NewFest: ‘The Way He Looks’ Director Daniel Ribeiro on Young Love and Casting His Leading Man

Posted by on 7.24.2014

Brazilian filmmaker Daniel Ribeiro's debut, the 2007 short You, Me and Him, won the Crystal Bear award at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival, Best Short Film (fiction) at the Grande Prêmio do Cinema Brasileiro, Best Short Film at the Brazilian Film Festival of Miami, Best Director of Shorts at the 15th Festival de Cinema e Vídeo de Cuiabá in Brazil, among others. Now his third film, The Way He Looks, has already won a Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival this year. It screens as part of the 26th NewFest, New York's LGBT Film Festival at the Film Society, July 24-29.

Stuck fending off bullies and over-protective parents, Leonardo spends his days allowing his best friend Giovana to drag him around town. Being blind has always been an inconvenience for Leonardo, but his angsty adolescence gets a lift when the handsome and smooth-talking Gabriel turns down numerous offers from ogling girls to hang with Leonardo after school. The longer they spend together, the more apparent their shared attraction becomes—not just to them but to a spurned Giovana as well. As social pressure mounts on both to fit within their confined social boxes, the two must decide whether to ignore their feelings or to throw caution to the wind and admit that they might actually be falling in love.

The Way He Looks
Daniel Ribeiro | Brazil | 2014 | 96m

Responses by Daniel Ribeiro:

On the origins of The Way He Looks...

My film is about a blind teenager falling in love with another guy. I thought that a blind character discovering he was gay would be a great way of discussing the origins of our sexuality. Leonardo is a character that has never seen a boy or a girl and he falls in love with a guy. Also, sexuality is usually associated with the sense of sight that a blind character brings a new approach to the way we fall in love or feel attracted the other people.

On the main character's first experience with love...

The main character, Leonardo, is a blind teenager discovering his sexuality. When a new guy arrives at his school, he starts to develop feelings for him, finding out he’s falling in love for the first time. It just happens to be with another boy...

On casting an actor to play a blind teenager...

The biggest challenge was to have a non-blind actor realistically portray someone who is blind. Ghilherme Lobo plays Leonardo amazingly, but we had to be very careful with every scene and movement, because we couldn't let the audience feel that he wasn’t blind.

On how previous LGBT films affected his career path...

Beautiful Thing is a film that impressed me, especially because I was a teenager when I first watched it. I had a boyfriend at the time and we saw ourselves in that movie, having our excitement and our conflicts portrayed on the screen. I think it’s a film that influenced my life and my desire to make films portraying gay characters in a very natural way.

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