Cinema explains what we cannot understand well, says Marcelo Gomes, director of Waiting for the carnival

▲ Stills from the Brazilian filmmaker’s film

Juan Ibarra

La Jornada newspaper
Thursday, May 28, 2020, p. 7

In Toritama the inhabitants spend their days working. The small Brazilian town is called by the locals “the capital of jeans”, although a few years ago it was a peasant town.

There, Marcelo Gomes, fiction director, filmed Waiting for Carnival, his first documentary. One day, while traveling, he saw big ads for people in jeans and they caught his eye. He could not understand that, all year round and unstoppably, the villagers made pants for little money, until the arrival of the carnival, when they left everything to go to the beach.

Gomes decided to make a movie. We go to the cinema to understand things that we do not understand very well, and we go to see things that we had not seen before, he explained in a virtual conversation organized by the online festival Ambulante.

When he returned to town, he discovered that he had some wonderful characters, with wonderful power of existence and resilience. Then only with a documentary it would be possible to account for so many people, so many interesting topics and so many wonderful conversations, the director detailed.

In his work as a filmmaker, Gomes seeks the freshness of things that happen at random, so improvising and adapting did not cost him work. He changed his initial idea when he met the people who participated in his film, which began by wanting to reflect the production of work, it became an extremely existentialist documentary.

Another thing that Gomes wanted with Waiting for the carnival was to experiment. I wanted to mix a lot of languages. I like to make an impure cinema, because life is like that, he indicated.

So, in a way, he is also a character in his film; It tells part of the story, and even reflects, something that he was not sure of doing because of his tendency to be melancholic.

During the year and a half that Gomes and his team spent in Toritama, one question remained: do we work to live, or do we live to work?

The film shows a community happy to work more than 14 hours a day, and despite their few options, they are proud to be self-employed. Gomes and the documentary’s producer, Ernesto Soto, told details of how they came up with some scenes, explained the importance of sound on the tape, and discussed the decision to give people the cameras in order to get some of the shots.