“Elite Squad,” helmer Jose Padilha’s breakthrough pic, was still at the lensing stage in 2006 when the film started to get massive media attention in Brazil.
Criminals kidnapped five members of the pic’s production team near its Rio slum set. “They released our people in another slum several miles away. No one was hurt, but everybody was scared, and we suspended the shooting for a week,” Padilha recalls.
Not only did the $5 million “Elite,” which is headed for Berlin, become Brazil’s top-grossing local film in 2007, with $11.7 million, but it also became a magnet for controversy when some labeled “Elite” as “fascist,” charging the pic with glamorizing the violent practices of Rio police’s specialo-ops unit BOPE.
Padilha and partner Marcos Prado founded Zazen Prods. in 1997. As they “did not know how to direct,” they hired American helmer Nigel Noble to direct Zazen’s first feature, doc “The Charcoal People,” which unspooled at Sundance in 2000.
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At Sundance 2002, Padilha premiered “Bus 174,” a doc depicting a notorious bus hijacking in Rio; his talks with BOPE officers who were at the hijack scene led Padilha to make “Elite.” He spent more than a year researching Rio’s police department before writing the script, which was picked up by Universal and the Weinstein Co. for distribution.
“Determined, confident and very creative, Padilha is one of the boldest directors I have worked with,” says Daniel Rezende, who edited “Elite.” “He knows exactly what he wants and believes making films is a team (effort), which are characteristics of a great director.”
A drama about corruption penned by Luiz Eduardo Soares, “O corruptologo,” is set to be Padilha’s next pic. He’s also reading English-language scripts.
“I want to direct a film in the U.S. — that is the mecca of film. I have a style which derives from my documentary background. It is a way of moving the camera, directing the actors, which I believe will work well in the U.S.,” says Padilha, who is fluent in English.
PROVENANCE: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
INSPIRED BY: “Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Fernando Meirelles. My favorite film is ‘Goodfellas.’ I love the way the narration interacts with the images.”
REPS: Agent, David Kopple (Gersh); attorney, Sue Bodine (Cowan, Debaets, Abrahams & Sheppard)