‘Zama’ Producer Vania Catani Sets ‘Super Powers,’ Ramps Up Slate of New Brazilian Female Directors (EXCLUSIVE)

Anne Guimares, Anita Rocha, Flavia Neves
Credit: Bananeira Filmes

Bananeira Filmes’ Vania Catani, a producer on Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama” and Lisandro Alonso’s “Eureka,” is set to produce Anne Guimaraes’ “Super Powers,” as Catani primes films from leading lights in Brazil’s youngest generation of emerging female filmmakers.

Two titles from such directors – Flavia Neves, with Primer Corte’s “Fogaréu” and Monica Demes with “Requiem for Clara,” a Punto Género project – will be unveiled at Ventana Sur. Another, “Medusa,” from Anita Rocha de Silveira (“Kill Me Please”), now in post-production, looks, as “Fogaréu,” like a good bet for major festival play in 2021.

Between them, the four movies sum up many of the trends coursing one of the most exciting new talent builds in Latin America, as more movies from young Brazilian women directors are hitting the market: Think IuIi Gerbase’s “The Pink Cloud,” a sci-fi character-driven thriller from MPM Premium; Thais Fujinaga’s “The Joy of Things,” a probing portrait of pressured motherhood and Primer Corte standout; and Luxbox pick-up “Toll,” from Cannes 2018 Queer Palm winner Carolina Markowicz.

Six years ago, announcing Rocha de Silveira’s debut, “Kill Me Please,” Variety drew up a tentative list of 10 top young directors in Brazil. Only one was a woman. A female presence would be far larger in any comparative list made today.

Co-produced by Globo Filmes, in development and set to shoot in 2021, “Super Powers” is described as a quirky coming-of-age comedy about the power of friendship, love and sex.

Set in the middle of summer vacation after Helena’s family has just moved to Brasília and her husband has gone off on a business trip, it turns on André, the elder son, a shy teenager discovering the powers of love, lust and attraction as he falls for a girl with red toenails and a killer smile. Meanwhile, Helena meets a man who shows her a good time.

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Medusa Credit: Bruno Mello / Bananeira Filmes

Brazil’s new gen women cineastes often embrace genre. Neves’ “Fogaréu” plays out like a magic realist rural film noir as Fernanda, a modern Brazilian, returns to Goiás, whose needle hasn’t moved much since colonial times.

She’s there to scatter her adoptive mother’s ashes. Once in Goiás, however, she peels away layers of family secrecy to discover the truth about her own origins, which says a lot about conservative rural Brazil.

Set at an exclusive high-school in Rio de Janeiro’s’s west-side Barra de Tijuca, Rocha de Silveira’s 2015 debut, “Kill Me Please,” mixed a serial killer suspense plot and coming of age adolescence drama, chronicling the confusions of adolescence as the protagonist fantasizes about molestation. Rocha’s new film, “Medusa,” is injected with “fantasy, horror, and humor,” she declared at the TorinoScriptLab.

A psycho-thriller, sold internationally by Elo Company and made in co-production with Katsize in France, “Requiem for Clara” turns on Anna, a student pianist and another confused teen afraid to confess her latent lesbianism, who becomes convinced that her mother’s new lover has killed Clara, a girl who appears in her dreams, inspiring her to write.

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Fogareu Courtesy of Bananeira Filmes

These are also  visually ambitious movies. “Fogaréu” begins with menacing shots of the Klu Klux Klan, marching towards Goiás, or so it seems, until a reverse shot reveals they are members of a religious procession, seen from the disparaging point of view of Fernanda.

Above all, these are women directors with attitude. Re-teaming Rocha de Silveira and Catani, “Medusa” is a tale of female rebellion against submission in a neo-Pentecostal Brazil. “Requiem” narrates, Demes says, how oppression can generate female monsters.

Completed, a fifth movie from Bananeira, “Serial Kelly,” a portrait of Brazil’s first female serial killer, is also woman-centric, if directed by a man, René Guerra.

Bananeira Filmes’ current line-up marks a reflection made by Catani a few years back, she said, on the directors she was working with and “the imbalance in my slate of projects directed by men and women. I looked for projects [from women] that I liked, that were interesting and that helped me balance that.”

Bananeira’s movies with women directors are all made in co-production with Mayra Auad’s My Mamma in Brazil. “Fogareu” is supported by Brazil’s Projeto Paradiso.

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Vania Catani Courtesy of Vania Catani

Catani’s major challenge which is losing her sleep, she said, is how to produce her films without finance from Ancine’s Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual (FSA), Brazil’s massive central state fund whose incentives have been frozen for a year-and-a-half.   “Globo Filmes will be an essential partner as it has always been and now more than ever,” said Catani, who added: “We are at Ventana Sur for partners who wanted to embark with us on this hard journey that we are experiencing.”

Catani can certainly draw on excellent co-production relations in and outside Brazil. “Fogareu” is co-produced, for instance, by Nathalie Mesuret (Blu Monday, France) and, from Brazil, Danilo Kanemach (DM Kanemach), Faour Auad (My Mamma) and Thomas Sparfel (Caliandra Filmes). Larger international co-production looks like one inevitable way forward.