Luís Miguel Jardim's film is a fictional work about the life of João Gomes de Sousa, a well-known Madeiran popular poet who lived in the town of Calheta in the first half of the 20th century. This feature film is a tribute to this personality, but not only, it is also a portrait of the rural life of the island of Madeira at a certain time and its idiosyncrasies. It is a cinematographic project developed and produced by pure passion, that counted with the participation of 400 more people and an original soundtrack, of the Madeiran composer João Augusto Abreu.
How is it that someone who has nothing to do with movies has a chance to make a movie about the "Wizard of Calheta"?
Luís Miguel Jardim: I have as a basic training law, but I have been doing cinema for a few years at Jaime Moniz High School for at least nine years. The "Wizard of Calheta" does not appear from scratch, there is a work of experimentation that has been developed over the years and I believe that this film is my fifth feature film, I have already made some documentaries, what distinguishes it from the rest is that it is an independent production. It does not happen without more or less. The theme comes from a challenge launched by professors Eva Natália and Eugénio Perregil. It is not the result of a biographical note, it is a fiction film about the experiences of the so-called "Wizard of Calheta" and João Gomes de Sousa.
Let's talk about the script that has not only addressed this personality, but which reflects in a certain way a specific period of the island of Madeira and there are many regionalism in the lines.
LMJ: Exactly. The "Wizard of Calheta" has a series of sub-themes, one of them the colony, which was a regime of exploitation of land based on a manifestly unjust relationship between the landlord and the settler. It is a historical trait that has marked us and that should shame us, so it should not be forgotten, it must be remembered. In addition, there is also the issue of affection, the relationship between parents and children, and I was careful with the characters of the wizard and the daughter. In practice I do not know if it was like this or not, however, this was the main line I introduced in the story's script and that for me was the most striking feature, this love relationship between father and daughter.
The script also reveals several characteristics of stratification of Madeiran society at that time.
LMJ: In addition to this stratification that evidently went through the question of the colony, we also had the concern of seeking some professions of the time that were abandoned in the meantime, and we tried to emphasize these characteristic traits in both the economic and the social aspects.
The script also has many regionalisms that are no longer used, was there a lot of research in this direction?
LMJ: There was a great research work done by Paula Trindade, who is one of the actresses, by Francisco Faria and also a group of people who have been working in this area to collect information on these regionalisms. It's a pre-production job that needs to be done before you start filming.
I was told that the film took a year to complete. Does this include pre-production?
LMJ: The film took a year and seven months and that includes this pre and post production work.
There are wonderful plans of the island, about the various phases of Madeiran rural life. Have you been filming these different harvest times during this year and seven months? Or was it all staged?
LMJ: No, everything you see is real, except for some sound effects that are put into post production. What happens is that we used color branding in the images.
The film has a very comical side, but also focuses on another issue more dramatic that is suicide that was something very common at that time in Calheta?
LMJ: The issue of suicide is transversal over the years on the island of Madeira, not just in Calheta. It happened on a regular basis and I think it was a phenomenon that was associated with situations of extreme poverty, indebtedness, addictions, especially due to alcohol.
Although it is a fiction movie, it is based on a real personality and there is the famous scene of the golden cord that belongs to the daughter of the "Wizard of Calheta", Maria de Jesus.
LMJ: The gold necklace does not belong to Mary of Jesus. Our initial idea was to use the original, but it was not possible because of the political conditions in Venezuela. We used a very old piece of gold that belongs to one of the actresses, Paula Trindade. Although the Wizard has the dream of giving a gold necklace, in the script according to the narrative instead of offering one, he gave two, one to his daughter and another string for the daughter of the friend who passed away.
As for the people who participated in the film, there are many personalities of the Madeiran society, how was that invitation, why did you bring these people to the film?
LMJ: Many of these people are linked to the political life and not only of our land, as is the case of João Carlos Abreu who has participated in other productions of mine, because he is a personality always linked to the culture and every time I invite him he says yes. Carlos Lélis also has a lot of experience at the representation level and had a theater company. Alberto João Jardim enters the film at the request of one of our actresses, Fátima Marques, who is a close friend, she address him this challenge and he accepted, because since he was already away from active political life, he had more availability and the idea move on, its only condition was to see the script with his lines before. I even had the concern of asking him to grow a beard for a more rude, more country look, something he had never done before. We had the representative of the Republic, Eríneo Barreto, who gracefully accepted the invitation and made a small participation and the scenarios are in São Lourenço palace. All these personalities accepted, because they liked the idea that the film approach the modus vivendi way of the Madeiran society and its traditions. Why were invited? In the case of Alberto João Jardim there were two reasons, the notoriety that the film reached had another impact and I have no doubt of it, because we had antenna time in several generalist social media of the country. It was also a fair homage to the man, I study a lot of the history of Madeira, I made a movie called "Waters" and now the "Wizard of Calheta" and what you notice is that the island was abandoned for many years by the central power and when Alberto João Jardim arrives our demands are heard in Lisbon and even in terms of living conditions everything has improved, of course there were things that were not well done, but in the film there was a text very unique to fit that person, this role could only be his.
Another homage that he did and there was a certain justice in returning to the "Wizard of Calheta" the origin of the famous "bailinho of Madeira".
LMJ: The "bailinho of Madeira", for the information I have and is the current opinion of the people of Calheta, is that it come from the Wizard, the people who met him and the daughter I spoke to also confirmed it, everyone is unanimous, there is no doubt , the genesis of this lyrics and music is from João Gomes de Sousa. As he was a friend of Max, he ended up showing him the theme and there is the story that someone heard in the telephony Max's version of the bailinho, then they told the Wizard and João Gomes de Sousa went to Funchal to wait for the arrival of the Max on the boat and he gave him some money, very little for the song. What I want to show is that he is the creator of a genre, the lyrics he wrote does not match the current version. The current "bailinho of Madeira" results from the arrangements that Max did and if this musician had not entered into this I am convinced that this theme would not have had the dimension that it currently has. Max gave it a musicality and a projection it would not honestly have had, it's a very personal opinion. I think the two are to be congratulated both the "Wizard of Calheta" and Max, because it was a work that was complemented by the two of them, I do not see what I did raise some excitement, are two figures look each in their own way at a theme, with different visions and musical expressions.
He has the idea of passing this film through Madeiran communities abroad. But even if you show the movie, you already considered that you will have to subtitle it?
LMJ: That is not so, for the Madeiran communities there is no such concern, the question of subtitling arises when thinking about the national market, which is not what I love the most, what I have in mind is first to end the regional circuit. We will try to extend this show of the film until the arrival of emigrants to Madeira until August. Of course we already had contacts, there are invitations to show the film in the Azores and the mainland, but they will be considered in due course, we are now very focused on the regional circuit.