Where are you, João Gilberto? sets out in the footsteps of German writer Marc Fischer who obsessively searched for the legendary founding father of Bossa Nova, Brazilian musician João Gilberto, who has not been seen in public for decades. Fischer described his journey in a book, Hobalala, but committed suicide one week before it was published. By taking up Marc Fischer’s quest, following his steps one by one, thanks to all the clues he left us, we pursue João Gilberto to understand the history, the very soul and essence of Bossa Nova. But who can tell whether we will meet Gilberto or not?
The film is a detective story lying somewhere between film and literature and follows a double intrigue: Marc Fischer, the author of the book, is looking for the mysterious João Gilberto, and I, the filmmaker, take up the quest in Fischer’s footsteps looking for João.
I read Marc Fischer’s book three years after his death. I was very moved by its honesty and immediately understood that Marc Fischer was motivated by his love of João Gilberto’s music, by the search for absolute beauty that he recognized in his music.
An astonishing analogy exists between Marc’s quest to unveil the essence of Brazilian music and my own search. I write and direct musical films, and have since 2003 focused on Brazilian music and culture. I have made three feature-length films on this subject.
So Marc’s story concerns me directly, our paths have crossed in a surprising manner: in 2010 we were both in Rio and walked the same streets at the same time. Marc was looking for Brazilian musicians who had played with Gilberto, most of whom I’ve known personally for many years and some of who are even in my films.
I myself tried many times during my stays in Brazil to meet João Gilberto, to no avail.
So it could be said that I recognize myself in Marc Fischer. We’re both from northern Europe: I was born in Paris and have lived in Zurich since 1981; Marc was born in Hamburg and lived in Berlin. We share a passion for Brazilian music and the optic from which we view Brazil is that of a stranger.
I think that the deepest motivation for both his book and my film is “saudade” (Portuguese), or “die Sehnsucht” (German).
This expression in German, which constantly comes back in Marc Fischer’s book, is untranslatable in English or French. But strangely enough, it corresponds rather perfectly to the Brazilian “saudade”. (The first Bossa Nova song that João Gilberto recorded is called Chega de Saudade/Pour en finir avec la saudade—roughly in English: “to bring an end to longing/yearning”).
He/She who languishes wants to obtain or possess someone or something that he/she knows from the very start is very probably unattainable. But sometimes the seeker finds something entirely different in the end. For Marc Fischer, the Bossa Nova rhythm is the “saudade” and its magical performer is João Gilberto.
Fischer was a romantic, his desire carries him to the music of an exotic country and in that he joins the long list of Germans nostalgic for a faraway country, “that of flowering lemon trees”.
My close scrutiny of the book and its adaptation into a film has brought to light a few questions about my own work, especially that of the past few years, focused on Brazilian music. Why does one do something? What is it one does? – these are questions that can never be answered in any comprehensive fashion.
Almost incidentally, the film tells the story of Bossa Nova; it evokes that extraordinary time at the beginning of the 60s when everything seemed possible in Brazil. The national soccer team had just won its second World Cup, the revolutionary architect, Niemeyer, was building Brazil’s new capital in the middle of the desert and Bossa Nova had jumped to the top of the world’s hit-parade charts, thanks to, among others, the voice of an international star, Frank Sinatra, and the saxophone of Stan Getz.
This film is also, indirectly, a portrait of João Gilberto, and is also the first portrait of him ever made.
The objective is not to succeed where Marc Fischer failed, i.e., to bring João Gilberto in front of the camera. The physical presence of João Gilberto is not a precondition for the film’s success. The incertitude when it comes to the success of the endeavor, which was truly experienced by the film crew, gives substance and veracity to the quest.
In 2004, Caetano Veloso spoke of the importance of João Gilberto to the neophyte Georges Gachot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuKmTQvqgBY
João Gilberto, the hunt for the missing poet . In a brilliant documentary, Swiss director Georges Gachot sets out to meet the reclusive bossa nova genius. Where are you, João Gilberto? is not only a portrait of a musical genius who chose to disappear during his lifetime, it is also a metaphor for the quest for initiation, for unrequited love and for a voice that slips away. LE TEMPS
Through this experience, then, we are simply rediscovering – over and over again – that ghosts are one of the fundamental ingredients of cinema. FILMEXPLORER
„By being beautifully simple and light within its own melancholia, Where are you, Joao Gilberto? embraces the spirit of the Bossa Nova (..) and becomes, with no doubts, a film about and beyond Brazil itself.“ DIE WELT
“An appealing, touching film that reveals the love a stranger has for aspects of Brazil that no longer exist today.” O ESTADO DE SÃO PAULO
“In this film, the director uses absence to explore emptiness (….) In a way, Where are you, Joao Gilberto? speaks of the impossibility of filling that emptiness.” O’GLOBO
“This is a film about a mad man – directed by a mad man who is looking for another mad man.” GLAMURAMA (Miucha Buarque)
A Genius of absence “Gachot is still the master when it comes to creating palpitating moments with the film’s participants.” VEJA (Sérgio Martins)
LE TEMPS • Le réalisateur part dans un documentaire brillant à la rencontre du génie reclus de la Bossa nova.
PASSION CINEMA • Un voyage musical empreint de magie et de suspense: Gachot retrouvera-t-il João?.
FILMEXPLORER • Par cette expérience, alors, nous ne faisons que redécouvrir — toujours et encore — que les fantômes sont un des ingrédients fondamentaux du cinéma.
Adorocinema (4,5*) • Menina que via filmes „Vale muito a pena assistir, principalmente como terapia para a syndrome do vira-lata…“
VERTENTES DO CINEMA • A experiência da arte e o questionamento acerca desta são um fim em si. A realização do público está no processo, e não numa resolução. Portanto é elementar que nunca saibamos responder “onde está João Gilberto”. Nossa própria busca por ele é o que mantém e manterá a nebulosa matéria da arte para sempre viva. Michel Araújo
Video: „Sera mas simples encontrar Charlie que Joao Gilberto“. Qualquer Coisa