The Knockturnal got the chance speak with Anna about her new film, The Second Mother, which will be released on August 28, 2015.
Brazilian filmmaker Anna Muylaert is known for her work on The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (2006), Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (2009) and Durval Records (2002). Her new film, The Second Mother bursts with genuine emotions and narrative genius.
The Second Mother is the story about Val (Regina Casé) who has worked as the live-in maid for an affluent family in Sao Paulo for over a decade. She cooks, cleans, and nannies the family’s teenage son Fabinho (Michel Joelsas) since toddlerhood. Val’s diligent existence at her employer’s home is disturbed when her estranged daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila), to whom she not spoken in three years, contacts her and moves in with her to Sao Paulo to take the college entrance exam. The film won the Panorama Audience Award in Berlin. Actresses Regina Casé and Camila Márdila won the 2015 Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting.
It took you 20 years to write The Second Mother. At what point did you know that the writing was finally ready?
ANNA MUYLAERT: It stared when I had my first son. The original title was The Kitchen Door and it was a different story. The maid in the first draft had a kid, and she would go home on the weekend. She was a spiritual leader, she had power. It was too complicated for me to direct because it had been my first film, so I decided to go for something simpler – Durval Records. Then after two years it became Between Me and Her. Until 6 months prior to the shooting, Jessica came from Sao Paolo as a weak person, she came and she wanted to be a hairdresser, and in the end she didn’t get even that, and she became a nanny. In the process I wanted to change it, I wanted to put more hope in the film. I didn’t want her to marry anybody rich and get rich. And that took me five years, until the day I got the idea that she would come here as a citizen to come [to Sao Paulo] to study architecture. So the last draft was six months old when I shot it.
In the movie, Jessica wants to study architecture. Why architecture specifically?
AM: There is a tradition in Brazil that architectures here are intellectuals from the left, concerned with social issues. Also the architecture that comes from the colonial period all have small rooms for the slaves. This comes from when the Portugese arrive here. For five hundred years all the houses in Brazil have these small rooms, which is something that needs to be changed. So the architecture and society in this film… one is a metaphor for the other. And I would like to be an architect too! If I didn’t make cinema I would be an architect.
How does being a working mother impact your writing of this film which features mothers who work?
AM:I think being a mother and working is an issue for women all over the world. It’s really a puzzle. Some women really suffer with that depending on the job. I think that of course if the father helps it would be better. If the father is never there then it’s the mother’s job. You know, there’s no way to go back; women have to work and have to be mothers. I think it’s important to talk about it. Here the common solution is hiring a nanny, which is something I don’t feel comfortable with. So I decided to find a job I could do at home, but it’s not a solution for everybody. So it’s more a question than answer.
For me, when I had my first son, I decided to direct less and write more to stay more at home. I raised my two kids by myself and never had any help. But I don’t complain. I really think men are losing a chance to grow spiritually and personally because raising a child is a huge job. It’s sacred. If you really do it, you can get a lot from that.
What have you learn from making this film that you haven’t from your previous film?
AM:I think this film is very much mixed with my person and with my being a mother, a writer, a director. Having traveled to different countries, I have learned to deal with sexism in ways I never had before. It’s a challenge for me. This is my fourth film, I’m a 50 years old woman – I’ve been dealing with sexism all my life. But since my films grew, I felt it even stronger than ever. I have been learning to deal with this on this new level. This has been a challenge every day.
What is next for you?
AM: I have already shot a small film in November of last year. The coincidence is that the name of this film in Portuguese means “There is Only One Mother.” It’s a story about of a teenager who has to change family, name, and identity. So I will work on this film and then decide what my next project will be.
Check out the trailer of The Second Mother: