Film festival traveler: Sao Paulo

Auteur-friendly event nurtures new talent

The 31st edition of the Sao Paulo Intl. Film Fest, which will be held Oct. 19-Nov. 1 in Brazil’s largest city, will open with the premiere of Hector Babenco’s “The Past,” an Argentine/Brazilian co-production and one of the most hotly anticipated Latin American films of the year.

Babenco’s feature will be the first of more than 200 productions to be shown on 18 screens in the city; some 200,000 tickets are expected to be snapped up.

Besides the massive presence of moviegoers, the Sao Paulo Fest is known for its emphasis on auteur cinema. Instead of the red carpet ritual, fest organizers concentrate their efforts on debating the issues relating to film as a form of art.

“We will discuss the current state of film criticism, which we believe to face a credibility crisis. This lack of credibility is affecting the cinephilia,” fest general director Leon Cakoff says.

To stimulate this debate, the fest will publish a special edition of “La Rampe,” the 1983 book by the late Serge Daney, who was the director of Cahier du Cinema in 1970s. The fest will also hold two film retrospectives related to Daney — the first one screening the writer’s favorite pics, the other comprising recent pics that fit Daney’s philosophy.

The Sao Paulo fest goes far beyond the retrospectives. Its most visible platform is the international competition for first and second features. In the fest’s first week, moviegoers vote on the local and foreign pics for the competition’s shortlist. An international jury picks the winners from that list to give out its Sao Paulo Flag Award.

This is also the fourth year for the fest’s markets and seminar program. Mart is co-organized by Cinema do Brasil, a government-backed program that stimulates international co-productions in the country. The Brazil/Germany audiovisual agreement is one of the main topics in discussion at this year’s fest, with Meinolf Zurhorst, of German pubcaster ZDF, attending.

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