MADRID – Movies from three of Brazil’s most talked-up new or on-the-rise talents – Gabriel Mascaro’s second feature “Neon Bull,” and Ives Rosenfeld’s “Hopefuls” and Anita Rocha da Silveira’s “Kill Me, Please,” both debuts – swept top plaudits at 2015’s Premiere Brazil, the centerpiece Brazilian-film-focused section of this year’s Rio de Janeiro Intl. Film Festival.
Two other first-time directors – Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon- scooped with “Seashore” both Rio’s New Trends best film award and a Special Jury Prize at its Felix Awards.
Sold by Memento Films International’s Artscope, a leading European art film label, Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” swept Premiere Brazil’s top best film plaudit, plus screenplay (Mascaro, plus Marcelo Gomes, a director in his own right (“Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures”), Cesar Turim and Daniel Bandeira), cinematography (Diego Garcia) and supporting actress (child actor Aline Santana).
Lead-produced like “August Winds,” Mascaro’s first feature, by Rachel Ellis at Recife-based Desvia Films, “Neon Bull” weighed in at Rio with much in its favor: Co-producers such as Rodrigo Pla and Sandino Saravai Vinay’s Montevideo-based Malbicho Cine and Marleen Slot at Netherlands’ Viking Film; Mascaro’s status as one of the illustrious names to recently emerge on Brazil’s regional cinema scene, here Pernambuco; and enthusiastic reviews and a Special Jury Prize in Venice Horizons, where it world premiered, in September.
Turning on a “vaquiero,” a stable hand feeding and caring for bulls at Vaquejadas, a traditional rodeo in North-East Brazil, “Neon Bull” also combine social reflection – the vaqueiro dreams about becoming a fashion designer as modernization kicks in even in Brazil’s strongholds of machismo – high artistic ambition, especially in its cinematography, and a pervasive sexuality. Like Autumn Winds,” “Neon Bull” “similarly exudes hormones from every pore, sure to seduce many a festival with its helmer’s gift for frank sexuality and unforgettable imagery,” Peter Debruge wrote in Variety. “Selected at random, any given frame of the film might stand alone powerfully as a Dutch genre painting (think Brueghel or Vermeer), communicating the very texture and smells of each environment – some so oppressive the nose wrinkles at the sight.”
Not for nothing has Carlos Reygadas tapped DP Garcia to work on his upcoming “Where Life is Born.”
Underscoring the building diversity of Brazilian new generation cinema – as that of Latin America’s at large – “Hopefuls” – which shared director and won actor (Ariclenes Barroso) and supporting actress (Julia Bernat) ex-aequeo, is also set in a larger social framework –the flipside of the Brazilian dream of soccer as a get-out-of-poverty card – but is shot in a far more traditionally realist style.
Barroso (seen in 2013 Rio Fest top winner “Tattoo”) limns Junior who plays for a small club in a small town in the state of Rio. Rather too acquiescent, he pushes the clock at a day job, isn’t talented enough to make the big time, gets his girlfriend pregnant, and his Brazilian Dream fades, as he seethes with jealousy at his best friend, now a rising soccer star.
“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.
Produced by Rio’s Bubble Project and Luis Alberto Gentile’s Crisis Produtivas, “Hopefuls” won a coveted Brazil-focused First Look prize at Locarno last year, marking Rosenfeld as a talent to watch.
Also trackable, Anita Rocha da Silveira’s “Kill Me Please” shared best director for a flamboyant feature debut. Lead Valentina Herszage, who looks uncannily like a teen Demi Moore, also nabbed best actress for her turn as a 15-year-old student in Rio de Janeiro’s rich Barra de Tijuca, whose exclusive high-school is terrorized by a serial killer. Skewering the Brazilian dream, and half serial killer thriller half coming-of-age drama-comedy, “Kill Me, Please” is produced by Vania Catani’s Bananeira Films and co-produced by Argentina’s REI Cinema, headed by Benjamin Domenech and Santiago Gallelli, as pan-regional Latin American co-production builds.
“I wanted to highlight how developing countries, their new middle classes, deal with these new spaces. Also, I wanted to bring some of my own experiences as a teenager to the film, but making them over the top, fantastical,” Rocha da Silveira told Variety.
Cinematographer Joao Atala, like Rocha and most of the crew, is an alum of Rio’s Pontifical Catholic U, colors are increasingly lively. Group scenes sometimes look – comically – like Benetton ads.
Championed by L.A.-based FiGa Films, and one of the first titles on its FiGa/Br line-up, “Seashore,” a Wolfe Releasing pick-up for North America, turns on two childhood friends who have drifted apart and, now late teens, embark on a trip to a beach-house outside Porto Alegre. One is gay, the other not: the trip forces them to recognize their distance, the effect of time, caught in the rolling waves outside.
Fipresci Best Latin American Award went to “I Promise You Anarchy,” sold by Latido Films. Guatemalan-Mexican Julio Hernandez Cordon’s most confident title to date, it depicts two young skateborders’ friendship and love in a near surrealistic Mexican City.
The Rio de Janeiro Intl. Film Festival ran Oct. 1-14.
2015 RIO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL WINNERS:
BEST FICTION FEATURE
“Neon Bull,” (Gabriel Mascaro)
BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY
“Olmo and The Seagull,” (Petra Costa and Lea Glob)
BEST DIRECTOR – FICTION (ex aequo)
Ives Rosenfeld (“Hopefuls”)
Anita Rocha da Silveira (“Kill Me Please”)
BEST DIRECTOR – DOCUMENTARY
Maria Augusta Ramos (“Future June”)
Valentina Herszage (“Kill Me Please”)
Ariclenes Barroso (“Hopefuls”)
Gabriel Mascaro, (“Neon Bull”)
BEST SUPORTING ACTRESS (ex aequo)
Alyne Santana (“Neon Bull”)
Julia Bernat (“Hopefuls”)
BEST SUPORTING ACTOR
Caio Horowicz (“California”)
Diego Garcia (“Neon Bull” Gabriel Mascaro)
Sergio Mekler (“Campo Grande” Sandra Kogut)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Oblivious Memory”, (Ruy Guerra)
OTHER MAIN PRIZES:
NEW TRENDS JURY PRIZES
BEST FEATURE FILM
“Seashore,” (Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon)
“October Is Over,” (Miguel Seabra Lopes)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Jonah” (Lô Politi)
PUBLIC AUDIENCE AWARDS
BEST FEATURE FILM
“Nise the Heart of Madness,” (Roberto Berliner)
BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY
“Betinho – Hope on the Line,” (Victor Lopes)
FURTHER FESTIVAL AWARDS:
FIPRESCI BEST LATIN AMERICAN FILM
“I Promise You Anarchy,” (Julio Hernández Cordón)
BEST FICTION FILM
“Tangerine,” (Sean Baker)
“The New Man,” (Aldo Garay)