Three Brazilian films are bowing in quick succession early this year and at least one other is due this summer, an unprecedented number for the U.S.
While the upswing could be a fluke, it also shows that recent films from the Portuguese-speaking nation are appealing to a wide range of auds. Emerging talents are joining established names like Fernando Meirelles (“The Constant Gardener”) and Walter Salles (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) in the global arena.
Meirelles’ O2 Filmes has set up pics from tyro Brazilian helmers Cao Hamburger (“Xingu”), Heitor Dhalia (“Adrift”) and Nando Olival (“Round Trip”) under its three-year first-look production pact with Universal/Focus Features.
“Brazil is heating up and we are out there looking for more co-production and acquisition possibilities, as I’m sure are the other studios,” says Marcus Lansdell of Gotham-based City Lights Pictures. which is releasing Hamburger’s “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation” on Feb. 8.
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Hamburger’s coming-of-age tale is Brazil’s foreign-language Oscar entry. Pic has sold to nearly 30 countries since its world premiere at last year’s Berlin Film Fest.
“Our overall strategy for this film is to first and foremost, target arthouse/foreign filmloving audiences,” says Lansdell, who says the distrib will also target Jewish filmgoers and Brazilians living in the U.S. Hamburger is co-writing his next pic “Xingu,” about the founding of the Xingu National Park in Brazil’s Amazon forest, for O2 Filmes.
New L.A.-based indie FiGA Films has selected Chico Teixeira’s debut pic, family drama “Alice’s House,” to launch its distribution operations Jan. 25. Run by Sandro Fiorin, a Brazilian, and Cuban partner Alex Garcia, FiGA Films plans to release three to four Latino pics a year.
“All the four films coming out this year in the U.S. are completely different; it just shows the diversity of material coming out of Brazil,” says Fiorin. The Weinstein Co. is likely to release local box office hit “Elite Squad” in the summer, signaling its strong confidence in the police actioner by Jose Padilha (“Bus 174”). TWC acquired worldwide rights outside Latin America, where co-producer Universal owns the rights. It’s TWC’s first Latino co-production made in association with Buenos Aires-based Costantini Films and their joint venture Latin American Fund.
Said Christian Grass, President, Production, Universal Pictures International Studios, “We are excited about the potential of the films we are producing in Brazil, and about Brazilian filmmaking in general. There is a real vibrancy there, with talented filmmakers whose fresh voices reflect the diversity of their country.”
Meanwhile, Miramax releases the O2-produced “City of Men,” a companion piece to Meirelles’ seminal “City of God,” on Feb. 29.
Of the four pics, “Elite Squad” and “City of Men” could fare as well or possibly even better than “City of God” which grossed $7.5 million in 2004.
The Disney-based label also acquired Meirelles’ next English-language pic, “Blindness.”
“Brazil has such a vibrant film community,” says Miramax prexy of production and development, Keri Putnam. “While we have no specific projects just now, we’re looking to work with more established and emerging Brazilian talent in the future.”