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The Limits of Discourse

Eu Também Não Gozei (Dir.: Ana Carolina Marinho, 2024, Brazil/SP)

by Pedro Henrique Ferreira

          The documentary Eu Também Não Gozei (I Didn't Enjoy It Either) tackles an issue of essential importance that is less talked about than it should be in a country where 11.6 million families are made up of single mothers. He tries to do this in the style of critical realism, through the 'exemplary case': Letícia Bassit is a young upper-middle-class actress in her 30s who discovers she's pregnant, but isn't sure who the father is. The woman looks for the four most plausible possibilities, but only two of them give her any feedback, while the others ignore her. This is the beginning of a panacea for discovering the father, an exhausting process of searching for an identity that goes on throughout the birth. In 2019, Letícia had already published a book about her pregnancy, under the same title, which is inspired by the answer that one of the men gives her (actually, her reply to it). Filmmaker Ana Carolina Marinho documents the moment after the birth of her son, the period of adaptation and the journey to find DNA tests that can prove the father’s identity.

             The documentary strategy of Eu Também Não Gozei establishes an absolute adherence to its theme (that of paternal abandonment), similar to what some activist films like Toda Noite Estarei Lá or Na Missão com Kadu, for example, do. The camera joins in with the character, accompanying him on his daily life and journey, but not only that: it experiences the situation as a direct accomplice. The camera behind the lens is participative, its voice comes out of the field, dialoguing with the character, reflecting and being indignant at the situations it follows. There is no distanced gaze, whether out of coldness, reverence or respect, but rather one that reveres its subject as the chosen representative of the social and gender problem. In part, of course, this is due to the fact that Leticia participates in the realization itself, but this moral closeness doesn't just mean, in practice, adherence to the protagonist's cause. There is also a certain effort to transform the pro-filmic events and the material captured from them in order to mold them to the broader discourse of the work. This desire to imprint on reality the numerical and extensive concept that it seems to contain is what, for better or worse, makes Eu Também Não Gozei a thesis film. The paroxysm of this is a scene where the director talks to the character about what the film is about: the narrator makes the meaning of the work official, leaving no room for reality to impose itself.

          Of course, this stance, the effort to submit the pro-filmic world to the idea, which happens more frontally in the first half of the film, makes everything a little predictable and boring. All the staging (her singing a song by Ataulfo Alves in front of the mirror, the sequence where she is in the theater acting, among others) are there as poetic crutches to repeat the motto-synthesis of the speech. It's not just the reiteration that bothers me, because it's necessary to repeat certain themes as they continue to be somewhat ignored truths. It's the fact that reality finds it difficult to speak for itself, when someone is trying to speak for it all the time. Contradictions disappear, as does the dialectical development of what is seen. The image borders on didacticism, in the worst sense, and the film ends up treating its viewer a bit like an ignorant - which is what has always happened in these more deep-rooted strategies of critical realism.

           Fortunately, Eu Também Não Gozei manages to get away from this a little bit in its second half, and this is when the work gains renewed strength, a qualitative leap that makes it survive its weak points. The images become a little less verbose, a little less ventriloquist of their subject, and allow Letícia's feelings to be more eloquent than anything else. The disguised idolatry of solo motherhood leaves the scene and Leticia's daily suffering emerges, her endless panacea that becomes a kind of purgatory, even by the law, set against the moments of intimacy and affection with her son. The most deep-rooted and powerful contradictions of the problem of the 'absent father' emerge, affecting not only the son, but also the mother; for example, the camera's breath and respect for Leticia's crying at the obvious desire for the least evil of men to be her father, and then the alternative that seems hopeless to her of re-founding the family on other bases, living and sharing an apartment with another mother. This is where the movie gains in richness, complexity and development, both affectively and in terms of the strength of its discourse. 

           It's these moments that really mobilize us against the problem of parental abandonment. Perhaps the issue has to do with the same old difference between telling and showing in cinema. There is a lot of talk about the ethical position of the camera in relation to the documented object, in relation to its subject. This concerns, of course, how to respect it, not treat it with cruelty, indifference or coldness, among other things. In the face of so many moral demands, there is one that is sometimes a little forgotten: freedom, letting it be what it is. 

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