BERLIN – Since 2005, Brazilian box office has sky-rocketed 153% to R$1.7 billion ($708.3 million) and its film industry has honed its skills at making local blockbusters and exquisite art/niche fest faves.
Beyond the movies of Walter Salles, Fernando Meirelles and Jose Padilha, what Brazil had signally failed to do is to produce a critical mass of higher-end movies punching box office at both home and abroad.
That looks to be changing. Making its market debut, Films From Rio, Brazil’s first regional film export program, is bringing a clutch of films onto the market with sometimes significant budgets for Brazil, international subjects and often genre gristle.
Also a training facility, Films From Rio presents nine projects, led by Carlos Diegues’ “The Great Mystical Circus,” “The Animal Race,” and David Michan’s “Eat Me.”
The latest movie from Diegues (“Xica da Silva,” “Bye-Bye Brazil”), a still-highly active Cinema Novo founder, circus dynasty drama “Circus” is already being structured as a co-production between Diegues’ Luz Magica, France’s Milonga Films, and Portugal’s Fado Filmes.
Produced by Vania Catani’s Bananeira Filmes, one of Brazil’s top production houses, “The Animal Race” turns on a “Hunger Games” style human contest set in a futuristic Rio.
From Walkiria Barbosa’s Total Entertainment, another leading Brazilian shingle, Mexican Michan’s “Eat Me,” a human flesh gourmet tale, is co-produced by U.S. producer Deborah Calla and Mexican helmer-producer Jorge Michel Grau (“We Are What We Are”).
Films From Rio also showcases “Ponzi’s Last Stand,” from Rio-based U.S writer-director David Meyer, Ucra Filmes’ “Highway To Hell,” about a fated action-thriller shoot, and Henrique Goldman’s TV Zero-produced psychological thriller “Name of Death,” about a Brazilian hit-man with 492 victims.
Also presented by producers grouped under the Films From Rio banner are local comedy hit “The Dognapper,” from Lupa Films, “Dear Ambassador,” a docu/fiction portrait of Brazil’s Schindler, and “Exemplum,” from Escrevendo & Filmes, a suspenser turning on a fictional media magnate.
Genre, more mainstream styles, is no guarantee for international box office. Its flowering, however, at least suggests potential.