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Leandra Leal, MGM, Imagem Join Lupa on ‘The Trace We Leave Behind’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Helmed by J.C. Feyer, ‘Trace’ is a bold genre attempt to score in Brazil and abroad

As foreign language genre movies break out to notable results, MGM’s Orion is teaming with Rio de Janeiro-based lead producer Lupa Filmes to produce psychological thriller “O Rastro” (“The Trace We Leave Behind”) toplining Leandro Leal, who won a best actress Ibero-American Fenix Award in 2014 for her star turn in fellow Brazilian Fernando Coimbra’s “A Wolf at the Door.”

Orion will co-finance in Brazil. Imagem Filmes, one of the country’s biggest indie commercial distributors, handles distribution in Brazil and plans a wide theatrical release, said producers Malu Miranda and André Pereira at Lupa. Former HanWay Films and WestEnd Films exec Fabien Westerhoff is executive producing, along with Bia Caldas, an exec producer on HBO series “Magnifica 70.”

One of a building number of local co-productions for Orion over the last couple of years as it takes equity in movies under Brazil’s Article 3 tax break facility for investment in Brazilian productions, “The Trace” also reps part of an at last growing genre scene in Brazil – think directors Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas and Gabriela Amaral Almeida – and a bold attempt to create a movie which can score at both Brazil’s domestic market and in international. No modern Brazilian horror film has really lit a B.O. fire in Brazil.

Lupa Filmes’ Miranda and Pereira broke out from the get-go with its first production in Brazil, “The Dognapper,” a screwball comedy ribbing consumer fads which grossed R$11.6 million ($5.3 million) and over one million admissions at Brazil’s B.O.

Directed by J.C. Feyer, a multi-prized commercials director who won a Cannes Gold Lion for his “Everyone is Gay” spot in 2015, and penned by Pereira, who wrote “The Dognapper,” as well as his longtime writing partner Beatrice Manela, “The Trace” initiated principal photography in Rio on March 6.

“The Trace We Leave Behind” feeds off market logic fuelling breakout foreign-language genre hits from around the world: Watching a Brazilian genre movie, audiences at both home and abroad want, beyond entertainment, to feel both an authorial voice lending originality to a movie and elements that reflect the creators’ country of origin.

With Brazil, currently confronting rampant urbanization, dramatic political crisis and its worst recession in the last 25 years, that is no hard matter.

Brazil is currently reflecting undergoing major societal shifts making for urgent original stories, said Westerhoff. He added: “Here is an ambitious filmmaking team embracing genre to deliver these in an entertaining yet meaningful way to a global audience, in the footsteps of other recent foreign language genre successes such as ‘Under the Shadow,’ ‘Goodnight Mommy’ or ‘We Are What We Are.”

Set against Brazil’s roiling social unrest, it turns on a bright, recently-promoted doctor Joao who is tasked with coordinating the overnight transfer of patients when yet another public hospital is closed in Rio. When a young girl patient goes missing, he tries to locate her, and is gradually drawn into a world he wishes he had never entered.

The screenplay went through development via industry pitches at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, Power to the Pixel and Films from Rio, the last backed by Cannes Film Market and Rio Festival. It also formed part of Brazil’s SESC Serviço Social do Comércio 2014 Screenwriting Lab.

Starring with Leal, the femme lead, are Rafael Cardoso (“From Beginning to End”), Felipe Camargo (“Xingu”), Claudia Abreu (“Rio, I Love You”) and Jonas Bloch (“Mango Yellow”).

“When we started ‘The Trace We Leave Behind,’ we were looking to create a traditional haunted-house horror story, but we realized that we needed to do something that was rooted in our culture and country and that’s when we thought of a hospital, of their numerous closures in Rio, and the politics behind that,” Pereira said.

Growing up in the U.S., Miranda returned to her native Brazil to work as A.D. on Fernando Meirelles’ “City Of God” and served as AD/action coordinator on José Padilha’s “Elite Squad” diptych, two milestones in modern Brazilian filmmaking.

Studying at the American School in Rio, Pereira met Miranda while finishing college. International financing and licencing exec Westerhoff boarded “The Trace” during development and is steering the film’s international career. The team will introduce first footage during May’s Cannes Film Market.

Said Miranda: “We worked many years to develop this audacious and original piece of genre material. With J.C. at the helm, and our extremely talented cast and crew, we will deliver a twisted yet beautiful film that will look like nothing we’ve seen coming out of Brazil so far.”

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