Brazilian Women Producers Make a Splash in Berlin

The Bed Brazilian Cinema Berlin Film
Courtesy of Berlin Film Festival

Ten years ago it would have been a pipe dream to think of Latin America as a world champion and a bastion of woman producers as Europe’s art film scene hit road bumps.

“If Brazil had one or two films at Berlin, it was a big event,” says André Sturm, a consultant at Cinema do Brasil.

Flash forward to 2018. Latin America accounted for nearly half of Sundance’s World Dramatic Competition, including two Brazilian titles. Brazil had 23 films at the Rotterdam Festival last month and eight selected in major Berlinale’s sections. That’s more than any country in Europe, bar Germany and France.

All the Brazilian movies selected for Berlin have women producers, teaming with men in about half the cases.

Three factors may coincide: Decisive government backing; international co-production outreach; and the consolidation of a new cosmopolitan women-led producer generation.

In Brazil, crucially, backing from the Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual (FSA), an investment fund at the Ancine state film-TV agency, sky-rocketed from 166.2 million real ($52.5 million) to $75.4 million by 2016, nearly in line, given Brazil’s GDP, with advanced economies in Western Europe.

One FSA line prizes films of “artistic innovation and relevance,” another minority co-productions, others finance bilateral co-production funds that have proliferated since 2011, most recently with Mexico. Meanwhile, export promotion org Cinema do Brasil aids filmmakers attendance at markets, operates support schemes for sales agents and distributors of Brazilian films.

The effect of such funding has been direct, decisive and dramatic.

“There has to be a lot of films for there to be good films,” says Javier Martín, a Berlinale programmer for much of Latin America.

Driven by FSA funding, Brazilian film releases nearly doubled from 84 in 2009 to 158 last year.

For Sandro Fiorin, at sales agency FiGa Films, the FSA’s art-film financing encourages “films that are really appropriate for export, more liberal, made with more freedom, that speak about what’s happening now, are directed by young up-and-coming directors.”

Brazil released an average of six Brazilian international co-productions over 2005-10, 13 during 2011-16.

“I’m sure the numbers [for 2018] will be much higher. Regarding films in development, you can double the number,” says Leila Bourdoukan, Cinema do Brasil executive manager.

Co-produced out of Brazil by Julia Murat’s Esquina Filmes, Berlin competition entry “The Heiresses” won FSA minority co-production fund coin, as did Forum player “La Cama,” from 3 Moinhos Produçoes.

Brazilian cinema is now a far more international industry. When Cinema do Brasil launched its distribution Support Program, offering to match foreign distributors’ P&A, it received eight requests. In 2016, that number rose to 60, says Sturm.

CDB has also encouraged other institutions — Ancine, Brazil’s ministries of culture and foreign affairs — to look to foreign markets, and coordinate support, he adds.

Other factors also explain Brazil’s large Berlinale presence.

“Berlin is designed for a general public. There are more films than in most festivals. That makes it a great platform for new directors, or smaller films. When one film is successful at a festival, that attracts other films. Berlin has a strong social-issue movie line,” as do many Brazilian movies,” says Martín.

A recent Ancine study suggested that women produced most Brazilian films released in Brazil either alone (36.9%) or with men (26.2%). There is some evidence that Brazil’s Berlin presence and international co-production and women producer surges may be connected.

“Brazil now has very important women producers, young ones, some not based in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, that understand the importance of cinema, and cinema’s importance as social tool [yes, they are very political],” says Bourdoukan.

That kind of political cinema is one Berlinale’s hallmark.

“It is not all about men versus women, it is also about us, women to women,” Alicia Vikander said last month at the Göteborg Festival. Very few women in Latin America only produce with other women. But many now express an excitement at working with other women inside or outside Brazil, or bringing a woman’s point-of-view to the screen.

“When Argentina’s Barbara Francisco introduced me to Maria Ache and her project ‘Immersed Family,’ a woman’s story, I just felt super compelled to make the film,” says Tatiana Leite, producer of Sundance-selected “Loveling.”

“It’s nice to join forces with other woman producers,” says Deborah Osborn, at BigBonsai, a minority producer on “The Empty Goal,” lead-produced by Chile’s Macarena López. Osborn says she’s “really interested” in another soon-to-be announced international co-production which combines a “young talented director” and a female point-of view.

“There is a movement of young women producers looking for co-productions alliances preferably with other women,” says Ana Alice de Morais at 3 Moinhos. “I’m definitely among them. I guess it’s a very organic movement: We no longer want to tolerate having our professionalism judged by men.”

Many men, as well as international festivals and audiences, are also excited about bringing women’s voices to the screen. “Loveling,” being shopped at EFM, is co-scripted by lead Karine Teles, told from a mother’s POV, but directed by a man, Gustavo Pizzi. Brazil’s Berlin splash may be part of a far larger not just market but societal change.

Brazilian movies selected at Berlin or screening at the EFM:

“The Bed,” (Monica Lairana) A love story of sorts, about a divorcing couple’s last hours together. Argentine Lairana’s feature debut backed by pedigree four-country co-producers. Forum

“Bingo,” (Daniel Rezende)   Gillian’s late 2017 flagship, the directorial debut of “Tree of Life” editor Rezende and Brazil’s Oscar submission, the rise/fall of a zany coke-fueled TV show clown. SA: Loco Films

“The Cannibal Club,” (Guto Parente) Premiering at Rotterdam, a horror movie packing a searing, if often comic, put-down of Brazil’s political elite, from Brazil’s Fortaleza movie scene. SA: M-appeal

“Central Station: THF” (Karim Aïnouz, Hans Block) An Arte-backed docu-chronicle of Tempelhof Airport’s conversion into both Berlin’s largest park and an emergency refugee shelter, from Aïnouz (“Futuro Beach”), one of Brazil’s most-courted directors. Panorama SA: Luxbox.

“The Cleaners,”  (Moritz Riesewieck, Hans Block) Doc on internet deleters, online censorship. SA: Cinephil

“The Empty Goal,” (Sergio Castro San Martin) The (fictionalized) chronicle of the infamous Chile-Soviet Union 1973 World Cup clash. Strong co-production partners; Alfredo Castro, a Larrain regular, and Luis Gnecco (“Neruda”) star. Co-Production Market

“Ex-Shaman” (Luiz Bolognesi)  Co-produced by Gullane, a docu-portrait of ex-Paiter Surui shaman Perpera and his community, plundered by loggers, corralled by evangelists, but resorting to ancient beliefs when in crisis. Panorama. SA: Upside Distribution.

“Good Manners” (Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra) Winning big at Locarno and Ventana Sur, a dark werewolf fairy tale, reflecting on class and race in modern-day Brazil. SA: UDI

“The Heiresses,” (Marcelo Martinessi) Brazil’s competition contender, the debut of the Paraguayan best short-film winner at Venice, tracing an older woman’s later-life fall from riches and discovery of love. SA: Luxbox

“Hard Paint,” (Filipe Matzembacher, Marcelo Reolon) A upbeat tale of halting liberation from “Seashore’s” Porto Alegre directorial duo, who step up to Panorama with a gay love story between two neon body-painting sex performance artists. SA: M-Appeal.

“Hotel Mundial,” (Jarleo Barbosa) The growing emotional distance between a young couple is contrasted by the constrictive confines of a black-and-white hotel room.

“Liquid Truth,” (Carolina Jabor) Second feature of on-the-rise art film-TV director Jabor (“The Invisible Woman”) from top Brazilian outfit Conspiração, about a teacher suffering an internet lynching. SA: MPM.

“Lino 3D,” (Rafael Ribas) Fox International Productions animated feature comedy from Brazil’s StartAnima. SA: FilmSharks Intl

“Loveling” (Gustavo Pizzi) The titanic chores and cluttered life of a Brazilian super mom suddenly confronting her eldest son’s departure. Warmly received at Sundance. SA: New Europe Film Sales

“Joao the Maestro,” (Maura Lima) Biopic of classical pianist João Carlos Martins SA: Saboteur Media

“My First Time of Dying,” (Cristiane Oliveira) A tale of the quest to explain a dying woman’s life-long virginity. Co-Production Market.

“Punch the Clock” (Santiago Dellape) Sci-fi workforce enslavement thriller.

“Rust” (Aly Muritiba) A San Sebastian standout, Sundance-selected, and a caustic, but stylish comment on youth internet culture. SA: B for Films

“Saudade,” (Paulo Caldas) An doc attempt at translating a uniquely Portuguese word using imagery and sound.

“The Trial,” (Maria Augusta Ramos) A highly-anticipated documentary plumbing the circumstances surrounding the impeachment of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff. Panorama.

“Tranny Fag,” (Claudia Priscilla, Kiko Goifman) Partners in life and behind the camera, Priscilla and Goifman follow black transgender singer Linn da Quebrada who deconstructs how alpha males perceive themselves. Panorama. SA: FiGa Films.

“Unicorn” (Eduardo Nunes) Stunningly shot in its pop-out colors and letterbox format, a mountainside fairy tale of the confusion and violence of pre-adolescence. Forum: SA: FiGa.

“Vade Retro,” (Mauro Mendonça Filho) Part of Globo’s Berlin TV showcase, an ironic comedy thriller from “Hidden Truths” Intl. Emmy winner Mendonça. Berlin Drama Series Days.