This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Festival.
When Cristina Hanes traveled from her home country of Romania to Lisbon, Portugal to study film, she did not expect to meet Augusto. The 70-year old man, whom she describes as largely shut out from the world, lives alone in central Lisbon. Hanes’ film, Antonio e Catarina, chronicles their relationship throughout the course of Hanes’ studies. As the conclusion of her time in Portugal draws near in the film, Hanes says the two characters face a deadline that will certainly end their relationship.
Hanes refers to the film as minimalist in nature. A majority of Antonio e Catarina is shot in Augusto’s singular, dark room and on a nondescript street in downtown Lisbon. Inside Augusto’s room, Hanes inserts herself into the view of the camera as a character documenting her own relationship. This was a challenge for Hanes, who says she is more comfortable with an “observational style” of filmmaking.
Antonio e Catarina, titled for the pair’s nicknames for each other, details the two characters’ development on screen and off. Hanes says that over the course of filming, Augusto (Antonio) taught her Portuguese and the two frequently discussed how two people so differently could be so “deeply fascinated” with each other.
Kokal: Can you tell me a little bit about your film?
Hanes: My film explores the relationship between the author of the film, being myself, a 25 year -old woman coming from Romania, and the character which is Augusto, a 70-year old man coming from Portugal. As we met in Lisbon while I was a cinema student, I developed this film together with him over the course of 3 years in which we met in his room, dark room in the center of the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. The film explores the relationship that develops from ground zero until a deadline that is basically the time when I have to leave because my studies finish in Portugal. The film centers around our conversations that revolve around themes of love, death, desire, friendship and the whole film is filmed in the room of the character, Antonio, while his real name is Augusto, the title of the film is Antonio and Catarina. This being our identities that we have assumed for the film. These are nicknames that he has gives to himself and to myself also. And this this film basically explores the role playing between a young woman and an older man who have just met each other and are deeply fascinated by each other.
Kokal: You said that the character names are kind of the roles you took on. So they aren’t just names of characters in the film, they symbolize an identity that you personally took on during this experience?
Hanes: No, we used them mostly as a joke, an inside joke of ours. And then I took them and I used them as the title of the film as the both of us are basically the feeling versions of ourselves that are triggered by the other. So, in this sense, I thought using, using these names would empower and underline more this game that we have been performing in the film.
Kokal: So this kind of love story with a deadline like you explained it sounds like something that could probably resonate with a lot of different generations of people. Why tell this story now then?
Hanes: Well, I don’t know why it is now. I just, this film was born out of a very powerful drive to to represent this character and represent our relationship that came suddenly, unexpected and it’s also happened in an unexpected scenario and with unexpected people. Because him being 70 year old, mostly trapped in his room, not really open to the world anymore, and me that have I have just came in a new city, open to discovery, and us two we have met and the solitude of both of us is brought forward because we are together. And for me it was part of my cinematic journey, let’s say, of learning cinema, of learning how to deal with filmmaker relationships and of basically exploring sudden magical encounter that one has at one point of his time, I can't look away from it.
Kokal: So how did that change your act of filming a relationship when you were filming your own? Was that a challenge for you in making this film?
Hanes: Yeah for sure it was a big challenge because I’m more of an introvert and before this I was working in an observational style more than this participatory one. So my intention at first was not to bring myself in the film together with the character but it happened that the character dragged me into the film. Because as I was there, only with him in his room with the camera between us, he was always questioning me, questioning why I am there, questioning who am I and this this exchange just made me open up and he managed to bring me in the film. It was quite hard at the beginning also because there is an aspect that I didn’t mention. The film is in Portuguese but I actually couldn't speak Portuguese at time so with him, I learned Portuguese. It’s very similar to my mother tongue Romanian it’s a Latin language. And so together we also learned Portuguese. So at first before I could speak properly Portuguese I was also blocked by the language. So understanding more but not really being able to express, it happened in time that I could feel comfortable in doing that. So yeah that was for sure challenging for me. But I understood that the film is about us and also my hesitation played a role and it portrayed me as a human being that was a filmmaker in the film but also a character.
Kokal: What do you hope audiences at True/False take away from your film?
Hanes: Well I think it questions issues like power relations, also between human beings in the the relationships we are engaged with the others. Also the filmmakers with the people that they film. I think it will question the limits of filmmaking and of filming relationships. And I think the generational gap also will provide lots of thoughts. And I just hope that the audience can just fully enter in that room and try to understand Antonio and Catarina without bringing their own preconceptions and try to navigate in that room in the darkness of that room and of their relationship.