Suzana Amaral (born 1932) is a Brazilian director and screenwriter best known for her 1985 feature A Hora de Estrella (The Hour of the Star). Her career in cinema began in 1968 when she enrolled on a film course at the Escola de Comunicações e Artes, São Paulo. After graduating, she taught at the university for three years and began working for Radio and Television Cultura. In 1975 Amaral moved to New York and graduated from New York University Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in 1979. Amaral is renowned for making films that contain narratives with female protagonists and give voice to the often-ignored perspectives and grievances of Brazilian women. Her trajectory spans more than 50 years and her oeuvre includes documentary, television series, promotional videos, shorts and feature films. A passion for literature is evident in her work and her feature adaptations of Brazilian writers, such as Clarice Lispector, Antônio Dourado and João Gilberto Noll, have garnered both national and international acclaim. A Hora de Estrella received more than 25 awards and was Brazil’s submission to the 59th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Suzana Amaral is interviewed by Mateus Araujo at Amaral’s home in São Paulo, Brazil on March 24, 2016. Amaral begins the interview by reminiscing over her first memories of going to the movies as a child. She fondly remembers accompanying her father to see the Shirley Temple film The Little Colonel (1935) and watching Sunday matinee war films during the World War II. She speaks about how, from a very young age, she always kept abreast of cinema’s development; an evolution that remained with her throughout her life. As well as a deep connection with cinema, Amaral describes how her interest in politics developed. She speaks about her rebellious and contrary nature and her affiliations with the Brazilian Communist Party. She shares her experiences of teaching screenwriting at the University of São Paulo, of working at TV Cultura where she made multiple documentaries, and of her time studying film directing at NYU with director Jim Jarmusch.
Amaral discusses a number of the short films she made in São Paulo after returning from four years in New York and describes in detail the evolution of her first feature film, A Hora de Estrella (The Hour of the Star) (1985). She outlines the challenges she faced making it, recounts how she came to cast Marcélia Cartaxo in the role of Macabéa and speaks about the positive reception of the film, both in Brazil and abroad. Amaral alludes to her love of literature and story-telling with reference to her film adaptations of Antônio Dourado and João Gilberto Noll’s novels. She talks about the year she spent in Berlin writing the script for Uma Vida em Segredo (1996) and her experience working with cinematographer Lauro Escorel to realize the project. In declaring Hotel Atlântico (2009) as her favorite of her films, she describes it as the one which feels the most “alive.”