Based on the comic strip by famed Brazilian cartoonist Laerte Coutinho, Tiago Teixeira’s Acorde is a one minute short horror film about child poverty in Brazil. Don’t be mistaken by its length though, Acorde‘s brief runtime only emphasises its impact. This is filmmaking that is confident and confrontational in its storytelling and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Twelve Cabins is delighted to be premiering Teixeira’s short on our pages today and had a conversation with director about his process in adapting Laerte’s renowned work, and creating his very own movie monster.
What was it about Laerte Coutinho’s comic strip that made you want to adapt it?
I have always been a fan of Laerte’s work and I firmly believe she is one of the most accomplished artists in contemporary Brazil. This strip in particular has always been in my mind. It is perfect in its simplicity and manages to be sweet and a punch to the stomach at the same time. I’m amazed at what she can accomplish with only three frames. Once I read it, I never forgot about it.
What did that process of adaptation look like, did you draw directly from the images?
My first idea was to adapt it into a longer short, where the boy would wake up and gradually realise his life was fake and he was living inside a cruel dream to escape his harsh reality. I kept thinking of Philip K. Dick characters that slowly realise reality is unstable and can’t be trusted. Once I started discussing the project with Laerte, I decided that the best way to do it was to be as quick as possible like the strip, and leave the viewer with their own conclusions. Then I decided to keep the composition as close as I could to the strip because I loved the way it was framed. The idea was to make it look like we were in Brazil, instead of East London. We even managed to find a location that looked like a gritty South American city street and it worked quite nicely. Amelia Stevens, our production designer, managed to find some disturbingly genuine props for the homeless boy, I was very impressed.
How did you seek to differ your version from the original comic strip?
I’ve added some new elements, the ‘flipping’ of the image when the boy wakes up, and the quick cuts of traffic that help the transition between his two worlds. I did this because I thought that the ellipsis didn’t have the same impact of the strip because of the differences in the medium, and I liked the way it turned out. All the changes were thought to best adapt the story onto the screen in the best and most respectful way I could, and every change was very carefully considered.
How was the shooting process, given Acorde’s length, was it a fairly smooth shoot?
The smoothest I’ve ever had, thanks to my amazing crew and particularly to my Producer Kieran Nolan Jones. We had loads of time, which has never happened to me before, and we could really try some ideas out during the shoot. Kieran also does a mean Chile Con Carne.
Could you talk about designing the visuals and sound of the monster?
The sound design was done by the fantastic Adam Woodhams and it really helped bring the monster to life. I love how his breathing has this depth and threat to it. About the visual design of the monster, I came up with it. We discussed using a fake fur throw but I was worried the shape wasn’t going to hold. In the end, I used a gorilla costume with the mask turned backwards. It was very simple and I’m very happy about how it looks. We also discussed using LED lights to create some glowing eyes or using VFX, but it looked a bit cartoonish and I like how the monster is eyeless. Korsshan Schlauer, our brilliant cinematographer, managed to find the right way of lighting it without revealing too much detail and keeping it mysterious, and Elliot Rogers did a fantastic job acting as the monster, his movements brought such a smoothness to it. And Roman Jameel was perfect as our helpless victim.
Has the pandemic shifted the film’s festival journey at all?
Yes. We decided to prioritise an online release and I think the length of the film makes it perfect for it.
And finally, what are you working on now?
I’ve been working with my producer Kieran Nolan Jones on some feature projects. We’ve just been to the Film London’s Production Finance Market and we had a great response to our pitch. We have great hopes for our films! I’m also working on some scripts for some producers back in Brazil and on some new ideas.