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Makers of Berlin Competition Title ‘Marighella’ Worry About Distribution at Home

Worried that growing political tension in Brazil may hamper the domestic release of “Marighella,” Wagner Moura’s directorial debut about a leftist revolutionary, the movie’s producers may seek to crowd-fund its distribution independently.

“We are going to fight for it,” producer Andrea Barata Ribeiro said ahead of the film’s world premiere at the Berlinale on Friday. She added that she wants to launch “Marighella” in Brazil right after Berlin. “If necessary, we will launch it independently through crowd-funding.”

Actor-director Moura, best-known Stateside for his starring role in “Narcos,” has little doubt that conservatives in Brazil don’t want the story of “Marighella” to be told. The film follows a ragtag group of resistance fighters, led by former congressman Carlos Marighella, who seek to ignite a popular revolution against Brazil’s military dictatorship, which seized power in 1964 and ruled until 1985.

With civic discussion in Brazil having taken a sharp turn to the right under newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro, often referred to as Brazil’s Donald Trump, many people in the country have not only excused but openly praised the military’s transgressions, Moura said. He said that it had become increasingly common in Brazil to hear things such as “’The dictatorship was not that bad’ or ‘It wasn’t a coup d’état in 1964, it was the movement of 1964.’ There is a semantic war already going on.”

For others, Marighella symbolizes the country’s ongoing struggle for liberty and social justice. In Berlin on Friday, more than a dozen Brazilians gathered outside the Berlinale Palast demanding the release of imprisoned former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, singing “Lula livre!” (“Free Lula”) in unison and holding up posters of him.

The Bolsonaro government has been openly hostile to Brazil’s artistic community. Despite 12 Brazilian films screening at the Berlinale, 2019 marks the first time in years that the Brazilian Embassy has not held a reception celebrating the country’s filmmakers at the fest.

“For us, having the film here is so important because we don’t know when the film is going to be released in Brazil,” Moura told Variety.

Sao Paulo-based Paris Filmes boarded the project early on but has yet to announce a release date for the film.

“We expect that a lot of people are going to embrace the film because they want to embrace this narrative,” Moura said. “They want it to be told, this narrative of resistance. I’m 100% sure that there are a lot of people in Brazil rooting for this film to do well here.”

At the same time, Moura said, opposition to the film from right-wingers has already led to efforts to destroy his character.

Despite its apparent timeliness, Moura began work on “Marighella” in 2013, when “neither Brazil nor the world were this polarized….Brazil has become dangerous,” he added. “The film is not a response to any particular government, but it’s obviously a narrative that’s in absolute opposition to the group that was elected democratically in our country.”

Bolsonaro’s election has resulted in “the worse situation in Brazil since the dictatorship,” Moura said. “Young black people are getting killed daily in the favelas; native people are losing their lands. We have a president that is openly homophobic.”

In January, Jean Wyllys, an openly gay Brazilian congressman and a friend of Moura’s, stepped down after being re-elected, saying he would not serve his new term but was instead leaving the country because of death threats.

“Yes, we will face a lot of s— when we go back to Brazil, but if it’s going to be bad for us, it’s going to be much, much worse for those populations,” Moura said.

While the domestic release of “Marighella” is still up in the air, Globo TV, which backed the film via its Globo Filmes arm, is planning to broadcast a longer version of the film as a four-part TV series following its theatrical distribution.

Brazilian actor and singer-songwriter Seu Jorge, described by Moura as “probably one of the most talented people I know in the world,” stars in the title role.

Moura’s next project is Olivier Assayas’ fact-based Cuban spy drama, “Wasp Network,” which will start shooting this month.

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