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Cannes: Brazil’s Power Players Still Rolling in Spite of Challenges

Brazil’s economy is languishing, hit by plunging commodity prices. Since last year’s Cannes, the real has depreciated 36% against the dollar, hitting film imports hard. And thanks to preparations for 2016’s budget-busting Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Rio’s regional movie funding has dwindled.

So does 2015’s Cannes catch the Brazilian industry in retreat? Not at all.

Muscular state coin is still in place — last July, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced a 1.2 billion real ($397 million) package of film-TV incentives. Total Brazilian box office, including U.S. movies, powered up 11.7% in 2014 to $744.7 million, according to Filme B.

Requiring cable channels to air 3.5 hours of primetime Brazilian content weekly, 2011’s Law 12,485 has galvanized indie TV production levels. Brazil’s pay TV homes grew 6% year-on-year to 27.3 million in 2014, per the Business Bureau.

In domestic, the major market trend is robust diversification. Once largely known abroad for arthouse movies, top outfits have initiated blockbuster franchise production (Gullane, Conspiracao), targeting mainstream auds (Dezanove) or have set up their own distribution outfits for a larger slice of the theatrical pie (Conspiracao) or platform VOD releases (O2 Play).

Brazilian companies’ holy grail is to make, in producer Fabiano Gullane’s words, “crossover projects” that score in Brazil and see theatrical B.O. traction abroad.

Their challenge is the same as that for other non-English-speaking film powers: Increasingly, very few foreign-language films punch box office seven figures in overseas theatrical markets, or indeed tie down substantial theatrical releases.

Strategies to tackle the issue range wide: Stable co-production relationships (BossaNovaFilms, Dezenove, Rio de Janeiro’s TV Zero); format sales (such as Total Filmes’ purchase of remake rights to “Instructions Not Included”); or scaling up on production, facilitating sales to VOD and pay TV platforms (Gullane).

Another solution: Produce movies that, while deeply grounded in their characters and Brazil’s social context, still strike universal chords. One example: Gullane’s Sundance winner “The Second Mother.” Featuring Globo uber-celeb Regina Case as a put upon live-in maid, its Aug. 13 premiere should be Brazil’s 2015 arthouse event. The Match Factory, meanwhile, has sold it to 25 countries. With this film, a trail may be in sight.

Recent moves from five major Brazilian movie powers:

BOSSANOVAFILMS
BossaNova’s energetic push into international co-production is best exemplified by Chico Teixeira’s 2015 Berlin Panorama hit “Absence,” sold by IM Global/Canana’s Mundial, and “Going to Brazil,” lead-produced by “Little Prince’s” Dimitri Rassam at France’s Chapter 2. Doing so, BossaNovaFilms aims to consolidate stable partnerships and bring shoots to Brazil, says the company’s Paula Cosenza. It’s already achieved both. Taking minority equity on Andres Wood’s Sundance Jury Prize winner, “Violeta Went to Heaven,” lead produced by Chile’s Wood Producciones, BossaNova saw Wood co-produce “Absence” in return. “Going to Brazil,” a road movie thriller with BossaNovaFilms as a minority partner, will shoot in August in Brazil. Also rolling in August is Brazilian Willy Biondani’s “Tudo bom, tudo bem,” a magic realism-tinged culture clash comedy co-produced with France’s Eaux Vives Productions. BossaNovaFilms is now prepping Teixeira’s next, “Dolores.” Rolling off “Absence’s” Berlin splash, Cosenza says BossaNovaFilms would like to spread its co-production partner net beyond France. As substantial sales for titles are ever more challenging, co-production is one way of ensuring overseas distribution, she adds.

CONSPIRACAO
A 16-partner company specializing in movie, TV and commercials, Conspiracao has always had diversification in its DNA. Now expanding on multiple fronts, it has acquired a minority stake in Brazilian distributor H2O, which will release “It Might Just Work” on Oct. 1. Conspiracao has also ramped up TV production, making 200 hours a year, as one of the two biggest indie TV producers in Brazil, says Conspiracao’s Leonardo M. Barros. Upcoming TV productions include Claudio Torres’ ’70s-set “Magnifica 70” for HBO Latin America. In international, where Brazil-German co-production “Bach in Brazil” is set for a fall fest bow, Conspiracao is pushing remake sales. “Ma che bella sorpresa,” a reversioning of Conspiracao hit “The Invisible Woman,” has proved a success in Italy. Conspiracao is also discussing film co-prods with France, Germany, Portugal and Mexico, Barros adds.

DEZENOVE SOM E IMAGENS
This year sees Dezenove’s first big play for mainstream auds, Carlo Milani’s youth-skewed thriller “The Devil’s Scarab,” as well as one of Dezenove’s most ambitious movies ever, “The Surge,” from Walter Salles co-scribe Daniela Thomas (“Linha do passe”). And at Cannes, founder Sara Silveira will pursue Dezenove’s core biz: international co-production. Portugal’s Ukbar Filmes is already co-producing “Surge.” Urban werewolf thriller “Good Manners,” Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas’ follow-up to Un Certain Regard player “Good Manners,” is set for a January shoot, co-produced with France’s Urban Factory. Anna Muylaert’s teen dram  “Mae so ha uma” is in post. Among seven projects in development, the genre-tinged family drama “All the Dead Ones,” from Caetano Gotardo and Dutra, is stirring good buzz.

GULLANE
Prolific, diverse and insistently successful, Gullane has twice scored Brazil’s top local B.O. hit of the year over the last three years — 2012’s “Till Luck Do Us Part” (11.5 million reals) and 2014’s sequel ($14.9 million). But it has also won top honors at France’s Annecy Animation Fest (2013’s “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury”), closed Venice (“Amazonia,” also in 2013) and won a Sundance acting Special Jury Prize (this year’s “The Second Mother”). While beefing up on TV production (with “The Man of Your Life” for HBO and “Basic Health Center” for Brazil’s Universal Channel), founder Fabiano Gullane also announced a 14-movie slate, including many partnerships with Hollywood studios. Handled by Pandora, “Second Mother” bows Aug. 13. Distributed by BVI in Brazil and Latin America, screwball romantic comedy “Sorry for the Disorder” opens Sept. 3; a Fox title for Brazil/Latin America, “Heliopolis,” from Sergio Machado looks bound for a major fest; and sequel “Till Luck Do Us Part 3” opens Christmas Day. Of 2015 shoots, Oscar-nominated editor Daniel Rezende debuts with “A Clown’s Life,” and Lais Bodansky follows up “Rio 2096” with “Just Like Our Parents.”

O2 FILMES
Launched in 1991 and breaking out with 2002’s “City of God,” O2 Filmes has driven hard into TV production of late. Partnering with Brazil’s big names, such as HBO Latin America (“Destino …,” now “The First Day”) and GNT (“The Friends of My Baby,” “Lili, an Ex”), Globo’s femme-skewed cable channel, O2 Filmes has 12 shows in development, production or ready-to-air, says O2 Filmes’ Marcia Vinci. On Globo, it scored boffo recent ratings for “Felices para Sempre?” In film, O2 Filmes is exploring other production avenues and revenue streams, such as theatrical/VOD distributor O2 Play. Of current flagship theatrical productions, Pedro Morelli is in post-production on feature “Zoom,” an animation/live action movie starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Alison Pill. Father Paulo Morelli (“City of Men,” “Entre Nos”) rolled April 29 on the vfx-heavy “Pedro Malasartes,” about a mythical rogue figure of Brazilian culture.

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