An interview with Nili Tal, director of The Girls From Brazil
Q: Tell us a little about how you decided to make the film, The Girls From Brazil.
A few notes about Israel. We do not have children up for adoption here. The reasons will be given later. So, Israeli families, who wanted children, traveled to third world countries before Madonna and Angelina ever did. In the 80s, they discovered the opportunity to adopt in Brazil. It was far and expensive, but they went for it.
As mentioned in my film, 3,000 families adopted their children there. In 1988 this international adoption stopped because of one baby.
And that is the cause of my film.
It was 1986, when the Tourgeman family adopted baby Bruna. She was 4 months old. One shiny morning in 1988, Rosilda Vasgosales, a Brazilian woman, arrived in Israel accompanied by a British TV crew and demanded the baby back. She pleaded Habeas Corpus in the Israeli High Court. It was a modern Solomon trial that shook the entire country. At the end, the judges ruled to return the child to her biological mother. Everybody cried when Bruna left Israel.
20 years later, I was eager to know what happened to Bruna?
I pitched the Bruna project to channel 2 in 2006 and they accepted the project and funded it.
In May 2006 I flew to Curitiba, Brazil to look for her. When I returned to Israel I found a letter on the web from a young man telling that he tried to locate his biological mother in Brazil. Then I read another letter. I started to research the matter and met 22 young women and men that wanted to find their biological mothers. I decided to help four of them. I pitched the story to Yes Docu and they accepted the film.
When I went to Brazil again for the Bruna story in October 2006, I took the four young adopted women and one adoptive mother with me. I wished for luck.
Very, very common. We have no children up for adoption in Israel. Because we have a very good education system, information and family planning education in school. We have free abortions when needed in our HMOs, and the army etc.
Q: You follow several girls as they seek out their biological parents, what were some of the challenges of trying to film several individual stories simultaneously in real-time?
I need to correct the meaning of the sentence “seek out biological mothers.” There are 7 million abandoned children in Brazi! That was challenge number one.
The main challenge in filming was to keep shalom (peace) among all of us. But as expected, we came back broges (on bad terms). They didn’t speak with me, and I didn’t speak with them. That is because it was a very loaded; sensitive, and demanding journey.
Six women all together…five adopted and one director – almost an impossible mission. However, now we are good friends.
One scene that was in the recycle bin 100 times was with Daniella and her mother in the garden. Both had wireless mics and they knew we are shooting. However Daniella was angry with her mother, and I hesitated: keep it in or out. Then I decided to keep it.
Q: What, if anything, surprised you about the girls’ reactions or the reactions of other people they met?
After the screening and the broadcast in Israel, I received 50 e-mails from adopted women and men who asked me to help them locate their mothers in Brazil. I tried to get Globo TV as a co-producer. But they didn’t respond to my pitch.
Neiva Maria Macedo was the most touching mother. At first, she didn’t understand where we came from and neither did the rest of the family. They kept asking us: Bin Laden, Bin Laden? They thought that we came from Afghanistan.
And then we realized that the grandma came from Germany and immediately we thought that she is part of a Nazi family that ran away to south Brazil. So now we have new relatives in the Family: One Bin Laden, and one Nazi.
Q: Have you been in-touch with the girls since filming completed? What were their reactions to the finished film?
Sure. There is no other way. I am very friendly with all of them, particularly with Aliza, Daniella’s mother. We go every Friday to listen to Jazz together. She schleps me.
The Girls From Brazil screens Monday, February 25 at 7:30 pm at the Washington DCJCC.