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Interview: Daniel Ribeiro on his Brazilian Oscar Submission

Over at Towleroad I interviewed Daniel Ribeiro on his international LGBT hit The Way He Looks. You can read that interview over there but I thought I'd share a few extra and Oscar-related bits here most of which I didn't include there for space reasons. And since we're among Oscar fanatic friends here at TFE...

Ribeiro, who hails from São Paulo and has seen his very first feature go from a Berlinale Teddy win to a multi-national release and finally Brazil's choice to represent the country at the Oscars.  He's thankfully very relaxed about his Oscar chances. He seems more pleased that Brazil submitted it at all than expectant of anything more. But "You never know" ... 

Here are a few excerpts from the interview...

Nathaniel: Let's talk Oscar. How does the process work in Brazil?

DANIEL RIBEIRO: They open submissions for the films that meet the criteria. There were twenty films submitted. You just submit the film and that's it. We included a few details about how we had a distributor, that the film was going to be opening in theaters here which would help since there’d be more opportunities for members to watch the movie. That also went into consideration when they selected our film.

How did you feel when you heard that you were heading to Hollywood so to speak?

It was surprising. It could have been any one [of the twenty]. And we knew that the gay characters could be a problem. But it could also be a positive! Maybe even if Academy voters are more conservative in a way they could think ‘this is an interesting movie because it talks about sexuality in a different way.’  You never know! But we were very excited. It’s a very political choice for the country.

Why’s that?

the cast of The Way He Looks left. Daniel Ribeiro far right.

 DANIEL RIBEIRO: Even if we don’t get selected, it is the film that is talked about now.  Brazil -- we’re in an interesting place there. We have a lot of visibility, people are talking about the issues. Young kids are more comfortable about being out but we have a lot of problems with LGBT rights. We have a very conservative Congress and we have a lot of homophobe congressmen staying stupid things.

Nathaniel R: Sounds familiar.

Exactly. In that way that’s why it’s a political choice. Film is a way to push the issue forward. It’s a way of also saying to the conservative congress 'this is a film that we support.'

You used some of your own life while writing this fiction but what about the blindness of the lead character? You’re not blind, obviously, so how much did you know about that?

Not a lot. I didn’t research much. I started thinking about my other senses, thinking about how everything works with me. I wrote based on “If I was blind, how would that work?”. I didn’t want to do a film about what it’s like to be blind. Everything in the script was about a natural way of falling in love. In a way it was an exercise - 'if I was blind, what would be different?' -- and then after I wrote the script I went to institutes for the blind, showing the script and asked “is anything here wrong?” So that’s how I did it. I first went from my own experience and imagination and then I just changed little things based on research.

First films are tough. What was the hardest scene to get right?

I think I erased from my mind anything that was hard. [Laughter] The hardest thing was always the technical things. We had only one day for the pool scene and it was raining. That was hard.

The shower scene I thought was going to be really uncomfortable but everyone was so cool. They were naked and we had closeups of the water and the bodies. “Just move a little bit to the left. To the right.” Dealing with the water and the technical aspects. They were wearing underwear and at some point they were like “Can we take these off because it’s not helping”. It would be easier for the camera also.

You’re a young filmmaker and this is your first feature. Where to now?

It’s hard to say. I just want to keep making my movies. I don’t think too much about what’s going to happen. I just have issues and topics I want to talk about.

Any favorite films or directors that influenced you?

I love John Cameron Mitchell. He makes really special movies. I hope I can make movies like that but it’s hard to compare to someone.

I love Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together. It’s great how it’s also gay characters but it’s a normal situation, a regular couple’s conflicts. Beautiful Thing was a movie that was really important to when I was young. And Hedwig and the Angry Inch was just a big deal when I watched it the first time.


I should've told Daniel Ribeiro before leaving the call that that's what his film will someday be to a future filmmaker, a big deal and really important to them when they were young. The Way He Looks is currently playing in limited release in the US, UK, and Hong Kong. Go see it!

Related articles
Glenn's review | Nathaniel's short take | Towleroad Interview | LGBT Films for Foreign Oscar 

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Reader Comments (3)

Loved this, am anticipating this movie so hard. It can't get to the Minneapolis fast enough!

November 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJake D

Great interview, Nat! I absolutely loved this film and was thrilled Brazil chose it as their submission. It's so refreshing to see an LGBT coming-of-age story told without all the trauma and hardships that most LGBT coming-of-age stories inevitably entail (and that's ultimately why the academy most likely won't shortlist this one, not enough OMGDrama! *sniffle*). And it could almost be dismissed as a charming trifle if it didn't contain such acute insights into adolescent feelings/relationships. Also surprised to hear that Ribeiro did not have any personal relationships with blind people before working on this film: it feels so precise and sensitive in its representation of that particular impairment.

And finally, to end on an utterly shallow note, what a hottie. Totally diggin' the way he looks (sorry).

November 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

I love that you know and included that it is playing in Hong Kong (even though I know it is because of Wong). Feels so warm.

November 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkin

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