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‘Road 47’: Telling a ‘Forgotten Part of History’

Director Vicente Ferraz talks about his World War II movie, a departure for Brazilian filmmaking

The alliance of three soldiers of different nationalities- Brazilian, German and Italian- may be an unlikely alliance, but it happens in Vicente Ferraz’s new film, “Road 47,” which bowed in the Rio Festival’s Premiere Brazil on Friday. Ferraz took some time out to talk to Variety about the movie, his take on a historical work and the Brazilian film market.

Tell me about your new project, “Road 47”

It’s a story about an unusual encounter of deserters during the Second World War. During the freezing winter of 1944, after a panic attack, four Brazilian soldiers find themselves lost in the middle of a No Man’s Land. They end up meeting two deserters: an Italian soldier that wants to join the resistance and a German officer tired of war. From this moment on, they form a strange group of deserters. But with the help of these two ex-enemies, the Brazilians will attempt to disable the most feared landmine in Italy: The Road 47.

What inspired this project?

It has always impressed me, the fact that Brazil took part in a war that was happening so far away. It was the only Latin American country to send troops! All together more than 25,000 young men from all over the country went to fight in Italy during the worst winter of the 20th century. As I read their diaries and letters and talked to ex-combatants, I saw the human side of that small epic moment in our country, a moment that helps to reveal different types of Brazilians. As I talked to them, I understood the drama that they lived and remember until today. After all, the same German bullet could kill any Ally soldier, whether Russian, American or Brazilian. It’s a part of history that was forgotten by the Brazilians and which is completely unknown abroad.

What do you think your film brings to the mix?

This isn’t a movie about the war, although it does refer to this kind of genre. It’s a film about human relations in a limited situation, and which has an original plot.

What made you want to take on a historical film?

My desire to talk about my country and its people from the perspective of such a transcendental moment such as World War II.

What are you bringing to the Brazilian film market?

A film with innumerable possibilities for distribution and new projects that I wish to do in the near future.

What challenges do Brazilian filmmakers face?

I don’t think that the challenges Brazilian filmmakers face are very different from people making independent cinema in any part of the world, including the U.S., of which we have this stereotype view and we think it’s all like California. I’ve made films in different parts of the world, I know quite a few filmmakers and I see one thing in common: the difficulty in getting a film made outside the main industry. Cinema is a risky business, even in Hollywood!

The roots of Brazilian cinema are very linked to “auteur” films, a craft, in constant dialogue with the social problems of the country. But, nowadays, we are experiencing an interesting consolidation of a semi-industrial process as different kinds of filmmakers appear, some investigating film language, others trying to consolidate the market with entertainment cinema. In between these extremes there is an infinite diversity of films.

What kinds of projects are selling these days?

I think that, in the last 15 years, as we came in touch with a cinematography that until then was hardly known by western cultures, along with new technologies that have reduced the costs in filmmaking, there has been a greater diversity in world cinema. For those dedicated to the market, I believe that the “menu” is full of options. There are films for all kinds of tastes and markets. Of course there is always a certain tendency to what is most popular, and the reformulations that the major studios make.

What do you think audiences will get out of the story?

I wanted to talk about Brazilians in a war, I didn’t want to make a genre film. Although “Road 47” is an “auteur” movie,” it tells a simple story, which is human and universal. I’m sure that it will reach the public that is looking for another kind of cinema, not just entertainment. And I believe that people who pay to watch a film, who choose the films they watch, are looking for something more permanent, something that touches deep in their soul.

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

The greatest problem we face with the cinema that we make in Brazil goes beyond the screens. As in other sectors of the economy, we live cycles. Sometimes we win public, sometimes we lose it. At the end of the ‘80s, beginning of the ‘90s, due to economic crisis and political mess-ups, our cinema almost disappeared. Today we are fighting to recover the public for our films. This constant dialogue with the spectator is our greatest challenge.

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