Sandra Kogut
Sandra Kogut, born 1965 in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, currently lives in the USA. One of Latin America’s best known and most distinctive filmmakers, she has produced numerous award-winning films and videos since 1984. She began her career as a performance and installation artist. Her film productions position themselves at the interface between documentation and fiction. Among other venues, her works have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum in New York City. During a residency grant in France, she began working on “Parabolic People”—a video project marking her shift of focus from visual art to documentary films. At the grant’s conclusion, she stayed on in France—for an entire decade. She became internationally known through the video collage “Parabolic People” (completed in 1991), a work followed by the production of various documentary films. In 2007, she presented her feature film debut “Mutum,” which won several international awards. Beside her artistic work, Sandra Kogut teaches at leading schools around the world and works for various Brazilian and European broadcasting stations. The recipient of many international awards and grants, the filmmaker’s work has been supported by distinguished institutions such as the Cité Internationale des Arts, the Rockefeller & MacArthur Foundation, and the UNESCO.

Sandra Kogut’s work combines the documentary with the fictional, the experimental with the essay-like, and the personal with the collective. Her films are lyrical, ironic, lightheartedly playful, but also immediate and very serious. They seem progressive without proceeding didactically. For her 2007 feature film debut “Mutum,” Sandra Kogut moved into the bleak “sertão,” the dry savanna landscape in the Brazilian heartlands, and lived for several months with the local inhabitants there. While casting the non-professional actors, she came to realize that never in their lives had they seen a film before. The experience of the shared existence on the farm worked its way into Kogut’s screenplay, based on the novella “Campo Geral” by João Guimarães Rosa—a writer often compared to James Joyce. In Sandra Kogut’s film, ten-year-old Thiago grows up in a place known as “Mutum.” Together with his brother Felipe, he confronts head-on the adult world’s aggressive mix of betrayal, violence and deceptive stillness. The film debut was honored with 19 awards, including the “Best Film” award at the festivals in Rio de Janerio, Cancun, and Cape Town. Also, it was shown at the Festival de Cannes and at the Berlinale.

Sandra Kogut’s grandparents fled the Holocaust and left Hungry to migrate to Brazil. The granddaughter’s attempt to obtain a passport from Hungary forms the central theme of the cinematic essay “A Hungarian Passport” (2001). With a disarming unpretentiousness, Sandra Kogut brings together Kafkaesque experiences with authorities, interviews with her relatives, and her own travel diary in order to address fundamental questions: What does nationality mean? What does a passport really stand for? What is it we do with our heritage? How do we construe our history and our own identity? Among other important prizes, the film received first prize at the Split Film Festival and the “Best Documentary Film” award in Budapest. For her film “Passengers of Orsay” (2002), Kogut asked visitors in the Musée d’Orsay: “May I make a portrait of you with your favorite painting?” Her film accompanies people to their chosen painting, but also to where the paintings took them in their minds.

In “Adiu Monde or Pierre and Claire’s Story,” a sarcastic reflection on the search for “authenticity” in the Pyrenees, we listen to butchers, mechanics, farmers and hikers sharing their versions of the legend of the vanished young shepherd and the shepherdess who follows him into the forest. As poetic as it is comical, the film not only demonstrates the phenomenon of nostalgia; it also celebrates the tremendous zest for life discovered among the present-day inhabitants of the Pyrenees. The film won 11 prizes, among others two at the “Oberhausen Filmtagen” festival and the “Golden Dove” award in Leipzig. “Parabolic People” (1991) is a cinematic collage that evolved from an art project. For several years, in Rio de Janeiro, New York, Tokyo, Dakar, and other cities, Sandra Kogut has erected video-stands in which pedestrians can make thirty-second-long recordings of themselves. The result is a collage at the same time an ironic commentary on the limitations of media and cultural reality.

In Berlin, Sandra Kogut is writing the screenplay for her new feature film: the story of a family and how they cope with the ever-present violence in Rio de Janeiro. Here, instead of showing spectacular brutality, the filmmaker is far more interested in capturing what happens after the traumatic event.