“A year in Antarctica” by Julia Martins to screen at IFFNY

The full length documentary “A year in Antarctica” follows a group of fifteen Brazilian Navy men and women who spent 12 months in charge of maintaining the Brazilian scientific research station. Directed and written by Julia Martins; produced by Izabella Faya and Fernanda Reznik, it is set to screen at 3:30 pm on Monday, May 28, 2018 as part of the competition program of the International Filmmaker Festival of New York (location: Producers Club Theater, 358 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036). 


Julia Martins works in the independent film industry since 2002 as director, producer, writer and editor. “A Year in Antarctica” is her second full-length documentary. Her previous documentary is called “The Middle Way” (2014), depicting a week in the lives of lower middle class families from each of the BRICS member countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Furthermore, she co-directed a television series in 5 episodes on the same subject.

Among her other projects, she was co-director and editor of the full-length documentary “Transcending Lynch” (2009), an up close portrait of the American filmmaker David Lynch in his visit to Brazil. And it is noteworthy her work as the director, screenwriter and editor of the fantastic fiction film “Fools’ Street” (2010).

Julia is a PhD student in Literature with a Masters Degree from PUC-Rio. She has lived abroad in England, France and Japan, where she finished her undergraduate studies.

Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Filmmaker Julia Martins

NY Elite: Congratulations on being an official selection at the prestigious International Filmmaker Festival of New York. What are your thoughts about being accepted at IFFNY 2018 film festival and having your film screen in New York City?

Julia Martins: We had just finalized the film when it was selected at the festival. I am very excited that it will have its world premiere right in NY, a city that is such a reference worldwide. Surely, it is a great opportunity to expose myself to critiques and contributions that will help me grow professionally.

NY Elite: Out of the 500 submissions world-wide, your film was selected as the top 40 for IFFNY. What does this mean for you in terms of representing your country/city at this international film competition?

Julia Martins: I have to confess I was a bit surprised when I found out that the film was selected at the IFFNY. I was thinking: why would Americans be interested on a film about the Brazilian presence in Antarctica? But I guess the film is not limited to this, it is about people, regardless of their origins. And the people in the film are extraordinary, they are simple, sensitive and determined at the same time. Besides, I believe that the element of surprise might have attracted some attention. It is unexpected to see that Brazil, a tropical country, is present in Antarctica.

NY Elite: With what project are you partaking at IFFNY 2018? What is it about?

Julia Martins: We are at the festival with the documentary “A Year in Antarctica”, which follows a group of fifteen Brazilians in the Navy who spent 12 months away from Brazil, their families and friends, maintaining the activities of the Brazilian station that supports scientific research of our country in the frozen continent. The film crew traveled three times to the station and the group members themselves recorded their experiences during the winter, when the base becomes inaccessible. The film reveals something most Brazilians are unaware of and offers a very different image of Brazil abroad. After all, what is a tropical country such as ours doing in Antarctica?

NY Elite: Who else is involved in the making of this project? Tell us a little bit more about the story and who is in it.  

Julia Martins: We were only three in the film crew: the director of photography, the sound recordist and me. The Brazilian Navy was very supportive, and so was the Brazilian Cinema Agency, which funded the project. 3 Tabela Filmes is the producing company in charge of the film and Fernanda Reznik is the producer. And I would like to call attention to Pedro Urano’s beautiful cinemascope photography and João Nabuco’s equally beautiful instrumental soundtrack.

Contrary to what one might expect from a documentary in Antarctica, the film in not focused on nature but rather on the human experience, and more specifically the Brazilian take on it – maybe a little bit along the lines of Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World, which took place at the American MacMurdo station. The group included 14 men from several regions of Brazil and the one woman among them, Dr Fátima Oladejo, the physician, affectionately called Doc. Throughout the winter, that lasts between 7 and 8 months in which the station is inaccessible, the group remained completely isolated, having only received a few cargo drops.

The station allows Brazil to host researchers in the Antarctic Peninsula, and thus be a part of the Antarctic Treaty. Biologists and other scientists are therefore most of the ever fluctuant population of the base. This is a world of plastic containers, lichens, algae, mosses and bryophytes, a world of samples, climate surveys, atmospheric waves and terrain measurements… Whether they are military or scientists, they are all on a mission, which they must accomplish in due time, as long as the local conditions allow it.


NY Elite: What message do you want to convey with this project?

Julia Martins: This is a film that has faced several obstacles and setbacks while it was being made. The shootings of “A Year in Antarctica” were planned to begin in 2012. However, a week before the crew would travel, a tragedy forced a change of plans: fire destroyed nearly 70% of the Antarctic Station Comandante Ferraz ending up with the death of two officials. The next year, a temporary complex was built to shelter scientists and military at the station and they were able to resume the Brazilian scientific activities in the continent. And so we could resume our production filming it, at last, between 2015 and 2016, at the Antarctic emergency modules, in King George Island, at the Antarctic Peninsula. The new station will be inaugurated in 2018.

Even after we resumed our production, during the shooting there were unexpected events that made us change the initial concept of the film. On the first trip, the crew and the group were 15 days anchored in Chilean waters aboard a Brazilian Navy ship, unable to move on until the ice would thaw and the navigation conditions would become favorable again. Thus, the ship became an important chapter of the film, as a token of things to come.

Just to have an idea, on the second trip, the crew did not even manage to arrive at the Brazilian station. What we could quickly understand was that there are circumstances beyond our control, which leave us no choice. In the face of nature, as mighty as it is in Antarctica, we can only submit and try to adapt. I think this is one message that comes with the film. There are forces against which we are just too small. But there are also adventures, or missions, that make us bigger.

NY Elite: The Red Carpet Opening Ceremony and the Awards Gala will take place at the renowned Kaufman Astoria Studios of New York. Do you plan to attend the IFFNY Festival taking place on May 25-29, 2018? What do you want the audience at IFFNY to take away from this film?

Julia Martins: I have only been to NY once and I loved it more than I would have expected. I especially liked having breakfast at the coffee places in Manhattan. New York is a delightful city that feels surprisingly cozy. But, unfortunately, I think I will not be able to make it to the Festival, since I have a little baby a few months old at home, my first daughter. But who knows, maybe I will find a way to take her to New York with me? I would love to come back and attend the IFFNY…

I guess documentaries can help different people to better know each other. And I hope the audience at IFFNY will take away a bit of knowledge about Brazil and our people.

NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

Julia Martins: For me, a great film has to be able to move me, that is mostly what I seek from a cinematic experience, or from art in general: to move and be moved. So it is important that the film comes from a true place. Live action films and documentaries have very different characteristics. In the case of fiction, a good screenplay is the starting point. That does not mean that everything must be in the screenplay, quite the opposite, actually.

But the screenplay is a guideline, even if it is limited to a few lines. What I mean is that cinematic discourse in order to be innovative must be based on something true; otherwise it just feels empty. In the case of a documentary, on the other hand, it depends a lot on its approach and the possibilities offered by the topic itself. But whether it is fiction or a documentary, everything relies on telling a good story.

NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/projects you have been involved in?

Julia Martins: As editor, I have worked on several projects, but my most remarkable experiences involved my own films. “A Year in Antarctica”, of course, was one of the my most exciting projects, and one of the hardest as well. Another project that was very hard to accomplish wasThe Middle Way”, my previous documentary, when I stayed for a week with a lower middle class family from each of the BRICS member countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This film was shot during more hopeful times in Brazil…

And I guess I would mention my fantastic fiction film “Fools’ Street”, a 40 minute medium-length film which I wrote, edited and directed. It was important as it helped me find out my way of making fiction and it is available at: https://vimeo.com/106941900

NY Elite: What are your career highlights and achievements thus far?

Julia Martins: Being selected at IFFNY is definitely at the top of them. But every time I finish a film, I consider it a major achievement.

I think that the moment I am proudest in my career is when David Lynch made a personal comment on my film “Fools’ Street”, mentioned before. I had the chance to meet him when I co-directed a film about his visit to Brazil to disseminate transcendental meditation – the film is titled “Transcending Lynch”.

About “Fools’ Street” he wrote to me: “Very interesting film – strange story (as in the fact that I have never seen a story like this – or a world like this) with real nice pace and mood. The directing was great and the lead actress did great.”

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

Julia Martins: I have always written. And for me editing and cinematography are other ways of writing.  In cinema, I follow two paths side by side: fiction and documentary, I practice them both. I write fiction and I joined the industry to make fiction, but as an editor, I worked with so many documentaries I ended up getting very familiar with this form of language. And Brazil has a strong tradition in documentaries. The slightly longer interviews of a personal nature in “A Year in Antarctica” inherit a lot from that tradition.

NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?

Julia Martins: I can only speak from personal experience. At school, I did not study filmmaking, I graduated in International Relations. And that was good for me, having worked with the industry without previous formal education in that area. But everyone has their story, and I do not want to dissuade anyone from studying at a film school. But in my case, I felt quite free to experiment, like I didn’t owe anything to anyone, and I felt a great thrill in every discovery I made by myself, in practice. Another aspect worth mentioning is that I got in the industry through one door, which was editing. I started editing films and I fell in love with the profession, with what it was to edit, to engineer emotions and meanings. So you have to get in through a door, or several at the same time: screenplay, photography, editing… You have to think and write using images, and that I learned from editing.

NY Elite: What’s next for you?

Julia Martins: The next months will be dedicated to concluding my PhD while I take care of my daughter, still a baby. But I have just written my first feature fiction, Dream Plantation, with the support of the Brazilian Cinema Agency, and we are looking for funding sources.

Dream Plantation keeps a close connection to dreaming. And one should not aim to explain dreams; but rather dream them. Likewise, this story happens in a place where logic is not pure. The film has two halves with very different rules and at no point it tries to be realistic. Body and mind, reality and fantasy intertwine in this strange story of a ballerina balancing herself between two worlds.

I believe we will be shooting it next year.


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