, pays off huge. Her stance is clear: domestic matters can be a minefield or a launch pad for the future, but we have to choose how we pick our battles. On the phone, and in email follow-ups, writer/director Muylaert just confirms how much an unwavering creative voice is needed in the entertainment industry. Here she is in her own words about The Second Mother. (Actor bios are included as an endnote, along with Muylaert’s for reference.)

This film is political, but loving, kind of a rare combination for a movie with a feminist theme. Did you mean to make a strong statement for women?

I think that we should serve both, men and women. I think the next feminist wave should be done by men. For example I have two kids, I have never had help had from their two different fathers. I am a woman and director. I have done it alone, and in Brazil. I feel happy that I have done it. It is a challenge and an opportunity for you to grow, When you have a child you have to grow to, something good that men are missing.

‘The next wave of feminism depends on the men,’ can you add a little to that?

Yes. I think that after the big feminist wave of the 1960’s, women had changed a lot. We conquered a professional space in a land that used to be exclusively masculine. Now, 50 years later, women are still doing the inner, feminine, indoors kind of work (taking care of kids, house, dogs, food, etc.) — plus our careers — while men (at least in Latin countries) still don’t believe so much that they would like or that they should do this feminine, indoors kind of work. That means that we, women are becoming very powerful because we are now carrying two weights while the majority of men are still carrying just one weight. That reminds of the last scene of Fargo…  Or, as Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano once said, “Woman is man, and man is kid.” If they don’t understand that, in 100 years women will dominate the world – hahahaha!

Speaking of kids, did you mean to show a man-woman thing with Val favoring the boy, even as her daughter is pushed to be submissive at first?

I didn’t think that she (the nanny) was a woman, Fabinho is a man. In Brazil today, I think women are very strong and men are needing to rethink their roles. Again, men are refusing to do the feminine work. It’s women on two feet, and men on only one. (But) I think that we should serve both, men and women.

Do you think the bourgeois working mothers as depicted in the film will be ruffled by the portrayal, or have you had any feedback like that?

I think this film opens many debates. As I said before, women are carrying two weights. It’s not easy to deal with that. I don’t know if they will be ruffled, but I think it’s time to think about how we are going to raise our kids now that women also work. One thing I know, If the fathers helped it would be much better for everyone.

Regina Casé just blew me away, did you ever have anyone else in mind, or was she it from the start?

Her and only her, never thought of anybody else. Number one, she is an amazing actress. Number two, in her we see a figure (that could be mixed race), she is black, white, and an indian. Very Brazilian.

The young actor Camila, can you mention how you cast her and did she go with you for the red carpets; just a little about her strong performance?

Camila was brought to me by my casting producer. She did a good test, but I refused to like her, because I wanted someone with darker skin, because her character comes from a north region from Brazil. We have discussed a lot before I accepted her figure. And when I did, I did not regret. She is a great actress, creative, focused and didn’t tremble in front of the big star, Regina Casé. And yes, she went with me to Sundance and Berlinale.MuylaertMardilla

What was your defining experience with nannies you hired as a mother?

These women, to bathe your son, to feed your son, to have a low salary. And be brought up by their mothers to become nannies — this issue, this character (inspired the film). The biggest paradox in Brazil is education. People don’t have education (are in) for a low salary. It was all these things together. I was not mature (initially), I came back to this project, after 8 or 10 years ago. Maybe 20 years working(these themes)! It came together organically but what I thought is that wow (Regina) is it.

When the pool is drained, and then this moment of joy comes for her character, that was incredibly powerful. Did you know it would have that effect, even as simple an act of defiance as it is?

I have been in elating with situations. Ones  I have never dealt with before. With the draining the water of the pool, (she crosses a line) ‘you can not step here, and you can not step there.’

You seem defiant too, in a good way. Did you expect ever to become a filmmaker?

As a kid, I always liked photograph and writing, since I’m very little I wanted to make films. I never thought how it would happen, or why it would happen. I remember I did a project in school about Feminism. And learned about it when I started independent financing.

How do you like the American title The Second Mother, as opposed to the Portuguese title which slants it differently “What Time Will She Return?”

I myself gave this option, and I like it as well as the titles they gave me in other  countries. In Germany it is a Summer with My Mother. I like the Brazilian one because it comes from the perspective of the kids in the film. I don’t know what to expect (from the opening), I hope American audiences will relate to the film. It has a traditional storytelling structure, but we have that diva (Regina Casé)!ReginaCase

Que Horas Ela Volta? US-titled The Second Mother opened Aug. 28 and continues in selected cities. See Oscilloscope or Laemmle Royal for more information, venues, and showtimes. Watch for it at Oscar nomination time because it is a contender.

Cast Biographies Courtesy of Oscilloscope Labs.

Anna Muylaert – Writer/Director
Anna Muylaert (b. 1964) is a Brazilian screenwriter and television/film director. After studying filmmaking at the School of Communications and Arts at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) Muylaert became a film critic for IsotÉ and O Estado de S. Paulo and in 1988 she joined the staff of Rede Gazeta’s program TV Mix. In 1999, she worked as an editor and reporter on TV Cultura’s Matéria-Prima. She also wrote scripts on other Cultura programs, Mundo da Lua (1991–92) and Castelo Rá-Tim-Bum (1994–97). Muylaert has directed six short films—the most notable being A Origem dos Bebês Segundo Kiki Cavalcanti (1995) which won awards at Rio Cine e Cine Ceará—before directing her first feature film, Durval Discos (2002). It won numerous awards at the Festival de Gramado, including Best Director and Best Film. Seven years after she released her second film, É Priobido Fumar, which won eight awards at Festival de Brasília, including Best Screenplay and Best Film. Muylaert directed Chamada a Cobarar (2012), based on a television film Para Aceitá-la Continue na Linha (2010), of which she was also the director. Her fourth film, The Second Mother, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize for Acting, and then went on to play the Panorama section at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award.

Regina Casé – “Val”

Regina Casé has been working in film, television and on stage for over 40 years. She is one of the most important artistic talents in Brazil today. Casé began her career with the theater group Asdrúbal Trouxe o Trombone, where she had her breakout role with the play Trate-Me Leao. She later began a successful career with TV Globo in daytime dramas and comedy program TV Pirata. Casé has worked in numerous movies including OS 7 GATINHOS (1980) by Neville de Almeida, ME YOU THEM (2000) by Andrucha Waddington and, more recently, RIO, I LOVE YOU (2014) and MADE IN CHINA (2014) by Estevao Ciavatta. Casé has also been producing television shows for many years, focusing on programs that revolve around popular Brazilian culture. She is currently the host of TV Globo’s ESQUENTA!, one of the few programs playing today which has bridged the gap between pop culture and major media.

Michel Joelsas – “Fabinho”

At the age of 10 he shot his first film “O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias” (The year my parents went on vacation) (2006), directed by Cao Hamburger and written by Anna Muylaert and Claudio Galperin. He played Mauro, the main character. The film was in competition at Berlinale. He also worked in “A Suprema Felicidade” by Arnaldo Jabor (2010). In 2014 he met Anna Muylaert again, playing Fabinho, at her film “The Second Mother” (2015), which won the audience prize at Panorama, Berlinale. In 2015 he played Henrique in a soap opera, “Malhaçao” (2015) at TV Globo. Nowadays he is getting prepared to get into the Drama School of São Paulo University.

Camila Márdila – “Jessica”

Márdila is a Brazilian actress who recently won the Special Jury Award for Acting at 2015 Sundance Film Festival for her role in Anna Muylaert’s “The Second Mother”. She usually makes work in theater and has a group called AREAS Collective Arts, exploring collaborative creation processes. Camila is also part of some performances and plays created by Adriano and Fernando Guimarães, important theater artists specialists in Samuel Beckett’s scenes. The movie “The other side of paradise”, directed by André Ristum (to be released) was her first feature film acting experience.

Gullane – Production Company
Founded in 1996, is one of the best-known and most acclaimed Brazilian production companies operating today. The company prides itself on specializing in international co-productions. In recent years, Gullane has produced such successful films as BRAINSTORM (2001) by Laís Bodanzky, an Offical Selection at Toronto and Lorarno 2001; CARANDIRU (2003) by Hector Babenco, in Competition at Cannes in 2003; THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION (2007) by Cao Hamburger, in Competition at Berlin 2007; BIRDWATCHERS (2008), co-produced in Italy by March Bechis, in Competition at Venice in 2008; TABU (2012), co-produced in Portugal, Germany and France by Miguel Gomes, in Competition at Berlin in 2012; RIO 2096. A STORY OF LOVE AND FURY (2013) by Luis Bolognesi, Winner of Best Film at Annecy 2013; AMAZONIA 3D, co-produced in France by Thierry Ragobert, the Closing Film at Venice 2013; and A WOLF AT THE DOOR by Fernando Coimbra, Winner of Best Film at San Sebastian in 2013. Besides cinema, Gullane produces content for both Brazilian and international broadcast television including HBO, TV Globo, TV Brasil, Record and more.

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