The new film by the Brazilian director Gabriel Mascaro is located in his country in the year 2027, where the majority of the population is evangelical, but the State still claims to be secular. He says it is a film that speculates about the near future through an allegory, "even though today[withthe[conelrise to power of the ultra-rightist president, Jair Bolsonaro]shows ever stronger signs of this reality. " The native filmmaker of Recife thought of a rereading of Brazilian nationalism and its supposed Christian nationalist identity, updated in improbable cultural appropriations in a biblical and erotic narrative about faith and power. Under this idea of thought was born Divine love, a film recently presented in the last Sundance Festival and selected in the Panorama section of the International Film Festival of Berlin.
The film places us in the near future, the evangelized Brazil of 2027, where the devout bureaucrat Joana uses her position as a notary to try couples on the brink of divorce to reconsider their decision inviting them to a religious therapy group in which to explore their sexuality and approaching God in an unusual way. When Joana and her husband are forced to face her inability to get pregnant, an incredible event will disrupt her world. Asked if the film is a metaphor, a reflection or perhaps a dystopian reading of the future of Brazil, Mascaro said that for the protagonist, played by Dira Paes, this panorama is a utopia. "Beyond the binary logic of utopia or dystopia, she is empowered in the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the notary's office and in the public faith of her profession to put into practice a plan of faith with subversive and radical power," explains the director. in an interview conducted by email.
The director proposed a challenge with Divine love. Instead of telling the story of a character fighting this change, he did the opposite. Present the story of a woman consumed by the desire to radically advance the conservative religious agenda in a very personal way. Thus, he proposes a film in which he wanted to get away from the traditional stereotypes of the church: "like the pressure to donate or money laundering, the film focuses on the philosophical project of power". "The manifestation of evangelism in Brazil is diverse and complex, but the fact is that faith is now the main Brazilian merchandise, "says Mascaro.
He is aware that generalizations are dangerous and that the evangelical movement is very heterogeneous, however he says that the most conservative line has gained a lot of ground in their country, society and their political institutions. "There is a broad front in Congress composed of what in Brazil is called the 'GBB clique' [haciendo referencia a Ganado, Biblia y Balas], which represents agribusiness, evangelicals and armament. Bolsonaro has just created the 'Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights', putting the family at the heart of the State. The signs are very clear that there is a new plan for Brazil, which is being led by powerful conservative and religious forces. Here I propose a film that uses the allegory of an improbable future ", explains the director.
His two previous works in fiction, Boi Neon (2015) -winner of the Horizon Award at the Venice Festival- and Winds of August (2014) -a special mention at the Locarno Festival-, allowed him to make a treatise on the body and space in transformation, in addition to death and resilience, respectively. Divine love It is an investigation about the biopolitical control of the body. "My strategy was to think about a new statute for sexuality, imagining a new political dispute of the body in a new context, with new regimes of pleasure and violence, and thus speculate about how bodies deal differently with this new scale of meanings," she says. More expensive.
A watercolor painting
His latest feature film marks the second time he works with cinematographer Diego García, recognized at the Phoenix Awards for his work in Boi Neon, with whom, according to Mascaro, they have a very special creative exchange. For this film they tried to work the monochrome scale of the bureaucracy in counterpoint with the colorful tones of religious therapy. They looked for a color tone that reminded one of a watercolor painting.
"Aestheticism is a very special issue when you think about the evangelical culture in Brazil, since its brand is breaking with the tradition of holy art. Curiously, by denying Christian iconography, other specific elements have been integrated into evangelical images in Brazil: interlaced curtains, plastic chairs, believers wearing formal clothes, pastors speaking loudly. But for me it was very important not to make a caricature of religion, "says Mascaro.
Brazil has a filmography that, over the years, has known how to put that country and its people in front of the problems that afflict it. Although the film industry will not suffer any impact on its production, despite the Elimination of the Ministry of Culture by the new Government. Christian de Castro, president of the public body that regulates and promotes cinema, said that creative freedom is necessary to make films and sell them. Mascaro believes that it is still too early to talk about institutional censorship due to issues of ideological or confrontational diversity.
"Due to the fact that the president has been elected without a clear government program and without public debate to explain his ideas in a practical way, the Brazilian and international community lacks practical information about the new government project beyond its rhetoric of campaign, in which he claimed [Bolsonaro] that if he was elected, he would end activism. First of all, it is important not to fall into self-censorship, which is generally the first and worst censorship, "he concludes.