Aly Muritiba on how working as a prison guard influenced his film ‘Private Desert’: ‘The biggest lesson I learned is tolerance’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Brazil’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards, “Private Desert,” tells the story of a police officer who is suspended after an internal investigation, wandering the country in search of a real encounter with his internet love. Director and writer Aly Muritiba, who formerly worked as a prison guard, felt compelled to bring a story of love and compassion to the big screen during a time of political divide in Brazil.

“We are living under a regime that is much like a fascist regime,” Muritiba explains about Brazil’s current political climate. “There has been fighting and hate speech on the rise. That’s why I decided to deliver a movie that is about love. I think it shows how cinema can be a tool in fighting hate speech and the fascist environment that Brazil has been under recently.”

Muritiba’s former work as a prison guard allowed him to relate to the film’s main character, Daniel (Antonio Saboia), a discharged prison guard, and influenced him as a filmmaker. “I worked in a penitentiary for about seven years,” he explains. “During that time I got to live with people that are conservative and that are seen as the oppressors. I noticed while living with them that they can also be good and do good things. Just like the protagonist in my film, who is a cop, and is seen in Brazil as an oppressor and evil force, who is transformed by the power of love. This is what the movie is about to me, tolerance. The biggest lesson that I learned by working in a prison for seven years is tolerance and the ability to find beauty in situations that seem like they lack beauty.”

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“Brazil is a very sexist country,” Muritiba continues. “It’s a country where the patriarchal culture really dominates all of society. It’s a country where, if you were born a man, you are encouraged to express your feelings through oppression and violence. I am one of these people. As a man, I also fell into this category. I was born in a small city and encouraged to express my feelings through intolerant means. Since I had a daughter, that started to really bother me. This is the third movie that I’ve made about toxic masculinity.”

Muritiba also remained focused on showing the world a different side of Brazil’s landscape. He currently lives in a southern, cold region, but wanted to show all sides. “I was born and raised in the northeast of Brazil,” he explains. “The interior or the outback, one may say. It was important for me to unite these two worlds. On one side we have the cold, gray, conservative south of Brazil, which is where the protagonist lives. On the other side we have the northeast, which is warmer. It is poorer, but in a way, a lot more progressive as well. These are places that are a part of my life. Internationally, when one sees movies about Brazil, it’s often Rio or Sao Paolo, but the diversity of Brazil served me in this story.”

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