One sometimes wonders where the line is drawn between an actor’s true self and the hundreds of roles they may interpret over a lifetime. It’s a vocation that inevitably involves a certain measure of lunacy (full disclosure: I’ve worked as an actor, and am at least partially insane), and has inspired many an auto-referential masterpiece since the earliest days of cinema.
Brazilian director Davi Pretto’s latest feature Castanha is yet another addition into this age-old genre, but with a docu-fiction twist that provocatively blurs the line between fantasy and reality. The film’s subject, João Carlos Castanha is a struggling, middle-aged actor who lives in a modest apartment with his elderly mother and makes his money putting on drag shows at local gay bars.
Sick, weary, and without companionship, Castanha is a man haunted by his past and obsessed with the idea of his own death. Pretto’s documentary gently peels back these complex layers as he shows a man for whom reality is increasingly blurred with the fictions he interprets day after day.
After premiering at this year’s Berlinale, Castanha recently picked up the top prize for Best Feature Film at the Rio Film Festival’s New Trends section.