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Interview with Director Gustavo Steinberg for 'Tito and the Birds' (2018)

Brazilian animation "Tito and the Birds" held its North American premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). A comment on the epidemic of global collective fear, the film tells the story about a worldwide panic caused plague spreading like rapid fire, which ages people then petrifies them. Tito's father had been close to finding a bird based cure to the disease when he caught it himself. Young Tito takes it upon himself to continue where his father left off and save the world from the spreading sickness.

The film is directed by Gustavo Steinberg, André Catoto and Gabriel Bitar. Composers Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat composed the original score. The film features the voices of Brazilian celebrities Denise Fraga, Matheus Nachtergaele, Mateus Solano and Otávio Augusto with the leading role played by Pedro Henrique. It is being distributed in North America by Shout! Factory and in France by Damned Distribution.


In a recent interviews with director Gustavo Steinberg, here is what he had to say:

How did the idea for the film begin? Was it based on real events?

GUSTAVO: It all started with the idea of the fear disease. It is based on reality as far as I'm from a very big city, Sao Paulo, where you can actually see that fear is very contagious. What I mean by this is that even though it is a huge city and it is indeed violent, the imagined violence is always greater than the actual violence. And you see how people catch fear from other people and with the help of the media. I mean, everybody is seeing that nowadays all over the world, right?


Do you prefer writing and directing animation to live action or will you continue to direct both?

GUSTAVO: I loved the experience of directing animation. There lots of challenges, but it's great to be able to create the whole universe. I also like the fact that it's a more paced process, even though it takes longer. For the kind of production structure that we have (or at least I have as a very very independent producer), animation gives more opportunities to get the film right. That being said, I could of course direct another live action project. It all depends on the project.


Was it difficult to have three directors on the film?

GUSTAVO: Yes and no. Of course yes because it's a lot of people, but we managed to split the work well. Gabriel worked more closely to the art direction and he was also the head of compositing. André designed worked more closely to the design of the characters. And I worked more with the story.


How did you go about casting the voices for the film?

GUSTAVO: We looked for some of the top talents in Brazil for the adults and for the kids we did a casting campaign to find the right talents. We tested a lot of very talented kids and we were very happy to select the best ones for the roles in the film. The kid who played Tito also dubbed the character in the English version, which was quite cool.


Do you find animation to have a bigger international market than live action films?

GUSTAVO: In theory, yes, but I haven't released the film yet, so we'll have to see. But already from the international sales and the theatrical releases that are going to happen we can see that the penetration is much bigger than with my previous films. I think it also has to do with being an animation. But you never know, maybe it's just a better film!


Do you think the film will translate well in other countries? 

GUSTAVO: We've had quite a bit of experience with international audiences, we went to more than fifty festivals around the world. And the response has been quite solid in different countries. Kids and adults get the whole fear disease thing, it's very close to their lives. They connect to it for different reasons, but it translates well pretty much everywhere. Of course in some countries it is stronger, because countries like the US and now Brazil have more of that actually happening or maybe happening in a larger scale.


Is it difficult to produce films now in Brazil?

GUSTAVO: Well, the new government in Brazil has just started 3 days ago. I don't know how it's going to be. But I can anticipate that it will change and probably get much more difficult, especially for critical films, such as Tito. But I sincerely don't how it's going to be. In fact, I think even the new government does not know how it's going to be, which makes things even more unsettling. 


You had your premiere at TIFF. How was that experience?

GUSTAVO: It was the first screening in a North American country. It was amazing! I think that the North American audiences connect even further with the movie because it's a Gonnies' style adventure. The kids surrounded me after the screening wanting to talk about the film. It was really awesome.


How have people responded to the film?

GUSTAVO: Well, in many different ways, as I said above. There are kids who get crazy about Tito and want to buy Tito's puppets instead of traditional superheroes (I seriously received this feedback!) to adults that cry a lot and send emotional emails. Anyhow, the most important thing is when kids recognize the villain Alaor Souza in real life - and they do!


What will you be working on next? 

GUSTAVO: I'm writing a new animation for kids. There's an algorithm in crisis and a lot of discussion about being connected.


View trailer here:



Interview by Vanessa McMahon


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Chatelin Bruno

Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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