LOCARNO – Produced by Rio’s Bubble Project and Luiz Alberto Gentile’s Crisis Produtivas and directed by Ives Rosenfeld, friendship drama “Aspirantes” (Hopefuls) won the Locarno Festival’s Carte Blanche 2014 Prize Monday.

A pix-in-post showcase, the section focused this year on Brazil.

Awarded by a jury comprising the Cannes Festival’s deputy general delegate Christian Jeune; Eva Morsch Kihn, industry department director at Toulouse’s Rencontres de Toulouse;and Vincenzo Bugno, manager of Berlin’s World Cinema Fund, the Carte Blanche prize carries a 10,000 Swiss francs ($11,034) cash award.

That will help complete sound post-production, Bubble Project producer Tatiana Leite said at the Carte Blanche award ceremony.

Explaining its award, the Carte Blanche jury praised “Hopefuls,” “originality and artistic singularity, the dynamics between the characters and the elegance of its direction, in a film that offers a contemporary portrait of Brazil.”

Hopefuls’” Carte Blanche sneak peek was also the first work-in-progress and bigscreen unspooling of the first feature from both director Rosenfeld and Bubbles Project producer Leite, and a movie that fits into the mold of any cutting edge movies now emerging from Brazil: an accessible character-driven arthouse movie, set against the background of a fast-modernizing country that remains a land of vast social inequality.

Written by Rosenfeld and Pedro Freire, “Hopefuls” revolves around Junior, limned by “Tattoo’s” Ariclenes Barroso, who plays for a small club in a small town in the state of Rio. He has a day job but thinks the only way out of his humdrum life is through soccer. He’s not as talented, dedicated or outgoing as his friend (Sergio Malheiros), the team’s star; gets his girlfriend pregnant and his Brazilian dream fades.

“I wanted to tell a story not about Brazilian soccer players who are successful but the ones who don’t make the big time, the vast majority of players,” Rosenfeld told Variety, admitting one of his dreams had been to go pro as a soccer player, but he was nowhere good enough.

“There are beautiful soccer scenes not often seen in Brazil. There’s poetry in the way the film is shot and amazing sequences which give a good idea of contemporary Brazil,” Leite said.

Aim is for “Aspirantes’” post-production to be completed in December, she added.

Canal Brazil will handle pay TV distribution in Brazil. Leite met with sales agents at Locarno. “Hopefuls” still has to sign a theatrical distribution deal for Brazil. A sales agent deal might come before domestic distribution, an indication of the toughness of the Brazilian market for national arthouse movies.