Breaking Out of Brazil: Co-Production Upsurge Fuels Growth

Number of international co-productions nearly doubles

Brazil’s Directors’ Fortnight entry “Los Silencios” typifies a growing breed of Brazilian films, shot in multiple locations and in co-production with one or more countries. Beatriz Seigner’s cross-border drama about a Colombian family fleeing the armed conflict in their native country was co-produced by Seigner’s Miriade Filmes and Leonardo Mecchi’s Enquadramento Prods. (“The Trial”), along with France’s Cine-Sud Promotion and Colombian shingle Dia-fragma.

“We shot mainly in Colombia so the key crew members were Colombian — and mostly women,” says Cine-Sud’s Thierry Lenouvel, who is co-producing Anita Rocha’s next film, “Medusa,” with Vania Catani’s Bananeira Filmes and is boarding two other Brazilian films in development: Dezenove’s Vietnam-set “The Paths of My Father” by Mauricio Osaki and BossaNovaFilms’ “To Our Children,” by actress-helmer Maria de Medeiros.

Co-producing Argentine helmer Lucrecia Martel’s acclaimed period drama “Zama” “was a lot of work but the rewards were high,” notes Catani, one of Brazil’s most prolific producers, adding, “It has opened a lot of doors for me,” she says.

Collaborations have allowed Brazil’s filmmakers to work with higher budgets, and tap the cachet, expertise and distribution ties of their partners. “New Brazilian filmmakers now start their careers with the international market in mind,” says Andre Sturm, founder of overseas promotion organization Cinema do Brazil. Even some of the more seasoned ones are open to expanding their films’ appeal beyond Brazil, he observes.

In 2017, out of 225 domestic releases, 22 were co-productions, nearly double that of last year’s tally of 13, according to Leila Bourdoukan, executive director of Cinema do Brazil.

Key backing from the Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual (FSA), a fund managed by state-run film and TV agency Ancine, grew exponentially from R$38 million ($11 million) in 2007 to R$749 million ($217 million) a decade later.

The FSA grants funding to films of “artistic innovation and relevance” and minority co-productions, and is pushing for more diversity. Catani has sought to redress imbalance among her own projects, and now has seven with female directors, among them Francisca Alegria, whose pic “The Cow That Sang About the Future” is produced with Chile’s Jirafa.

Bolivian-Brazilian co-production “Eugenia,” by Martin Boulocq, which FiGa Films plans to distribute in the U.S. and Mexico, was a bureaucratic challenge as there is no co-production treaty between the two countries, per its Brazilian producers, Rafael Sampaio and Beatriz Carvalho of Klaxon. “According to our research, we believe it’s the first Bolivian-Brazilian co-production ever made,” says Sampaio.

Ancine plans to cut back the red tape and streamline the application process for funding. “We’re hoping to reduce the process from the current 12 to 18 months to six months,” says Ancine president Christian de Castro, who will meet his counterparts from South Africa, New Zealand, Russia, Germany and Israel in Cannes to discuss co-production pacts.

“As they say, Brazilian filmmakers have access to money but it takes too long for them to access it,” he notes. Plans are also afoot to launch an annual R$120 million ($34 million) fund for television projects by mid-May.

Ancine’s objective is two-fold: Export more Brazilian films and bring more private investors to Brazil. To achieve the latter, de Castro is meeting with key players of the Colombian film industry to learn the mechanics behind its successful tax incentives, which have attracted big ticket projects top-lined by such luminaries as Tom Cruise and Will Smith.

Brazilian films at Cannes:

“The Dead and the Others”

Directors: João Salaviza, Renée Nader Messora

Cultural identity-themed fiction film about an indigenous Kraho youth who resists becoming a shaman, escapes to the city. Un Certain Regard entry.

Sales: Luxbox Films


Directors: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt

Portugal-France-Brazil co-production is a comedy about a disgraced soccer star seeking to reinvent himself. Critics’ Week selection.

Sales: Charades


Director: Martin Boulocq

A Bolivia-Brazil co-production, film follows a woman who leaves her husband to settle in another city. Won screenplay prize at the Guadalajara fest.

Sales: FiGa Films


Director: Luiz Bolognesi

Docu co-produced by Gullane that screened at Berlin’s Panorama. An ex-shaman forced into Christianity is turned to once more by his community when it’s in crisis.

Sales: Upside Distribution

“Hard Paint”

Directors: Filipe Matzembacher, Marcio Reolon

Berlinale Teddy and Guadalajara Premio Maguey winner about a socially awkward young man and online dance performer liberated through love. Sales: M-Appeal

“Lino 3D”

Director: Rafael Ribas

Fox Intl. Prods.’ 3-D animated feature about a clown who abhors his cat costume.

Sales: FilmSharks Intl.

“Listen to Me”

Director: Joana Mariani

Featuring Gilberto Gil, a romantic musical drama on newlyweds finding an old tape deck with songs compiled by the couple previously occupying their apartment.

Los Silencios

Director: Beatriz Seigner

Seigner’s second feature tracks a family fleeing armed conflict in Colombia. Topped Cinelatino Toulouse’s Films in Progress competition. Directors’ Fortnight entry.

Sales: Pyramide Intl.


Director: Gustavo Pizzi

Films follows the life of a Brazilian supermom facing her eldest son’s departure. Debuted at Sundance.

Sales: New Europe Film Sales


Director: Anita Rocha da Silveira

Co-produced by Bananeira Filmes and France’s Cine-Sud Promotion, drama is set in a town ruled by an over-zealous evangelist church.

“New Life, Inc.”

Director: Andre Carvalheria

Dark comedy-thriller about an idealistic young architect who embarks on an ambitious real estate project, convinced that he can change lives.

Sales: Habanero Film Sales

“Our Evil”

Director: Samuel Galli

Co-produced by Alief + 4th & 7th Entertainment, award-winning horror film about a psychic warned by his mentor that a demon is bent on destroying his daughter’s soul.


Director: Gabriel Mascaro

Mascaro’s follow-up to the prized and critically applauded “Neon Bull” is a drama set in an evangelized Brazil where bureaucrat Joana tries to keep couples from divorcing by inviting them to participate in religious therapy. Sales: Memento Films Intl.


Directors: Bruno Jorge, Mariana Oliva, Renata Terra

IDFA-winning ethnographic doc about the search for the last two remaining members of an indigenous tribe in order to preserve the protected status of their lands.

Sales: Synapse

“The Race of Animals”

Director: Ernesto Solis

Dystopian drama co-produced by Fernando Meirelles’ O2 and U.S.-based 11600 Films.


Director: Aly Muritiba

One of Brazil’s most courted young directors, Muritiba swept San Sebastian’s Films in Progress with this stylish portrait of the defenselessness of Brazil’s young when they become victims of sexting.

Sales: Be for Films

“Serial Kelly”

Director: Rene Guerra

A Bananeira Filmes dramedy about a singer-turned-female serial killer. In post.

“The Silence of Others”

Director: Agustina San Martin

Argentine-Brazilian co-production is San Martin’s feature debut, an LGBT-themed drama about a teen who escapes tedium in Buenos Aires to visit her hometown and find her brother.

“The Sound of Animals Fighting”

Director: Sibs Shongwe-La Mer

Cannes Atelier-pitched project starring Emile Hirsch and Alicia Braga is a crime thriller that follows two brothers who flee Johannesburg for Sao Paulo, where they’re sucked in by its underworld.

Sales: Versatile


Director: Miguel Falabella

Toplined by Rodrigo Santoro and Carmen Maura, the Brazilian-Italian dramedy turns on a Brazilian brothel owner whose co-workers help her fulfill her life-long dream to visit Venice.




Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content