Levante by Lillah Halla Director’s Statement
LEVANTE (Power Alley) is the story of a young woman in a volleyball group that trains together, competes together, dreams together, under the guidance of a tireless coach who, above all, is by their side.
These are people who together resist and dare to challenge the present to build another future, a future in which they are free.
Although cinema is very much focused on the director and the producer individually, it is the collaborative side of filmmaking what interests me. Having come from a theatre background and the EICTV Film School in Cuba, I value human connections and exchanges as the strongest tool in cinema. I deeply believe we all get further as a team.
The people brought onto this film all have a HUGE voice. This was the family I chose. My power alley. I wanted the work to have their ‘shine’ – both from the cast and from the artists in the crew. When collaboration happens in a deep and synchronised way, it’s magical.
In writing, for example, the longest and deepest collaboration of them all. The endless nights, the kilometre-long collections of the almost ten versions of this film over the course of 7 years with co-writer María Elena, the support of script supervisor Camila Agustini and all hands and hearts and eyes and ears this story has had, became the invisible underground stream that was foundational and guiding. Writing is such an intimate collaboration that it strengthened our bonds over these seven years more and more. No one has been by my side as intensely during all this time as María has. We have similar and opposite references; we are absolutely different people. Yet, when we sit down to debate and write, it is as if we were one and the same. But this is a construction (and a deconstruction) over time, this is not a given gift.
Once the story was there, it was time to look for more alchemical connections in the crew and cast. This, of course, would influence the story, in return. Added to this is that LEVANTE (Power Alley) is not a film of a simple theme, especially, not in the political moment in which we made it (and whose temporal and political marks were very much incorporated into the film itself).
Finding the best crew was as long and hard work as the casting was. I work mostly with women and try to protect – a safe space for dissident voices, and non-hegemonic workflows, different ways of thinking about hierarchy, the responsibility of telling such a story.
I think this is my job: this orchestration of voices and desires, gathering the right people in crew and cast, who are also available and vulnerable- and creating room for the extensive process to come, by fine tuning our communication, our trust. The film style is the result of all this. But that doesn’t happen out of sheer luck. Laying this groundwork first is how you build trust. And once trust is in place, it grows a film in ways one cannot imagine.
Each one of the people in this film had a very difficult story to share about abortion. Every single one. This was another undercurrent of meaning (among many others), which united us. Many rehearsals and scenes were triggers, we had safety words among the most vulnerable and exposed people there. We were moving very deep tectonic plates of our culture. There were many risks involved (and still are). A huge responsibility and challenges for a first film.
The plot of LEVANTE (Power Alley) is based on the stories and experiences of people we interviewed. People who, unlike me, were not lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. People who were victims of horrific strategies such as fake abortion clinics that kidnap pregnant women to prevent them from having an abortion, is, unfortunately, a reality in contemporary Brazil. The greatest inspiration for the story came from the many women interviewed who work collectively, tirelessly, clandestinely, despite the danger, to provide what public health refuses to do.
But at the same time, there was a very strong intuition during this process growing in me – the importance of LEVANTE (Power Alley) not being another film about the individual drama of a girl dealing alone and clandestinely with an unwanted pregnancy. Not because it is not important, but because this narrative is well known to us – as much as it’s sad outcome, unfortunately, is as well known.
It made no sense in my worldview, nor in my cinema, to talk about abortion or to tell the tragic and individual story of a helpless young woman, a story we have heard a thousand times. My choice was to show this other side, collective solidarity, in which a group of people unite to transgress the laws of a state that does not protect life, that prefers to condemn them rather than give them security.
And to tell a possible story about an Uprising (Levante). After all, as violence arrives from Sofía’s community, so does a welcome. Sofía is not alone, as she thought. Being an athlete is also about working as a team. The herd chasing her is fierce, but neither she nor those who love her are willing to bow down.