A Conversation with director Bruno Barreto on “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands"

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The MUBI Podcast returns with a look at Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, a film that nearly beat Jaws at the Brazilian box office and turned Sonia Braga from national star to national deity.

Below, host Rico Gagliano interviews the film’s director Bruno Barreto. Barreto goes beyond the conversation featured in episode 3 and discusses his love for John Ford, Pietro Germi and Francois Truffaut and shares more behind-the-scenes details about the making of Dona Flor.

To listen to the episode and subscribe on your preferred podcast app, click here.

RICO GAGLIANO: Tell me about the first film you remember having an impact on you, and
when that was. 

BRUNO BARRETO: Well, I was very impressed always by American cinema. My Darling Clementine, John Ford's masterpiece, was something that really made a huge impact on me. 

GAGLIANO: What about it?

BARRETO: I mean, the story itself. The realism. At the same time, the poetry; the shots, the depth of field, the heavy clouds, the cinematography, the pace. It kept me interested, but it wasn't fast-paced. There weren't too many cuts. But I was completely drawn into it, you know? I was emotionally engaged. 

And of course, you know, East of EdenSplendor in the Grass, most of Elia Kazan's movies. A Face in the CrowdOn the Waterfront— such a masterpiece. 

And then the Italian neorealism. Almost all films by Pietro Germi. Seduced and AbandonedIl Ferroviere—I forget what the title in English is—Divorce, Italian Style. Pietro Germi in my opinion was a genius, you know? 

And of course, then the nouvelle vague with Francois Truffaut. I'm a Truffaut guy, not a Godard guy. I'm a romantic. And I even dedicated one of my films, Bossanova, to Truffaut. 

GAGLIANO: I can see all of these things... As you're saying it, I can see them all in Dona Flor, especially the neorealism and the slower pace of John Ford. 

BARRETO: Yeah. I'm completely character-driven. Although I come from photography. I used to be a photographer. I started making movies with my Bolex—actually it wasn't mine, it was borrowed from a friend of my father’s—and I loved, you know, holding the camera and framing. And so I thought that I wanted to be a DP, a director of photography. But nobody would call me or hire me. [Laughs] I was 13 years old! So I had to direct in order to DP. To do the photography. Because what I really liked was to look through the camera and frame it.

But then I would show these films in the basement of my parent's home where I lived, with a 16 millimeter projector. And I would enjoy how people would react. I would edit them and put some music, and they would laugh or have some kind of reaction. And that took me to becoming a storyteller. I said "Oh, that's fun, to get those reactions." And that's when I became a storyteller. 

I really love telling stories. And I'm driven by characters. If I have an empathy and a curiosity about the characters in a story, I want to tell that story. 

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