Interview with Brazilian director André Ristum

André Ristum is a Brazilian director and producer raised in Italy. His direction debut, with the short film Sombumbo (1975)happened when he was only 4 years old. However, his film career officially started in the 1990s when he worked as an assistant director in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty (1996) and Rob Cohen’s Daylight (1996).

Back in Brazil, he directed the short-film Pobres por um Dia (1998) that won the Best Direction and Best Screenplay awards at the Festival de Curitiba (Brazil). His short films, Homem Voa? (2001), De Glauber para Jirges (2005), 14 Bis (2006) and Nello’s (2008) guaranteed his participation in important national and international film festivals such as Venice (Italy), Biarritz (France), É Tudo Verdade (Brazil) and Mostra de São Paulo (Brazil).

In 2004, he directed his first feature film, the documentary Tempo de Resistência. Seven years later he would debut his first fiction feature film Meu País (2011) that was a huge success at national festivals and awards. His second feature film, O Outro Lado do Paraíso (2015), received over 14 awards in festivals all around the world.

Ristum is currently promoting his latest film A Voz do Silêncio which is set to premier in Brazil during the second semester of 2018 after participating in the Festival de Málaga (Spain) and in the Festival de Gramado (Brazil), where he received the Best Direction Award.

Andre Ristum - Foto Felipe Gonçalves

YOUR FILMS HAVE PARTICIPATED IN DIFFERENT FESTIVALS: FROM NATIONAL TO INTERNATIONAL, BIG TO SMALL, GENRE SPECIFIC TO ALL GENRES. HOW DO YOU, AS A DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER, RELATE TO EACH FESTIVAL? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TYPE?

In general, I try to have a premiere in an international festival before taking the film for a national festival premiere. I like to participate in all types of festival, from small to big, national to international, because each one offers a different experience. In bigger festivals, there’s a very interesting opportunity to network with professionals from the entire world even if your film is just one among dozens. On the other hand, smaller festivals tend to highlight more the selected films. Plus, there’s a possibility to interact more with the audience and to feel how the different cultures react to your project. In Brazil, every festival has some sort of interaction with the audience. Besides, they introduce your film to the country through press coverage, which is fundamental for the national release of the film.

HOW POWERFUL IS THE PARTICIPATION ON A FILM FESTIVAL WHEN IT COMES TO DISTRIBUTING AND SELLING A BRAZILIAN FILM?

Participating in an important international festival is fundamental for a Brazilian film to have a life, whether in the festival circuit or in the sales market. Depending on the festival, it might radically change the sales success and a festivals’ career, especially when the film is considered to be Arthouse. When it comes to distribution in Brazil, participating in a distinctive national festival is always very important as a release platform for the film since the distribution press attention and the P&A budget tend to be very small. So any press and media your film gets, helps a lot.

YOU HAVE A VERY INTERESTING STORY ABOUT YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH FILM FESTIVALS. COULD YOU PLEASE SHARE THAT WITH US?

I was three years old, at the time living in Rome, and I used to go to the film sets where my dad, Jirges Ristum, and my stepdad, Ivan Isola, used to work. I was fascinated with the process and saw it all as a big game. I used to ask the cinematographer’s when he would go to my house, so we could shoot my film. After a few attempts to make me give up on the idea, and me not backing down, Ivan told me that we needed a script to make a film. I told him to start writing while I dictated. I hadn’t learned how to write yet. And that’s how Sombumbo started. A Super 8 short film with scenes from my day-to-day life. We shot the whole film and the director from a Super 8 film festival at Filmstudio in Rome requested that we finalized the film in order for him to show it in a young directors’ session. In December 1975, I had my first ever participation on a festival alongside Nanni Moretti who was showing one of his first films, also in Super 8. That was probably my most prestigious premiere ever, with the presence of Bernardo Bertolucci, Glauber Rocha and Michelangelo Antonioni, all of them were directors with whom my father collaborated at the time.

Film Festival Volunteer Experience – Part 3 (Melbourne Women in Film Festival)

My last experience as a volunteer in a film festival was also my favorite. I got to work for a very small and new festival but with an important message: the Melbourne Women in Film Festival. This festival is only on its second year, but I already had my eyes on it since its first edition. Although I had just gone back to Brazil after spending a few weeks in Melbourne when the festival took place in 2017, the vision of the festival caught my attention. So, when I moved to Melbourne this year I knew I had to volunteer for them.

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I checked their website and contacted them through their online platform and I soon heard back from one of the organizers that told me they needed someone to work on one of the sessions. The job was very simple: I had to stay outside the box office wearing a shirt from the festival, so people could come to me in case they had any questions and also, so I could direct them to the correct theater room and the guest list. A few minutes before the film started I went to the theater to hand out a survey to the viewers. Once the film started and we had closed the doors of the theater room, I got to sit down and watch the film – which was great. At the end, I went to the exit door, so I could thank everyone for coming and collect the surveys.

During all this time I was accompanied by one of the organizers who was helping and guiding me. Getting to work closely to some of the organizers was probably one of the highest points of this experience as I got to talk and know a little more about the festival’s vision and the organizers themselves. Not only was this festival trying to put women in the center of the narrative, but it was also organized by a great group of women who I had the pleasure to meet and work with.

The only downside to this experience was the fact that I only contacted the festival a few days before it started and for that reason they only needed a volunteer for one of the film sessions. I was very lucky to get this opportunity, but I wish I could have done more. Next year, I’m definitely applying to volunteer in advance.

So, this was a brief overview of my experiences volunteering for film festivals. I hope I got to show a bit of the differences between each festival. Personally, I loved being a part of big film festivals. However, working for a smaller – but growing – festival was a more pleasant and interesting opportunity because I had much more contact with the organizers and I believe that is the ultimate goal for anyone working or wanting to work in the film industry.

Festivals are amazing platforms to get access to films that you might not have access to in any other situation. There are many different festivals out there with different subjects, themes, focus and sizes. I only got to experience a very few number of them. Thus, I would love to hear everyone else’s experiences as well.

Film Festival Volunteer Experience – Part 2 (Alliance Française French Film Festival)

My second experience volunteering for a film festival was at the Alliance Française French Film Festival. I had heard about this festival even before I moved to Melbourne as my sister had been to it multiple times and we share a passion for French contemporary cinema.

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Applying to volunteer for them was very simple as I only needed to send an e-mail to the contact on their website. I soon got an answer from one of the organizers who asked me to fill a form with my personal detail and availability. I actually did the entire process while I was still in Brazil, a month before the festival started. Not long after, I received my shifts.

Unlike most festivals who will have a selection process for volunteers, they tried to create a roster that would allow every person to work at least once. Because this festival is organized in partnership with Palace Cinemas and it’s only exhibited in their theaters, they only needed the volunteers for promotion and special events. Everything else would be done by the Palace staff.  That meant that the volunteers didn’t get many shifts.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to volunteer in two very different moments. Firstly, at the promotion of the festival the week before it started and secondly at the opening night event. For the promotion, I went along with another volunteer and two of the organizers (Alliance Française staff members) went to Parliament Station during rush hour to hand out flyers and programs. At the opening night, which was a big function at the Astor with food and drinks being served before and after the screening, there were many volunteers and we were split into different teams. My team was responsible for the food, so we had to heat up and organize the appetizers on platters and on the tables, welcome the guests and give any sort of information that might be asked, whether about the food or the festival itself.

This festival is currently the biggest French film festival outside France, so I had high expectations for the opening night. However, the organizers of the event who were in direct contact with the volunteers were not in the film industry or in hospitality but were Alliance Française staff members. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much experience with functions and that created a bit of stress for the volunteers who, most of the time, were feeling very confused and lost. Nonetheless, my previous experience on organizing functions helped me and my team to get all the tasks done and create the best experience possible for the guests.

Ultimately, this was a great opportunity as I got to meet a lot of interesting people who were also volunteer – although I wish I got to meet more people in the film industry. I also got a new set of skills by approaching people at train station and trying to get their attention. What’s more, I got double passes to watch films from the festival and a certificate of appreciation for participating as a volunteer.

Film Festival Volunteer Experience – Part 1 (Festival Internacional de Curtas-Metragens de São Paulo)

In the first seminar we were asked about our experience with film festivals: whether attending or working at one. I’ve had the opportunity to not only go to some great festivals but also to volunteer for three very different ones. Each work had its pros and cons but they all offered me some amazing lessons and skills that I would like to share with you. However, in order to give as much detail as I can about each event, I’ll separate them into three posts: one for each festival. I hope this personal insight can give a better understanding of the plurality of film festivals and motivates others to share their own experiences.

The first time I volunteered for a film festival was as part of the making-of crew of the Festival Internacional de Curtas-Metragens de São Paulo, an international film festival focused only on short films. Not only it is the biggest short film festival in Brazil, it is organized by Kinoforum, a well stablished nonprofit organization responsible for creating and organizing activities that support the national audiovisual market.

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Each year the festival partners up with one of the universities with cinema or audiovisual undergraduate programs in São Paulo to put together a group of students to create a 3-minutes making-of video of the many events held by the festival.

In 2014, my university wasn’t supposed to be that year’s partner. However, due to some complications with the chosen university, the organizers of the festival contacted one of the teachers from my course. I jumped to the opportunity of working in a film festival for the first time and specially one so well stablished. Yet, the teacher had a hard time putting together a group of six people in such a short period – we were less than a week away from the opening night.

The group had a meeting with some of the organizers in order to get an idea of the best events happening during the twelve days of festival and what to film for the making-of. This was a big festival with many events and sessions happening at the same time, a high number of national and international guests and a considerable amount of public. Thus, it was extremely important to have the organizers guide us on what to focus. Unfortunately, each organizer was responsible for a different program and it made hard for us to get a general sense of the festival and decide when and what to shoot.

As a result of the last-minute constitution of the group, we didn’t have the time to create a nice shooting schedule. Plus, a lot of the members had previously set engagements that didn’t allow them to be in all the events we wanted to video. We were also affected by the fact that, except for the initial meeting with the organizers, we didn’t get any other instructions or guidance from them throughout the festival.

Being part of this festival gave me an amazing opportunity to network not only with Kinoforum but also with all the amazing guests and public. However, the experience of being part of the making-of team wasn’t great. I strongly believe that had we had more time to organize ourselves before the festival started, it would have been a more enjoyable work and the final making-of video would have been more complete and interesting.