Globo Filmes, Dezenove Backed Juliana Rojas Feature ‘Cidade; Campo,’ an ‘Existentialist Supernatural Film,’ Bows at Berlin’s Encounters

Rexa Vella

Globo Filmes, Dezenove Backed Juliana Rojas Feature ‘Cidade; Campo,’ an ‘Existentialist Supernatural Film,’ Bows at Berlin’s Encounters

Amongst a slate of auspicious Brazilian films and series featuring in Berlin, “Cidade; Campo”– the latest from arthouse helmer Juliana Rojas – saw its world premiere on Monday, screening as part of the Encounters strand that aims “to foster aesthetically and structurally daring works from independent, innovative filmmakers,” according to the fest.

Backed by Brazil’s Dezenove Som e Imagem and Globo Filmes in tandem with France’s Good Fortune Films and Germany’s Sutor Kolonko, the loosely mystical narrative tells two disparate relocation stories fused by longing, grief and a rousing aesthetic. Italy’s The Open Reel handles international sales.

“At Globo Filmes, it’s a delight to be engaged in the co-production of ‘Cidade; Campo.’ Juliana Rojas stands out as an innovative filmmaker, offering a crucial perspective on contemporary Brazil. Juliana intricately explores the woman’s role in a society laden with oppression,” Simone Oliveira, head of Globo Filmes, told Variety.

“Renewing our partnership with Dezenove Som e Imagem and Juliana, collaborators on the acclaimed ‘Good Manners,’ amplifies our commitment to diversity, emphasizing both thematic richness and empowering collaborations with female filmmakers. Our pursuit embraces audacious narratives, innovative languages and the inclusive exploration of LGBTQIAP+ themes,” she added.

From her nascent come-up with Cannes Discovery Award-winning titles, 2007’s “A Stem” and 2012’s “Doppelgänger” on through to the Locarno Special Jury Prize-winning title “Good Manners,” Rojas has enjoyed steadfast support from Sara Silveira’s Dezenove, who’ve bolstered her deft approach at centering the female condition, in all of its complex forms.

“Juliana has been a partner since the beginning of her career. This new feature film is also a part of that journey. It follows her career, addressing social issues, women’s struggles, and how they bravely face their challenges, seeking paths and answers. The film portrays this well,” Silveira stated.

“The important thing is to make this cinema, which is women’s cinema, feminine cinema, a cinema of resistance, and today it’s well represented in the selection of the 74th Berlinale, which makes us very happy and content, and allows us to showcase Juliana’s diverse work,” she added. 

Rojas, having worked on largely female productions previously, admits that this project offered her the opportunity to bring an evermore ambitious set of themes to life in a talent-stacked environment that nurtured her creativity.

“When working in a predominantly male environment, there’s often a feeling of distrust in relation to one’s work, even for a director with a more consistent background, and this can be quite exhausting. In this project, it was very important to collaborate with people who I felt greatly admired my previous work and trusted my choices, my intuition. I feel that everyone on the team had a deep connection with the characters, places and themes surrounding the film, and that made our dialogue easier. I was able to do some very interesting work in the visual concept of the film, mainly together with the producer designer (Juliana Lobo) and the DOPs (Cris Lyra and Alice Andrade Drummond). We aimed to create different images that reflected our specific points of view,” she relayed.

The film begins as a bus pulls into the congestion of the city. Houses stacked tight along a narrow road, the buildings go on for miles, no end to the concrete clusters in sight. From the first moment, the suffocation here is palpable. Enter Joanna (Fernanda Vianna), recently displaced from her serene, rural property after brutal floods. She seeks refuge with sister Tânia (Andrea Marquee) and her grandson Jaime (Kalleb Oliveira) until she can reclaim her independence.

At the opposite end of the film, doting couple Flavia (Mirella Façanha) and Mara (Bruna Linzmeyer) roll into a fog-laden and eerily vacant expanse of rural land to settle Flavia’s recently departed father’s affairs, which include the inheritance of a secluded, possibly-enchanted abode. 

Comfort is hard-fought as the protagonist’s dive inward to make sense of the estranged sentiments felt in trying to adjust to their expectations.

“The film comes from a very personal place. My parents are from the countryside, but I grew up in the city. It’s always been remarkable for me to observe, in my relatives, this complexity in changing their environment and the connection with their place of origin. This migration movement is the heart of the film, and hence the choice to tell them in two parts, which are only connected thematically. It’s an existentialist supernatural film, which talks about the movements of life.” Rojas admitted. 

The narrative flirts with the protagonists’ expected resilience, coaxing them into high-emotion, a tepid curiosity about their heritage and what it takes to start fresh. Some scenes act as waking dreams, hallucinations and prophecies illuminating labors and love lost. These stories of adaptation give shape to broader discussion, integral as the world shifts through natural disasters, economic downturns and political upheaval.

“Two important themes that connect the stories are the characters’ connection with their ancestry and place of origin, and the possibility of resistance and reinvention. The feeling we seek in the film has a lot to do with the moment we live in, uncertainty about the future,” Rojas explained. 

“In a world heading towards a climate apocalypse and an increasingly unequal, socially and politically complex scenario, how is it possible for these characters to survive, exist and love? Historically, we know that women have an impressive potential for resistance, but something we sought was that-despite being strong characters-the actresses didn’t lose their humanity.”

Unresolved trauma and a yearning for closure bookend each story, as the women face saturated thoughts of the life they’ve left behind, the lives they’re set to welcome. Rojas infuses the script with her own experience and nods to her bloodline, pieces of her parent’s history dropped into the project.

“One of the most important themes in the film is the protagonists’ grieving process and understanding their own past in order to live an uncertain future. This comes, partly, from my own grieving process after the death of my father, and from trying to understand more about my roots,” Rojas stated.

“I tried to put a little bit of my parents in both parts. My mother wrote the song that Joana sings in the first part. There is a lot of my father in Flavia’s father. He was of Guarany ancestry too, and his family’s background is a great mystery to me, due to the violence and erasure that indigenous people have suffered in my country since occupation and colonization.”

“The film was also influenced and transformed by the moment in which it was produced – the COVID pandemic and Bolsonaro government, where there was a feeling of hopelessness and imminent apocalypse. In a way, it was a sort of mourning process, too.”

The cast, given powerful dialogue, was also tasked with emoting fiercely without words, bringing every ounce of their characters’ anxiety, grief, longing and tempered joy to the screen. A boon that Rojas attributes to a “collaborative process that involves sharing the motivations and references that led me to create the script, and building the characters’ genesis together to enhance the scenes already written.”

“I really like to start the process with table work, which consists of reading the script but also reading poems or other texts that resonate with the feeling of the film. We talk a lot and share personal experiences that connect us to the stories. During rehearsal, we worked on all the scenes, and we also worked with improvisation to build the dynamics of the characters. In this process, I ended up incorporating some elements into the shooting script, changing some dialogue and incorporating gestures,” she added. 

“It was a pleasure to watch the film take shape and see how these characters were established. The film was edited by Cristina Amaral, one of the most important figures in Brazilian auteur cinema, and it was a great learning experience, a great adventure to create the scenes with her.”


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