Latin America's biggest fest celebrates new talent, diversity

MADRID

Marcos Bernstein’s “My Sweet Orange Tree,” Luiz Bolognesi’s toon “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury” and Philippe Barcinski’s “Between Valleys” will world preem at the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival.

All play Rio’s Premiere Brasil, the world’s biggest showcase for local films and talent. Latin America’s largest film meet, with about 245,000 admissions in 2011, Rio opens Sept. 27 with “Gonzaga — Father to Son,” the true story of two Brazilian musician greats from Breno Silveira (“Two Sons of Francisco”).

Written by Bernstein, co-scribe of “Central Station,” the film that launched Walter Salles, “Tree” is a coming-of-age tale sold by France’s Elle Driver. From screenwriter-turned-director Bolognesi (“Birdwatchers”), “Rio 2096″ turns on four key dates in Brazilian history, targeting adult audiences, in the line of “Waltz With Bashir” and “Persepolis,” said producer Fabiano Gullane.

“Valleys” is Barcinski’s follow-up to “Not by Chance,” a quirky relationship drama produced by Fernando Meirelles’ 02 Filmes, which established him as a talent-to-track.

Comedies and biopics still make up most of Brazilian biggest hits, said Leonardo M. Barros, at Conspiracao, one of the producers of “Gonzaga,” a potential Brazilian blockbuster. But the biggest current Brazilian production trend is diversification, he added.

Premiere Brasil’s keynote is its vast range, agreed Ilda Santiago, Rio fest co-director.

Early fruit of Brazil’s burgeoning animation production scene, “Rio 2096″ is the first toon to compete in Premiere Brasil. “Tree” is the first of five upcoming movies adapting children’s/young-adult literature or featuring kid characters.

“I don’t think we want our children to grow up knowing just foreign characters,” said “Tree” producer Katia Machado, who pointed out that, as Brazil’s middle classes swell, reading is also on the uptick.

“Brazil’s modern film industry is still young, really only dating back to the early ’90s: It’s still trying to explore new market possibilities,” argued Sergio Sa Leitao at film fund Rio Filme.

Premiere Brasil underscores just how young much of the industry is. Of its 12 features, nine are by first or second-time fiction feature directors; the exceptions are Bruno Safadi’s evangelism drama “Eden,” singer-in-crisis comedy “First Day, Any Year,” from vet Domingos de Oliveira, and “The Gorilla,” by Jose Eduardo Belmonte whose “If Nothing Else Works Out” topped Premiere Brasil in 2008.

2012’s lineup features this year’s two most talked-up debuts: Kleber Mendonca Filho’s Rotterdam Fest hit “Neighboring Sounds” and Luciano Moura’s “Father’s Chair,” which played Sundance.

Further first features include Juliana Reis’ urban drama “AE — Auto Exposure” and Raphael Vieira’s multimedia movie, “Love Aches.”

Underscoring the building base of Brazil’s regional cinema, another competition player, Sergio Andrade’s “Jonathan’s Forest,” is one of the first films produced out of the Amazon, and “The Invisible Collection,” an adaptation of a Stefan Zweig story, but set in Bahia, northern Brazil.

In another departure, Premiere Brasil also features its first Argentina-Brazil co-production, Benjamin Avila’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight hit, “Clandestine Childhood,” playing out of competition.

Brazil-Argentina co-production axis is building fast. “It takes the Brazilian industry to another level, encouraging Brazilian releases in Argentina, and Argentinean films to open in Brazil,” Santiago said.

A 42-title spread, Premiere Brasil also features docus and edgier Novos Rumos features. Rio runs through Oct. 11.

PREMIERE BRASIL 2012

FICTION FEATURE COMPETITION

“Father’s Chair, ” Luciano Moura

“The Invisible Collection,” Bernard Attal

“Jonathan’s Forest,” Sergio Andrade

“AE-Auto Exposure,” Juliana Reis

“Love Aches,” Raphael Vieira

“Eden,” Bruno Safadi

“Between Valleys,” Philippe Barcinski

“My Sweet Orange Tree,” Marcos Bernstein

“The Gorilla,” Jose Eduardo Belmonte

“Neighboring Sounds,” Kleber Mendonca Filho

“First Day, Any Year,” Domingos de Oliveira

“Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury,” Luiz Bolognesi

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