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Paulo Morelli on ‘Sheep’s Clothing,’ a Film ‘About the Passage of Time’

Passage to adulthood story produced by Fernando Meirelles’ O2 Filmes

Writer-director Paulo Morelli set off with quite the location challenge with “Entre Nos” (Sheep’s Clothing), premiering in Premiere Brazil at this week’s Rio de Janeiro’s Festival. He wanted to shoot the transformation of a group of young people in a single cottage, which he did in the new drama and comedy film. He found time to talk to Variety about that challenge, what inspired “Sheep’s Clothing” and how film is doing in Brazil.

What inspired “Sheep’s Clothing”?

The initial inspiration was to make a movie with my son, Pedro. We started talking about it when he was 16. When we shot the movie, he was 26. Exactly ten years from the concept to the realization of the project- exactly the same time frame that is depicted in the film. We may say that the film is about the passing of time, the process of maturing in which the aspirations and dreams of youth are transformed by time and reality. The expectations of a group of young writers will be confronted with what they have become ten years later. Ten years to make the movie. Ten years for young people become adults. Ten years to dig up letters. Ten years to reveal secrets and dreams buried in the ground.

What do you think your film brings to the mix?

“Sheep’s Clothing” has a very peculiar mix of genres: Drama, comedy and tension, which is not very common in Brazil. The social environment portrayed (a group of friends from a wealthy social class) usually is not represented in Brazilian drama movies. This social world is more often presented in comedies, while Brazilian dramas tend to focus on the social reality of the country. Our film is a drama that does not address social issues explicitly, but focuses on the subtleties of personal relationships between the characters, and intends to approach universal human values.

I read that the film was shot entirely in one cottage. What was that like?

That was a big challenge. Having the entire film set in one location was the initial concept of the project, but we really didn’t want the film to be visually repetitive, so we had to use film tools to make it dynamic. That’s why the film uses different cinematic languages for each dramatic part. We go from a warm and emotional camera attitude to something much colder and peaceful, depending on the emotions and dynamics each scene demands. Spending all that time in the country house was really intense, and that brought lots of intimacy between actors, crew and the location itself. That was really special because the film is all about a group of friends enjoying some days at this house, and we had a similar experience while making it. The rehearsals with the actors were made at the house, so they could feel at home there. Hopefully that can be felt on the screen.

What challenges do Brazilian filmmakers face?

We don’t really have a film industry in Brazil yet. The audience has started seeing Brazilian films regularly over the past few years, so this is a defining moment for us. What kind of films do people want to see? And why would they choose to see a Brazilian film instead of a foreign one? The answer is: People like to see themselves on the screen, so the more authentic our films can be, the more people will enjoy them, after all that’s the only thing we can offer and no one else can.

Who is your target audience?

Young people and adults. Anyone between 16 and 40. “Sheep’s Clothing” has a thriller in its central plot but also finds moments of lightness and emotion between friends. Adults like the rhythm of the film, while young people get excited about its plot. The target audience is wide because it’s a film about the passage of time, and that’s appreciated by people at any age, with expectations about their future and emotional memories about their past.

How have you seen the Brazilian film market change over the years?

The panorama of the domestic market has been improving every year. We have a young industry that still has to grow a lot. Comedy and action are already consolidated in the national market. But O2 Filmes, as some other production companies, have been working on drama films, or feature films based on true stories, trying to strengthen the national cinema in all genres. The response has been positive. The market share for national productions is improving and also the number of Brazilian titles released. I believe that these changes travel abroad and that the international market is opening its eyes to Brazilian cinema.

What are you bringing to the Brazilian film market?

My film only. And that’s a lot, I can say. All the expectation for the premiere in Brazil plus the work for international market that is going to start now with the final cut. We are looking for a partner for international sales in the film market.

What kinds of projects are selling these days?In the Brazilian market, mostly comedy. Also action movies like “Elite Squad” and O2 production, “City of God,” that will be always a good kind of movie to work both in the national and international market. Our latest drama, [Sundance player] “Father’s Chair,” sold 400,000 tickets, a good number. We want to consolidate Brazilian cinema producing good films and releasing them with all of our effort, so that they’re a success.

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