Having premiered on Netflix Nov. 22, “Nobody’s Looking” marks the first collaboration between Gullane and Netflix – their second, “Boca a Boca” is in development- and comes from a long list of new projects that the streaming giant has announced with it’s $87 Million investment in Brazilian content.
The series embodies the streaming platform’s push into regional production: High concept and higher production values that aim for an international appeal without losing a sense of regional identity.
It depicts a bureaucratic organization of guardian angels in which the uniformed “angelus” invisibly protects humans beings, always following the rules of an absent Boss. With the arrival of Uli (Victor Lamoglia), a new “angelus” that starts questioning the established rules, the whole system slowly sinks into crisis as the series joyfully plays with consequences and the interactions between humans and angels.
The eight-episode series was created by Daniel Rezende, Carolina Markowicz and Teodoro Poppovic. Variety interviewed Rezende, already Oscar-nominated for his work editing “City of God,” who showruns and directs the series.
Comedy is always a matter of timing. Your show relies not only on the performances of the actors to find it, but on an acute camera design. What were your guidelines when finding that comedic rhythm? Did you have working references?
I began my career in the movie industry as a film editor, so naturally editing is always at the back of my mind throughout the entire process, from the writers’ room to the set. I relied a lot on Edgar Wright as a reference for directing and editing. Everything he does is dynamic, and his editing is always key for comic rhythm. But comic timing has been a concern since day one, and we were very lucky to have Leandro Ramos as a writer, as well as an actor (he plays Sandro in the show), for he is a phenomenal comedian and was crucial for the comic precision in the dialogues.
One of the show’s strengths is how it plays with its concept, yet as it unfolds you tap into a theme that has been bubbling under in popular comedy for the last decade, a sort of Nietzschean understanding of the Death of God. Why do you think it’s now reappearing in popular media?
We are living a moment of transition. Society is changing, and so are its beliefs and its traditional references. So, it is natural that we are questioning all of that, and it reflects on what we are watching, and therefore making for TV. And comedy is an excellent tool for criticism and reflection. Also, I think people are becoming more demanding with what they choose to watch. There is so much to choose from, so why not pick the most complete experience? I always envisioned a show that would make people laugh out loud, cry, and most importantly, question society’s standards. You can’t do that without going deep. And fun fact: our writing room did read a bit of Nietzsche.
You maintain a lighthearted tone even while getting knee-deep into existential crises. The music design goes a long way to that end, sticking to very clear motifs. What were your core ideas when designing the music?
I always wanted a whistle for Uli’s theme. I also wanted to have that same melody adapted to different genres, and the Garbato brothers executed the idea perfectly. So, though the melody was originally joyful, they made new arrangements to make it sad, tense, and even sexy at times. I knew they had captured the essence of the show when they brought in a deep choir to make a darker version, but keeping the joyful whistle. That’s what the show is about: to navigate through serious issues with a touch of joy.
David Foster Wallace observed that irony has great value when pointing out and deconstructing hypocrisy but is of no use to construct something to replace it. One of the many attributes of Uli is that he shows a new type of masculinity: Caring and emotionally stable. He has a great teacher in Miriam, opening a large space for growth for both of them. Coming back to the generational transition, what interests you of the new heroes that you are shaping?
The generation transition we are living is a theme that interests me a great deal. That’s why I asked the writers’ room to read books by Yuval Noah Harari. He talks about reshaping the narratives created by humanity. Uli is a questioner. He wants to destroy a lot of pre-established concepts in society, so he obviously had to represent a new type of man. Toxic masculinity has always been one of the main problems in society, so we wanted to make Uli a kinder man, that has a lot to learn from women, and that sees no problem in talking about feelings, or even in kissing a man for that matter.
Uli is also new to the world; he is like a child who hasn’t been contaminated with prejudices yet. But it was also important that we didn’t idealize Uli, and that we gave him room to make mistakes. That’s the type of hero we want: a flawed yet kind person, who is trying to do good, and learning how hard that can be.