For its first Pitching Paradiso, to be held at Ventana Sur on Nov. 30, Brazil’s Projeto Paradiso is looking to Brazil’s North-East and a new more diverse generation of filmmakers which is bringing a sense of urgency and excitement to Brazilian cinema.
Projects highlighted at Pitching Paradiso include one from Rio de Janeiro – Leonardo Martinelli’s much anticipated feature expansion of “Neon Phantom.” Otherwise, titles are from Brazil’s North-East: Bahia (“Time, Knifed”); Ceará (“The Ocean’s Eyes,” “Yellowcake”) and Pernambuco (“Burning Land”, “Paths of Loneliness”).
Two factors are at work. There’s a determination of all levels of government, from president Lula downwards, as well as other institutions, such as Projeto Paradiso, to support titles from fast-emerging regional talent.
“Brazil is indeed a country where the “diversity/inclusion” agenda is multi-faceted: It is not only a question of gender, race and ethnic origin, but also, in a continental country, of region of origin,” says Projeto Paradiso head Joséphine Bourgois, noting that Brazil’s Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual, its federal film fund, has a regional production quota.
Equally, however, “regions like the North-East have gained more and more relevance,” she argues. Name directors from the region, like Karim Ainouz, Kleber Mendonça and Sergio Machado, have gained international recognition. The region is building in infrastructure, whether planned film commissions, guild Conne or development programs, such as the Nordeste Lab, or Varilux Lab, where Projeto Paradiso sponsors a fellowship, and Ceará’s Cena 15 Lab where “Yellowcake” was initially developed.
Projects involve members of the Paradiso Talent Network. Three cases in point: Backed by Projeto Paradiso, Martinelli attended the newly created 2022 Locarno Residency, where he won one of three berths to develop a feature. “The Ocean’s Eyes” scooped a Projeto Paradiso Award. “Yellowcake,” from Larissa Estevam and Celina Ximenes, was selected in the screenwriter category of this year’s Paradiso Incubator.
All projects are energetically social-issue. Barbara Cunha’s “The Paths of Loneliness” “endeavors to spotlight the pivotal role of women in the fight against repression,” such as Brazil’s military dictatorship, she says.
In “Time, Knifed,” characters are shot in the same frame separated by time but not by blood culture: “The central characters angrily fulfil their destiny, even if tragic; a destiny not determined by the gods, but by their culture and history; for their ancestors and their inexorable codes of honor,” notes producer Vania Lima.
“”Burning Land” “addresses present problems and topics of interest, including gender equality, class differences, work and worker rights, and the right to develop as an individual while being part of a fair and equitable society,” says Iván Eibuszyc at Argentina’s Frutacine, explaining why it boarded the project.
Social drama is in Brazil’s filmic DNA, notes Bourgois. “But something has changed in who is now telling these stories. A generation of young directors is coming from more diverse social classes and racial backgrounds, gaining access to the means of expression and production that they were estranged from for a long time,” she adds.
“They carry with them a vision and an experience of the social dilemmas that Brazil is full of and bring them to screen with another sense of ownership and urgency.”
That is an energising force.
The Inaugural Pitching Paradise Titles:
“Burning Land,” (“Terra de Fogo,” Enock Carvalho, Matheus Farias, Gatopardo Filmes, Brazil, Frutacine, Argentina)
A potential standout, set at a sugar mill in Brazil’s North-East whose workers, threatening to strike, are mysteriously disappearing. “A drama about work and social relations in Brazil that happens inside a factory nowadays but is slowly transformed into a thriller,” says Carvalho, whose Recife-based Gatopardo, also Farias’ label produces in a prestige package with Janaina Bernardes, behind “Nardjes A.,” and Iván Eibuszyc from Frutacine, who co-produced Tribeca player “Initiales SG.”
“Neon Phantom,” (“Fantasma Neon,” Leonardo Martinelli, Duas Mariola Filmes)
Expanding Martinelli’s Locarno Golden Leopard-winning short, a searing put-down – part song and dance, shot in lush tones, part near docu realism – of gig economy iniquity. Produced by Sundance, Berlin-selected Felipe Bragança and Marina Meliande (“Don’t Swallow My Heart, Alligator Girl!”) at Duas Mariola Filmes, and featuring once more put-upon Rio bike delivery man João, one of the most anticipated feature debuts of 2024/25, “a film of great sensitivity, innovation and social reflection,” the producers say.
“The Ocean’s Eyes,” (“Os Olhos do Mar,” Déo Cardoso, TX Filmes, Corte Seco Filmes)
Writer-director Cardoso’s feature follow-up to Habanero Film Sales pick-up “A Bruddah’s Mind,” voted the best film of 2021 by Brazil’s Abraccine critics’ assn. Plumbing ageism and generation gap, a Brazilian Afro-Indigenous family drama of reconciliation in which a young surfer is allowed by her grand-father to move from Fortaleza to Rio to turn pro if she searches for a relic given to him by Orson Welles. Fortaleza’s Corte Seco Filmes co-produces.
“Paths of Loneliness,” (“Sol,” Barbara Cunha, 99 Produçoes)
The fiction debut of documentarian Cunha, behind “Prison Flowers” (2019). Billed as a Latin American road movie, inspired by one of the last terrible crimes and Brazil’s military dictatorship, the so-called Sao Bento farm massacre, in which six activists were killed, including Sol, at the time in a relationship with Daniel, a double agent who filed the report that killed her. She was his girlfriend, pregnant with his baby. Marilia Viana produces at Pernambuco-based 99 Produçoes (“Saudade,” “Abismo Tropical”).
“Time, Knifed,” (“Tempo á faca,” Ruy Guerra, Diogo Oliveira, Têm Dendê Productions and Risco Productions)
Produced by Projeto Paradiso talent Vânia Lima, the latest from Ruy Guerra, now 92, with Oliveira partnering in writing and co-directing, “Time, Knifed” sees Guerra return to the Brazilian Western, a sub-genre which cemented his fame with “The Rifles” and “Of God and the Dead. Set in Set in Brazil’s bone dry Catinga northeast, a tale of murder and, in a second parallel story 18 years later, family vendetta. From Salvador’s Têm Demdê Productions.
“Yellowcake,” (Larissa Estevam, Celina Ximenes)
From Caerá writer-directors Estevam and Ximenes, and described as a “radioactive thriller.” “Yellowcake” turns on Cassandra, a black geologist, who investigates the exploration of a uranium deposit near her hometown, exposing its inhabitants to radiation poisoning. She and her people react with drastic measures. Inspired by Ximenes’ undergraduate studies as a geologist, and a Ceará uranium extraction plant, planned for 2025.