The Teacher, Art, Music, Animation and Cinema

Margarida Moreira believes that the reason why human beings produce art, be it music, cinema, literature, painting, etc..., is because they feel a great need for answers to the many existential doubts that follow them their whole life. This is why she makes films such as "The Teacher".

"The Teacher" is about Gisela who is a committed student of Fine Arts in Lisbon. She nurtures enormous respect and admiration for her painting teacher, Mestre Ávila, an internationally renowned artist.

One day Gisela and her boyfriend visit Ávila's atelier in Sintra. Then the couple faces embarrassing proposals from the teacher. After the fright and astonishment Gisela and Januário talk about the unusual proposals of Avila; afterwards they went to meet the teacher and told him about the difficult decision they have taken...

Will the love between Gisela and Januário survive so much mishap in the house and atelier of Master Ávila??

It was our pleasure to speak to the director of the film.

What inspired you to start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?

My learning and artistic growth took place with VISUAL ARTS, in my late teens, but the fascination with cinema began at an early age: I collected pictures of actors and actresses - I cut them out of the magazines I had at home - I spread everything around my room so that I could look at it, and then arranging them by categories ... this happened in the early 1960´s What interests me in the art of cinema ... is the recreation of the idea of the world, that allows a certain creative way and that´s a great appeal for me. The first film project directed by me, happened in a learning context- in “Introduction to Animation Cinema” Course, at the Modern Art Center (ACARTE) of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, in 1985/86.


What was the motivation behind the making of The Teacher?

In the final phase of my professional life cycle as a teacher, I taught Multimedia in High-School for a while, this encouraged me to think how good it would be to have my own film projects too, so I decided to create articulated dolls for Stop-Motion, in my spare time; on account of that I got many articulated puppets, and three of them ended up being the characters in the film The Teacher. Then I looked for a story, and as a result of that, I read Joaquim Bispo's short story, “O Mestre”(The. Teacher) – and I considered it quite suitable for my dolls! Behind those facts I have a true love for art creation… and that´s how all this together motivated me to make “The Teacher”.


How did you find the cast and the crew of the film and what were some of the challenges of making the film?

So, the film has three characters and the people that gave voice to those characters were found among my personal relationships - Pedro Caetano - who plays Mestre Ávila (the teacher), Sandra Antunes, plays -Gisela (a student in Lisbon Art School), and Dinis Brito Nascimento, plays -Januário (Gisela's boyfriend). I talked with them and I believed that they had the capacity and fit the profile for that task, so I challenged them and they accepted to do the voices. Throughout the process of making the film, I used to show my daughter- Fernanda Moreira Amado, (a Photographer)- from time to time, the different segments of the film that were made- she gave me opinions and we exchanged ideas- so she was my Artistic Consultant. It is always interesting to have opinions from people you trust, and are not involved in the construction of the film-- a perspective out of the box. I also had occasional help from two neighbors: Helena Gen sewed Mestre Àvila's vest, in the last scene in which he appears at the door of his bedroom and Liliana Pinto helped to film some plans. The song I chose "Divagando", is free of copyright, by the fado singer Armandinho, who died a long time ago. In what concerns the crew, I had no choice then doing all the tasks by myself - I had no conditions to have a team, to be working with me. For that reason, the film took so much time to be done. At the end, I had to re-edit all the frames, in order to obtain images with more quality, because I didn´t work with professional equipment as well - for that, I had the help of two of my former students in high school; I also turned to the company PIXEL Bunker, for some technical issues -I found them by searching in the Internet. The challenges I had where many: because I made the film all by myself, in my spare time (I was a teacher when I started), I always had to stop the process, cutting off abruptly my inspiration at a certain moment, to carry on the work many days, weeks or months later… and things could be depressing sometimes, ... I even thought about giving up ... it is a lot of work just for one person ... and also a very lonely process. Anyway, I tried to focus and finally reached my goal, which makes me feel quite happy; but if I had the chance to have a team of professionals working with me it would have been much more stimulating and the work could certainly be better!


Which directors have been influential to your work? Please name three of your most favorite directors.

I built a sense of artistic thinking and an attitude of non-normative freedom for animation cinema, largely from my experience as an animation student, first in Lisbon at The Animation Course I did at ACARTE (CENTRO DE ARTE MODERNA da FUNDAÇÃO CALOUSTE GULBENKIAN), and after at ROYALL COLLEGE OF ARTS, in London. In both of those places, I saw very good animation, like films by Jan Švankmajer, Norman McLaren, Susan Young, and many others .... The aspects that most fascinates me in those directors are their great creativity, and the fact that each one of them, creates films artistically so peculiar and diverse from each other. Like them, I also seek, in my time, conditions and a space to express myself artistically so that my personal and intellectual fulfillment might happen from it.


Do you consider yourself an independent filmmaker? Why?

We humans are social beings but also individuals that are able to make our own choices. Society may like or not like those choices. It is up to each of us to decide what we want and wait to see if we can survive in an environment that does not accept us. In conclusion, we have always the choice to be dependent or independent. We have to analyse wich of those ways contribute more to our inner harmony and if the reception and reward that society gives us back, it's enough to survive. Yes, I consider myself a person with a lot of mindset to be an independent director, because this is what connects better with my personal / intellectual happiness.


Do you recommend film schools or does making a film teach you more?

I recommend film schools. We learn a lot from others ... Since we are born, we are always in a learning process, having all the others living and non-living persons as role models. But it is after school that we definitely choose our path... Both experiences are important: being in a school where you learn how to and make films or making them outside the school. Outside, we may choose other influences, and feel more free to make our personal artistic options, because we are not under the academic cultural direct influence. Theoretical knowledge is important, but the real test happens when we do things, … the film's “laboratory”, the set, is the place to make the final decisions, it's where many ideas that we considered to be ideal, can be sometimes set aside, giving place to new ones, in this contact with the reality of making... The films production process, shapes it´s configuration in a unique way, but of course it is very important to think a film, to have a vision about it, before doing it… that is essential… In any subject of life, we must think before we act…


What are you currently working on?

I'm finishing a tutorial on how to make articulated dolls for stop motion and starting a Documentary about Carnival. This documentary will be made in an academic context, as I am currently a student at Escola Kino Doc in Lisbon.


What is the most challenging aspect of making an indie film and distribution in the digital era?

The most challenging aspect of making an indie film is to having to face several production difficulties, in the particular case of "The Teacher", specially for not having a decent budget, or no budget at all. About the distribution part, now, in the digital era, we can take advantage of sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Tweeter, to run campaigns to advertise our film and use the VOD (Video on Demand) system to show it to the audiences. Although, hardly an Indie film can afford a big advertising campaign like the other mainstream films have on TV, or Magazines. I think that watching a movie at the cinema is a very different experience than watching it at home, in the computer or mobile phone. Going to the theater is a special event in our life, a pretext for people to meet and be close to each other, outside of their daily routines; in theaters we can watch a movie in a comfortable space, created only for that purpose, with the best conditions for image, sound, that allow the right silence and the audience attention. Many of the Indie films did not make it to the theaters, due to difficulties in distribution.


What kind of impact would you like to have in your audience as a filmmaker?

I would like that when people watch my films, don’t get bored, by keeping their attention and interest until the end. After the movie ends, I would like people to feel that they need some time to come back to reality, to disconnect from that piece of art that has reached their soul in a certain way . Finally, it would be good if, despite the passage of time, from time to time, they could remember my movies, letting their memories came back with a new attachment, a new enlightenment, or even interpretation.


Why do you make films and what makes cinema stand out to you as a filmmaker?

I feel personally and intellectually fulfilled when I'm making films, because with this artistic language I can express multiple thoughts . I think that culture in general, and cinematographic language in particular, has great potential for people to explore the world surrounding opening up to possibilities to observe and express themselves through other points of view, and with other emotions as well. People can get to know each one better watching divergent cinematographers from different parts of the world – that can lead to a desire for greater human closeness, and that is important to our self-development.

© Toronto Film Mag I 2021