Interview with Jorge Camarotti

Born into a working-class family in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jorge Camarotti is a Brazilian filmmaker based in Montreal since 2003. Since his beginnings in filmmaking 10 years ago, Jorge has directed a dozen short films, both documentary and fiction, remaining true to his mission of giving voice to the most aggrieved individuals of our society. His most recent project 'Ousmane' has been screened in more than 60 festivals around the world, and the film won 15 awards including two Academy® Awards Qualifying Festivals.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a filmmaker

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Why and when did you move to Montreal?

I moved to Montreal in 2003. I had started my career as a photographer, and I was ready to explore a new life in a new city.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in filmmaking?

I was a professional photographer, and after many years,  I realized that the medium that I was using didn’t give me all the possibilities I was looking for to express myself. I started writing my first short stories, and a producer I met told me I should take acting classes to help me transition from still photography to motion pictures.

How would you describe your creative process? 

I draw from my surroundings and personal experiences to create storytelling that, hopefully, can create a conversations about the way we live as a society.

How much does the city and surroundings affect your creative output? 

Moving to Montreal deeply impacted the way I see the world. Becoming an immigrant changed my awareness towards themes related to social justice, and individuals who live in the margins of our society. It’s from this reality that I draw the themes from my movies.

What do you struggle with the most in terms of working and living in a city like Montreal? 

Coming from Sao Paulo, sometimes, Montreal can feel very small. I like the fact that filmmaking allows me to travel and that helps me to keep a good balance.

What are your city’s biggest challenges?

Too small. I like cities where I can feel anonymous sometimes, as if I need some quiet time, I can go to a place nobody knows me.

The responsibility of the council in every city is to provide a solid foundation of design, art and cultural facilities, is that evident in Montreal? 

Montreal is a great place to develop my career as a filmmaker. Art councils are the reason I had to move to start this career. If I had stayed in Brazil, I don’t think I would have had the same opportunities.

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the artist/creative to improve the quality of people's lives in their city?

Always. Nina Simone said something that really resumes what I think: “ An artist duty, as far I’m concerned is to reflect the times…but I choose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself."

Your latest short film 'Ousmane' has accumulated more than 50 official selections in film festivals around the world, receiving more than 10 awards, including Best Narrative short at Aspen International Film Festival. How did you get the inspiration for this film?

For a period of seven years I couldn’t travel to Brazil, and during these years, I experience many family losses. Being far away and unable to be close to my relatives during these hard times started to weight heavily on me. I believe Ousmane came to me as a way to express these feelings of longing and transform what could have been negative into something positive.

What are your influences?

My taste is very eclectic, I watch everything from TV series to Classic japanese films, and I let my brain do the sorting.

You have also published a book, 'Mile End' , a photographic journey through the streets of one of Montreal’s most storied neighbourhoods. Could you tell us more about it?

Mile End is photo journal project that took 10 years to complete. Through this project I got to meet so many interesting people and it also helped me find a sense of belonging in Montreal. A lot of the people featured in the book have, like myself, roots elsewhere and chose to make Montreal their new home. Talking to them allowed me to finally find peace in my decision to move to Montreal.

Are there any artists/directos that particularly inspire you at the moment?

I can’t name one in particular but I admire the works of so many people and I’m constantly inspired by their drive to continue to make amazing storytelling.

If you could add or change something about Montreal, what would that be?

No winters…

Can you tell us about any current or future projects that you are particularly excited about?

I’m working on my debut feature right now, and soon I will be able to share more details.

What do you do to switch off?

I have a very hard time switching off, but try doing manual work around the house. It’s still work but in a very different form.

What does home mean to you?

A place you can gather the people you love the most.

Describe the perfect day for you in Montreal. 

A nice spring day starting with a coffee at café Olimpico in the Mile End, surrounded by the good friends I made over the years.

If you weren't living in Montreal and could choose any city to live in, where would that be, and why?

Good question, but I will keep it a secret for now as I don’t want to jinx it.

Jorge Camarotti - Mixtape

montreal by Jorge Camarotti

A selection of places in Montreal recommended by filmmaker Jorge Camarotti. See Jorge's citylikeyou profile page here

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