“You have to be an athlete to make a film like this!”
Interview with Breno Silveira, Director of the Official Film of the Olympic Games Rio 2016
Why did you decide to make this film?
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I didn't want to miss; the opportunity, as a film-maker, to come to the Games and to accept the challenge of finding a story of the Games that touches everyone's heart. As a carioca, I was very aware, as was everybody here, of all the challenges we were facing at this time and I wanted to be a witness and to understand how such a big event like the Games would leave a powerful impact on all of us.
I have practised many types of sports: sailing, cycling, rowing. But the most important thing is that I see myself as a sports fan. For all that it teaches us. It's a lot more than just winning or losing. It's possibly one of the most important aspects during the formation process of human beings. Practising sport teaches us important values. Personally, I was part of the crew who shot the feature film Two Billion Hearts – the Official Film for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the USA. It was a great experience, but the Olympics is magnificent! It's a huge endeavour! A completely different thing.
Can you explain the choice of the title?
In Brazil, the economic, political and social context was very difficult, and there were a lot of conflicts around the world. When the Games arrive, something "magical" happens. For 16 days, it felt like the world was really coming together. There were magnificent days and all the Olympic values were in everyone's heart. In that sense, the title alludes to the ancient idea of the Games as a time of peace.
In your film, which sequence is your favourite and why?
Probably the sequence with Usain Bolt; it's highly emotional and spontaneous, and shows the special moment between big superstars and other athletes who just missed out on qualification. It was the first day for this athlete. She just missed out on qualification. She was really ashamed and then she started this conversation with Usain Bolt. "Did you give it your all?" he asked, and then she cries. This scene touches the heart of all the athletes. Also, the sequence with this judoka, Rafaela, who was disqualified in London and comes back in Rio and takes the gold. And she is from a favela. Each time she talks about it she sobs.
What is the main focus of the movie?
The main focus of the movie is the relationship between the city and the Olympic Games. The unique experience of integration among athletes, visitors, citizens and the city. The transformation and emotions they all shared together during Games time. But my film is not focused on the documentation of the competitions. It's more about capturing how many different people, not just the athletes, experience these Games.
What is your artistic purpose? The narrative?
Today, we have enormous media coverage of the event and it has become difficult to find an original point of view. Our purpose is not to make a "news report", but instead to make a historical document, a piece that will last and represent this period of time and the importance of the Games to the world. All my work is about emotion. My films, my feature films, everything! For me, our goal is to show how important it still is to have an event like the Olympic Games. Never before have the Olympic values been so important to a world facing so many challenges.
What will make this movie a one-of-a-kind Official Film?
The last few Official Films that we have seen focused mainly on what happened during Games time. The approach was more about the sports and athletes. This movie is more about the city, the people and the whole experience of the Games, without losing sight of the athletes and the sports.
What was your most challenging moment while shooting?
The strong competition with the media. There are 30,000 accredited media outlets shooting all the time at the Games. It's not that easy to produce a film which is different from the news coverage. The hardest part is to manage to produce a film that captures the emotions and the soul of each Games, and the spirit of the place and people. It needs to be a different perspective from any news coverage, so creativity is key.
There is a lot of competition and you have to find the perfect spot. At the end, we are like athletes in the middle of thousands of cameras struggling to get the best image ever.
Sometimes it doesn't work. I remember one time I didn't manage to get inside the stadium for Usain Bolt's latest race. And I literally cried outside. We had five TV crews rushing around. It was not always easy to be in the right place at the right time because there is so much going on during the Games!
What are your biggest takeaways?
This Olympic experience has really changed my opinion on life. It's so touching to see how the Olympic spirit lives in all the athletes. No matter if they lose or win.
For me it was a great experience to see the importance of sport in life, and see how kind people are and how they can live together in a world like this. I did not choose the winning side, the athletes or the sports performances. I chose to make a film that shows the athletes who finish last and especially the Olympic spirit; it's everywhere, in the city as well as in people's hearts. This film shows above all that the Olympic values are very important in the world now.
If you had to give advice to the next film-maker for the next edition of the Games, what would you say?
It takes a lot of courage and effort; you have to be an athlete to make a film like this!