MADRID — Emerging ever more as a go-to sales agent for prominent festival titles from Latin America, Paris-based Luxbox has swooped on international rights to “Chuva é Cantoria na Aldeia dos Mortos” (The Dead and the Others), which was added to Cannes’ Un Certain Regard last Thursday.
Based on the filmmakers’ experience living for nearly a year in Pedra Branca, a village of the Krahô people in North Brazil, the fiction feature is directed by Portugal’s João Salaviza and Sao Paulo-born Renée Nader Messora.
Produced by Belo Horizonte’s EntreFilmes, run by Ricardo Alves Jr and Thiago Macêdo Correia, Lisbon’s Karõ Filmes, and Messora and Salaviza’s Sao Paulo-based Material Bruto, “The Dead and the Others” turns on Ihjãc, a 15-year-old Krahô boy called by his dead father’s voice to celebrate the funerary feast which will allow his father’s spirit to depart to the village of the dead. Reluctant to embrace what this implies, a first step in becoming a shaman, he flees to the nearest town, inhabited by white people. Whether Western civilization will offer him any solutions to his problems is, however, another question.
“‘The Dead and the Others” turns “on the difficulties of a Krahô teenager to live in two worlds which he doesn’t recognize as his own,” said Nader Messora.
At the same time, white civilization is corralling the Krahô people and its agro business is threatening their land and local ecology.
Ihjãc ’s potential fate is to live in a kind of cultural no-mans-land in between his indigenous culture and the Western world which rejects him. That is a danger facing many of his people.
The film’s story line is based on the experience of one of the students taught by Nader Messora who has worked with the Krahô people since 2009 in their Pedra Branca village, participating in the mobilization of a local collective of Krahô filmmakers. The work has been focused on the use of cinema as a tool for self-determination and the strengthening of cultural identity.
Like much contemporary fiction – film or TV – the film is grounded in a particular realities but informed by far large bigger-picture cultural questions.
“The Dead and the Others” also forms part of a burgeoning filmmaking tradition in Brazil of treating contemporary issues with a sense of urgency, said Salaviza.
“The film is inscribed in a bigger broader attempt by other Brazilian filmmakers who are trying to construct an alternative different narrative of what it means to be a Brazilian nowadays, in this case an indigenous Brazilian,” said Salaviza, which is half Brazilian.
He went on: “We do hope a Cannes’ Un Certain Regard berth will highlight the film’s issues.”
One large filmic challenge in making the film was how to film the spiritual world of the animist Krahôs, he added.
Salaviza won a 2009 Palme d’Or for his short, “Arena,” then a Berlinale Golden Bear for “Rafa” in 2012, before directing his feature debut, “Mountain,” selected for Venice Critics’ Week in 2015.
Luxbox will handle all international sales rights outside Brazil and Portugal.
“With a patient and delicate approach towards the culture of others, João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora have directed a beautiful film that need no comment or any translation: the film speaks through its only rare and singular images,” Luxbox founders Fiorella Moretti and Hédi Zardi said in a joint statement.
They added that the filmmakers’ “respectful and poetic camera caresses the essential beauty surrounding the Krahô hamlet and the strong connection with nature. It’s a peaceful cinema experience, a pure cinematic poem that fully satisfied us as cinema lovers.”