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5 Questions for Gabriel Mascaro of Neon Bull

An honourable mention for TIFF’s inaugural Toronto Platform Prize, Gabriel Mascaro’s Neon Bull received a richly deserved theatrical release. This documentary-like Brazilian film was actually sold to the American company Kino Lorber the day that Mascaro was in Toronto to premiere the film. The movie, ostensibly about the Brazilian rodeo, truly is quite well-produced, shot and edited. Though Neon Bull may not be to everyone’s taste, the film is exceptionally memorable. We sat down with Mascaro, along with his translator, producer, editor, wife and newborn baby in the green room of the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Scene Creek: How did you conceive of this movie?

Gabriel Mascaro: That is a big, difficult question. (laughing) I have a particular fascination with the body. This show, the vaquejada is the perfect showcase for the transformation of the body. I’m thinking about humans and animals and the choreography of transformation, how violence and pleasure can cohabit the same body. Bravery and its ability in the same place. Really, a transfiguration of the body, the woman horse is not a blending of the two, but a transfiguration.

SC: Can we talk some of the difficult scenes?

GM: The big challenge is working with the bulls and the horses. Anything can go wrong that is different than the script. There really isn’t a script that they can follow. So that were two sets, a set with fake animals, and one with the vaquejada, with the real animals.

SC: Can we talk about the horse semen scene?

GM: What do you want to know? Is it real? It’s really real. It’s a real scene and when the actor read the script, he thought it would be a prosthetic, and for this scene, the actor actually had to ask “is this for real”, and the actor when he got there, he said “this is too much, I’m not going to do it, unless he does it first.” And I did it, I couldn’t lose the scene. It was very hot.

In another scene, everybody left and the guy was straightening his hair, and by allowing that, the guy took back the humour and allowed for the beauty of the scene.

SC: We were going to ask why the woman at the end was pregnant, but…

GM: (laughing wildly) In the context of Brazil and transformation, a sex scene where people make clothes, that they get dressed, is a contradiction. Thinking about making love to or having sex with a pregnant woman in Brazil, a lot of men wouldn’t even consider that, but challenging the context. In the scene, there’s total control in the sexual relationship, of her body, her power.

SC: She was really pregnant?

GM: She was really pregnant.

SC: And they were really…?

GM: I’ve never asked them this. And I have no idea what happened.

Neon Bull is now playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.