Easier Without The Underwear

Brazilian filmmaker Daniel Ribeiro’s short film, I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone, won the Iris Prize in Cardiff in 2011. And now he has adapted it into the feature The Way He Looks. Jack Leger spoke to him as the film held its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival earlier this month.


Did you originally see this as a feature?

The character of Gabriel came first: a blind kid discovering he was gay. It was hard to do because it’s a 15-year-old actor playing a blind person. When we were shooting the short, I already had the first draft of the feature. Then the short got very popular, and I knew I couldn’t use the script I’d written – people have seen it. So I challenged myself to adapt it into a new film. For example, the actors are the same, but they’re 18 now, not 15, so there’s more sexuality, it’s more about their bodies. The short is mostly about first love, and the sexuality is stronger in the feature.


The boys get naked this time. Was that tricky to film?

No, everyone even the crew was very supportive. Being so young, the actors were motivated and very cool. Even with the shower scene. They were wearing underwear and at some point they were like, “Can we take this off because it’s distracting!” So they were very comfortable being naked on the set.

But they needed to look uncomfortable in that scene!

Well, it helped that it was so technical to shoot. Of course they’re also good actors, but wearing underwear made them uncomfortable because it was one more technical problem to worry about. When they took it off it was easier, because they only had to think about the camera.

Ghilherme Lobo, the actor who plays Gabriel, is still quite young.

He turned 15 on the last day of shooting the short. But he’s amazing. He isn’t actually blind, but he’s very observant and he came prepared. He has a background as a ballet dancer, so he’s very aware of his physicality

Was it ever an issue for such young actors to play a gay romance?

We didn’t even talk about those things. You never know how the actor’s parents might react, but they were all fine. I think it reflects this generation: they don’t care about that. And every actor wants to play a gay character! Although it’s no different from playing a straight character, they think it improves their versatility as an actor. But I think that playing a blind character overcomes any talk about playing a gay character.


• The Way He Looks opens in cinemas on 24th October.