Rodrigo Lopes de Barros, On Filmmaking

Prof. Rodrigo Lopes de Barros on His Filmmaking.

Photo of Rodrigo Lopes de BarrosI see filmmaking as the search for an original medium of expression in scholarship. A documentary about a writer can reveal new facets of their creative process. An audiovisual performance of someone’s poetic or fictional work has the potential of giving new understandings to the audience, even generating a different comprehension about the very nature of literature. When transposing literature to the screen, the culture of the written word, so powerful and dominant in certain circles, can be shown to be intertwined with oral traditions and (even) with the body. Movements, dance, and voice tones become essential to the full existence of a poem or a short story.

My first incursion into the audiovisual documentation of writers happened with Chacal: Forbidden to Write Poetry (2015-2018). Chacal is a Brazilian poet who emerged in the early 1970s, during the dark times of the country’s military dictatorship. With a work later defined as “post-hippie and proto-punk,” he was considered a “marginal” writer owing to both his do-it-yourself practice of publishing artisanal books and his language linked with the everyday life in Rio de Janeiro. In my documentary, I used a variety of analog and digital media to recreate Chacal’s aesthetics of the 1970s, in particular with the use of Super 8 film. Moreover, the orality of Chacal’s poetry becomes even more powerful on the screen. Chacal does not read his poems, he performs them. The physical contact with the poet allowed me to delve into his creative world. Now, I am in the process of editing a book titled Chacal: Poetry on the Margins, which includes a bilingual edition of more than 30 of his poems, an autobiographical play, an interview, the transcription of a poetry workshop, essays, and a digital link to my documentary.

In 2017-2019, I co-produced and directed another film about a Brazilian writer, Literary Ménage: An Investigation into the Writing of Jacques Fux. Fux is from a younger generation than Chacal. What called my attention in his work was his method of writing: literary plagiarism. He appropriates fragments from other writers and mix them with events from his own life. The film is a hybrid between fiction and documentary, acting and reality. What starts as an adaption of one of his short stories, an ordinary episode of a woman eating a churro, becomes an interview with Fux conducted by the same actress that plays the role of that woman. There, Fux reveals his creative approach to literature. The film would eventually become a printed book. In a trilingual edition published by the press Relicário in Brazil, the reader encounters Fux’s short story, an essay of mine, and a DVD. The book is titled Ménage literário, Literary menage, Ménage literario (2020).

Story originally posted September 2021.