Extraordinary, but true: Seven of the 10 Brazilian movies selected for this year’s Berlin festival are produced by companies outside Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. They are led by three titles from Pernambuco’s Recife: Desvia Films’ Sundance hit “Divine Love,” Carnaval Filmes’ “Greta” and “Waiting for the Carnival,” also from REC Produtores Associados.
Put that down to a Brazilian government incentive focus on “regionalization” — “training and film financing for all of Brazil,” says Luana Melgaço, at Belo Horizonte’s Anavilhana, which co-produces Argentine Santiago Loza’s “Brief Story from the Green Planet.” Festival play and international co-production have also given Brazil’s regional cinema more visibility, aiding more screening and distribution, she adds.
Some of these movies exalt regional or rural values: Helvecio Marin’s “Homing” is an homage to the downtrodden, often despised rural folk in his native Minas Gerais. Others portray the ambition of “regional” production. “Divine Love” is a step-up in scale and move towards the mainstream for Gabriel Mascaro, lacking the docu-fiction mix of “Neon Bull” and “Autumn Wind,” but still a clear allegorical magnification of trends in contemporary Brazil.
That’s a second arresting aspect of Berlin’s Brazil line-up. All the films were conceived years before Jair Bolsonaro swept to power in October’s general election. The Berlin line-up offered nuanced works of art. In “Waiting for the Carnival,” Marcelo Gomes records on camera, with a bracing honesty, the opinions of Brazilian jeans manufacturers that don’t buy into his viewpoint of them as victims of rampant capitalism. “Divine Love’s” largest sympathies clearly lie with the most devout of its characters, its protagonist.
But some Brazilian filmmakers at Berlin wear their opposition to the regime on their sleeve.
“There are those who think that history needs to be rewritten,” says “Marighella” director Wagner Moura, protesting a “campaign against culture.”
He goes on: “Our film comes at a time when history is being questioned. To launch it now is a kick to the stomach.”