Fictional reality

The eight Hivos Tiger Award Nominees had their own special day at the festival. Our Young Film Critics, Archana Nathan, Taylor Hess, Martin Kudlaç and Rowan El Shimi, saw the nominees and wrote reviews on all of them.

Two Portuguese childhood friends end up sharing a fl at for a few weeks in Brazil’s Belo Horizonte neighbourhood. Francisca had been there already for a year working as a waitress, while Teresa has just arrived and is looking to settle there. Subtle in every sense, Where I Grow Old slowly lets us into the lives of these women, while paying homage to Belo Horizonte.

By IFFR Young Film Critic Rowan El Shimi

In Marilia Rocha’s Where I Grow Old, we can see the influence of the director’s previous documentary film on her style. The story and dialogue feel natural and the acting is heartfelt and realistic. The two women move freely in the scenes, whether in their apartment or outside, and the camera simply records these seemingly real moments they are living. 

Using fiction as a strategy

Many instances in the film are real, while others were scripted, according to the director. However, the dialogue was always developed on set between the actors. This was evident throughout the film. There are no particularly inspiring or poetic lines beyond what any regular person would say on a normal day – which perhaps leaves an even stronger impression than vigorously eloquent dialogue. Rocha explains that this realistic touch also comes from the fact that the stories and characters were either based on real people playing a version of themselves or scripted by Rocha from stories she encountered. The premise for making the fi lm started when Rocha met Francisca in Belo Horizonte, and noticed this longing she had for her life in Portugal, while at the same time settling into her life in Brazil. She saw a trend amongst many young Portuguese people in the same situation which prompted her to create the film. "It's another way of doing a documentary film. Using fiction to get to real feelings and stories," Rocha comments. "It's about using fiction as a strategy."


Homage to the city

An alluring element of the film comes as we naturally watch these women repel throughout the fi lm, disagree and subtly form a close friendship, supporting one another even with some witty banter. Where I Grow Old takes us on a journey as a visitor to Belo Horizonte, with Rocha capturing the daily life of the less known city in Brazil, which is also her hometown. Rocha felt she could only really film Belo Horizonte through the experience of these foreign women, to give her the requisite distance from the city. Her previous films where always located in other parts of Brazil. The film thus becomes a homage to the city; its streets, its nightlife, its sunsets or its markets, where you can almost smell the coffee. Rocha does go deeper into the stories of these Portuguese women in Brazil, taking a look at the social dynamic and cultural differences that occur with mass immigration. Francisca, who has been in Brazil for a year, in one scene asks her lover why people always bum cigarettes off of each other or ask to take a puff from her. He sees it as being easy going, leaning on each other, while she thinks it’s too free, too loose. "Socially loose" is eventually the compromise they agree on. The director finds these small cultural differences and
inferiority/superiority complexes between the Brazilians and Portuguese highly interesting. She subtly hints towards these cultural differences and the infl ux of immigration by young, educated middle-class people from Portugal to Brazil. "We get close to each other so easily as we have so much in common but, at the same time, we don't" she says. "There is literally a huge ocean in between." 

Where I Grow Old – in all its subtle beauty – is deeply moving in its realism and narrative simplicity. Rocha manages to cross over from documentary to fi ction gracefully, yet without leaving her Where I Grow Old documentary core too far behind.