Film that transforms life, life that transforms
In 1997, while filming “Street Sounds”, a television series
about anonymous street musicians, director Roberto Berliner met the
three blind sisters Regina, Maria and Conceição. At the
time this unique trio had lost their rattles, or ganzás , and
consequently had no desire to sing on the streets.
While the producers took care of new instruments, the TV crew had the
opportunity to speak with the sisters at length and learn about their
life stories. When the filming ended, Roberto left the set so amazed
by what he saw and heard that he decided to make these three blind sisters
the subjects of his next film.
A few months later, Roberto returned to the Northeast of Brazil accompanied
by screen writer Maurício Lissovsky and a digital camera in order
make a series of interviews that would serve as the basis for a script.
With the support of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, this research
material would later become part of a short film, which in turn would
serve as a sort of laboratory for the most challenging type of film
work. The seven-minute short “Born to Be Blind” was released
in 1998 and was the winner of various awards in Brazil and abroad.
From there, the longform documentary went into production. The first
tapings began in 1998 and a year later, with the support of the Itaú
Cultural Group and Jan Vridjman Fund (which is connected to the largest
documentary film festival-IDFA), the production shifted into high speed.
Through Street Sounds and the Born to Blind short, the voices of the
three blind sisters came to be heard such popular Brazilian musicians
as Nana Vasconcelos and Gilberto Gil, as well as the organizers of a
musical festival. The sisters were invited to play as “professional
artists” receiving caches (were received by sold out shows) for
their three performances even though they were playing amongst well
known national and international acts. Seeing this sudden about face
in the sisters’ lives, the film’s editing was put on hold
in order to film the concerts. More than a year later, the camera crew
rejoined the sisters in order to document what is so far the first and
only tour of the “The Blind Girls from Campina Grande”,
as it was dubbed in the press.
In 2002 and 2003, the final two tapings were recorded and it became
clear what transformations had occurred in their lives because of their
ephermal stardom. These tapings were shot by the director using mostly
non-professional equipment and without hardly any assistance. In this
form, we see what is most essential in the work of a documentary fillm
maker: The always risky documention like a manned journey that travels
from one direction to another.