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‘Little Secret’ Director Says Movie’s Epic Score Brought Him to Tears

TheWrap Screening Series: Brazil’s Oscar submission tells an impossibly true story about love and prejudice

The Brazilian film “Little Secret (Pequeno Segredo)” tells the story of two families who meet during a chance encounter thousands of miles from South America and share a tragic secret that binds them for life. As unlikely as that sounds, it’s also a true story — one lived by the film’s director, David Schurmann, and focused on his late sister, Kat.

In a Q&A following a screening of the movie Thursday night in Los Angeles, Schurmann told TheWrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman that while he tried to remain detached as a director, there were moments during filming that hit him emotionally hard. One was during a birthday party scene, and the other was when he heard the film’s score performed live, directed by composer Antonio Pinto.

“I walk into the studio and there are 14 people with violins and cellos,” Schurmann said. “And the movie starts with the opening scene on the ocean and they start playing and they start crying. And I started crying.”

Legendary Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan plays Barbara, the acerbic mother of Robert, a New Zealand expat who married a Brazilian woman, in her first-ever Brazilian film role. Barbara’s insensitive way of speaking around Jeanne, Robert’s wife, is certainly off-putting, but Flanagan interpreted it as misguided devotion and wanting to protect her son.

“When I read the script, I thought I would become the poster child for New Zealand racism,” she said. “But she loves her son — it’s motivated by that.”

And Schurmann said Barbara’s repeated references to Jeanne’s “tribe” were authentic.

“I actually saw some of these scenes when I saw her being a real racist and real bigot with Jeanne, and this broke my heart,” he said. “When people ask me, ‘Was Barbara like that, did you exaggerate a little bit?’ Maybe 10 percent.”

“She speaks highly of you, too,” Flanagan joked.

The real Barbara has not yet seen the film, Schurmann said, although when she confronted his mother, Heloisa — who wrote the book the film is based on —  explained that “she wrote who you were at the time.” And besides, her character evolves and is eventually somewhat redeemed.

“It’s interesting because you think she’s the antagonist of the story,” Schurmann said. “And that’s kind of a nice trick.”

“Little Secret” stars Marcello Antony, Julia Lemmertz, Maria Flor and Flanagan. The film was released Oct. 22 in Brazil.