Young footballer drama to open the Forum of Independents section at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Aspirantes (Hopefuls)

Aspirantes tells the story of Junior, a young boy playing for Bacaxa A.C., an amateur football team from the city of Saquarema, on the coast of Rio de Janeiro. As he waits for the chance to move into the big leagues, he deals with the pregnancy of his girlfriend and his increasingly untenable living situation with his alcoholic uncle. When his best friend signs a contract with a professional team, Junior begins to grow jealous and the chance of moving away from his current situation seems to be ever more remote.

This debut feature from Brazillian director Ives Rosenfeld is a raw and powerful story of youthful dreams and harsh reality that is marked by some astounding performances.

The film will open Karlovy Vary’s Forum of Independents section.

Screen talked to Rosenfeld about the power of football and dreams.

What was the driving force behind creating Aspirantes?

I always dreamt about making a film around football. As most of the Brazilians, I am a football fanatic. I can spend hours of my week watching matches or even sports programmes. So the film came from that, from my two passions, football and cinema.

Nonetheless, Aspirantes, more than a film around football, is above all an examination of its lead character, Junior, a silent and envious character. I can say that “Aspirantes” is also a continuation of this examination that I began in the short film “The Day I Did Not Kill Bertrand”.

And how did you go about getting financing and funding for the film?

We got some public financing for the shooting, but not enough. The film only became possible because of the partnership of the crew. Among other things, they agreed to receive much less than their market values. Later, we got the money for post-production in another public fund, as well as an award at the Locarno Film Festival.

Tell us about casting the film. I know you wanted to originally cast non-professionals, but then decided to take a different path. How did that manifest itself?

During the auditions we noticed that the dramatic density of the lead character would make the role difficult to a non-actor. Junior is soundless character, and his journey should be built in tiny transformations. None of the non-actors that we have tested has successfully achieved that state. We cast the non-actors for the secondary roles. It was the opportunity we had to work with local boys.

It’s a very raw and energetic film. What was the filming like? Was there much improvisation and guerrilla filming?

We had a lot of improvisation during the rehearsals. The actors got in touch with the script only by the end of the second week of rehearsals. As the acting coach was also co-scriptwriter, after the rehearsals we often rewrote the scenes. But during the shooting, the cast were absolutely faithful to the script. Only in a few scenes with the non-actors was there improvisation, such as the one set in the locker room. There they were much more comfortable improvising than saying a written speech.

You’ve mentioned how you wanted to get the football sequences to look authentic. How did you go about that?

We are used to watch a lot of football broadcasts. In all of them there is a clear rule for the framing: the camera can never cross the pitch lines. On the days of the football scenes, we had three cameras. We decided to position them like in a real football match. We have told the boys to play football, and than we shot it in a documentary way. It was a really physically exhausting shooting day, even for the two main actors who trained in football for the whole rehearsal month with the non-actors boys that formed our fictional team of Bacaxá.

Did the World Cup in Brazil affect the film at all?  Not just in terms of logistics but in terms of how Brazilians view football and its promise of a better world.

The World Cup was an extremely contested event in Brazil. There was real estate speculation and overbilling on the construction of the stadiums. Also, Brazilian football was already showing signs of a crisis, even before the 7-1 defeat against Germany. I don’t guess that many people yet believed on this promise of a better world. The film bears this delusion in the real football. We have a couple of shots of the reform of the Maracanã as a metaphor of the end of this “golden era”.

You’ll be opening the Karlovy Vary Forum of Independents competition. Are you looking forward to the festival?

I am tremendously anxious. You work for years in a project that consumes you entirely. Showing it to the audience is putting this work in another stage. Now it doesn’t belong exclusively to you anymore. To debut it in an important and respectful festival like Karlovy Vary, especially in the opening session, it is a huge honour.

What would you like to do for your next feature?

I am starting to work on the script of “America”, my next feature. I want to establish a parallel between the European immigration to Brazil during the beginning of the twentieth century, and the big Brazilian migration movement during the seventies and eighties, with lots of poor families leaving the rural areas and going to the metropolis, mainly Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.