Filmmaker 5 with Carolina Markowicz: Toll (Pedágio)

Suellen (Maeve Jinkings), a Brazilian toll booth attendant and mother, falls in with a gang of thieves in an attempt to keep her family afloat. In doing so, she realizes she can use her job to raise some extra money illegally for a so-called noble cause: to send her son (Kauan Alvarenga) to an expensive gay conversion workshop led by a renowned foreign priest.

Filmmaker Carolina Markowicz returns to the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival running September 1-17 with Toll (Pedágio), her second feature film. Toll (Pedágio) will make its World Premiere at TIFF 2023, where she will be honored with the TIFF Emerging Talent Award presented by MGM Studios. Carolina has been a member of AMPAS (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) since 2021.

Our Classic Couple Academy interview with Carolina Markowicz about Toll (Pedágio) follows.

Filmmaker 5.1:  Toll examines tolerance and intolerance in a family setting—what is deemed acceptable for an LGBTQ+ child by a parent. How did you arrive at this theme and the premise of your story?

Filmmaker Carolina Markowicz

Well, I was always so intrigued by why people in these years still are worried about having sex. It’s crazy. When we live in a conservative country, it’s so insane that people care for this so much. Our former president would say that I would rather have a dead son than a gay son. It’s very shameful that society makes you feel this way. So, I always wanted to make a film that would portray this and that would put these people in their place.

Filmmaker 5.2:  Raising a child who is “different” has been a theme in prior films of yours (2018 short film The Orphan). How is this an important issue for you as a storyteller?

I think there is this concept of normal or what is expected that I think is weird because no one is the same. People are completely different from one another and this concept of normal overrides that. Religion in the conservative society has brought us you to a very tough place. It breaks souls. And I always want to discuss my feelings as a woman living in a conservative society.

I’m very intrigued about the hypocrisy, about people’s contradictions about what people believe in and what they want to believe in. What we are made of and what society made us think, the right and the wrong. And in the end, this is very pushy and very oppressive to everyone. This concept of normality, no right and wrong. This is something that I’m most interested in speaking about.

Filmmaker 5.3:  Stark realism with nothing held back is one way to characterize your feature films. How do you work with your cast and crew to bring this to the screen?

That’s a very good question. I think we speak a lot. I like to hear a lot from the crew and the cast about everything, even the script. I had a lot of talks with my cinematographer about the script. I mean, the cinematographer is not there to help me to create the images. No, we build everything together. We discuss a lot about the characters, about the lines, about everything. And I’m speaking about him, but I could be speaking about other people as well. Each one does their part to bring life to the environment.

With the cast I like to rehearse with them to feel that it’s happening well, that the lines work. When we feel it’s good, we stop rehearsing, to keep it fresh for when we’re going to shoot. But we rehearse as long as we feel the scene is not good, the line is not working, and it doesn’t seem natural. We keep thinking about why and what we should change. So, we do that together. It’s not that it’s written and it’s going to happen like that. And that’s it. No, I need to feel this natural reality we all need to feel.  I think it helps a lot to bring this result.

Filmmaker 5.4:  This is your second feature film project with Maeve Jinkings, the first being your debut feature CHARCOAL. How did you come to work with Maeve again and what made her your choice for lead in TOLL?

Sure. Well, we get along very well. I think she’s a very talented actress and I have always been a fan of her work. She has a very wide range of emotions, and she can reach humor and drama. She goes very smoothly from one tone to another, which I think is very important. I believe the type of cinema that I like to make is not something that is just one thing. It has a blend of tones and emotions.

And Aline Marta Maia is also her friend in Toll and another actress who was in both films. So, there are these actors that I really enjoy working with. I would love to work more with them because I think they are so resourceful, so intelligent and so powerful. And it’s very interesting to create this confidence of working together and finding the tone or finding the character. It gets even easier to work with those known actors that I like to work with and then to build this blend of natural reality that I intend to build always with my films.

Filmmaker 5.5:  As you describe that process. was there something during filming that emerged that surprised you even though this is your material?

There are always so many things that I cannot even describe.  A specific is that woman with the microphone and she’s selling the dentist.  We were searching for a location one day in the city and there was this woman speaking in front of a place that was selling diapers. And she’s in the film. I loved her so much I thought she could be an inspiration for a character. I’d never thought about that scene, and then I saw her and now she’s in the film. I like to take the city and the environment and elements that I could incorporate in the film world. This is an example in the film.

BONUS Q:  You’ll be honored with the TIFF Emerging Talent Award presented by MGM Studios at this year’s festival. What does this mean to you, and what place does the TIFF festival have in your work?

Well, I’m so honored to be awarded by TIFF and I am so glad and so proud to be a TIFF again. TIFF has supported my voice as an artist since I started. I don’t even have words to express how happy I get and how important it was to me and how it brought the light to my cinema. It’s so rewarding. Also, it encourages me a lot to continue doing the type of cinema that I do, which I know is risky. It’s so good to receive support and be given voice as an artist. I just feel encouraged to keep doing things and I’m so proud to be part of the family.

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Watch the Toll (Pedágio) teaser.

TIFF 2023 Toll (Pedágio) Screening Times:

Brazil, 101 Minutes, Feature Film, Drama, In Portuguese with English Subtitles, 2023

Friday, September 8
TIFF Bell Lightbox
6:30 PM

Saturday, September 9
Scotiabank Theatre
9:45 PM

Saturday, September 16
Scotiabank Theatre
12:35 PM

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