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Cannes 08: Walter Salles on “Linha de Passe”

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05182008_linhadepasse1.jpgBy Erica Abeel

The abiding humanism we’ve come to expect from Walter Salles is abundantly present in “Linha de Passe,” his luminous competition entry in this year’s Cannes. Co-directed with Daniela Thomas, the film explores the Brazilian underclass through the lives of four brothers who live with their mother on the outskirts of teeming São Paulo. But though the family leads a hardscrabble life in an unforgiving milieu, “Linha” is no “City of God.” The brothers may skirt violence and crime, yet they struggle to reinvent themselves, continuing to search, however misguidedly, for a way to rise above their circumstances.

One son (Vinícius de Oliveira from Salles’s “Central Station,” sole actor in a cast of non-pros) hopes to use soccer as his ticket out. A second braves the mockery of friends and family to embrace religion and assist a local pastor. Touchingly, the youngest boy, fathered by a black bus-driver, becomes obsessed with learning to drive a city bus. The matriarch — a sort of Latin Mother Courage — is middle-aged, worn, and, shockingly, pregnant, yet she manages to support the family as a housekeeper and hews to her own brand of morality.

Shot in a breathless quasi-documentary style and often indifferently lit, “Linha” alternates close-ups with rocketing rides down São Paulo’s jammed roadways. There’s a sometimes uneasy mix of lyricism — conveyed through the repeated motif of raised hands — and gritty realism. Unlikely to do the boffo business of “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Linha” is nonetheless an inspiriting installment in Salles’s ongoing examination of Brazil.

To what extent are the characters in “Linha de Passe” drawn from real life?

05182008_linhadepasse2.jpgGenerally, the film’s based on real stories that we’ve integrated into a single story. For instance, Reginaldo [the youngest son] was inspired by a real life story in Brazil: a fourteen-year-old boy went searching for his father, knowing only that he was a bus driver. The boy ended up driving a bus for three hours before getting stopped.

How did you share the directing with Daniela Thomas?

We just did it, I can’t really define how. Because we’re two, we become ten or twenty. The film is a team effort. There’s also lots of discussion with the crew and actors — things are up for grabs. We’ve tried to return to the concept of film as a collective adventure, enriched by different perspectives. When I shoot with Daniela the result is harsher, grittier than if I were alone. It becomes more immediate with her on board. There’s a dialectic, everything’s shared, made with four hands. What I like about making a four-handed film is that it fosters the possibility of destabilization.

How much of “Linha de Passe” was improvised?

We didn’t block the actors — the camera serves them. And there was constant improvisation — at least twenty percent was not written. The actors had a lot of freedom in their gestures, action and language, which is very interesting.

Elsewhere you’ve stated that through film, you’d like to periodically take the pulse of life in Brazil. Is there a recurring theme?

Yes, there’s a chronic absence of the father in Brazil — 25 percent are absent from the family. Women who run the family are a moral force. In the film there are ersatz fathers: the pastor, the bus driver, the trainer. But the mother in “Linha” says something very telling to her son: “I’m both the father and mother of all of you.” That’s also true for me and Daniela!

05182008_linhadepasse3.jpgIt seems as if São Paulo is almost a 6th character in “Linha de Passe.” Could you explain how the city is used in the film?

São Paulo is huge. There’s no escape from it, like in Rio, where there’s the sea. São Paulo is overwhelming — its streets, underpasses, new neighborhoods and constant growth. It’s like a city at the end of the world. We dove into the city’s outskirts. We knew where the family lived, which buses they took. The characters lived together in the house where we shot the film

There are many intersecting stories in the film. What was your organizing principle?

We saw the script not only as a single dramatic structure, but as about characters who dive into each other. In the editing room we tried different ways of breaking up the scenes, but in the final montage we returned to our original vision. It’s a dysfunctional family, a family in collision. But there’s also a deep connection between them. This film goes in search of that connection, in search of that fraternity. You can’t romanticize Brazil. What you can do is make a film that includes violence, yet rejects it. The fact is 90 percent of Brazilians try to surmount violence. I wanted to make a film, for once, that portrays Brazil as a place where people want to find a way out.

[Photos: “Linha de Passe”; director Walter Salles – Pathé Pictures International, 2008]

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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