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
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.