Tenderness and Sensibility

in 64th Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival

by Myrna Silveira Brandão

The FIPRESCI Prize for the Panorama of the 64th Berlinale went to The Way He Looks (Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho) by Brazilian director Daniel Ribeiro. The film also received the Teddy Award for best feature dealing with homosexual themes, and placed second for the Panorama Audience Award.

This marks Ribeiro’s return to the Berlinale after being awarded the Crystal Bear in 2008 for his short You, Me and Him (Café com Leite). The Way He Looks is the story of Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), a young visually impaired man searching for independence and struggling with the problems of adolescence. His life completely changes after he meets and falls in love with Gabriel (Fabio Audi).

The theme of homosexuality is treated with care and sensitivity by both actors, and the director’s intentions are clear: to show the audience that Gabriel sees with his eyes while Leonardo goes much deeper, seeing with his soul. I spoke with Ribeiro about the film and the importance of the FIPRESCI Prize.

Q: What is the importance of this award to you?
A: I was very surprised and happy, of course. Since the film hadn’t been shown anywhere before, I didn’t have any idea of how the critics would receive it. It was fantastic to know that the film, in addition to communicating with audiences, received the recognition of the critics.

Q: What was your motivation for making the film?
A: After winning the Crystal Bear with You, Me and Him, I made I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone (Eu não quero voltar sozinho), my second short. It can be considered as almost a pilot to The Way He Looks. The idea is basically the same: both the short and the feature are about the life of Leonardo, a blind kid, who changes completely after meeting Gabriel. I wanted to talk about someone who is blind and falls in love, approaching both of these things as non-problems.

Q: In its development of the story, the script is both sensitive and coherent.
A: For me, the script is the basis of everything, the orientation of a film. If we have confidence in it, we can make all the necessary changes during the filming. I dedicated some months to work only on the writing, letting the story mature in my mind. In the process, I made some changes to the construction of Leonardo’s character between the short and the feature. Now, with the appearance of the overprotective figures of his mother and grandmother, Leonardo feels a growing need to be more independent.

Q: How did you think of using these themes in your film?
A: To make films about these themes came naturally to me, from a need I felt during my adolescence. The first reason to tell gay stories was to show characters that, at that time, weren’t seen or talked about much onscreen. Many young people discover they are gay, and they want to see themselves depicted onscreen in a sweeter and more intelligent way, without prejudices.

Q: To what do you attribute the selection of your film for the Berlinale?
A: The fact that I had already received a Crystal Bear certainly helped in the selection of my feature. Also, in 2010 I participated in the Berlinale Talents Script Station lab with the script of The Way He Looks. I think these crossroads at Berlin helped my film to have its first showing here. The selection is also proof of the attention that the festival is giving to films about homosexuality.

Q: What’s next for the film after Berlin?
A: All I want now is to show it everywhere I can. I hope the FIPRESCI Prize will help in this process and make people motivated to see it.

Edited by Lesley Chow