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Brafftv Interview with Petra Costa (HotDocs)

Leonardo Tenan via Brafftv

May 7, 2013 

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ELENA – Exclusive interview with Petra Costa

HotDocs Festival, along with BRAFFTv, co-presented ELENA, a documentary by Petra costa. The filmmaker, who had already received excellent reviews on her short “Undertow Eyes”, came back with a featured-length that has dazzled critics and film personalities. The director was in Toronto for the festival, and shared some thoughts and plans with our team.

BRAFFTV – You have been very successful with your last two documentaries, Undertow Eyes and ELENA, both of which stem from personal relationships of yours. Is there room for one more film of this kind?

PETRA COSTA – Yes, but not now. There are many themes and many personal relationships that can inspire new films, but I need to take a break right now. Maybe in a few years I can return to this kind of movies.

BRAFFTV – Not only the storyline of ELENA hooks the viewers, but the film also stands out for its visual construction. How was the creative process for such poetry?

PETRA COSTA – When I started thinking of making this film, the first image that came to my mind was the one with one, two, many women floating down the river. Ophelia inspired me, and that first image result one of the more beautiful scenes in the film. The challenge was to create a style for the footages of my search for Elena, my walking around New York, and to weave then with the homemade videos and old scenes.

BRAFFTV – Is there an aspect in your film that you see as a Brazilian signature?

PETRA COSTA – I wouldn’t know… In the plot, maybe the way we fight for our dreams and the absence of limits to fulfill them, deeper and deeper. In the footage, maybe the way we mix contemplative images, textures, as well as slow and intimate scenes to create the story. I wouldn’t know.

BRAFFTV – How did the idea of social work, with the documentary as a starting point to discussion, came up?

PETRA COSTA – I believe ELENA is more than a film about my sister or about me. It will be great if this film could transcend the theaters and reach many other people, from different groups and institutions, working with subjects like depression, youth, women identity, working through grief and many others. The film is itself a good tool for psychosocial action, capable of contributing to foster individual transformations and influence public policies in different fields and sectors. That is why we are working hardly to show the film to different professionals and going to speak in schools, colleges, meetings, summits and social organizations. It will be amazing if this feature could contribute to society, especially to young women and artists as Elena was.

BRAFFTV – There will be a section in ELENA’s website with complementary material to the film, in the social action context. How will this page work?

PETRA COSTA – The plan is to bring to that page a sort of articles and comments sent by experts involved with ELENA’s issues. We will include also some videos with short reviews and testimonies, as a mosaic of words from public about subjects like “women” or “youth”. And also a few tips and suggestions to people that want to get involved and maybe “adopt” ELENA to their institution.

BRAFFTV – The Cultural Contest (also on the website) incites the public to create a piece of art, stemming from a personal inconsolable memory. What did it mean to you to do such thing, and how do you think others can benefit from it?

PETRA COSTA – The film was born of the desire to assimilate Elena’s absence. I spent months reviving memories I had of Elena, till they began taking on smells and sensations. I do believe that Art can help us to overcome pain and lost. I say that Elena is my inconsolable memory, and the film is an invitation to dance with our inconsolable memories, those for which there is no solace but in the openings of poetry. If ELENA stems from my inconsolable memory, many other pieces of art can arose from this kind of feelings.



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