Traditionally, movies from Brazil have not benefitted from the kind of public funding and international distribution support systems that, in Europe, often decide whether a film gets distribution at all, be it P&A backing or national film board promotion coin: Think Unifrance.

Since 2009, however, one promotion agency has been filling that gap: Cinema do Brasil.

CDB’s so-called Distribution Support Award, a P&A fund, offers up to $25,000 to foreign distributors of Brazilian films.

Re-enforcing its commitment in 2012 the CDB launched the Distributors World Cup. It was won in the first phase by France’s Damned Distribution and Portugal’s Alambique, whose execs earned a trip to Rio’s Carnival and meet Brazilian producers.

“Both companies released two Brazilian films in just one year. Both are always looking for new Brazilian movies,” says CDB chairman Andre Sturm.

In the scheme’s second phase, three distributors will win tickets for Brazil’s 2014 FIFA World Cup; the two top distributors will receive $30,000 for P&A on Brazilian pics.

“Releasing indie films in theaters is getting increasingly difficult and risky worldwide,” says Yohann Cornu, at Damned Distribution. “The incentive really helps distributors take that risk.”

Damned won for its distribution of “Swirl,” Helvecio Marins Jr. and Clarissa Campolina’s portrait of rural myths, and “Artificial Paradises,” the fiction debut of “Elite Squad” producer Marcos Prado, set in the drug-rave scene.

Released in French theaters last year, “Swirl” and “Paradises” bow on DVD and VOD in March. TV deals are under negotiation.

Portugal’s Alambique released Esmir Filho’s coming-of-age debut “The Famous and the Dead” on one print; first-timer Marcos Jorge’s culinary revenge “Estomago: A Gastronomic Story” bowed on five.

International B.O. figures for Brazilian films are often very niche. The real money usually comes from TV deals. But a theatrical release primes ancillary value. It’s also a step forward for small Brazilian films to get any theatrical release at all.

“Given the diversity of Brazilian Cinema, each title is a new challenge for distribution,” Cornu says.

In Portugal, “Famous,” a specialty film, had its premiere at the Lisbon Cinemateque; penitenciary-set “Estomago,” given its bigger marketing potential, premiered in a prison, a powerful event, remembers Alambique’s manager Luis Apolinario.

Both pics also opened on DVD and VOD and were acquired and aired by Portuguese pubcaster RTP.

All the efforts have paid off and in recent years Brazilian films have won bigger market visibility. The country’s features enjoyed about 50 theatrical releases abroad last year, with France and Germany the main destinations, followed by Spain, Italy and Canada.

“Brazil’s international cinema presence is far better than in the past but still lower than what we can achieve. This is our main challenge,” Sturm says. “There are not only favelas, violence or cop movies.”

“Regarding its economy, culture and territory, Brazil is currently one of the world’s most fascinating countries,” Cornu says. “Its cinema is also entering a new cycle with many new directors with strong, free-ranging film concepts.”

Apolinario says: “Most people are still not aware of the new wave of talented directors and actors. That’s a work in progress. We still have to continue releasing more Brazilian films on a regular basis.”

Berlin Daily Spotlight 2013: Brazil Cinema
Surging co-prod activity signals emerging giant | Org offers P&A coin to spur distribs | Brazilian pics in Berlin