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Co-Productions on the Rise in Brazil

Better late than never. In February, the U.K. and Brazil ratified a film-TV co-production treaty first unveiled in 2012.

At the Rio Content Market in March, Brazilian and French film authorities signed a framework collaboration pact hailed as a first step toward their own bilateral co-production treaty. The main Brazil event at Cannes will be a U.K.-Brazilian co-production meet, organized by state-backed film promotional entity, Cinema do Brasil.

Brazil’s film industry has long been a force to reckon with on the international stage. But the thrust of its film policy abroad over the past decade has been into international co-production, particularly in Latin America. Spearheaded by state-backed film agency Ancine, this Portuguese-speaking nation has forged co-production treaties with a host of countries including Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, Chile, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Venezuela; and it is signatory to multilateral treaties such as the Ibero-American Film Integration and the Latin American Film Co-Production Agreements.

“In the last eight years, Brazil participated in more international co-productions than in the past 30 years,” says Andre Sturm, chairman of Cinema do Brasil. The reasons are far more than just a question of funding or tapping the incentives of each country.

“Working with Latin America has several advantages, such as geographic proximity, similar cultures, economic and political treaties — but the language barrier can be an issue,” says Sturm. “At the same time, a few years ago Brazilian filmmakers chose to post-produce their films in neighboring countries, due to costs, and this often resulted in spontaneous co-productions.”

“Co-productions allow for the exhibition of our films in other countries, and conversely, their films’ distribution in Brazil,” says Vania Catani, whose Rio-based Bananeira Filmes is a lead co-producer, alongside Argentina’s Rei Cine, of the $3.7 million eight-country co-production “Zama” by Lucrecia Martel (“La Cienaga”). The film is still in post.

Zama” does not lack in star backers: Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar of El Deseo, Spain, are co-producers. Executive producers include Mexican celebrities Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna of Canana. They join producers from France, the U.S., the Netherlands and Portugal.

Based on Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 existential novel, “Zama” centers on a 17th century Spanish officer (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) who awaits his transfer from Paraguay to Buenos Aires.
“I think cinema can and should break frontiers and I am willing to work for it,” Catani says.

“Latin America is a very heterogeneous region; each country has its own peculiar culture,” says producer Ana Alice de Morais of 3Moinhos, a co-producer of Argentine road movie-family drama “Malambo King” by Juan Pablo Felix. “Despite this diversity, they can have many social issues in common; some of them even share similar political histories. There is also a very similar way of producing and doing business.”

Fellipe Barbosa was considering cuts mid-shoot to his 2017 Cannes Critics’ Week entry “Gabriel and the Mountain” when additional coin came in through Arte France and Yohann Cornu of Damned Films. “I wouldn’t have been able to finish my film without co-production funding,” Barbosa says. “The main advantage [to co-production] is collaboration: this is priceless, to collaborate with a different school of cinema, in my case, the French one, working on sound and color during post-production, with amazing professionals.”

Barbosa, like many of Brazil’s emerging talent, has been educated abroad. He has an MFA in film from Columbia U. “As an official co-production with France, we fall into the French quotas for distribution, which makes the release of the film potentially bigger in France and Europe,” Barbosa adds.

Perhaps unprecedented for a Brazilian film, “Gabriel” also had the support of Kenya’s Vincho Nchogu, who served as line producer as the film shot for 72 days across Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi. Using actors and some of the real people who had interacted with Gabriel, “Gabriel and the Mountain,” traces the last days of Barbosa’s childhood friend who died on the slopes of Malawi’s highest peak.

Naturally, there are still some obstacles to hurdle.

“The biggest challenge to participating in a co-production is the time it takes for the evaluation of the project and the release of funds,” says Argentine producer Gema Juarez Allen, who co-produces “La Cama,” by Monica Lairana, with the Netherlands’ Topkapi Films, Germany’s Sutor Kolonko and Brazil’s 3Moinhos. “Sometimes the obligation to cast actors from co-producing countries can also stretch the integrity of a plot,” she adds.

“An international co-production is laborious; there is more bureaucracy involved,” concurs “La Cama” co-producer Morais.

“Latin American film funds are infinitely less crowded than the major European funds. On the other hand, the bureaucracy — something that Latin American producers are familiar with — is much larger,” Sturm says.

However, as Catani points out, “creative differences do exist, but can be a stimulating challenge.”

And Brazil is also looking beyond its regional neighbors. According to Sturm, Cinema do Brasil is hoping to open up markets in China and South Korea and plans to participate in the Hong Kong and Busan festivals as the first step.

A Roundup of Brazilian Films Screening in Cannes

Divine Divas
Director: Leandra Leal
Logline: Famed Brazilian actress Leal (“A Wolf at the Door”) makes her directorial debut with this SXSW doc audience award winner examining the icons of 1960s Brazilian transvestite culture.

Elon Doesn’t Believe in Death
Director: Ricardo Alves Jr.
Logline: Nominated for the Discovery Award in 2011, Alves returns to Cannes with the story of a man searching for answers after his wife’s disappearance.
Sales: Wide

Friendly Beast
Director: Gabriela Amaral Almeida
Logline: “A woman director who likes to make Tarantino movies,” says her producer Rodrigo Teixeira of RT Features of one of Brazil’s most talked-up young screenwriters-turned-director. This, her directorial debut, a huit clos of Tartantinesque violence, turns on a threatened restaurant owner who holes up in his joint, taking his patrons hostage, forcing primal instincts to the fore. To track.
Sales: Stray Dogs

Gabriel and the Mountain
Director: Felipe Barbosa
Logline: Brazil’s sole Cannes selected feature, playing Critics’ Week, shot mostly in English and set in Africa with shades of “Into the Wild” as a gap-year backpacker leaves his old identity, goes local, loses himself.
Sales: Films Boutique

Ghost Towns
Director: Tyrell Spencer
Logline: First feature doc visits four ghost towns in four Latin American countries.

Joaquim
Director: Marcelo Gomes
Logline: An anti-colonial 18th-century political drama explaining why Tiradentes, Brazil’s most famous independence fighter, rose up against the Portuguese crown. A Berlinale competition entry.
Sales: Films Boutique

Just Like Our Parents
Director: Lais Bodansky
Logline: Latest from Brazilian powerhouse Gullane (“Second Mother”) and Bodanzky, a leading Brazilian female director, it’s the story of one woman’s daily battle against chauvinism and rediscovery of her true self. Well-liked at Berlin.
Sales: Wild Bunch

Life Is a Bitch
Director: Julia Rezende
Logline: Rezende displays her dramatic chops after comedy “A Boyfriend for My Wife” with this tale of four hapless friends embarking on a kidnapping.

Lino
Director: Rafael Ribas
Logline: An animated feature, sold by Guido Rud, who has a strong line in Latin American toon features, about a party entertainer who, with the help of a poor wizard, becomes his hated costume.
Sales: Filmsharks Int’l

Little Secret
Director: David Schurmann
Logline: Brazil’s foreign-language Oscar entry, a sweeping, if personal, three-part seafaring story of cross-culture love and tragedy. Stars Julia Lemmertz, Maria Flor, Fionnula Flanagan.

Mad About Her
Director: Marcus Ligocki Jr.
Logline: A romantic tale of a politician’s wife trying to get away from her husband and falling in love with herself and her life dreams.
Sales: Summerside Int’l.

A Movie Life
Director: Selton Mello
Logline: A pick-up from IM Global’s Mundial, produced by Vania Catani, pairing Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan) and Mello, one of Brazil’s foremost actors (“Drained”) and writer-directors (“The Clown”) for a rites-of-passage tale set in Brazil’s sleepy southern hills.
Sales: Mundial

Neurotic Quest for Serenity
Director: Paulo Caruso, Teodoro Poppovic
Logline: A comedy dealing with a successful comedian suffering OCD and seeking to balance her life.

Nimuendajú
Director: Tânia Anaya
Logline: Based on German ethnologist Curt Nimuendajú’s life with, and studies of, nearly 50 indigenous Brazilian populations featuring sketchy animation mixed with historical records.

Nobody’s Watching
Director: Julia Solomonoff
Logline: Top Argentine female director Solomonoff directs Guillermo Pfening in a Tribeca lead actor winning turn as an Argentine immigrant and would-be actor who must reconcile a left-behind love-life with his current struggles in NYC.
Sales: FiGa Films

On Wheels
Director: Mauro D’Addio
Logline: This coming-of-age road trip film for pre-teens follows a girl and her wheelchair-bound friend’s journey to meet her father.
Sales: APL Film

Our Evil
Director: Samuel Galli
Logline: The story of a spiritualist who receives a supernatural warning that his daughter’s in danger and hires a serial killer to aid in her protection. Galli wrote and directed. Featured at Cannes’ 2017 Blood Window showcase.
Sales: Jinga Films

Pendular
Director: Julia Murat
Logline: Murat’s follow-up to debut festival hit “Forgotten Memories” chronicles the collapse of a dancer and sculptor’s relationship, with a poetic, meditative style. A Berlinale Panorama Fipresci Prize winner.
Sales: Still Movies

Tito and the Birds 
Director: Gustavo Steinberg, Gabriel Bitar
Logline: A painterly 2D impressionist animated film for all ages about a boy who must save the world from a mysterious new pandemic. Selected for Annecy’s Works in Progress in June.

Two Irenes
Director: Fabio Meira
Logline: First feature from Meira, co-scribe of Rio Festival winner “De Menor,” a coming-of-age eulogy to sisterhood as two-half sisters challenge their father’s cheating on their mothers.
Sales: True Colours

Vazante
Director: Daniela Thomas
Logline: Berlinale Panorama co-opener, Thomas’ solo debut, an 1821 drama set on a benighted farmhouse where a young wife is left to her own devices with her estate’s slaves.
Sales: Films Boutique

Who Primavera Das Neves Is
Director: Ana Luiza Azevedo and Jorge Furtado
Logline: Berlinale Silver Bear short winner teams with Cannes veteran Azevedo to uncover the cross-continental life history of polyglot film translator Primavera Neves.

The Watchman
Director: Alejandro Andujar
Logline: Accomplished screenwriter Andujar, “Cristo Rey”, “Maria Montez: The Movie,”  takes his turn behind the camera in this story of a caretaker who neglects watching the home he is charged with and instead watches a woman.
Sales: Habanero Film Sales

Whirlpool
Director: Jose Luiz Villamarim
Logline: Longtime TV director Villamarim presents a nostalgic thriller focusing on two long separated friends who reminisce over too many drinks in their old hometown.
Sales: Habanero
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