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Artists in Their Own Words: Luisa Dantas


Luisa Dantas (photo: Red Tremmel)

Who: Luisa Dantas

What: Independent filmmaker

Where: Treme

Artist’s Chosen Location for Interview: The Orange Couch

Q: What’s a historical piece of machinery you wished was still use today?

A: It’s recently historical, but the flat bed editing machines that were used up until ten or fifteen years ago where you cut and splice actual film. That machinery forced you to have a particular thoughtfulness about what you were doing. You had to make firm, decisive choices around how you were putting together a film. There wasn’t a stroke of a button to undo something.

When I was in a film class in college, I came out of the bathroom, and there was a section of a scene stuck to the bottom of my shoe, and I love the materiality of that.

Although, there was zero possibility we could have accumulated 1500 hours of footage, which is the amount of footage we have for Land of Opportunity, and made a 97-minute film if we used that machinery. We have 15 terabytes on 15 hard-drives, which already feels unwieldy, so I couldn’t possibly imagine what that would be like with bins of film. We would still be editing.

I’m sure there are some learning environments where they’re using flat-bed editors, but it would be really rare. Those machines are selling for around ten cents on Ebay, which is crazy since it used to be expensive equipment.

Q: What’s something you eat only in the summer?

A: Watermelon. It’s cooling, sweet and refreshing. It’s also labor intensive, so you feel accomplished after you cut it up. And, no other fruit is that social.

Q: What’s something you think about filming but know you never will?

A: I feel like filming people sleeping is something that is off limits to me. Sleeping is totally vulnerable. Someone is unconscious and doesn’t know what you’re doing, and even if they can sense what’s going on, they still don’t have control over what you’re seeing and filming. That feels super vulnerable to me.

It’s funny because as a documentary filmmaker you have these “day in a life” situations where you film the person waking up their kids up, making breakfast, and all of these everyday activities. Yet, I’ve never actually filmed a person sleeping. I wouldn’t want someone filming me, and I’m pretty sure no one else would want to be filmed either. Sleeping never looks flattering. It’s just a mess.

People fighting is another one. I have filmed that, but I’ve never actually witnessed a full fight behind the camera because I end up putting the camera down. In some ways, there have been a couple of moments where I’ve regretted turning the camera off after seeing how the fight resolved itself or what was expressed in that conflict.

But, both of those feel like an invasion of privacy, which, of course, I’m completely curious about, but I also don’t feel fully comfortable filming those moments.

Q: If someone where to describe you according to your gestures, how would they describe you?

A: Manic. Passionate. Emphatic.

There’s a lot of hand waving that goes with manic. With passionate, that’s when there’s a lot of gesticulation going on. With emphatic, I feel like that’s when my hands are moving down, like they’re the plane being landed.

I’m Brazilian, and we do a lot of expressing with our hands. When I was young I was in this snooty all-girls private school, and I got told to sit on my hands. I had this horrible teacher in 5th grade. I was told that my expressive gestures were too Latin and that I was relying on my hands for communication, so I had to sit on them. That strategy totally backfired. Not only did that punishment not cure my gesturing, I think I do it more now because of that.

Q: What’s a home video you remember from being a kid?

A: I feel like there were a lot more stills and slides going on when I was a kid. I do remember, though, when my cousin was born. My uncle filmed the birth. I must have been ten, and he showed it to my mom and me. I’m not sure if he meant to show it to me, but he did.

First off, I was blown away by what I was seeing—the actual event of giving birth—but I was also blown away that it was documented. I remember thinking how it was miraculous on so many levels. What was unfolding was miraculous and the fact that we had the ability to record that and show it to another person was a total recognition of the power of moving images.

Luisa Danta’s film Land of Opportunity will be screening on Sunday the 16th at 12:00 P.M. for the True Orleans Documentary Film Festival put on by Shotgun Cinema. All screenings will be held at the NIMS Theater at the University Of New Orleans.You can learn more about Land of Opportunity through the Facebook page or by following them on Twitter.



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