BRIDGING THE ATLANTIC
The Other Side Of The Atlantic is a documentary film that builds a bridge in the Atlantic Ocean bringing together university students from Africa who are studying in Brazil to talk about their transition process. Through their life stories this film tackles their cultural exchanges, prejudices and dreams built on both sides of the Atlantic en route to obtaining a higher education.
The film is directed by Daniele Ellery and Márcio Câmara, a married couple who live in Brazil. Daniele is a Ph.D professor whose research in African students’ transit to study in Brazil gave birth to the conceptualization of The Other Side Of The Atlantic. Márcio is a film school graduate from San Francisco State University with decades of experience in filmmaking.
The film has garnished awards from Brazil, Cape Verde and the United States and has been screened in Lisbon, Lagos, Trieste and Zurich, among other countries. We interviewed Márcio and asked him detailed questions about The Other Side Of The Atlantic and the making of it.
CONVERSATION WITH MÁRCIO CÃMARA
How did you become involved in filmmaking, specifically documentary filmmaking?
Being that I’m a graduate from San Francisco State University, a university well known for its discussion and promotion of documentary film, by the time I got my film degree I was immersed in a university and city that boiled in politics. In that sense, documentary was for me, very early on, a genre that I saw the possibility to impact the world with moving and audible ideas, bringing discussions without losing the poetry that unifies all.
Can you recap how The Other Side Of The Atlantic was conceptualized?
My wife, Daniele, is a Ph.D professor and her research for years has been the transit of African students studying in Brazil. She started to study the theme when there were very few African students living in Fortaleza, Brazil, where we live. When she was studying for her masters degree we went to Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau in 2004 and made a research film with the idea of later making a feature film. This research became a short documentary film we released in 2007 named Identities in Transit. In this short we conceptualized many themes that we later explored in The Other Side of the Atlantic. Those themes include the students being away from home, their first impressions of Brazil, the similarities and the differences of Brazil and their respective African countries, the prejudices and the difficulties of living in a foreign country.
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Why did you and Daniele feel compelled to tell the story of The Other Side Of The Atlantic?
I think it has to do with the fact that both myself and Daniele had to leave home at one point in our lives. We had to deal with a lot of the issues the students in the film had to deal with.
Also, when myself and Daniele went to visit San Francisco, we were then living in Brazil, she noticed how I got back in touch with my friends there and she met them. They were Filipinos, Colombians, Mexicans, French, Iranian, Chinese and Americans. This was something that for me was so obvious, the incredible melting pot that is San Francisco. This caught her attention and upon her return to Fortaleza, Brazil, she started to interview the foreigners that were living there.
Soon she found out about Cape Verdean and Guinean students and got invited to a party organized by those students. From then on she decided to dedicate her research about the transit of African students in Brazil, focusing on African students from African countries where Portuguese is their common language.
Production for the film takes place in several cities in Brazil and in other countries. How demanding was it to make The Other Side Of The Atlantic?
We were awarded money to make the film and when we finally went to sign the contract to receive the money we found out that we were only going to receive a third of the prize money. We were told by state organ that they decided to include another project and “share” the prize. For that reason we did not receive all of amount necessary to do all the traveling the film needed. For that reason we had to choose the cities of Redenção, Brazil because that’s where UNILAB is. UNILAB is a university that receives students to study in Brazil from the Portuguese speaking countries of Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, East-Timor, Mozambique, Saint Thomas and Prince Islands. In Brazil we also filmed in the interior of the state of Ceará and Rio de Janeiro. In Cape Verde we filmed on the Islands of Santiago, Sāo Vicente and Santo Antāo.
The difficulties were more on the fact that we were a very small crew so we had to plan well as to how we would lug the filming equipment around. We wanted to shoot in the best quality we could without having to drag a lot of equipment around. I went to the US to build the equipment package that would best enable us to do the traveling the film demanded. I got a 4K camera body, 3 lenses, (1) 24-105mm, (1) 70-200mm, (1) 50mm 1.2 , and all the accessories needed to film the documentary.
The Other Side Of The Atlantic has garnished many festival awards in addition to other recognitions. How rewarding has it been to receive such awards and recognition?
The film is having a great run in festivals around the world. It has been great to receive those recognitions, it is very rewarding! The only way an independent film as ours can reach other places of exhibition is by earning those recognitions because it makes the film walk, grow legs!
The Other Side Of The Atlantic is a social conscious film. What makes it so?
The film brings a lot of important issues into discussion: the diaspora, intercultural exchanges, social confrontations, the embracing of differences and the construction of modern Africa. I think we made a very courageous movie in a society, Brazil, that historically neglects and tries to make invisible its black population. By focusing in the transit of the African students we experienced how deep that prejudice permeates the Brazilian society as a whole. As an artist I feel compelled to tell those stories in order to shake up and put forth those issues.
VIEW THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC
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