Filmmakers screen pix in Brazilian hamlets

Helmers bring cinema to villages without theaters

RIO DE JANEIRO — With about 2,000 screens for a population of some 185 million, Brazil is one of the most underscreened countries in the world.

So 10 years ago, helmers Lais Bodanzky and Luiz Bolognesi set out to bring cinema to villages without theaters, traveling throughout Brazil with a projector in their car, holding free outdoor screenings of local pics for people who often had never been to the movies.

“It was frustrating to make films that never reached large audiences,” says Bodanzky, who directed several short films and the feature “Brainstorm,” which received seven awards in the 2002 Brazil Film Prize, the local version of the Oscars.

Last year the married couple found a sponsor for their itinerant screening program, now dubbed Cine TelaBrasil, and launched the first of a series of free screenings June 17 in Nova Iguacu. The program will travel to 35 small towns in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, including 24 that don’t have a screen.

With support of sponsor CCR, which operates toll roads, and co-sponsor Cinemark, Brazil’s top exhib, the screenings are now much more comfortable, held in a tent that can fit 250 people and offers air conditioning and modern projection and sound equipment.

“We were tired of working in precarious situations,” says Bolognesi.

“If it rained, we had to cancel the screening,” adds Bodanzky. “It is not enough to deliver it. You must deliver it within certain quality standards.”

Organizers aim to attract about 60,000 moviegoers by April, when the program wraps. They predict that up to half of audience members will be going to the movies for the first time. There will be at least two screenings in each town.

The matinee screening features Mauro Lima’s “Tainah 2,” sequel to the successful kids series, about the adventures of a girl in the Amazon rainforest. The evening program screens Guel Arraes’ “Lisbela and the Prisoner,” which grossed $8.3 million in 2003, Brazil’s second highest B.O. take of the past 15 years.

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