A severe drought made Ranulpho Gomes leave his rural hometown in Brazil’s impoverished northeast region in the 1940s. In his journey south in search of a job, he met Johann, a German door-to-door salesman of aspirins.
Gomes and Johann’s relationship was compelling enough to nephew Marcelo Gomes that the 42-year-old helmer based his feature “Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures” on their encounter. The film is premiering in Cannes sidebar Un Certain Regard.
Gomes worked seven years on the pic, his first feature after directing two shorts, and several TV shows and docs. “It is extremely difficult to get financing for a first feature, especially because I am not in the Rio-Sao Paulo region, where Brazil’s film industry is located,” says Gomes, who lives in the remote northeastern coastal town of Recife and studied film at the University of Bristol on a scholarship.
“But I not only managed to make it. I actually made it my way. It is a personal film, without concessions.”
The quest to dramatize the story of uncle Ranulpho began in 1997 when Gomes wrote the pic’s script and submitted it in a contest sponsored by Netherlands-based Hubert Bals. The foundation, which has the pic’s distribution rights for the Benelux states, provided the initial sum that allowed Gomes to jumpstart the project.
While working for TV, he continued to raise financing through Brazil’s tax shelter system. He also attracted the backing of Recife-based REC Produtores and Sao Paulo-based Dezenove Some Imagens. In addition, U.S.-based Global Initiative agreed to fund the pic’s edit in exchange for Stateside distrib rights.
In September-October 2004, “Aspirins” was one of the six Latin American features screening in Cine Construccion, a showcase of semifinished pics for distrib and fest execs at the San Sebastian Festival.
Word of mouth led to the pic’s selection for Cannes. “It is about human relationships,” says Gomes of his film’s universal theme, “the possibility of a friendship between two men with such different backgrounds.”