Camila Márdila stars in The Second Mother, which premiered this year at Sundance and showcases the story of a mother whose estranged daughter comes to live with her in her bosses’ mansion in São Paulo. Street spoke to Márdila about her experiences both with the film and at Sundance.
Street: The Second Mother was a huge hit this year at Sundance, and you and Regina Casé (the other main lead) won the special jury award for acting in world cinema drama. What makes this film so unique to Brazilian culture, yet also attractive to a larger and international audience?
Camila Márdila: We gave a speech the other day in Park City that relates to this question. This is an important time for Brazil right now. In the past few years, Brazil has gone under a significant transformation regarding rules and laws for housemaids and their jobs in Brazilian households—for example, restricting work hours and live–in situations. The Second Mother presents a very real situation, that of a girl from the North of the country going to São Paulo to study in a public university; these are notoriously difficult to get into.
These possibilities have been growing in the past few years, thanks to the new government, which is why Brazilian audiences can relate to this story. More generally, I believe that most people can relate to this story. We can all relate to a situation in which we are treated like second–class citizens. It can be anywhere: in a plane, at a party or other social relationships. It’s a feeling that many of us will always harbor, which is why I wish we could relate to each other in a more horizontal, less hierarchical way.
Street: The film shows a dynamic interaction between people of two different generations: did you relate to this tension (and how)?
CM: The two different generations represented in the movie are two different Brazilian scenarios that clash together in one scene. We have the old Brazil, referencing to heritage and slavery and a young, strong Brazil that wishes to change the country. At the same time, the old Brazil is warm, lovely, affectionate, which the character of Val (played by Regina Casé) recognizes. The film touches upon the question of how to move forward without forgetting the past, taking the good things about it and trying to advance without denying who we are or where we come from. I relate to this tension very much, as it is what we discuss in Brazil every day. As an artist, I am also particularly interested in talking about how to move forward in a sincere way that does not deny who we are in history. How we can do that is, I believe, a very powerful question for an artist nowadays.
Street: How do you think your experience working with a predominantly female cast and director has influenced your own career path as a young, up–and–coming actress?
CM: This movie is essentially a woman’s movie, and not only because it is made by women. The director, Anna Muylaert, is a very strong person, as is the cinematographer (Bárbara Alvarez from Uruguay) and editor (Karen Harley). We always talked about how this movie had this characteristic, and how it is a difficult tension to balance. It’s not because we are women that this movie came out in such a way, but we cannot forget that we are women and that we must discuss this. Protagonists are always played by men, so it’s normal that when that finally changes, we have to talk about it and bring this issue to the table. This movie strongly evokes essential questions surrounding our relationships with people and what it means to be a woman (or a man).
Anna Muylaert’s movies always have great characters and she’s also an amazing screenwriter. But her movies are not girly or feminine, they have their own power and that is something I hope I learned working with her. I have my own theatre company, a collective of artists by four women and we always try to reach this discussion balancing gender and artistic creation. Every woman has a bit of man in her, and every man has a bit of woman in him. We try, through aesthetic experiences, to reach these different places that we have within us.
Street: You've done a bit of traveling throughout the U.S. for the film. What has your favorite city been so far and which do you look most forward to going to?
CM: I had never been to the US before. It is my first time here, and we just went to Park City, which was great. I loved the city and the festival and right now, my friend and I are in San Francisco, absolutely loving it. We have met so many beautiful and nice people here who are so much fun. We get along very well with such a beautiful city and are excited to get into a car and drive to LA, to see some beautiful views such as Big Sur.
Street: What are you working on now? Any future projects we should know about?
CM: Next week, I am going to Berlin as the film will premiere in Europe in the Berlinale Film Festival’s Panorama section. I’ve never been to Berlin to I am very excited for this: so far, everything has been an adventure.
We created a play last year within my company which was my first individual project. We are now trying to get this work to another city, besides Rio de Janeiro. I’m also in a few upcoming movies with small parts and characters, nothing like my role in The Second Mother. But I’m very happy about these movies, they showcase amazing actors and directors. I have nothing else confirmed with movies right now, but I really hope something happens soon (laughs).
Street attended a screening of The Second Mother at the Yarrow theater during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. This interview has been condensed and edited. Check out the trailer for the movie below.