MADRID — In the run-up to late January’s Rotterdam Fest, Berlin-based sales company M-appeal has acquired world sales rights to Guto Parente’s “The Cannibal Club,” a horror movie packing a searing, if often comic, put-down of Brazil’s political elite represented as a cannibal, machista, amoral and grossly self-unaware ruling class.
Meshing frank sex scenes, occasional dismemberment and laugh-out-loud social satire, “The Cannibal Club” has been selected for the Rotterdam Festival’s newly-revived Rotterämmerung genre section.
“The Rotterdam Film Festival has always been important to us, and we love to have films there,” said Maren Kroymann, M-appeal managing director.
She added: “We are extremely happy that the Rotterdämmerung section is back where ‘The Cannibal Club’ fits in so perfectly and will draw the attention of genre lovers!”
Produced by Ticiana Augusto Lima out of Tardo Filmes, the label she founded with Parente, “The Cannibal Club” also marks one of the latest fruits of Brazil’s burgeoning Fortaleza movie scene, as genre production continues to grow across Latin America, and Latin Americans continue to provide Hollywood with some of its leading titles in the genre, whether Guillermo del Toro’s romantic monster movie “The Shape of Water” or “IT,” directed by Argentina’s Andy Muschietti.
A push phenomenon, Latin America’s genre build is driven by a new generation of cineastes who are genre buffs and see the opportunity to combine horror narratives with broader concerns, as well as by cult events such as Mexico’s Morbido Festival, also a production-distribution hub, and by dedicated movie markets such as Ventana Sur’s Blood Window.
Written by Parente, and his second solo outing, “The Cannibal Club” turns on an extraordinarily rich couple, Otavio and Gilda, part of Brazil’s ruling elite, who have a habit of eating their employees. Fine upstanding members of the local Cannibal Club – Otavio is punctilious, a great chef, loving husband and critic of the third-world chaos of Brazil, whose insistence Gilda obeys him is only natural, he thinks – they live in a outrageously located modern chalet abutting a balmy beach, caught memorably by Parente on widescreen.
But when Gilda stumbles on the president of the Cannibal Club, who has already engineered the death of one too-talkative Cannibal Club member in a highly compromising position, their only hope of staying alive is to call on the help of a humble, put-upon caretaker, José – with the idea of then eating him for dinner.
A rollicking metaphor for how the rich in Brazil live off the rest of the population, here literally, the cannibalism also allows director Parente to underscore the comic disavowal of a political class which is unable to recognize even one ounce of its own heinousness. When Gilda tells Otavio about Borges, Otavio’s thinks they’re helpless. “We’re not murderers,” he laments. Killing Brazil’s blue-collar workers with an axe and then eating them doesn’t seem to count as a crime.
“For me, the film is an investigation into the cynicism of the Brazilian elite and how far they can take it. As well as a reflection on the role men insist on playing in society to prove their virility and maintain their power,” Parente told Variety.
Parente added that he was interested in “looking deep into the horror embedded in our society’s behavior,” focusing not on explicit violence but more the “violence of speech and thought of those who truly believe they are above everything and everyone because they have money and power.”
Genre gives “a possibility to step away from this real world violence, creating an absurd reality based on its violence and archetypes and from that maybe offer to the spectator a safe distance to look and think about what they are seeing,” Parente added.
“The Cannibal Club” can also be read as a story about how far men are prepared to go to prove and maintain an image of their virility.
Said Parente: “The humor in the film is very much associated with issues of masculinity and the ridiculousness of the role that most men insist on playing in society. As I see it, men’s obsession with their virility can only be treated as a joke.”
As it taps into the talents of a new generation of Brazilian filmmakers which looks set to spangle both Rotterdam and the Berlinale lineups this year, “The Cannibal Club” marks M-appeal’s second recent pick-up from Brazil, after Marcelo Caetano’s “Body Electric,” which topped Ventana Sur’s 2016 Primer Corte, sweeping three prizes, and won the Guadalajara Fest’s Maguey competition in March.
Parente has a second film at Rotterdam, “My Own Private Hell,” which he co-directed with Pedro Diógenes. Movie was one of the first Rotterdam Bright Future premieres to be announced in mid-December.