Creating an account with gives you access to more features and services, like our weekly newsletter and other special features just for the film community.


Faces of the Festival: Marcelo Laffitte

Meet Marcelo Laffitte, writer/director of the TFF 2010 Brazilian film Elvis & Madona (also available online via TFF Virtual Premium), set in Copacabana (sing it!).

Marcelo Laffitte: Elvis & Madona Tell us a little about Elvis & Madona.


Marcelo Laffitte: Elvis & Madona is essentially a film of love. It's a love story between two people who have their own dreams and life projects. It is not a movie about gay characters or about pop icons, and even less about freak people. Elvis and Madona are human beings like all of us. They have jobs, have families, pay bills and are in search of happiness. What inspired you to tell this story?


ML: I was changing channels on my TV when I saw a show where a guy was arguing and fighting with a strange old lady. Gradually I realized that the rival was the man's father. And that he—the father—had abandoned his family many years ago, returning now as a transvestite. But the cause of the fight was not the fact that the father had turned into a transvestite, but that the father and son's wife were in love. It was really strange, almost bizarre, but it made me realize that love can arise in any situation. What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened while making the film?


ML: Could it be that the money was gone almost at the end of the movie? [Laughs] Sorry, but I do not know what "lightning strikes" means. Well, I think the craziest moment was when we filmed the scene of the dinner at the family home of Elvis. I determined that the scene should be shot with the camera rotating around the table and everyone on the crew, without exception, were bitterly opposed.


The cinematographer said that the lighting was bad, the art director complained about the decor, the assistant director warned that we would spend too negative, the actors were confused, there was almost a riot on the set. That was the only time I told everybody to shut up—I used my authority and I said: Do it! Of course I was scared to it would all turn out wrong, but I went ahead. Today, I consider that the best scene in the movie.


Elvis and Madona What’s the biggest thing you learned while making Elvis & Madona?


ML: I learned that cinema is not the art of one person alone. I am the author because I wrote the script, I got the money, I chose the cast and crew, said the camera should be here and there, participated in the editing, chose the songs, etc., etc. But every person in the cast and crew, from the main roles to the humblest helper driver, everyone had a contribution to make with his talent and intelligence.


The color or size of a hat, the voice more serious or more acute of an actor, the crane slower or faster, the bed in the room of the main character, all that can change an entire movie.


So my main function was to capture and filter the interventions of each. Thus, each person who worked on Elvis & Madona left his or her DNA recorded on film, and they can also say: "I made this movie." What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers/actors/etc.?


ML: There is a popular saying in Brazil: If advice had value, it would not be given, it would be sold. But I give two.


First, make movies for the big screen, to be seen in the darkroom and to be heard in silence, because that's where you learn to write with pictures and speak to crowds.


Second, make your film as if you were telling a story to your mom, dad or grandma. If you think they will like it, go ahead. Otherwise, stop and think about what is wrong. If after this you still want to do the same movie, do it. And don’t worry: in the premiere you'll find out what was wrong, and in the next you will do the right thing. If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?


ML: Undoubtedly, Luis Buñuel. In addition to a great conversation with wines and cigars, where I'll learn a lot about movies, I'm sure that I'll discover what's in the little box of the Japanese man in Belle de Jour.


Elvis and Madona What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?


ML: Elvis & Madonna. [Laughs] In fact, everything. Look at everything you can without prejudice, open-minded, with an erect spine and calm heart. What would your biopic be called?


ML: The Man Who Could Not Count. When I was a child of 8 or 9 years, my dream was be a marine engineer to build big ships that sail around the world. As I was not very good at geometry and calculus, I decided to make films, which is almost the same thing. What makes Elvis & Madona a TFF Virtual (and TFF) must-see?


ML: Because it is a human and universal film that will make you see your neighbor (and yourself, perhaps) with new eyes, in addition to good laughs and being touched by the passion between Elvis and Madona. And also because it is a good opportunity to see (or remember if you already know) the famous district of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro.


Bonus! Elvis & Madona is one of the 8 feature films available online from April 23-30 with the Tribeca Film Festival Virtual Premium Pass. The Premium Pass is available to all U.S. residents, age 18 or older, for only $45. Learn more, and get your pass today so you don't miss out.



Read more about Elvis & Madona, and find screening times.
Find out where and when all films are playing in the 2010 Film Guide.


Meet more Faces of the Festival!


Become a fan of Tribeca on Facebook.
Meet more Faces of the Festival!


What you need to know today