Swooping in on a just-announced Berlinale Panorama title, Berlin-based sales-production company M-Appeal has acquired world sales rights outside Berlin to “Tinta Bruta” (Hard Paint), its second title from Brazil selected for next month’s festival.
Writer-directors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon’s second feature, after “Beira Mar” (Seashore), “Hard Paint” also represents the latest feature to play at Berlin from Brazil’s Porto Alegre, one of the burgeoning regional movie hubs now energizing Brazilian arthouse cinema, as well as endowing it with a large diversity of characters, styles and auteurs.
Like “Seashore” – a tentative gay coming of age film which screened in the 2015 Berlinale Forum, was picked up by Wolfe Releasing for the U.S. and won Best Feature Film at the New Trends section of the 2015 Rio Fest – “Hard Paint” is a tender story of a man exploring his sexual and social identity, here via an enhancing love relationship. The film also paints a larger portrait of a homophobic society, and presents a knowing portrait of Porto Alegre and Brazilian youth which is often more comfortable with online relationships than physical social encounter.
In “Hard Paint,” his life made hell at college by bullies, Pedro, a lanky, shy and reclusive early-twenties with long curly hair, faces a criminal lawsuit and the departure of his beloved sister to a job on the other side of Brazil.
Alone, he clings to his nightly webcast dances, where, daubed with neon paint as Neon Boy, he becomes someone who literally glows delivering a mix of performance art, social network and live sex video to thousands of paying viewers. But offline, at parties, he lacks a sufficient sense of his own attractiveness to even dance.
Produced by Matzembacher and Reolon for their Avante Filmes label and Jessica Luz at the also Porto Alegre-based Besouro Filmes, “Hard Paint” will be distributed in Brazil by Silvia Cruz’s Vitrine Filmes, the go-to company for much edgier Brazilian cinema from some of its outstanding auteurs, such as Kleber Mendonça Filho, (“Neighboring Sounds,” “Aquarius”) and Karim Aïnouz (“The Silver Cliff”).
Matzembacher, Reolon and Luz already worked together on four-part miniseries “The Nest,” which Luz describes as a “rehearsal” for “Hard Paint.” They are now planning a new project together, she added.
“Hard Paint” features performances from newcomers Shico Menegat as Pedro and Bruno Fernandes as Leo, whose joint neon body-paint entertainment develops into something more tender.
Pedro’s webcam performances are symptomatic of a larger malaise, the directors suggested.
“We see our hometown, Porto Alegre, as a city of departures. It is probably a common feeling to people from medium sized-cities: a large number of its youth ends up moving away. And what is left for those who remain (like ourselves) are the memories, the photos, the Skype conversations. Human relationships become exclusively virtual,” Matzembacher and Reolon said in a directors’ statement.
Pedro spends much of his daily life in his flat, situated in a grey depressing high-rise part of Porto Alegre where he is none too subtly upbraided for his performances by a mix of authority figures from an old friend’s mother to his sister’s journalist boss. The threat of physical attack is real and constant.
“Pedro, although reclusive, is a character that does not conform to his situation and always reacts. And that is a path that interests us. The agency in the face of an adversity. The non-acceptance of a society that constantly judges you and tries to define who you must be,” said Matzembacher and Reolon.