In van Oldenborgh’s film Bete & Deise, two women encounter each other in a building under construction in Rio de Janeiro. Bete Mendes and Deise Tigrona have – each in their own way – given meaning to the idea of a public voice.
Bete Mendes (1949) has continued to maintain a political career alongside her acting career in popular television since the 1960s. Mendes was involved in the armed resistance group of the student movement against the dictatorship, and was part of the labour movement in the 1970s, co-founding the working party Partido dos Trabalhadores at the close of the decade. Up until today she has fulfilled several public functions whilst at the same time remaining active as a telenovela actress, known for her appearances in Beto Rockfeller (1967); O Rebu (1974); O Rei do Gado (1996); Caras e Bocas (2009) and many others.
Deise Tigrona (1979) is one of the most powerful voices in the Funk Carioca movement today. Growing up and performing as a singer in the impoverished community of Cidade de Deus, she rose to great international popularity with her music in 2005. The public life that came with fame made it difficult to concentrate on family life, and led to the decision to take a step back from her music career and return to a job closer to home. She has recently started performing again.
3 minute preview Bete & Deise:
Together these women talk about the use of their voice and their positions in the public sphere, allowing for the contradictions they each carry within themselves to surface. Through a montage that evocatively combines the voices of the women with their image, van Oldenborgh confronts us with considerations on the relation between cultural production and politics and the potential power that is generated when the public intersects with the personal.
Bete & Deise is the final work in a trilogy that includes Après La Reprise, la Prise (2009) and Pertinho de Alphaville (2010). All works have come from a research into current changes in labour conditions and the shift towards affective labour – in which elements of performance are increasingly incorporated – as well as changes in our understanding of the collective and the public voice and the role of cultural production in this. A prologue to the new work, Supposing I love you. And you also love me, was recently presented at the 54th Venice Biennale in the exhibition ‘Speech Matters’ of the Danish Pavilion, co-commissioned by If I Can’t Dance. As part of the research for Bete & Deise, van Oldenborgh curated the symposium Cinema – this, Television – that in collaboration with If I Can’t Dance, on 29 March 2011 as part of the Studium Generale programme of the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.