As Brazilian TV giant Globo gears up to present a change of guard in top management at Friday’s online Upfront, one of ithe biggest and most crafted swings that it’s bringing onto the international market is “A Mother’s Love.”
The telenovela marks the first production shot at MG4, Globo’s state of the art, 26,000 sq. meter (279,860 sq. ft.) Rio de Janeiro production complex, a milestone in Globo’s transformation into a content creator for both linear and OTT.
Globo’s core challenge, however, remains its contacting with audiences ever more accustomed to the rival offer of global dreaming platforms. What do Brazilian – and international audiences – really want to see?
As an ever more demanding audience is satiated by high end entertainment on all sides, “A Mother’s Love” looks like one Globo response to the new streaming age, pushing the envelope on telenovela creative capacity.
Written by Manuela Dias – one of Globo’s emerging talents who penned one of its latest acclaimed mini series, “Justice” – in close collaboration with artistic director Jose Luis Villamarim, from the first shot of the novela, the vision of both creators are underscored as the show explores new territory with extended sequence shots, complex blocking and a naturalistic cinematography that grounds the show even as its embraces melodrama.
Much like Dias’ prior works, the novela plays with an array of narratives that clash and intertwine -a complex structure with the throughline of motherhood. “A Mother’s Love” follows three women of different backgrounds and social class who above all else share a profound love for their children. Creating an immediate emotional response, it depicts the daily heroism of being a mother. The three characters – Lurdes (Regina Casé, from “Sparkling Girls”), Thelma (Adriana Esteves, from “Brazil Avenue”) and Vitória (Taís Araujo, from ‘“Aruanas”) – are complex and flawed, so much more human of course. Variety chatted to Dias before Globo’s Jan. 15 Upfront.
At first glance, the novela’s cinematography and direction is obviously striking but I think it’s really tone that sets the show apart. It’s a grounded melodrama that manages to feel cinematic while maintaining the key aspects of the genre. What was your approach to finding a tone for the show?
I believe that storytelling has a profound social function. It’s one of the tools that shapes or subverts behavior patterns. What I love is to observe people from close up. That to me is the tone: To be so close that you can’t judge anyone. Here in Brazil, a show’s first scenes is firework time – drone shots, big production values. With Luis – a great collaborator and confidant, I gave him a first shot where we see Lourdes and nothing else, presenting herself to the camera. That first scene gave us the tone of the show. To be so close to these characters that we cannot do anything but open our hearts. even to their worst traits.
Yes, your characters are very much flawed human beings…..
As Peter Zsondi, the great Hungarian literary theorist, complained: North American dramaturgy relies on crisis: You either fit or you don’t. You’re a winner or a loser, and it’s all about becoming the winner. That fixation’s unhealthy for the relationship between dramaturgy and society. We’re all monsters and angels. Characters’ arcs show that, and characters’ potential as plot drivers, as narrative momentum. Drama in Greek is action, movement, action that drops characters into situations that reveal what they are. That’s what I look for.
What attracts you to writing for linear TV open?
I love free-to-air television, it fascinates me to imagine 40 million people being emotionally moved by a same beat. To me, free-to-air TV has to be constructed in layers. I never write for the mind but rather the heart. I write to make audiences emote. So you write in layers. There can be complexities, which some viewers will pick up. But stories need to communicate with everybody, can’t target a niche.
In a business dominated by Marvel superheroes, Lourdes stands out as a protagonist. Regina Casé’s warm performance is a reminder of daily heroism. Could you comment?
All attitude is political. We live in a time of intolerance, with abysmal social inequality around the globe. People have been transformed into mere functions. A person is now only an apparatus that gives you something in exchange for your money, or sells you a sandwich. There’s [a gross] lack of respect between classes, between people. Our intolerance is a device that allows us to write off other people as shallow while we regard ourselves as deep. It flattens the human landscape, its geography. We tend to imagine ourselves as protagonists and treat everyone else as extras, when you are simply an extra of someone else’s story. We need so much a large dose of humility – to treat everyone else with respect. So it made sense to me to have a baby sitter who brings us down to earth, exerting the function of mother for all of us.
Events go down at a tremendous clip. How did you face up to the velocity of dramatic events in “A Mother’s Love,” which is after all a long format series?
I write all the dialogues for a 4,500 page novela. It’s a crazy job. Of course I have a great team that helps me in a myriad ways. But the dialogues I do myself. All this time Silvio de Abreu, mi boss, has been telling me that I’m going too fast; Slow down! Once Gabriel Garcia Marquez told me in Cuba that story writing is like digging sand and finding water . The more you dig, the more you find. I don’t economize, the more I give, the more I have. It sounds counter-intuitive but I have to believe this as a storyteller.
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