So it’s a glorious September afterwork outside Tři Ocásci, and the warm sunshine, cold Polička and hard antibiotics combine to give me a fine beer buzz. I’m talking to António Nobre, screenwriter, producer, director, and self-styled video author.
This autumn, António and his directing partner Emanuele Ruggiero start production on a documentary about Brno expats, entitled CZizincII. It occurs to me that it doesn’t get much more “expat” than this – an English expat writer discussing a Portuguese expat film maker’s latest endeavour, a documentary about expats talking about expat life.
This is the first time I’ve interviewed someone for an article, and that beer buzz isn’t helping – António is a lively, effusive character with plenty to say, and I’m struggling to keep up with my notes. I need to learn shorthand if all my subjects are going to be this talkative – he’s spent twelve hours editing, so the conversation is bubbling out of him; “It’s like I had a champagne cork stuck in my mouth, and now it’s popped, the words are just pouring out!”
I became interested in António after seeing an advert for a casting call for his upcoming film, a follow up to 2011’s Czizinci. That film followed several expats in Ostrava as they chatted about living in the Czech Republic. The new film, focussing on a larger expat community, promises to be bigger and better – Czizinci went down well with festival crowds, but Nobre wants to make the Brno installment more “epic” in scope.
He fell in love with Brno when he first arrived, and wants to do his adopted hometown justice. “The expat community here is huge compared to Ostrava, and it’s really blown up over the past few years.” With a greater diversity of subjects, he also wants to take the lessons learnt from Czizinci and produce something more narrative and technically accomplished.
I was interested in who the original documentary was aimed at. I’ve been cornered by endless expat bores over the past five years, whose favourite subject is themselves. So I was surprised by the answer: “Czech audiences mainly – they’re interested in why foreigners want to live in their country and what expats think of them.”
Nobre himself is an excellent example of what the country can offer to an enterprising expat. Having studied screenwriting and adapting children’s books for television in his hometown Lisbon, he arrived in the Czech Republic a decade ago. Despite being unable to speak the language, he approached Czech TV companies for work, using his girlfriend’s translating skills to demonstrate what he had to offer.
They didn’t buy it, but his enthusiasm landed him a job in post-production, which in turn led him down the path to producing and directing his own films. Since then, he has worked on a variety of diverse projects, from Forty Years on Track, the story of interrailing, to Le Prisontologue, the uplifting tale of Ostrava prisoners staging a dance routine in the city’s National Theatre. His most recent project focussed on children from a Czech community in Romania meeting with counterparts from their ancestral home.
As a movie buff, I want to find out António’s influences as a director. It doesn’t surprise me that he takes great inspiration from El Mariarchi, Robert Rodriguez’s wing-and-a-prayer debut, famously made for a measly $7000. He also cites Blue in the Face, a collaboration between Hong Kong helmer Wayne Wang and legendary scribe Paul Auster.
So to the upcoming Brno expat documentary. How, I wondered, would António reconcile the various expat circles that operate in the city, but rarely cross paths? The answer is simple: “I’m not interested in focussing on a bunch of students who come here for a few months to get drunk and go to strip bars. I want to focus on all the brilliant people who have something to offer the city and the community.”
CZizincII should provide a fascinating snapshot of Boomtown Brno as we are living it right here, right now.
António and Emanuele have recently launched a crowdfunding scheme to help finance the project. If you’d like to get involved and contribute, check out their campaign here – CZizincII – Foreigners CZ II.
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