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Bursting with sensuality, this racy Brazilian drama follows the love triangle of Deco (Lázaro Ramos, Madame Satã), his best friend Naldinho (Wagner Moura, Carandiru) and a beautiful young prostitute, Karinna (Alice Braga, City of God). When Karinna hitches a ride down the coast to the city of Salvador with the two petty hustlers, passion, obsession and jealousy ignite a fire that will break hearts and threaten a lifelong friendship. Directed and co-written by Sérgio Machado, co-writer of Madame Satã. Winner of the Award of the Youth at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

 Lower City

I believe there is a new wave in Brazilian films which somehow reflects a similar way of looking at our country. With the collapse of great expectations and ideologies, along with all the corruption and deception, some of us are reaching the conclusion that the only way to survive in such a hostile environment is by creating strong bonds of family and friendship. The more chaotic the situation, the more people need each other. Films like Central Station, Madame Satã, Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures and Lower City talk about drifting people who desperately need to associate to survive. On the one hand this can be seen as a skeptical way to see the country, but this idea also carries hope of some sort.

One of the things that strikes me the most in the so-called “Brazilian character” is that, no matter how bad the situation gets (and it keeps getting worse each day), people always manage to find a way to keep on going, improvising, making arrangements and reinventing themselves to adapt to it.

Falling into stereotypes was probably the greatest risk I had with my film. In making Lower City, the last thing I wanted was to make an exposé of the harsh living conditions of waterfront prostitutes and hustlers. I wanted to make a film about people like myself who desire, love, are jealous, suffer, get horny, have orgasms, are good and bad, violent and peaceful, depending on the situation life puts them in.

For me, Naldinho, Deco and Karinna (the three main characters) could just as well be film actors or university students, work in a factory or a mall. They could have been born in New York, Seoul or Addis Ababa for that matter. They would probably act somewhat differently, but they would love and suffer all the same. I mean the essence of their feelings would still be the same.

In researching I spent a few months immersed in the world of the film: the striptease nightclubs and bars of waterfront Bahia. A good part of the dialogue and situations in Lower City came from this research. I felt the need to be faithful to the reality I saw.

I wanted to show a love triangle that functioned as a vehicle for affirming life. The story was born out of a desire to understand and love these characters and to say that killing each other is just not worth it. It is necessary to find a way to keep on going.

The classic love triangle situation in literature, mythology, theater or cinema has more often than not meant betrayal and tragedy, as in Tristan and Isolde. I realized that my film could not be about betrayal, but about passion and survival. Love triangles are also usually about impossibility, even modern ones like Jules and Jim. I tried to approach the issue from a different perspective. The questions we kept asking ourselves while writing the script were: Why not? What keeps these people from being happy?

Lower City defends the desire to live and the ability to reinvent. It is about taking a stance against the death drive, facing shame and fear. The three leading characters have no one to rely on except themselves. For them, life is always on the razor’s edge. What is at stake is not a guarantee of happiness. It doesn’t matter whether the three are going to stay together for the rest of their lives or just for a few moments. What interests me is the insistence on not giving up, the will to experiment.

I believe Lower City brings a delicate look at a world that seems tough. And it is neither a pious nor complacent look, nor an aloof spectator’s view. I’m speaking from the inside, about the city where I was born, of a world I know.