Film that transforms life, life that transforms film

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.

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