By Julia Melim
It is beautiful to see the Brazilian community united in Los Angeles, supporting each other and bringing the best of our country to the United States. It seems we are finally arriving at the globalization of cinema, and Brazil is definitely a part of it. Films like “Elite Squad” (Tropa de Elite) and “Alice’s House” (Casa de Alice) brought international attention to Brazilian cinema and opened up more space to Brazilian filmmakers.
Frederico Lapenda, President of Paradigm Pictures, is a Brazilian producer and filmmaker who have lived in Los Angeles half of his life. He says “The fact that I’m Brazilian has helped me a lot in my career and it still helps. They love Brazil here. When you say you are from Brazil, it opens doors.”
Lapenda has just won the “Producer of the Year Award” at the 2008 International Beverly Hills Film Festival. “As a Brazilian in an international competition, you feel very good, very proud of it,” he says. Lapenda’s film “Bad Guys” also won Best Picture Award. The film is a contemporary pulp crime drama that embodies the caged rage of “Reservoir Dogs” with the frenetic intensity of “Snatch.” Lapenda said that being recognized increases his responsibility and he wants to win bigger awards now, but it also makes him even more demanding in his own work.
When watching some of the films from this new Brazilian tendency, it is clear that the Brazilian cinema has developed a strong international voice. Meanwhile, Brazilian producers and filmmakers are looking for ways to have our voice heard even louder.
Marcelo Floriao is the writer and producer of the film “Now Boarding” (Embarque Imediato), a fast paced comedy about two strangers with nothing in common but the American dream – while Justina (Marilia Pera) and Wagner (Jonathan Haagensen, from City of God) work together at Rio’s International Airport. Floriao says, “The story is 100% Brazilian, but with certain elements rarely used in Brazilian films, with the intention of opening up the film to the world.”
Floriao says that the main character is obsessed with Hollywood films, and he uses songs that are famous all over the world. These unusual and more international details create an identifiable universe for the film, drawing a bigger audience from across the globe. “There’s space for everybody in cinema, and the public can decide what kind of cinema they like best,” Floriao says. Now Brazilian filmmakers are looking for other ways of building the plot and trying to innovate using more universal themes.
Claudia Damasceno, who is Brazilian but lives in Los Angeles, wrote, directed and edited the film “Roses of April.” She says her film does not have a typical Brazilian theme and it is inspired by the American culture. The film is a lively and depressing story of intense bonds within a Native American family represented by a young girl who wants to be an astronaut – but who is affected indirectly by the US Government.
“The Brazilian director doesn’t have to be inspired by Brazil, or by the Brazilian culture; any issue can inspire a filmmaker,” she says. For her what matters the most is the history surrounding her and dealing with political and social issues. However, regardless of the theme, Damasceno says that Brazilian filmmakers have earned respect abroad, “Brazilian films are so respected around the world that because I’m Brazilian, I already receive some credibility.”
Creating co-productions between Brazil and the United States or Europe is another way of increasing the strength of Brazilian cinema in the international scenario. Lazaro Faria is the Brazilian co-producer of the film “Maracas: The Carmen Miranda Story,” the first fiction film about the life of Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda, which will be a co-production between Brazil and the United States.
Faria says that Miranda’s unsophisticated and genuine way of presenting herself brought about her success in the United States, “Carmen was big inspiration for the Hollywood film industry and became a myth. She was the first Brazilian star with an international career, and she opened doors to the Brazilian cinema.”
Faria says filmmakers should take advantage of the genuine aspect of Brazilian films and the marketing strategy of the American film industry. “It’s very interesting to join the resources for production and distribution of the biggest movie industry in the world with the ‘Brazilian way’ – the ‘Brazilian way’ that’s making History,” he says.
Faria directed the documentaries “City of Women” (Cidade das Mulheres) and “Mandinga in Manhattan” (Mandinga em Manhattan), both filmed in Brazil and in the United States. He is the president of “Casa de Cinema da Bahia” and director of “Axe Filmes” in Brazil, as well the producer of Bahia Afro Film Festival, which will happen in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil from November 18th to 27th, 2008.
With the intention of promoting Brazilian culture, the Consulate General of Brazil is Los Angeles, has been supporting Brazilian film screenings and Brazilian film festivals. In partnership with the Latin American Center at UCLA, they present a “Brazilian Film Series” with the screening of a Brazilian film every first Wednesday of each month. Consul General Thereza Maria Machado Quintella says, “The revival of Brazilian cinema not only transformed the way Brazil produces films, but also changed the world’s vision in relation to Brazilian filmmaking.”
If Brazilian Cinema before had to struggle to find the screens in Los Angeles, now we have two film festivals dedicated to Brazilian Cinema in the city. The year of 2008 began with the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival (LABRFF) in March – and will end with the Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival (HBRFest) in September.
Talize Sayegh is the founder of the HBRFest. She has been working in film festivals for about 6 years, including the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival and the International Latino Film Festival. She took 4 years for finally achieve her dream of having a film festival in Hollywood. “Brazilian Cinema is getting better and better. All we need is the space so that we can make the connection,” Sayegh says.
Floriao is also one of the executive producers of the HBRFest, and he says the main objective of the Festival is to promote the integration between the Brazilian market and the American market. “It’s not only about showing films, but promoting encounters between ‘Hollywood’ and Brazilians, with the objective of building bridges, stimulating co-productions and opening up the mentality of the Brazilian filmmaker to an international market.”
Sayegh said she had to work very hard to arrive where they are at now and it was very important to unite with other people. “Nobody does anything alone,” she says. Now Sayegh counts with the support of producers Marcelo Floriao and Luciana Bressani, who owns Mood, a Brazilian talent agency.
LABRFF was founded by Meire Fernandes and Nazareno Paulo Neto and had the support from various Brazilian actors such as Fabio Assunçao, Rita Guedes and Daniela Escobar. LABRFF brought some of the greatest Brazilian films since its first edition that was held in the Landmark Theater in Westwood. Faria says that Brazilian Film Festivals create the possibility of mixing influences, and reinventing flavors. “American-Brazilian films or Brazilian- American films can really work out just like samba,” he says.
Lapenda also believes having Brazilian Film Festivals in the U.S. is a very important step to promote the Brazilian films, “Every individual step towards promoting Brazilian culture, filmmaking in my case, I support, congratulate and cheer for its success.”. It is important to remember we are all humans above all, and talking about the human condition can be done in any language regardless of nationality. For a Brazil united with the world!
* This article was published innitially in 2009.
* Julia Melim is a Brazilian actress, TV host/reporter and writer. She lives between Rio, Los Angeles, New York and Miami. She is a long-time Soul Brasil contributor writer – www.juliamelim.com