‘Where Is She?’ ‘Hopefuls,’ ‘Lady of

Brazil flexes industry muscle at Swiss Festival

MADRID – Anna Muylaert’s “Where Is She?” Ives Rosenfeld’s “Hopefuls” and Roberto Berliner’s “Lady of the Images” will feature among seven Brazilian pix-in-post at the Locarno Festival’s 4th Carte Blanche.

Running Aug. 9-11, organized by Locarno and Cinema do Brasil, Carte Blanche is a flagship event at Locarno’s Industry Days, which also include market screenings of the festival’s major section films, an Open Doors co-production meet, and a Step In discussion forum.

Brazil’s Carte Blanche is just one sign of a significant Brazilian presence at Locarno, that takes in a multitudinous presence of 56 film professionals – including 22 producers such as Fabiano Gullane, Felipe Braga and Dezenove Som e Imagem’s Sara Silveira, producer of Caetano Gotardo and Marco Dutea’s Cannes Cinefondation project “All the Dead Ones,” and top indie distributors Imovision and Europa Filmes – a Step In round table focus on the Brazilian market, star – and now director-producer – Alice Braga’s presence as an international jury member, and Gabriel Mascaro’s “Ventos de agosto” which plays in International Competition.

The 67th Locarno Festival, which runs Aug. 6-16, may be remembered as many things: One is likely to be that it was the year of the Brazilians.

“We worked to ensure that Brazil’s presence at Locarno in 2014 would be bigger than just Carte Blanche. We have a huge delegation. It is a great opportunity for Brazilian cinema to connect and contact at a very, very special festival,” said Andre Sturm, Cinema do Brasil chairman.

“In Locarno, anybody who is there is looking for other films: Titles from other countries, films in other languages, or auteur-driven films. So it’s special platform for the Brazilian cinema,” he added.

Produced by Fabiano Gullane, Caio Gullane, Debora Ivanov and Gabriel Lacerda for Gullane Fimes and Africa Filmes, “Where is She?”, which is sparking good buzz before its Locarno works in progress bow, is billed as a dramatic comedy about maternal love and social relationships.

Also written by Muylaert, a co-scribe on Cao Hamburger’s Gullane-produced “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation,” “Where is She?” turns on Val, who leaves her daughter Jessica to be raised by relatives, while she goes to Sao Paulo to work for 13 years as a nanny.

One day her daughter arrives to take her college exams in Sao Paulo. Val is overwhelmed by joy and apprehension. However comprehending her employer, the presence of Jessica, a non-conformist by older-order standards, proves a source of mounting tension in the household.

Written by Rosenfeld and Pedro Freire, “Hopefuls” revolves around Junior, a rising soccer star from the streets of Rio, and what he is capable of doing driven by envy of his best friend Bento, his team’s star player. Crisis Produtivas, Bibbles Projects, a creative collective, and 3T Filmes produce.

Helmed by Roberto Berliner and produced by Rodrigo Letier, his partner at TV Zero, “Lady” is a fiction portrait of Nise da Silveira, a ‘50s psychiatrist who helped demonstrate that schizophrenic patients’ can express their “countless states of being” – Antonin Artaud’s phrase – through art. The result was some remarkable faux naïf paintings.

Gullane Filmes is based out of Sao Paulo: TV Zero and “Hopefuls” producers out of Rio.

Further Carte Blanche films are produced out of Recife, in Pernambuco, East Brazil – Camilo Cavalcante’s “Beco dos afogados,” from Aurora Cinema, a docu feature about alley life – Florianopolis in the south – Chico Faganello’s “Wild Savage Prayer” about rural religious fundamentalism – and Porto Alegre, not far from Uruguay: Jose Pedro Goulart’s “Point Zero.” “The Bull,” a docu portrait of Brazilian traditions, is produced by Tu y Tam Filmes, in Curitiba, south of Sao Paulo.

Launched in 2011, Carte Blanche has focused to date on Colombia, Mexico and Chile. As part of this recognition of Latin America’s rapid movie industry and creative growth, Brazil is an obvious – but exciting – choice for 2014.

In Latin American, few movie industries have built so fast, or so strongly, as Brazil’s.

Though driven by big local comedies and biopics rather than the art and crossover fare in Locarno’s Carte Blanche, local movies’ market share stood at 18.6% in 2013, according to Brazilian trade publication Filme B. Other national cinemas in Latin America crack open the champagne if they get into double figures.

This year’s Carte Blanche is also a window onto one of the building driving forces in Latin America cinema and culture in general: The power of its regions.

“As the biggest country in Latin America, Brazil has very different regions and Brazilian cinema reflects the soul of those regions and their way of life. Cinema from Pernambuco is very different from cinema in Rio,” said Nadia Dresti, Locarno head of international.

“Brazil’s new funding systems also means it can get away from totally market-driven telenovela style movie-moving,” she added.

Titles in Carte Blanche were chosen by Locarno from 45 submissions, added Sturm.

“The great number of submissions to the Carte Blanche and the variety of genres and styles coming from many regions of Brazil reaffirm the maturity of the Brazilian production. We’ve sought to send to Locarno films that reflected this diversity, and the Festival has finished the selection of these seven titles, which have now a great opportunity in their hands, Sturm said.

“Even if Sao Paolo and Rio still account for 75% of the films nowadays, ten years ago it was 90%. It’s not that we are doing less films in Sao Paolo and Rio, it’s that we are making more films outside of Sao Paolo and Rio,” he added.

Reasons cut several ways. “Some states support the local industry: Rio Grande do Sul is a very traditional supporter, now we have important production centers also in Pernambuco and Parana. And we have producers trying to develop new centers at Santa Catarina, as an example.” said Sturm.

Also, some private-sector companies are moving into filmmaking. Regions are less expensive to shot in than Sao Paulo and Rio. Brazil is a vast and variegated country with large geographic, climatic and ethnic contrasts, drawing on different immigration history. Lensing in Brazil’s regions can lend an originality to film.

Brazil also interests for other reasons. Its GDP may grow only 1% this year. Its cinema funding looks set to outrun that mightily. In late June, in a play to win over Brazil’s creative classes ahead of October’s general elections, president Dilma Roussef announced a mind-boggling 1.2 billion reales ($540 million) in 2014 government funding for Brazil’s film and TV sectors, under the initiative Brasil de Todas as Telas.

Part of that package – $186 million – was unveiled last December.

The upside of massive subsidy funding, as can be seen on a now far smaller scale in Argentina, is that it relieves utter dependence on market economics, allowing for larger creative freedoms.

Over 2008-12, Brazilian partnered in 78 official co-prods:

Way-up on the first half of last decade when it was lucky to link with overseas on three-to-four films a year, per Sturm.

Though tapping into remarkable domestic funding, Brazil’s more international producers are still keen to tie down overseas co-production to open up international distribution channels, Dresti said.

That is already happening. International promotion org Cinema do Brazil now offers the most muscular incentives of any state agency in Latin America to both sales agents and foreign distributors who take on Brazilian films.

Above all, a remarkable young generation of new directors and producers has broken through throughout Latin America, broadening filmmaking options way beyond the predominantly straight-arrow social-issue realism of past generations, at least as Latin American movies were largely known abroad.

Brazil is no exception. Its 2014 Academy Award submission, “Neighboring Sounds,” the feature debut of critic-turned helmer Kleber Mendonca Filho, is an acid critique of social immobilism among Brazil’s middle classes, but wrapped in low-key dramedy until its final pay-off.

A put-down on swinging machismo and its fall-out, but also a multi-POV suspense thriller, “A Wolf at the Door,” Fernando Coimbra’s first feature, won top plaudits at San Sebastian, Rio and Miami fests; Hilton Lacerda’s fiction debut, cabaret-set “Tattoo,” a homage to early and earthy pro-democracy bohemia under Brazil’s dictatorship, swept five prizes at October’s Rio Festival. None turn on the grinding poverty or on-the-nose repression of prior generations’ social portraits.

For Brazil, success at Carte Blanche can also help spark sales. 2013’s winner, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ revenge thriller “To Kill a Man,” went on to top Sanfic in Santiago de Chile, be picked up at San Sebastian for international sales by Spain’s Film Factory Entertainment, and scoop the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at 2’14’s Sundance, where it world premiered.

A jury composed of film industry professionals – Berlin Festival World Cinema Fund project manager Vincenzo Bugno, the Cannes Festival’s Christian Jeune, Toulouse/San Sebastian Films in Progress selector Eva Morsch Kihn – will award the best film with a cash prize of CHF 10,000 ($9,000).

Carte Blanche is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more