Rudy Mancuso & Camila Mendes on Música, Representation, and Inspiration

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2024 might be a new year for romantic comedies, with movies like Anyone But You becoming extremely popular at the box office right at the end of 2023, and a whole lot of buzz about The Idea of You and The Greatest Hits. Which leads us to Rudy Mancuso and his new, exciting romantic comedy in April 2024: Música. Directed by and starring Mancuso and rising star Camila Mendes, who rose to prominence with her appearances on Riverdale, Música‘s ambition is high, blurring together multiple different genres into one movie about a young man trying to find his way through life in the modern world.




His girlfriend just broke up with him because she thinks he’s not being serious enough with her, his Brazilian mother is nagging him to get married and find the right girl from their culture, and his side hustle as a puppeteer in Newark’s subway system isn’t doing so well for him. Everything’s about to change when he meets Isabella (a magnetic Camila Mendes), a local girl working in a fish market who just seems to ‘get’ him every time they have a conversation. It can be a rollercoaster of a movie at times, drawing from Mancuso’s musical background, but certainly is worth the ride.

We were joined by creator, director, and lead actor Rudy Mancuso and star Camila Mendes to discuss Música.


Making Brazilian-American Representation Happen On-Screen

Música

Música (2024)

4/5

Release Date
April 4, 2024

Director
Rudy Mancuso

Runtime
91 Minutes

Writers
Rudy Mancuso , Dan Lagana

Distributor(s)
Amazon Studios


Brazilian-Americans have increasingly become an important part of the cultural Latinx landscape throughout the United States, but Latin representation within the film and television world has been scarce. In this movie, many of the cast and crew were actually Brazilian, not only making it a wonderful form of representation, but creating many conversations in the process about it. “The characters have this clash of cultures in the background, but so did the actual members of the cast and crew,” said Mancuso, adding:

We were surrounded by Brazilians, between the rhythm performers and the actors. here was this shared sense of culture clash. And that’s something that Cammy and I got really excited about, was bringing the duality of cultures to life.


“That’s something we talked about in development, too, and in finessing the script and the dialogue,” said Mendes, who is also a producer on the film. “Talking about things that we both experienced, that feel very unique to being Brazilian-American and between those two cultures.”

And we hope it resonates with children of cultural immigrants,” added Mancuso. Throughout the course of Música, little moments where characters are speaking Portuguese to each other or sharing coxinhas help make this cultural specificity really come alive. Mancuso explained:

“[Bringing Brazilian-American culture forward] was a part of what excited me about this project and story from the beginning.
I think more light needs to be shone on Brazilian culture and Portuguese language in mainstream film, television, and stage
. It’s such a dynamic, specific, and dense culture that’s magical and vibrant that deserves more screen time. Brazilian-American experiences are something we know on a very personal level.”


Related: 10 Best Modern Movies to Get Into Brazilian Cinema

Camila Mendes and Randy Mancuso on Producing Música Together

“I knew I had to do it, because he had just such a clear vision and I could tell he was planning something really special,” said Mendes of Mancuso, saying that the script felt like kismet. “I was talking about wanting to bring more representation for so long,” said the actor, adding:


This script arrived in my inbox and this is literally what I was waiting for my whole life
— to do something like this. I couldn’t believe a project like this was being made… There’s very few people in the industry that can actually tell that story, that can bring that culture to light, and the fact that he was doing it was,
I mean, it was undeniable. I had to be part of it
. So I feel like I’m part of it, but he’s the one who’s orchestrating it.”


2:02

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“But we certainly did it together, it was a development process,” added Mancuso. “We co-produced it together from the inception of the idea to greenlight. There was a lot of work to do, but we got there… The idea has been in my head for a very long time, but I think from actualizing the idea to production, it was about five years.”

“Yeah, I got involved way more recently,” explained Mendes. “I got involved like a few months before filming, but he had been developing it for way longer.” One of the ways Mendes shaped the production was showing Mancuso the great Richard Linklater film, Before Sunrise. She said:


“Something I said a lot, I referenced it to you and I had you watch it, was Before Sunrise, as a good example of character and dialogue, like romantic dialogue, and watching two people connect through that. Because that movie is just dialogue, nothing really happened, they’re just talking the whole time. And I remember telling you to watch that movie to kind of get a sense of those scenes between us when we’re walking through the market.”

“Yeah, it was incredibly natural and grounded, conversational. That was inspirational to watch,” replied Mancuso.

Orchestrating an Unorthodox Musical


If Before Sunrise reflects the film’s romantic angle, it’s Mancuso’s own musical knowledge and the talent of many performers which shapes another aspect of the film. “I mean, on the musical side, I love music. We love musicals… But one thing that we actively tried to do on this was never really break into any songs, but rather set pieces that are woven into the diegetic world and the dialogue. So I wouldn’t call this a musical, but certainly we would call it a musical experience… It was like a live show at times [more] than it was a film,” explained Mancuso, adding:

So much of what you see is what you get. Editorially, there was a lot of rhythm and clever cutting, but there isn’t a single set piece or sequence that couldn’t be performed live. So if you were there on the day, everything you’re hearing in the film was actually happening in real time.


“These guys are absolute pros that can turn any object into music or rhythm,” added Mancuso. “Whether it’s a fork or a broom, they’ll figure out how to turn it into a percussive instrument with choreography. So everyone was really rehearsed, everyone was mic’d, so at certain set pieces like the fish market or the diner, we had like 99 microphones going simultaneously.”

“Hearing those performances live,” gushed Mendes, “like in the fishmarket, I remember it just swelled with sound in this beautiful way, like you could feel the rhythm in your body. Because it was a small room, and everyone was hitting on something like a pot or a pan. So I remember just feeling so overwhelmed with joy because it was just amazing.”

Related: The Most Underrated Romantic Comedies of the Last 25 Years, Ranked

Rudy Mancuso Transforms His Life Into a Film


One of the biggest characteristics of this movie is how deeply interwoven the film is with the Brazilian community in New Jersey, and with Mancuso’s own life. The filmmaker explained how many of the sites seen throughout the movie were actually from his neighborhood. From restaurants to the market where he fatefully meets Isabella, each of these locations were real spots from within his own life, including his mother’s home. Considering the movie is directly inspired by his life and experiences as well, it seems fitting.

This is almost like, I want to say a decade’s worth of experiences boiled down to a few weeks in a cinematic timeline. It was a lot of fun. It was a bit surreal. It felt odd at times, but in a wonderful way. It’s almost like The Truman Show in aspects of it, where it’s like, you feel like your life is a production, and it quite literally was,.but very rewarding.


In the end, Mancuso’s autobiographical film becomes something larger, more entertaining, and universal. It’s a perfect match for the vibrancy of spring. Música is out on Prime Video on April 4, 2024. You can watch it through the link below:

Watch Música

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