“At the riverside of a narrow arm of Rio Negro in downtown Manaus, families live in suspended blockhouses over what has become a huge urban dump. Sensitive issues such as family, religion and poverty put together a complex mosaic of poetic disturbing images.”
Aurora Photos: What inspired you to make a documentary about the families living in downtown Manaus?
Fernanda Preto: The Amazon just got me in such a special way, I always wanted to go back there and hear the stories about the rain forest, the river, the adventures of living in the middle of the Amazon. Manaus is in the middle of the rain forest. It has a special atmosphere, even with all the barriers to living in a traditional way and the contradictions of a big city. As the city is growing and expanding, things are changing fast in Manaus. Traditional manners are in transition, the relations of the RIBEIRINHOS (people that used to live on the riverside in the forest), now living in the city, are changing dramatically everyday. I see that this change, this transition is history and it is an important story to be told! Not only in a superficial way, but to get inside these people’s lives and see how they go through these changes!
A.P: Can you explain what it was like working in such an austere environment?
F.P: Manaus is a very under developed city in terms of living. Most parts of the city are suburbs, which means that Manaus has a very clear separation of social classes; very poor and very rich. People used to say that it took five hundred years to have 1 million inhabitants and just 20 years to have another million; you can imagine how crowded Manaus is. Manaus also has a housing problem, mostly due to land invasion like the place we filmed. Well, this makes these places very hard to live, considering the drinking water and sewage.
Like any big city, the poor suburbs are an austere environment,and this place isn’t different. Sometimes in violence, but mostly in their ways of thinking, in how they understand the world and how they react to it.
It was very hard to encounter everyday with people living below the poverty line and know that is a very optomistic thought that the govnermment of this country will resolve this!! Why is the govnermment of the Amazon thinking about have the Soccer world cup, spending millions on the stadium, and these people do not even have food to eat! The hardest thing coming face to face with this reality that is very common in my country!!! It was hard to see that people just got used to living like that!
A.P: All of the interviews seem private and sincere, was it hard to get the people of Manaus to open up to you? How were you able to do it?
F.P: Manaus is my home!! Even though I had lived there for only 3 years, it felt like an eternity because of the way people respond to you. The Amazon people have such a cozy way of interacting with you, it is amazing! At first they are a little bit suspicious, because of their own past and the way they understand the “time”, but once you open up to them, everything changes!!! While living in Manaus I went to this place twice to do an essay about it, and I already knew the history of the place. When me and Bruno (the film director) got there, we went to speak with the community president, Mrs. Selma and she received us very well. After explaining our idea to her, she introduced us to some people, and that is how we got started. Then one family introduced us to others, and the kids from that place were always around, wanting pictures and to be filmed; in a way, we felted absorbed by the community and after 3 weeks filming we had a story! Many times we spent an entire day inside a family`s house observing their way of life, from very early in the morning to late into the night! Bruno Jorge, as a formal documentary director, has some devices to get the people to answer some hard questions about their lives; together we developed a very friendly atmosphere.
A.P: When can we look forward to seeing the entire Documentary?
F.P: At this time, we have started to send the film to festivals around the world. The idea is to have the film selected in an international festival, have the preview there, and them make a premiere here in São Paulo. After that, we can start the film distribution.
To see more work from Fernanda Preto, visit Aurora Photos.