It is impossible to summarize half the population in a 12-minute short film. Heck, if you were given a week or a month, you wouldn’t be able to articulate what it means to be a woman (and for all women to agree on that message). It’s not possible. The best way to know what it means to be a woman is to hear a woman’s story. Camila Kater’s animated film FLESH explores the stories of several women from Brazil and utilizes the strength in diversity.
Flesh dives into the complex nature of what it means to be a woman, the expectations of being a woman, and the treatment of women. Five individuals share their own unique experiences, and although each story has pain, these barriers have made them stronger and shaped who they are. The animation techniques applied in each segment use images, textures, and colours as visual analogies for meat, tying in and unifying the theme of Flesh.
Speaking with Camila, I learned more about the state of filmmaking — especially with animated films — in Brazil than I did before, but left the interview still feeling ignorant. As someone who loves animated movies and shows, I want to know more about the obstacles in certain countries that marginalized people face in animation! Listening to Camila talk about her experience working in the animation industry in Brazil as a woman added a level of struggle that ironically/perfectly fits so well with the subject matter of this film.
Flesh is one of the seven short films selected as part of Short Cuts Programme 2, which you can read more about HERE.
First-time director Camila Kater has utilized her years working in animation into making one of the most personal, beautiful, and impactful short films I’ve seen at TIFF. Camila originally when to school for Media Studies in Brazil, which was more focused on cinema than animation. During an exchange program in the UK, she took animations classes and was able to learn under one of her idols, Lizzy Hobbs.
When she returned to Brazil, Camila joined free workshops to continue her passion and work in animation, and there wrote her first script intended for an animated movie.
Camila started to write Flesh in 2018 for a contest after talking with her sister, and together they came up with the idea for the film.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT FLESH.
Camilla Kater: My younger sister, Bruna, and I talk a lot about feminism; things that concern us as women, and how we are treated like just bodies. The idea of doing an animated piece about these topics came naturally.
There’s an ironic association with meat and cooking stages in Flesh, which we used to structure the film. We created some profiles of the characters, so we already knew some of the talking points. For the first chapter, I really wanted a woman to talk about being fat during childhood because that was something I went through. And the following animation is about periods, and it’s also about my own experience and how I used to hide from everyone.
During the process of the film, I was diagnosed with endometriosis… When you have endometriosis, you have to stop your period or you can get pre-menopausal symptoms beforehand. I searched for menopause symptoms and experiences some pre-menopausal symptoms with my mother and my aunt. I was obviously interested in those topics and was inspired.
I wanted a lot of diversity in the film — there are a lot of women in the world with different experiences.
IS THIS FILM SCRIPTED OR MORE OF A DOCUMENTARY?
CK: I think both. The script (co-written with Ana Julia Carvalheiro) came with the animation. When it came to the visual aspects, we had to create from zero. But the stories are real, and there was a responsibility with that.
HOW DID YOU FIND THE WOMAN FOR EACH STORY?
CK: We did a lot of research… Some of them are famous in Brazil. Raquel Virgínia, the third woman, is a singer. She’s also a transgender woman. The last woman, Helena Ignez, is a famous actress and was a sex symbol and diva in the 70s. She had to quit acting because she was exploited in cinema. I really wanted a diva character, talking about the stages of her career. Today she continues to act and also directs her own films. But I feel like it was important to have “common characters,” not just famous characters. Sometimes you think famous people have a perfect life, but it’s not like that. They face the same problems, and other problems as well. The film is diverse in this way too.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO ANIMATE EACH SEGMENT?
CK: The techniques were influenced by their stories. The first person we interviewed was Rachel Patrício, and she talked about her relationship with her mother — who is a nutritionist — and food. It was originally supposed to be in digital 2D stop-motion, but then I thought, “No, we can mix mediums.” So we painted on a plate.
That’s where the idea of having different techniques came from. I selected different techniques for each speech, and match an animator who would be comfortable with that technique.
I know all of the animators, and they’re all starting their careers. It was great to work with animators who did not have their work established in Brazil. They would have space to be able to create their own style in the film.
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO FLESH BEING SELECTED FOR THE TIFF SHORT CUTS PROGRAMME THIS YEAR?
CK: Amazing! Really, really happy. It’s such a big festival, and I’ve felt very honoured to be here. Flesh is the only Brazilian film in the Short Cuts Programme. Animation is not very supported in Brazil, and it feels good to be recognized. Especially for an animated film made by women.
ALL OF THE DIRECTORS FROM YOUR SHORT CUTS PROGRAMME ARE WOMEN. HOW DOES THAT FEEL?
CK: Yes, yes, it’s fantastic. It’s hard as a woman to work as a director in film. I’ve worked as an assistant animator, an art assistant, and a puppeteer before…But being able to finally work as a director was amazing. I love seeing other women directors and filmmakers.
HOW DO YOU FEEL AFTER DIRECTING YOUR FIRST FILM?
CK: I feel more confident, but not very confident in Brazil and for the future of women working in this industry. But I’m hopeful with my ideas. I just wrote another story that I hope to submit to another contest. Contests in Brazil have been really helpful to filmmakers.
IS THERE A WOMAN-LEAD (BOTH ON- AND OFF-SCREEN) MOVIE YOU FEEL DESERVES MORE ATTENTION THAN IT GETS?
CK: I can think of more animated movies. I don’t really know many live-action movies. Hahaha. I think more independent films made by women should receive more attention.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WOMEN WORKING IN ANIMATION?
CK: I really like Rosana Urbes. Her short film Guida (2014) was a reference for Flesh. I also like Nara Normande and Nádia Mangolini. And anything by Lizzy Hobbs.
I would really like to work with NFB (National Film Board) in the future. They showed us Michèle Cournoyer’s short The Hat (1999) in school and I really liked it.
TELL US ABOUT WHY YOU ARE A FEMINIST AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO YOUR FILMMAKING.
CK: I want to have equal rights and live in an equal world. Even if I don’t talk about feminism in my films, feminism will be there in many ways because I want to have female characters and for them to have their own lives during the film. I know that as a woman filmmaker I don't only have to write films only talking about women, but I think at the moment we are in now, nobody else is really doing this for us. In the future, I want to have more liberties in my films, more voices. But that’s not where we are now.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE ABOUT FILMMAKING YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
CK: I don’t know…I’ve never received advice. I think my experiences have taught me the most. Also my mother, who supports me.
PUT TOGETHER YOUR DREAM TEAM (WITH YOU IN ONE OF THE ROLES, OBVS!)
CK: I think I want to work with Lizzy [Hobbs]. I have a major project for Flesh; I would like to make it into a series directed and animated by different women from every part of the world. Starting with 5 countries, 5 women directors, and 5 different animators and character from each place. I would be really amazed if Lizzy would animate one of these chapters.
IF A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE WAS MADE, WHAT GENRE WOULD IT BE?
CK: I don’t know. Maybe it would be animated. Hahaha.
My idea for my next film is based on my own experience. The story is about a girl who is afraid of Jesus…Her first commune is coming up and she doesn’t want to be alone with Jesus. The imagery can be really scary when you’re young. You had to eat his body and drink his blood!
CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT THAT STORY AND WHAT ELSE ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
CK: It is sort of based on my experience but the character isn’t me. I was raised in a Catholic family and went to a Catholic school. I had my first communion at 9 and I didn’t know anything at that age. It’s just an idea at the moment.
For my final in university, we had to make a film, and we started to do a stop-motion animation. It’s called Unspeakable, and I’m the writer, the animator, and puppeteer. We’re almost finished it. It’s been a very long process…I think about 5 years.
Unspeakable is already 15 minutes of stop-motion, but we are looking for a co-production to finish the rest. There are some parts to be done in 2D animation and to have another production company help with that and the sound design would be great.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE [ART] MEDIUM TO WORK WITH?
CK: I really like to experiment. The first time I worked with oil paint was for my part in Flesh…I don’t have a favourite. I want to try them all.
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You can follow Flesh on the film’s official Instagram account.