Pic focuses on money woes of middle-classes

PARIS — Sara Silveira’s Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Dezenove Som e Imagens, the company behind “Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures,” will produce “Hard Labor,” a social suspenser that sometimes comes close to a horror film.

Pitched by Silveira at the Paris Project, which kicked off Monday, “Labor” marks the feature debut of two of Brazil’s most promising young filmmakers, Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra.

The directorial duo’s graduation short, “The White Sheet,” played Cannes Cinefondation Selection in 2005; their next short, “A Stem,” screened at Cannes Critics’ Week in 2007, winning the Kodak Discovery Award for best short. “Hard Labor’s” screenplay was a finalist for the Sundance NHK 2008 Award.

Chronicling money pressures on Brazil’s middle-class, and shot through with the effects and aesthetics of suspensers and scarefare, “Labor” turns on Helena, a young middle-class housewife who opens a grocery store.

The store suddenly becomes her family’s main source of income when her husband loses his top exec job at a multinational.

Budgeted at a modest Euros885,000 ($1.2 million), pic currently has funding from the City of Sao Paulo Cultural Department Hall, Silveira said at the Paris Project.

Snagging a French co-producer would open up the possibility of Fonds Sud Cinema coin, and may help selection at Cannes, Silveira added.

“Labor” mixes classic genre effects — such as a stain that extends across a wall of the grocer’s — and neuroses — husband Otavio becomes obsessed about getting a job, Helena begins to imagine things about her employees.

“We like to take elements from horror and suspense films, or Disney movies and musicals, and mix them with dramas,” Rojas said in Paris.

“Labor” joins one of the strongest current production slates in Brazil.

“The Famous and the Dead,” Esmir Filho’s debut feature about the Internet world, looks bound for Locarno Competition.

Anna Muylaert’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” stars Gloria Pires, who toplined B.O. megahit franchise “If I Were You,” as a relationship-seeking guitar teacher. Pic bows November.

Production is near complete on “Sunstroke,” helmed by Daniela Thomas, who with Walter Salles co-directed Cannes 2008 Competition player “Linha de Passe.”

Dezenove is financing Marcelo Gomes’ “Once Upon a Time Veronica,” and developing “The Moving Creatures” from first-timer Caetano Gotardo.

“Bringing on new talent is our objective and passion,” said Silveira of Dezenove, which she co-founded in 1991 with Carlos Reichenbach.

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