An adaptation of British horror miniseries “Dead Set” by “Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker, “Reality Z” is set against the stunning backdrop of Brazilian city Rio de Janeiro, where a zombie apocalypse forces the participants and producers of the “Olimpo” reality show to take shelter in the self-sustaining bespoke set.
Award-winning Brazilian director, screenwriter and executive producer Cláudio Torres (“The Invisible Woman”) took on the challenge to adapt the series by tapping into Brazil’s pop culture and its obsession with reality shows. “Olimpo” is not unlike “Big Brother Brazil,” which snagged an official Guinness World Records certificate when its March 31 episode collected more than 1.5 billion votes.
At first wary of “messing with a classic,” Torres sought inspiration in the Brazilian artistic movement of Anthropophagy. “Proposed in 1922 by Brazilian intellectuals, the manifesto suggested that we take on the cannibal past of our Indians (who devoured several Portuguese, French and Dutch people who passed through here) and “eat” foreign culture, spewing it back into a Brazilian art form,” Torres said.
The movement was then revisited in 1968 and renamed ‘Tropicalismo,’ which first took root in Brazil’s music and introduced the electric guitar to then elitist Brazilian popular music. Among others, “Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil led the movement that transformed our music, painting and theater forever,” he continued.
“I thought this was the way to devour ‘Dead Set’ and throw it up Brazilian,” he mused. “The first five episodes are “Dead Set” seen through a tropical mirror. From episode 6 to 10, the material is totally new and, I hope, honors the critical soul, humor and violence of Charlie’s original,” he said.
“The zombie genre is still new for Brazilian cinema, so we had to learn and reinvent ourselves a lot to deliver a show with great production values,” Torres noted, adding that more than 1,000 scenes featured special effects. “The VFX with greatest complexity were the aerial shots where we created a destroyed Rio de Janeiro with 3D elements, fire and smoke.”
Brazilians’ love for pop culture is also exemplified by the fact that the largest Comic Con takes place in Brazil, noted Renata Brandão, Conspiracao CEO and executive producer of “Reality Z.” “But most Brazilian viewers only follow these shows’ foreign productions; we can change that and ‘Reality Z’ is a step toward this,” she continued.
Conspiracao is currently developing six shows, including one in Spanish with a team in Argentina, said Brandão. Torres will write and direct two other shows for Conspiracao, both produced and shot with social distancing restrictions: Comedy “The Lockdowns” and a murder mystery thriller set in a digital environment during a quarantine.
Netflix announced last year that it had about 30 original series and films in varying phases of production in Brazil. The company released 11 Brazilian original series in 2019. Its most popular series thus far have been “Sintonia” and “Omniscient,” from Losbragas (“Samantha”) and “3%” producers Boutique Filmes respectively.
In April, Netflix allotted $1 million to support local below-the-line production employees and freelancers unable to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Reality Z” will be released across all territories where Netflix is available.