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Regina (Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station) is a lonely sixty-five-year-old woman who works as a neighborhood watch informant for the police in Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana. Believing she has witnessed a retired officer murder his wife in the building across the street, Regina ends up getting involved with the suspect, beginning a potentially dangerous chain of events that will force her to take stock of her life in a way she never could have dreamed. Directorial debut for writer Marcos Bernstein (Central Station).

 Subjective, Not Shaky:
              The Other Side of the Street

My initial idea for The Other Side of the Street centered on Regina, a lonely sixty-five-year-old who works on a “neighborhood watch” in Copacabana. She believes she witnessed a murder in the building across the street. Frustrated with the police’s response, she goes after the truth, and must take stock of her life when she gets involved with the suspect.

Even before this idea was further developed, I knew that I wanted Fernanda Montenegro (Academy Award® nominee for Central Station, which I wrote) to play the part of Regina.

And here comes the title of this piece. With the story idea and perfect actress in mind, I realized I wanted to make a “subjective” film, a film centered on her character. Why? I don’t know. It felt very appealing to me. At the same time I didn’t want to use some common “rules” normally applied to this type of film.

In sketching out the script, my writing partner Melanie Dimantas and I first established that the lead character should be in every scene. Then we went about adding the spice. To avoid the voice-overs, one of the above-mentioned “rules,” in some parts of the film we try to get into Regina’s lonely head, to feel what she is feeling: we see images of what she wants to see; we hear sounds of what she wants to hear.

With the first draft completed, my producing partner Katia Machado came on board. With the second draft we felt ready to send it to Fernanda. She first learned of the project when I called her assistant to send her the script. Lucky for me, she liked it, and came on board.

Now that we had the script and Fernanda, we were able to put the financing together, and it was time to turn my “subjective” ideas into a film. First, I had to decide which kind of shooting style to use: shaky or stable. Often when people want to do a subjective approach they use handheld cameras with many over the shoulder and point of view shots. For The Other Side of the Street I decided to try something different.

Together with the Director of Photography, we made a shot breakdown following Regina’s feelings about other people and herself throughout her journey. The film begins with camera shots kept at a “respectful distance,” which is a mirror to the way Regina observes other people’s lives. We move in slowly, as Regina gets closer to the suspect and to her own feelings. The first close-up takes place about twenty minutes into the film.

The Copacabana that Regina sees, the place that she inhabits, is not the Copacabana of the picture postcard. Take out the exotic, and take out the warm tones. This is the real Copacabana (seen through her eyes), one filled with problems and disappointments. The beach is there, but the clichéd allure is gone. Early on, the art department suggested the paintings of Edward Hopper for their atmosphere of loneliness. Bring on the blue tones (technically speaking, the cyan). We tried a similar approach with the sound. As I said, I knew I didn’t want to use voice-overs. So sometimes I have Regina hear unexpected things, other times we enhanced or distorted noises to create a palette of sounds to reflect her state of mind.

Of course, I don’t suppose all this will be promptly perceived. I hope it is not, in fact. All in all it is a simple film about a lonely woman who finds herself in a situation where she has to make a few choices. But if people notice a few of these things I described above, whatever they are, I hope it adds another layer to this “subjective” but not shaky film.