Pixadores, directed by Amir Escandari, and produced by Miiia Haavisto, won the best Best Karma Award at the eighth edition of One World Romania, the festival for human rights. The jury formed by highschoolers designated the Pixadores as the winner out of 28 film productions. I had the lovely chance to talk to producer Miia Havisto, before she won the award.
How did you come up with the idea of making a documentary about people who do graffiti, Pixadores, in Brazil?
The director, Amir Escandari, wanted to do a documentary about trainsurfers, so he traveled to Brazil, where he found out that there wasn’t trainsurfing, that was just something they did to relax, they did pixacao – very high paintings on the walls. He spent two months wiht these men and took hundreds of photographs of there lives. He wanted to get an access just by living with them and hanging around with them. And he gained the access and he went back to shoot the film on several locations.
Why did he choose to shoot the film in black and white?
When we spoke about it, we spoke about it a lot. Conversely it is a tricky idea to have a black and white film. He said that to him it was very important because the world had not changed that much since the ’20s or ’30s, except that the cars looked older, but the favelas they pretty much looked the same. There were not modern elements like that to make color somewhat justifiable. And it was more like this unrealistic approach to this world and to poverty. We were sort of worried that it would looked as if we had romanticized poetry, which we didn’t want to do. But finally, we thought that it was also a method of simplifying somehow the following of the story. We wouldn’t be distracted by the colorful Brazil and the clichee like colors that are characteristic to Brazil. And also for the fact when they make characters, they use really colorful clothes. You had to be very aware to when they changed clothes, to see it was a different day, so it would have been very difficult to edit those. So with the black and white it is also possible to let the story take us, rather than the practical everyday life, that the color brought.
I read that pixadores are regarded as criminals in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Why is that? You know that graffiti happens everywhere in the world.
If they are caught by the police, they are arrested, because they are vandalizing the house, they cause damages to those who own the houses. Some people who live in the buildings are really aggressive towards pixadores. They might throw hot water on the guy that is climbing or they might beat them with a baseball bat. And occassionaly it results in people falling and dying. In December, one of the climbers, fell to his death. We were also very worried when we were making the film, as we did not want to encourage them to do something for us and for the camera. We had to be very sensitive to not encourage them to take risks that they did not want to take.
Did something happen to them during the documentary?
Not during. We were very cautious to not get caught. I was with them during the shooting period. But they had someone who guarded to see if the police was coming and if the police was coming they got off the building.