August 26, 2019
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Marcelo Gomes Belinale premiere docs Brazil town that found comfort in denim

Berlin, Feb 9 (efe-epa).- Brazilian filmmaker Marcelo Gomes premiered the international Berlin film festival his documentary movie that tells the story of a sleepy and impoverished Brazilian town that undergoes a rapid industrialization process to become a leading producer of denim jeans.

"Estou me guardando para quando o carnaval chegar," ("I'm saving myself for when carnival arrives") is a movie the Brazilian director dreamt up when journeying through the region of Agreste in northeastern Brazil, during which he visited Toritama, a town that promotes itself as the "capital of jeans," Gomes told EFE.

Toritama, with some 40,000 inhabitants, produces around 20 million pairs of jeans a year. Alongside the major factories, locals have also cashed in on the local product by setting up small independent businesses in their front yards and garages.

Locals told Gomes that the entrepreneurs sell off all their stock and then take a week off for carnival festivities once a year.

"I love this story because I like doing films about things I don't quite understand," the moviemaker said.

"I couldn't quite understand if this was a transgression against capitalism, if it came from a place of despair, or if it was a just a random thing," Gomes added.

His motivation to create the documentary was threefold.

First of all, he was fascinated by how desperate the people of Toritama were to go to the carnival.

Secondly, he was keen to tap into the emotional memories he had of the area from his childhood.

Finally, Gomes was in the midst of an existential conundrum with what he was doing with his time, life and work.

When he revisited Toritama, a place he remembered as a sleepy town from childhood visits, he encountered a thriving industrial city. But what interested him wasn't the urban development of the space but rather how its people had transformed.

He discovered that the citizens of the denim-producing city were quite happy to work as many hours as possible with the hope that this would allow them to spend at a later date.

"Perhaps this is the cruelest phase of neo-liberalism," Gomes mused.

The industrialization of Toritama, traditionally a very poor area, came as a beacon of hope for its people who saw the change as a way to overcome financial hardship but it destroyed their lives and their freedom, he said.

Gomes suggested that what happened to the people of Toritama, to an extent, was a fallacy.

"How is throwing your life away because you have to work, freedom?" the Brazilian continued.

"The movie talks about a tiny lost village in Brazil that produces lots of jeans, but it also speaks of us, of our lives, our day-to-day, that new phase of neo-liberalism is apparent for all of us," Gomes warned.

Gomes draws many parallels between the previous industrial revolution and contemporary life.

Perhaps, the director said, we are one enormous Toritama, dedicating our lives to work, competing with the neighbor in this neoliberal war that has done away with social relationships.

"The wounds a very rapid process of development has on a very poor region are evident in Toritama. Perhaps the same thing occurs in China, Pakistan or India, but there is no carnival there," Gomes concluded.

The Berlinale runs until Feb. 17.

"Estou me guardando para quando o carnaval chegar" is screened within the Panorama category which sees viewers become judges with the so-called audience award.

By Elena Garuz

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