Eduardo Coutinho came to Pamplona from Rio in February 2013 for a retrospective organised by Punto de Vista Film Festival. He was 80. Despite the risk that, at his age, he might refuse to deliver a talk after the screening of his films, we planned several presentations, lectures and even a morning meeting with film students. Coutinho also attended a meeting with the press along with German filmmaker Thomas Heise, who was also the subject of a retrospective, and held an interview for the Festival’s media library.
These were all the activities we had planned for him, but many in our team thought he would not be able to attend them all, considering his age and the level of activity during the Festival (some of the sessions finished past midnight). But Coutinho lived up to our expectations. He was present in all the talks and meetings, and he thanked us for giving him the chance to meet his audience. He spoke Spanish so well that there was no need to have an interpreter.
In the video screened at the closing ceremony, showing the Festival’s best moments, Eduardo said about Punto de Vista, ‘The most important thing about this Festival is that you have more time to talk with spectators. I’ve been in other retrospectives where I had no contact with my audience. What’s the use of this? None. Here, on the other hand, I’ve talked a lot with the people who watched my films, and the talks were so useful. Much more interesting than just screening the films. Because you feed of the ways in which people see your films.’
In the interview we held with him, he stressed the importance of the art of conversation: ‘the most complex form of human interaction’, as he described it. He then added that, in his documentaries, he communicated with the people with the eyes rather than the lens: ‘I don’t have the other person’s voice if I don’t look at them. I always look at the other person. If I only looked with my camera, something about communication would fail. There’s a thread between me and the character and it’s in the look.’
Coutinho believed in communication as unpredictable and unique: ‘You may have limited language skills, even be illiterate, and still be communication-wise. I’ve talked a lot with people who didn’t know how to write but were so accurate and eloquent when they spoke. In fact, guys who can’t write tend to develop sophisticated speaking skills, because it’s their only tool to reach other people, to conquer something in the world. The spoken word is all they have.’
About a year ago, Coutinho spent a few days with us. He struck us as an eloquent, wise, passionate, generous man. Punto de Vista will never stop thanking him for the gift he gave us.