In her first feature film, the Brazilian Caru Alves de Souza stages a young skater in the course of an initiatory story in the heart of Bolsonaro’s violent Brazil. Interview-express
My name is Baghdad features a 17-year-old tomboy, the only female member of his band of skaters at the heart of a virile and oppressive Brazilian society for those who refuse to submit to these ancestral codes. A hymn to girl power where unity is strength. Is it this desire to talk about feminine solidarity that is at the origin of this film?
Caru Alves de Souza: You are right. My name is Baghdad is first and foremost a film about women – of all generations – who challenge the norms of society. And he was inevitably inspired by the environment in which I grew up, surrounded by strong women who had taken their destinies in hand. But none of this was planned. Because, if we go back to the origin of this project, it is a book by Toni Brandão, Baghdad the skater. A book that I have very freely adapted, starting with its central character who was a boy. In any case, I used this basis to imagine a film celebrating this idea that I pegged to the body: the certainty that women are stronger together and should not get lost in rivalries that damage each other’s potential.
You reveal an incredible actress, Grace Orsato, who is making her big screen debut. How did you meet her?
In the street with her skater friends who are also in the film. I built my film around these teenage girls when I understood what skateboarding meant to them: a way of life. None had had any experience in front of a camera. That’s why once I chose them, so as not to break the naturalness that had attracted me to them, I did not give them the script. To build their roles and get used to the camera, I worked for a long time upstream with a coach Marina Medeiros. It’s there that My name is Baghdad has been built, that its dynamic has been put in place so that they can play without distorting who they are.
MY NAME IS BAGHDAD: THE CRITICISM
My name is Baghdad spontaneously makes one think of Wassup rockers by Larry Clark and Skate kitchen by Chrystel Moselle. What were your influences on your side?
I’ll see two. In general, although the aesthetics of My name is Baghdad The cinema of Lucrecia Martel seems very far removed from it for the power of its female characters. But also Larry Clark and precisely, even more than Wassup rockers, Kids whose discovery was a shock for me, a teenager to the point of not having the best influence on me: her characters had become a bit of models! (laughs) It was only later that I managed to digest this film, to understand all its power beyond what I had felt. And in my short as in this long, as soon as I talk about youth, I come back to Kids. Like a guide! But if I had to compare My name is Baghdad to another artistic object, it would not be a film but music. Punk rock! In any case, that’s the tone I wanted to give it.