By Vincent Nadeau
Structured around one of Lisbon’s creole slums, da Cunha’s film After the night (Até ver a luz) follows Sombra, an outcast living a solitary nocturnal (as his name suggests) life. Only just out of prison, Sombra desperately owes the local gang boss some money. This debt will eventually drag him into a confusing and bloody armed robbery, which will, consequently, force our main protagonist to run away.
Vincent Nadeau interviews Basil da Cunha about his film After the night (Até ver a luz).
Ventana Latina: What particularly affected me in After the night is the proximity, if not the extreme realism with which you portray this area of Lisbon. Therefore I was wondering what kind of relationship you have with this Creole culture and community?
Basil da Cunha: I live in this area. I didn’t go there to do some kind of ‘porno-poverty’ like the guy from Slumdog but simply because rent was affordable. Then I managed to forge some links through rap, spending some time with my vitelloni’s. I’ve always liked to work with my family, friends or people I believe in (who never get the right role) … my heroes basically. In short these are mates I see every day; some are neighbours, others are just acquaintances. Everything works out through faith: we have non-professional actors, a small or non-existent budget; however I have this faith that only these guys will be able to play this or this character and that I’ll be the only one able to relay this bit of poetry they’re giving me.
VL: In terms of mise-en-scène, we get this impression that there isn’t really any scenario, but rather that the film consists of a series of improvisations. Would you say that this shows a desire to accentuate the sensation of (complete) immersion inside the area you project?
BC: There is a scenario but the actors don’t really read it and the film is shot in a chronological manner. The shoot isn’t a literal enactment of the scenario but rather a space of creative freedom. The door is always open for everyone to redraw the film. Me, I frame, point and remove.
VL: We detect a certain bond and connection between you and your actors; something which gives the film a distinct organic realism. Could you tell us a little more about this?
BC: These are guys I know, who I arrange in conformity with what I feel the film needs. And again, we have this faith in one another, a faith which can elevate us. Also, life always prevails over the cinematographic machine.