Filmmaker 5® with Ary Zara: An Avocado Pit

Larissa, a trans woman and Cláudio, a cis man, meet one night, in the streets of Lisbon. Two people, two realities. In challenge, in surprise, in awe and in recognition of one another, they dance their differences away till morning light. Short film An Avocado Pit tells an empowering story, free from violence and filled with light and hope for mutual understanding, acceptance and better days yet to come.

An Avocado Pit is executive produced by Elliot Page through his production company Pageboy Productions. Elliot came aboard after seeing the film, which has made Oscar history as its creator Ary Zara becomes the first trans director to be shortlisted in the Live Action Short category. Our Filmmaker 5® interview with director Ary Zara on his debut short film An Avocado Pit follows.

Filmmaker Ary Zara

Filmmaker 5.1:  An Avocado Pit is about a one-night, chance encounter. What led you to this framing for your storytelling?  

I worked nights for 11 years; it’s how I was used to experiencing Lisbon. It was intriguing for me to see how different people act when it’s night-time. Night is a mysterious setting and I think we can play more closely to our shadows.

Filmmaker 5.2:  Regarding your directorial approach, how did you work with your lead actors—Ivo Canelas and Gaya de Medeiros—to evoke their performances in the film?

The script was written and then adapted to welcome them, in a way it was kind of tailored to suit them. From the first session Ivo and Gaya connected. We did a lot of improvisation so that they could play with the characters and we adjusted tones and intentions. From the moment I saw them together it was more than obvious they would be amazing.

Filmmaker 5.3:  Larissa, the film’s lead trans woman character, seems to fully know who she is, while Cláudio, the cis man lead, seems to not know himself at all. Reaction to this description? How did these characters present themselves to you as you wrote the film? 

I’m not sure if I agree that Larissa fully knows who she is. Definitely, she knows what she deserves, but she is constantly looking for who she can be.

I also can´t agree that Cláudio does not know himself at all. He struggles with his sexuality, he is repressed by society, and he doesn’t feel he has room to explore.

Both of them are presented as mysterious and complex, layered with desires, fantasies and questions. We spent millions of hours together and I always left with questions; they still intrigue me, and I still want more of them.      

Filmmaker 5.4:  At times the dialogue in An Avocado Pit is the focus, at others it’s indistinguishable and at others it gives way entirely to music. As writer-director did these scenes evolve during filming or were these constructs always present in your creative vision?

I didn’t imagine this film before it was done; it evolved while I was making it.

I had a sense of what I wanted from scenes. I put the words there first, then the actors, and then the camera, and I just went step by step, feeling where we could go. I wasn’t chasing an image; I was pursuing feelings. For that, I think I needed the film to happen untamed.

Filmmaker 5.5:  An Avocado Pit is your first short film. As a multi-disciplinary artist, what attracts you most to this medium?

I can badly resume it to three things:

– The process of making a film is addictive. I love to write dialogue, I can go for hours, and characters entertain me a lot! 

– To present everything coming together like a dance… so many people immersed, passionate, fulfilled. Seeing the words becoming beings, decors, lights… it’s overwhelming and amazing.

– Cinema is a powerful art, easily grabbing us by the heart, accessing our bodies that rest in a comfy chair before we can notice, what we are already feeling.

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