No táxi do Jack (Jack’s Ride): An interview with director Susana Nobre
No táxi do Jack (Jack’s Ride) merges the boundaries of fiction and documentary style storytelling as it explores the working life, ethics and geographical stories surrounding a hardworking Portuguese immigrant.
The film is another compelling full-length feature from Lisbon-born director Susana Nobre, this time offering viewers a journey into the memory atlas of Joaquim Calcada’s life as he leaves his native country in search of the American Dream. Taking up various jobs in New York, including long hours as a chauffeur, his unfalteringly levelheaded pride in the way he presents himself is beautifully captured by Nobre, even as he is forced into early unemployment not long before his official retirement.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Susana Nobre to discuss why she decided to tell his story, what she hopes viewers will take away and how it feels to premiere at the 71st Berlinale.
Thank you for speaking to us today. Perhaps you could put into words the story you wanted to tell with Jack’s Ride?
I think it’s about a journey of Joaquim’s life triggered by an absurd situation – that he finally finds himself an employee pushed to retirement, and he needs to ask for stamps to assure [his] unemployment benefits. So in those travels for the stamps we see his life experience as an immigrant in the United States, and why he left Portugal in the 60s. It’s a a portrait, a biographical film about his life.
Of all the people you met in your job at a governmental unemployment centre, what drew you to this story in particular?
I think it was his character; his very complex personality. From the beginning of being in Portugal and then heading to to New York to work as a cab driver with only 300 dollars in his pocket, I think it’s something very courageous from him, trying to fight for a better life. That inspired me a lot. His flamboyant character, the way the way he wears things gives him a certain youth, a certain mundanity, a certain power. I think that makes for a good story. He’s quite intriguing for viewers.
The contrasting cinematography from Paolo Menezes for the fictional and documentary sections beautifully juxtaposes the quieter industrial countryside of Portugal with the energy of New York. Did it turn out exactly as you planned?
From the beginning I had idea that the future would create its own territory, its own geographical experience. I said that I wanted to join Portugal and America in the film, I wanted to put it all together, not only in the geographical sense, but in a ghostly way too through his collection of memories, and I think we did that.
As an independent filmmaker, how does it feel to have the world premiere of Jack’s Ride in the Forum section of the 71st Berlin Film Festival?
It’s a very good moment! I put a lot of myself in this film, and I feel relief because I worked so hard on it. So, I’m happy!
What were some of the challenges during filming process?
Putting all those passages into one single layer. Yes, putting it all together, I think. Making sure not to rock the relationship with the spectator by putting all these layers into one film, but also trying to make sure the viewer is transported to all these different time zones smoothly.
During the pandemic we’ve seen many studios release more films online. Do you think your work will reach a wider audience this way?
Well, I hope this is temporary! I think it’s the same everywhere, people are now seeing films on all these different platforms. You have a huge loss of spectators that can go to the cinema. It’s very difficult to manage – to manage distribution on screen. It’s something that we need to think about in the future.
What do you hope the viewers will take away from your film?
I don’t know. I think it’s a very personal film, but there’s also elements of humour. You see, Jack is always going from crisis to crisis, and his life is very disturbed by that. Like our lives, to some extent. At the moment through the ongoing pandemic. It’s very relatable in that way.
What sort of things have you been doing in lockdown yourself? Have you focused on any future projects during this time?
I’ve made this whole retrospective about a director I like, and I made a more manageable romanesque film too. I hope to develop a character, a fictional character, as it’s a story about a woman who loses her parents, a woman in middle age, and then she starts to live like a teenager again, getting into trouble. It’s a melancholic comedy about grief: she lost her parents. She has that feeling of loss that everything is going to disappear, to be erased forever.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for No táxi do Jack (Jack’s Ride) here: