Veiroj Vérité

Rob Avila and Global Lens filmmaker, Federico Veiroj, discuss sexual rites of passage, Montevideo’s Jewish community and the director’s short film, AS FOLLOWS

With something more like resignation than enthusiasm, 13-year-old Rafael Bregman (Diego Radzewicz) prepares for his bar mitzvah. At the rabbi’s desk, he dutifully mouths the ceremonial Hebrew that comes so much less naturally to him than his native Spanish. But it’s all part of becoming a man in this Jewish enclave of Montevideo, Uruguay—and, as follows here, will no doubt prove a complex memory some day. (Perhaps it’s his own bar mitzvah that Bregman senior (Omar Varela) is remembering as he slumbers on his analyst’s couch!)

Federico Veiroj’s 13-minute short, As Follows (Bregman, el siguiente)—which GFI is distributing alongside the 35-year-old Uruguayan filmmaker’s feature film, A Useful Life (La Vida Útil)—is a wry, charming story of a rich Latin American subculture and a boy set on the uncertain, ambiguous cusp of manhood. Watch the entire film below and read on for an interview with Federico Veiroj!

Is the story of young Bregman’s bar mitzvah to any extent autobiographical?

The inspiration was the personal experience of some friends, my brothers, and mine. The story is not exactly what happened to me when I was 13 years old, but it’s not very different. In some environments, especially in “macho” cultures like that in some parts of South American non-religious Judaism, you’ll find that a boy becoming a man has to decide if he wants to start his sexual life with a prostitute or wait to have a girlfriend. I know this could happen in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, for example, and maybe more places.

How did you go about casting the film?

I decided to make the casting process with teens from private schools in Montevideo, [so as to be] closer to the main character’s life. We made a presentation of the project in a couple of schools (one Jewish), and we were very lucky to find Diego Radzewicz, who I think did a great job.

Can you say a little something about the Jewish community of Montevideo? And beyond As Follows, has this background in any way influenced your filmmaking, or your decision to be a filmmaker?

The Jewish community in Montevideo is small, but Montevideo is a small city too. As in every country, there are many ways to get to know each other through social institutions (not only schools). And like in other countries, there are different religious groups, and some traditional families and communities. I belong to the traditional part. Even if I am not into the Jewish social life, I have had many Jewish friends since I was a teenager. I think everything around me affected the decisions I made in my life; I guess being from a small country, a small city, and from a closed environment helped a lot, but I believe that watching movies was the most important thing that determined what I wanted to become.

Rob Avila is a San Francisco-based writer, and film and stage critic. He is a regular contributor to SF360 and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and has worked with the Global Film Initiative on a range of projects and programs, including production of GFI educational resources and the Initiative’s Granting Program.

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