LOCARNO – Zeroing in on the latest film by one of Latin America’s most ambitious and successful production houses, Germany’s Films Boutique has acquired world sales rights outside Latin America and Portugal to Sergio Machado’s “The Violin Teacher,” which closes Locarno Saturday night.
“Teacher” is produced by Brazil’s Gullane whose “The Second Mother,” part of Gullane’s crusade to make “crossover projects” that score in Brazil and see theatrical B.O. traction abroad (see below) was a hit at Locarno – in pix-in-post section First Look – Sundance and Berlin. At Sundance, it won World Cinema actress kudos for leads Regina Case and Camila Mardila.
Fox Intl. Productions (FIP) co-produces “Teacher.” Fox has also acquired rights to Brazil, the rest of Latin America and Portugal, per producer Fabiano Gullane. Zurich-based Xenix Filmdistribution, whose pck ups include Stephane Brize’s “ Cannes best actor winner (for Vincent Lindon), “A Measure of a Man” has acquired Swiss rights.
Gullane also produced Venice closer “Amazon,” Annecy Animation Fest winner “Rio 2096,” Fernando Coimbra’s standout debut “A Wolf at the Door,” and Brazilian cinema’s biggest hits in Brazil in 2012 and 2014.
“Second Mother” turned on equitable access to top-notch education, as a driver of social progress in Brazil; ”The Violin Teacher” centers on access to culture and respect: For self, professional and social. Based on true events, it protagonist is a talented violinist (Lazaro Ramos) asked to chose between his orchestra career and teaching teens music in Sao Paulo’s biggest favela. A co-scribe on Walter Salles’ “Behind the Sun,” Machado caught attention with “Lower City” and also directed HBO Latin America hot series “Alice.” Screenplay is by Maria Adelaide do Amaral, after 30 years of writing telenovelas, and director-scribe Marcelo Gomes (“The Man of the Crowd,” “Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures,”), a member, like Machado and Karim Ainouz, of a generation of filmmakers which broke through around the turn of the century and is currently driving much of Brazilian production.
“‘The Violin Teacher’ s a perfect film for a festival and for the market at the same time, a crowd-pleaser which is classic in terms of storytelling, but at the same time it’s based on a true story of a violin teacher who has to start teaching in Heliopolis, the biggest favela in Sao Paulo”,” Films Boutique’s Jean-Christophe Simon said in Locarno.
For potential buyers, one key to the film should be its classical music, which “allows the kids to Discovery something else, and break through social barriers in Brazil.”
“The Violin Teacher” also turns on “transmission, connection,” he said. “The favela is at the other end of a bridge. When you live in the city center, you see the favela but never cross the bridge. ‘The Violin Teacher’ is about what happens when you start crossing the bridge, and transmission, when you have to teach people who are very different. You can give them a lot, but you have to communicate first.”
Closing Locarno in the Piazza Grande – where distributors can gauge audience reactions in a city square open air cinema sitting 8,000 – “The Violin Teacher” occupies prime summer festival real estate. In 2012, Simon recalled, Films Boutique closed Locarno with docu-feature “More Than Honey” – not the most likely choice for a closer, turning on the economics of honey. The film worked very well, however, and was “extremely successful” afterwards.
“When the festival screens something different as a closing film, such as a title from a far off place like Brazil, it’s already a good sign that the film must be something special,” Simon argued.
“More than Honey” was sold in some 30 countries, represented Switzerland for the Oscars and was a big B.O. success in Germany; Switzerland, Austria, and France among others, he added.
Q & A WITH ‘THE VIOLIN TEACHER’ PRODUCER FABIANO GULLANE
You’ve always insisted that your Holy Grail is “crossover projects” that score in Brazil and see theatrical B.O. traction abroad. Is “The Violin Teacher” your biggest new play for a crossover in 2015, after The Second Mother.”
We have two main expectations when producing a film. The first is to put together the right conditions so that the project can develop in a creative environment, respecting the style of each director and their teams, in order to achieve the best film we can. The second main expectation: To find the right public to each project, either in Brazil or in international markets. So, yes, Gullane has always taken a special interest in stories that dialogue with the Brazilian audience, but that also can dialogue with many different cultures in many territories. We have invested in this during our entire career, so now, being more experienced and being able to contribute more to the construction of the film, we have been trying to make projects that possess the strength and the qualities needed to work in both Brazil and the other markets of Europe, North America, Asia and other Latin American countries.
This year we already had a great performance with our film “The Second Mother.” Awarded at Sundance and Berlin, the movie was sold to over 25 territories, and this past weekend had great reception at its Brazilian premiere as the opening film of Gramado Film Festival. We hope that “The Violin Teacher” will follows the same path. Films Boutique sees a lot of potential in our film and it’s betting on it to be an important film for this season, so we believe it may have a very strong career in the European market, as well as other important markets around the globe. “The Violin Teacher” shows a different side of Brazilian reality, where people are giving a chance and can bet on this to really change their lives. A Brazil that makes us believe in the future. So we are very motivated to go to the market with this new production beside Films Boutique, and trust this will be Gullane’s next big hit for the 2015/2016 season.
What would you say “The Violin Teacher” is about? Redemption? Whether professional or an escape from poverty and possible crime?
Throughout the last decade, Brazilian films have portrayed very well the misfortunes of our society, with all of its violence and dilemmas. Here at Gullane, we have produced a good share of films with that characteristic, but it was really a national phenomenon. I believe that “The Violin Teacher” voices a more hopeful perspective. We wanted people to glance at the initiatives that are searching for new ways to cope with our issues and that are trying to solve them.
“The Violin Teacher” is based on a true story that shows the transforming power of music. To quote our director Sérgio Machado: “Films may not have the power to change reality, but some important movies have been created upon that wish.” So what we aim with this project is to share the potential that education and culture have to change the society.
Is “The Violin Teacher” made on a larger budget than most of your films?
The budget for this film is an average-high budget for a Brazilian production. However, “The Violin Teacher,”was a project with a real necessity to have a greater budget.
Among many factors, it was the fact that we had to spend almost a year shaping our young cast, with music classes and basic notions of acting. Also, we have in our film a special appearance of Latin America’s greatest symphonic orchestra, the OSESP (Symphonic Orchestra of São Paulo), as well as the appearance of many important Brazilian musicians both acting and developing the soundtrack, like Rappin’ Hood and Criolo. And to top that, the film has a few action scenes and a big street riot. All that sums up to the fact that we didn’t spare any costs to maintain the finishing standards that Gullane is used to. In order to achieve the best screening quality possible, we have put a lot of effort and means to reach the best image, special effects, sound and music.
Variety announced in February 2012 you had greenlit “The Violin Teacher” What have been the main challenges of production?
In “The Violin Teacher,” we worked with experienced actors like Lázaro Ramos and Sandra Corveloni (a Palme d’Or winner at Cannes), actors at the beginning of their careers as Kaique de Jesus, and real people from those communities we were representing, such as Elzio Vieira and all of the other teenagers that played the members of the Orchestra. The film also had special appearances by many names of Brazilian music, as the famous rappers Criolo and Rappin’ Hood, maestro Marin Alsop and the Symphonic Orchestra of São Paulo. The biggest production challenge of this film was to create a cast that was uniform. Many of the kids in the film came from Baccarelli Institute itself, but many others had never being in contact with any instruments before this experience. So we had to teach everyone all of the stages required by the script: they had to learn how to play poorly, how to be regular and, finally, how to play well.
Also, working with non-professional actors, we had to teach them about representation, they had to learn how to act, how to let their emotions come out and to lend their own personal experiences to their characters. We have worked with a fiction that was very near to reality and especially very near to the young actors’ difficult reality, so their real emotions have filled many scenes of the movie.
For me, the hardest task on this project was to put this mosaic of people together. This mixture of experienced actors, non-professional actors, musicians, maestros and rappers was a big challenge for Sérgio Machado, Fátima Todelo and everyone on the team. But I believe we have overcome this challenge with proficiency and delivering great performances.
What does having Locarno’s closing film signify for the film?
A great victory in an extremely competitive environment.
The film market around the globe is dominated by English-language productions. This leaves all other films fighting for a very small portion of the market. So having the honor to be in Locarno, screening at the Piazza Grande, on a Saturday night, during the European summer, is perceived by us as a very powerful demonstration of belief in this project.
Both Films Boutique and Gullane are very excited as well, because at the Piazza Grande we will have a good sample of the European audiences, so having a wonderful positive reaction during this screening fo 8,000 people, would show that we are very much on track and that the film is able to establish a dialogue with the European public, as we believe it can.
To start “The Violin Teacher”’s career with the film in Locarno, especially showing it on Piazza Grande, is the crowning of all efforts put into this very intense production. We are very proud and counting the minutes for the projection.
When you say the script is by Marcelo Gomes, is that as a co-writer or more screenplay advisor.
The script has some very important contributors. In the beginning, Sérgio worked developing this story besides Maria Adelaide do Amaral and Marta Nehring. They have started with the play “Acorda Brasil” and gradually drawing the project nearer to the reality of Baccarelli Institute. In order to do that, Marta Nehiring has spent over a year experiencing the life of the community, and even moved to Heliopolis for a while. Marcelo Gomes boarded the project at the end of development, but he is a lot more than an advisor. He was invited by Sérgio as a co-scriptwriter and has worked with him to create the final version of the script.
And “Acorda Brasil” is a theater play? A musical ?
The film is inspired by the story of Baccarelli Institute, one of the most successful projects of social inclusion in the country. It began in 1996, after a fire destroyed part of Heliopolis, the second largest slum of Latin America. Touched by this tragedy, the maestro Silvio Baccarelli started to teach classical music to the teenagers of the community.
This project soon began to really change the lives of those living in these communities, and attracting a lot of attention. This is when the Brazilian entrepreneur and writer Antonio Ermírio de Moraes, one of the most sensitive of people in Brazil, saw all of this changes happening and decided to write the play “Acorda Brasil, “ which was staged by a great personality from the theater, José Possi Neto. The play narrated the formation of the Orchestra of Heliopolis using a very specific theatrical language. So the film is actually a mix between the real story of Baccarelli Institute and the inspiration from Antonio Ermírio de Moraes’s play, “Acorda Brasil.”