Brazilian Cinematography



By Lito Mendes da Rocha, ABC

Since the pre-production of “Desalma”, there has always been great care in relation to narrative thinking, a concern with establishing a cinematographic grammar. How to position the camera, where and with what movement? How to create suspense in an original way? The long-standing partnership with Carlos Manga Jr, the project’s general director, was fundamental in this process. We’ve been working together since 2004 and our cinematographic look is moving in the same direction, which has made the work more fluid.

The dramatic charge is what determines the choices of each scene. The different moments demand a certain type of look. The camera moves for a reason, not just because you have the tool in your hand. In “Desalma”, there is a mix between shots with fixed camera, Steadicam and punctual tracking shots. Subjective shots and handheld camera were used sparingly, at specific times.

“Desalma” is a supernatural drama. All the visual and sound aspects were thought to create this atmosphere. Tension and suspense are very present. Cinematography plays a key role in creating these elements. The technical tools were well thought out so as not to anesthetize the spectator. A fixed frame focused on the actor’s expression can be much more impactful than any camera movement. Silence speaks. The sound, the track and the montage as well.

Before starting a project, I like to evaluate the camera’s response from recorded tests with the colorist and the DIT. In both seasons of “Desalma”, the visual concept is the same, but the camera has changed. In the first one, we used the Sony Venice Super35 with Cooke S4 lenses. In the second, we opted for the Venice LF (Large Format) with Zeiss Supreme Prime.

The experience of working with Manga is always very pleasant. The elaboration of the light, the framing and the camera movements are the verve of his work philosophy. The frames were defined with the camera in hand and only then were fixed on a support. He is a generous director and knows how to stimulate the team, which makes everyone work with commitment and satisfaction. He has a great appreciation for technical and narrative quality. He has a deep knowledge of all departments and knows how to precisely target the concept and his vision for everyone.

The series covers three different eras: 1989, 1995 and 2019. Each of these moments follows a different aesthetic concept developed after filming together with Sérgio Pasqualino (colorist) and Manga:

The intention of the color for the past was to create a warmer atmosphere, with more yellowish and saturated tones. A strong presence of grain, explosion of high lights and contrast.

The ’95 period color would be a continuation of the 1980s, but a little more toned down. The atmosphere becomes a little cooler and slightly greenish, but without losing the original characteristic of the colors.

For the present, we opted for an aesthetic with the most reliable colors. Planes with chromatic separation, between hot and cold, in addition to a slightly less saturated grain.

The lighting is motivated by the environment and what it has to offer, which makes the dialogue with the art direction essential. Understanding the light sources of each era and the possibilities of practical lights relevant to each location is essential. The integration with the art direction and the way of narrating through camera movements and positioning are the important things for our grammar. The lights are part of the “production design”. This creates the concept of light for each scenario.

As it is a Ukrainian colony in southern Brazil, I tried to simulate in the locations an Eastern European light: softer and with rare moments of direct sunlight in the interiors. Often it was more about where to take light out than where to add it. The black cloth was used many times in order to negate the scenes. This cinematic thinking was practiced both on location and in the studios.

I chose to use the windows as the main light source together with practical lights scattered throughout the environments. In the interiors at night, I tried to work with a chromatic contrast between hot and cold, always respecting this language of scenographic light, determining the positioning of the sources.

Part of the second season was filmed in the studio and part on location. Many of the environments of the houses from the first season were reproduced in the studio, where the great challenge was to simulate the windows of the original locations. For this, plotters were placed with photos of the exteriors of the locations 5 meters from the studio windows. Then I extended a large butterfly above the plotter and windows and threw in a bounce font. This source illuminated the plotter, which was overexposed, while returning to the windows, where the light was filtered by a translucent curtain. This light arrived soft and diffused on the actors’ skin, bringing the concept of the location to the studio.

The studio recordings were produced at Globo. Going from the usual studio standard, I used HMI’s reflectors instead of tungsten Fresnels. This was only possible because there was a gigantic park of Goya’s (former HMI’s) that were stopped at the station. Everyone asked me: why not use window-filtered Fresnel? Contrary to what is usually done, I chose to build a ceiling in all scenarios. With that, I respected the lighting concept of the locations, disregarding the aerial grid. Another informality was choosing not to work with the fourth wall, as I wanted to respect the physical space of the scenario.

On day outdoors shots, I followed the same naturalistic line, avoiding using reflectors most of the time. The straw floor of the forest served as a natural and very soft reflector, respecting the zenith lighting originating from the trees. This light from above generated dark circles in the characters, which was assumed to be language. The texture and colors of the vegetation were essential to convey the otherworldly atmosphere. Sometimes the sun penetrated through the leaves providing beams of light along the woods and creating depth.

The nights in the forest were a challenge. For these scenes, I chose to illuminate the background with opposite axes of light, always using the studio’s Goya’s diffused with 3010 and 3026. The objective was to illuminate the largest possible area, using the center of the illuminated region, avoiding the extremes, where it was too light or too dark. In the more closed shots that involved several characters, it was possible to diffuse these harder light sources with 4×4 butterflies. In addition, small sources such as flashlights and cell phone lamps were used in these plans. In the night forest, we always work with a 1.5 diaphragm.

Desalma is a very special project in my career. We had a good pre-set time, approximately 12 weeks, which allowed us to prepare and arrive on set with everything studied. It was the first fiction project that I did in partnership with Manga, because before that we had only done advertising. I had the freedom and opportunity to execute my ideas in the best possible way and I consider it a very important job in my career.

Synopsis: In the second season of the series, a mysterious visitor arrives in the city of Brigid and worries the witch Haia Lachovicz. Impactful information about the characters’ past is revealed in scenes that take place in Brazil and Ukraine in previous decades. In the present day, Roman and Halyna’s spirits return from the dead to torment the Skavronski family through possession of Anatoli and Melissa’s bodies.

Creation: Ana Paula Maia
Artistic Direction: Carlos Manga Jr.
Photography: Lito Mendes da Rocha
Scenography: Paula Salles
Lighting Director: Conrado Roel
Camera: Marcos Siqueira Fernandes, Leonardo Parnace and João Victor Giovanni
Colorization: Sérgio Pasqualino

Foto: Estevam Avellar


In recent years, Lito Mendes da Rocha has signed cinematography for the series “Desalma” (Globoplay, 2022 and 2019), “Manhãs de Setembro” (Amazon. 2021), “Sintonia” (Netflix, 2018), “Motel” (HBO, 2014). ) and ” Felizes Para Sempre” (Globo, 2014). He has photographed feature films such as “Serra Pelada” (2013), by Heitor Dhalia, “Trinta” (2012), by Paulo Machline, “O Natimorto” (2008), by Paulo Machline, “Celeste & Estrela” (2005), by Betse de Paula, “Todos os Corações do Mundo” (1994), by Murilo Salles, and “16060”, by Vinicius Mainardi, as well as dozens of commercials and award-winning short films, such as “Ozebriolouco” (1989), ” Nayara, a Mulher Gorila” (1991) and Oscar-nominated ” Uma História de Futebol” (1999). He is a partner at ABC (Associação Brasileira de Cinematografia), studied cinema at Faap (Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado) and started working as a camera assistant in 1983. episode of the first season of “Desalma”, in 2010 with an advertisement for Inhotim and in 2005 for the commercial “Vamos Fugir”, in addition to having been awarded at the festivals of Brasília and Cine Ceará, among other awards.

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