Q&A with Maria Clara Parente and Camilla Cardoso

The Brazilian filmmakers partnered with Emerge and ColaborAmerica, a festival exploring alternative economic models in Latin America, to create a three-part series exploring the question ‘What is Emerging?’

For the past year Maria Clara Parente and Camilla Cardoso have been exploring emergent futures with their YouTube channel, This is Not the Truth, where they interview thinkers in the fields of economics, science and spirituality about new models for living life on Earth.
For their first foray into documentary the Brazilian filmmakers partnered with Emerge and ColaborAmerica, a festival exploring alternative economic models in Latin America, to create a three-part series exploring the question ‘What is Emerging’. Using interviews with philosopher/poet Bayo Akomolafe, artist/activist Marz Saffore and economist Kate Raworth, Maria Clara and Camilla traverse the territory between art and economics -- exploring how economic realities are created and upheld and considering the potential of art to help us to reframe these narratives for the good of the planet.
“Pt 1: Doing” will be released later this month on Emerge. We sat down with Maria Clara and Camilla to find out more about their journey.

Camilla (left) and Maria Clara

This is Not the Truth is an interesting name, why did you choose it?
Camilla: The idea with This is Not the Truth (TINTT) is to make the point that although we are using our channel to give a voice to certain stories and narratives, we are not saying that what we are saying is the final word - or the truth. We want to encourage people to think critically from their own perspective about what they are being told.
Maria Clara: Also, it’s very common in journalism to set out the facts and say “this is the truth,” and we wanted to challenge that.
Camilla: Exactly. It’s provocative. It also encourages us to think about the system we are living in and how it is not the only truth, it’s just one narrative that we as humans have co-created over a period of time - which leads us to one of the main questions we wanted to explore with the documentary series - the ways in which we co-create the reality we live in.
How did you meet each other?
Camilla: We met when we were both studying at Schumacher College in the UK. I’d gone there to study three short courses as part of their Economics for Transition MA and I was diving deep  into the topics of transition of systems, systemic change and paradigm shifts.
Maria Clara: I had recently finished my degree in Journalism and went to Schumacher specifically for a course about the narratives we use to shape our world, which is a communications course offered as part of the Economics for Transition MA.
What’s your background?
Camilla: I originally studied Business Administration and worked for some time at a strategic consultancy company. While I was there I felt conflicted about how, and to what, I was contributing to with my job. I’d always had the idea that I wanted to be part of something that created change in the world and I didn’t just want to contribute to feeding the current system. 
Eventually I started working at a public health NGO and did an exchange programme in Vietnam, which opened my eyes to the deeper problems that were happening in the world. It’s funny that I had to leave Brazil for that, but sometimes that’s just how it goes! Around this time I began experimenting with documentary with a friend and thinking about the power of audio-visual narratives to create social change. 
Maria Clara: I graduated in Journalism in 2017, but I’d also worked as an actress and a writer. I always had this sense that theatre and art could shift the way that people think more profoundly than book knowledge alone. Art is a really good way to communicate new perspectives, and we create new worldviews and shape what people think through language. I’ve also always been interested in psychology, for example when you’re building a character in a play, and I was interested how art could help us to understand the psychology behind the crises we’re facing now in the world. When I decided to go to Schumacher I had already the feeling that I would do something with video, so when I met Camilla it was really complimentary.

What was the thinking behind the documentary series?
Camilla: The documentary is split into three parts; Pt. 1 creates an awareness of how we are currently creating our own reality -- reality is not passive, it is co-created by all of us. Pt. 2 explores the ways in which we are currently entangled with other living beings and the planet, and therefore the ecological crisis itself. We wanted to create an awareness of how deeply we are connected to the web of life and to each other and to society, because once we start to see things from this perspective of interconnectedness we can start to move towards new ways of imagining the future. 
Maria Clara: Pt. 3 is about imagination. Once you open your consciousness to receive the world in a different way you can imagine reality from a different place.
What are some of the challenges you encountered in this process?
At the beginning we had a clear idea of how everything would connect together, but then we did the interviews and what people said took us down a different route -- their thinking is evolving all the time so even people who we’d interviewed eight months before said different things when we came to interview them for the documentary. This made it difficult to predict, but we just had to be open to letting something happen through us, we couldn’t control it. After we did the interviews we listened to what they said and created a narrative based on that rather than trying to force a narrative that we had designed ourselves.
What was your approach?
Maria Clara: The first episode is based around the festival, and that was how the project started, but we also met people outside of the festival. 
Camilla: Inspired by our experience at Schumacher, where students eat and live communally together, we went on a trip with some of our interview subjects into the mountains about an hour out of Rio. Actually leaving the city, being immersed in nature and cooking and living with these people in daily situations helped to provoke different kinds of conversations.
Maria Clara: We wanted to create this sense of being on a journey together, to do rituals and to really feel - as well as understand - what we were talking about. Bayo [Akomolafe] also has this approach of looking at the things we see as ordinary, like cooking together, as sacred or spiritual. So we were trying to experience that.
What did you learn through this process?
Camilla: I learnt a lot about emergent processes - and how much can emerge when you just accept that you don’t know something - or at least when you accept that you thought you knew but actually you don’t. 
Maria Clara: A memory that is really profound for me is when I interviewed Bayo Akomolafe for the documentary at the same beach I’d been at two years before shooting a movie. I had this sense of being in a similar situation, being filmed at the beach, but at that moment I really felt this sense of unfolding. It was not an understandable path for me to go to Schumacher College, somehow I just had this deep intuition that I should go there, so being in a situation where I was talking to Bayo about cosmology, our souls, this life, just after I’d read his book, I started crying after the interview because I was so profoundly touched by what he said.
What impact do you hope the documentaries will have?
Maria Clara: Many environmentally driven documentaries show graphics, or images, of what is going on. Our approach was to try to think about the psychology underpinning the systems that created this problem and to encourage action without a sense of shame or fear. I get this sense that when we are talking about environmental collapse people are often very focused on solutions but our approach actually creates more questions. That’s exactly the point -- to ask more questions, to understand the problem from a different perspective. The way we understand the crisis at the moment is not leading us anywhere.
Camilla: We hope to inspire other documentary filmmakers and artists who want to bring this dialogue onto the table in a different way, it’s not ‘someone else’s problem’, it’s in our hands. We had a teacher at Schumacher who was a scientist that also wrote and directed a play on climate change. He said after years working as a scientist he finally felt like he’d reached people’s hearts once he did the play.
Camilla: Then, of course, the main message is the question of how do we recognise that we are part of the problem, that the system we were brought up in is what created this problem? We have to change the logic of our societal system in order to make a deep change, but in order to do that we also need to change the working of our inner system. We’re in the process of a paradigm shift, and sometimes it’s not by information alone that we get there. We also need to have an inner psychological shift, the kind that can be facilitated through and art and immersive experiences. It’s about perceiving and understanding with all our sense. So we wanted to touch people in a different way.
Where do you hope to go in the future?
Camilla: In terms of themes, our research has recently led us to the decolonial subject -- the subject of decolonial approaches and decolonial futures. We are exploring this more in depth now that we are back in Rio, back in South America, and we think it’s an important step in our investigation and also connected to wider international issues.
Words by Tarn Rodgers Johns
Tarn is the editor in chief of Emerge. Based in Berlin, she is driven by curiosity and an incessant but largely unsatisfied desire to understand everything. She is interested in psychology, human creativity and the changing world around us.