What truly defines Rio de Janeiro is not its tropical climate, famed beaches or windmilling Jesus but the strict class divisions that govern much of life in the city. In his confident debut feature, Casa Grande (2014), director Fellipe Barbosa explores Rio’s striking inequality through the emotional and political coming-of-age of Jean (Thales Cavalcanti), a brash yet insecure 17-year-old whose wealthy family tumbles into debt. Following on from its recent appearance at the BFI London Film Festival, the writer-director shares an exclusive clip from the film and spoke to us about its making.
Fellipe Barbosa: “This is the one scene that went totally wrong. The fall was a real accident. Jean’s father Hugo (Marcello Novaes) was supposed to lose his balance and Roberto, Jean’s friend, would run and save him while Jean remained paralysed. Marcello failed to grab the safety device and fell nearly five meters. It was a miracle nothing serious happened.
After a tense break Marcello recovered and we watched the take together. We knew we had to honour the fall, so we covered the rest of the scene from the moment the 1st AD ran into shot. The film deals with a family falling from the social ladder because of the father, so it becomes quite symbolic. Hugo falls right after a phone call from one of his lenders to whom he owes money. It also reflects the spirit of Jean’s journey, in which he transforms crisis into opportunity. The crisis was the real accident; the opportunity was the scene as it turned out.”