The hot “new” director talks about his take on Robocop, its social commentary and the future of the Brazilian film industry
Brazilian director Jose Padilha’s smash sequel Elite Squad: The Enemy Within played at Fantastic Fest. The cop drama expands on Padilha’s themes of corruption in Rio. Padilha’s coming to Hollywood to direct another cop movie, the remake of Robocop. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within opens November 11 in New York and November 18 in Los Angeles for a platform release, and Padilha is already prepping Robocop.
Jose Padilha: I’ve done three movies about violence in Rio. I’ve done a documentary called Bus 174 which is about a street kid that hijacks a bus in Rio. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. Then I’ve done the first Elite Squad and now this is the third movie I do about sort of the same subject matter, that’s related to corruption. So I guess I am an old timer filmmaker that deals with corruption.
But I mean is it relatively new for the Brazilian film industry to address it?
Brazil has a peculiar kind of history in filmmaking because we were a dictatorship. That means we were run by generals until the ‘80s. It was a right wing dictatorship so most filmmakers, if not all, were Marxists in the same way where people who were controlled by the left wing dictatorship in Czechoslovakia were capitalists. You always oppose the regime. So filmmaking in Brazil was made from a Marxist perspective. It was full of metaphors to avoid censorship. We had censorship. We had to send our movies to generals, they would look at it and they would cut stuff out of the film. So everything was very difficult for regular people to grasp. It was all sort of like an inside joke between filmmakers that understood some sort of metaphor that would get through the censorship. But Brazilian movies are changing now. Because there’s no more censorship, we don’t have a dictatorship, we can vote so we’ve been able to say things directly. I think this started in a big way with City of God, which is a social commentary on violence by drug dealers and it’s not metaphorical at all. It’s a film that you go, it has action and so on. Myself and other filmmakers now are doing movies like this so I would say it started like 10 years ago. So you’re right, there’s a difference in Brazilian filmmaking now.
What is your philosophy on shooting action?
Well, most people don’t realize a lot of the way you shoot action is defined by the schedule. You can’t miss a day because it’s very expensive. There are a lot of things that have to do with the budget and my movies don’t have an American budget. They have a small budget so I have to do things fast. My philosophy is to go for it, to try to get the risky shots, to try to get the shot that you may not get in one day because it’s worth it. So I like my connecting shots, which is let’s say I’m shooting a scene of a helicopter with the protagonist overseeing the invasion of his land. I want to have the same shots, the face of the guy inside the helicopter, he’s looking down at something, and the camera goes and sees just the moment where a bomb explodes in his lap. In order to get that shot, you have to time the camera, the helicopter, the camera has to go to the right place, the explosion has to set off. It’s hard. It’s much easier to shoot in separation. You have the face, you’ve got the helicopter. I try to go for the connecting shot because I think it brings action to life. It also gives you a better sense of geography which I think is important in action scenes. So that’s my philosophy. Go for the connecting shot and run the risk of not making it through the day. Read more…