Marcella Jacques

Marcella Jacques was selected for the 2018 Berlinale Talents and Tara Karajica caught up with her at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.



Can you talk about your background? How and why did you get into filmmaking?

M.J.: In 2004, I graduated in Social Communication (Media). But, ever since the middle of my graduation, I’ve known that I wanted to work with films. Because of this, I’ve done some isolated classes at the School of Fine Arts, at the University of Minas Gerais, the only Film School of my city at that time, but with a focus on animation. However, it was there where I had my first contact with screenplay classes, film criticism and analysis. I’ve been working as a producer of independent films since 2010, and as an assistant since 2004. I also shot a short film as director in 2013, called This Heart that Remains and supported by the Fund of Culture of Belo Horizonte, my city in Brazil.

In 2016, I opened a small film company called VENTURA, with two partners, Juliana Antunes and Laura Godoy. Its main goal is to develop projects by female filmmakers, bring prominence to women’s protagonism in several spheres, from the technical ones to the main characters in the films. The first film of our company was Baronesa by Juliana Antunes, which has been doing great at international film festivals – it was selected to play at FID Marseille (where it was awarded three prizes), Viennale, Hamburg Film Festival, FICUNAM, Mar del Plata, Montreal, Valdivia, and many Brazilian film festivals.

Tell us more about Ventura and its main goals.

M.J.: In the film industry, it’s very common, at least in Brazil, that women hold certain positions, like production, costume design and art direction. But, only these positions. It is rare to see women in the technical ones, like cinematography, sound design, gaffers and lighting, editing – besides, of course, directing. In a research made by Ancine, the Brazilian Agency of Cinema, in 2017, only 19% of feature films were directed by women. And, the most important data is 0%: none were directed or written by black women. This is the scenario of the film industry in Brazil, a country built through colonialism, with slavery, sexism and the killing of native people. Brazil is a very conservative country, racist and sexist, so it’s urgent that we transform this mentality, by bringing women of all races to the creative process and putting them as leaders in the crews of the projects. And, if we are defending feminism, it’s fundamental to always include black women as part of the process of the representation we are fighting for. The data are still awful for us; white men make up 80% of Brazilian directors, as well as most of cinematographers and technical jobs, and only a few films have strong female characters as leads, not as the main actor’s girlfriends. It’s this context we are fighting against.

Can you talk about your work as a producer on Baronesa?

M.J.: Baronesa had a very long research process before I met Juliana. I met her and Laura, our other partner, during the shooting of Araby by Affonso Uchoa and João Dumans and Juliana invited me to be the producer of Baronesa, which she was doing with a small female team, without a film company. At that time, I couldn’t do it because of other film that I was already working on. But, we became friends, so I followed the shooting as a “production adviser” and colleague. When they finished the shooting, I saw the raw material and tried with Juliana to find funds for post-production, because the budget was really low; it was a short film budget that she had won from a State fund, during her Film School graduation. We couldn’t take money from any more funds. In the meantime, we decided to open our film company and that Baronesa would be the the company’s first film. So, we made a co-production with Filmes de Plástico, a great film company based in our town, and with which we are close friends and have been working on many projects. Baronesa had its premiere at the Tiradentes Film Festival in Brazil, and then screened at FID Marseille as well as many other film festivals. We are very glad for the exposure at so many festivals and all the awards; it was a very long process to get there.

Variety reported at this year’s Berlinale that “women producers make a splash” in Brazil, a country that accounted for eight films in the festival’s various sections, all of which have female producers. Three coinciding factors, according to Variety, may have to do with this splash: decisive government backing, international co-production outreach and the consolidation of new cosmopolitan women-led producer generation. What is your opinion on that? 

M.J.: Well, I completely agree with this analysis. The work that Ancine has been developing in the last fifteen years has put Brazilian Cinema in a very strong position in Latin America and at the world’s biggest festivals, especially through international co-production programs and funds. However, the actual political situation of Brazil is too dangerous; our President, Dilma, was impeached through a coup against her and the Worker Party in a trial marked by a corrupt political process, which was also brilliantly shown in a film that played in Competition at this year’s Berlinale: The Trial (O Processo) by Brazilian director Maria Augusta Ramos. It’s a very important historical document that shows the narrative of the coup and how useless the arguments of the president’s defense were, in a process with a clear intention of getting her out of the way.

All sectors of the country are now in the wrong hands. Culture, Education, Health, Workers’ Rights, Retirement and Social Programs are suffering hard cuts by this illegal Government. The political situation is absolutely worrying, and maybe the results of our films could change for the worst in a very short time. The Brazilian Government had had a fundamental role in the development of its film industry.

And, if we are defending feminism, it’s fundamental to always include black women as part of the process of the representation we are fighting for.

Furthermore, Ancine’s study also suggested that women produced most Brazilian films released in Brazil either alone (36,9%) or with men (26,2%). Is that true?

M.J.: Yes, the only position in the Brazilian film industry that is held by women is production (and costume design) because, apparently, clothes and organization are functions for women… People in Brazil have a very wrong view about what a producer does, what are his/her real functions and their importance in the process and decision-making in films. It’s impressive how people who are working in the film industry have wrong concepts of a producer’s job, seeing him/her as simple bureaucrats who solve sheets and budgets.

Brazil is such a sexist country that female producers are lots of times treated as personal secretaries by male directors (and by male cinematographers and other male crew members) and people just don’t know the difference between an executive producer, a coordination producer and a producer, the owner of the film – that must have the same importance as the director, because like the director, the producer will defend the film from the beginning to the end, its cinematic language, his aesthetic decisions, what is the best crew for the project, etc. It is allowed for women to be producers because, in Brazil, the only ones who have these functions are the directors; only they are the owners and the decision-makers (remembering that 80% of them are white men). The producer, in this way, is just the organizer who takes care of finances and leaves “the house in order” – nothing different from what we see in homes and families; the role of the woman as the caretaker and the man as the creative provider. As long as there are not many women in positions of leadership, that mentality will not change. So, for me, this is not an encouraging data, since (white) men with the same old macho mentality still make up the majority of directors in Brazil.

Who is your inspiration and who would you like to work with?

M.J.: I really don’t know… I would like to work with anonymous young girls and women of my generation who have strong desires to change this situation, put themselves in motion and tell interesting stories.

You produced a couple of short films. Can you talk about that? What is your opinion if the short form? And, as a producer, are you more interested in working on short or feature films?

M.J.: I really like short films and it was very important for my formation as producer, to improve my career. I’ve spent two years only working on short films as coordination producer and executive producer, and that time was really valuable to me. Beside improving my knowledge, I think short films are important for Cinema, since they are non-commercial films, which allows more freedom and helps the development of the cinematic language as well. Important filmmakers made important short films in the history of Cinema. It’s a format that I always want to work with. But, of course, feature films are the main projects of my company, the projects with most visibility to us as filmmakers.

What are your next projects?

M.J.: We are developing at Ventura three feature films projects (a fiction, a documentary and an animation), as well as a documentary series for TV, besides being in post-production with two short films. All projects will be directed by women, with me as producer.


This interview was conducted at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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