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The Division (A Divisão): A film by Vicente Amorim

11 Feb

One of the most highly anticipated Brazilian films of 2019, Vicente Amorim’s The Division (A Divisão), has been introduced to international buyers during the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.

Based and inspired by disturbing and shocking events that took place during the 1990s in Rio de Janeiro, The Division (A Divisão) is a dark, modern, violent, action-crime-thriller from the acclaimed Brazilian filmmaker, Vicente Amorim, and producer José Junior, Rio’s leading expert on urban violence and head of the NGO (and now production company) AfroReggae Audiovisual. The Division will receive a wide mid-2019 theatrical release in Brazil through Downtown Filmes and Paris Filmes, the companies behind the largest and most successful box-office releases in Brazil in recent years, and is being handled internationally by WTFilms that has introduced the film to the international buyers and distributors at the EFM during the Berlin Film Festival.

“The film is really about redemption, their redemption,” says Amorim, “ and what it is that sets our protagonists apart from the people around them. Although set in the 1990s, The Division is the genesis of what we are living through in Brazil today, with a President who defined his election campaign around violence. It is this need to move forward ­– regardless of the consequences and without measuring the risks – that represents a portrait of modern Brazil. The film reveals the inside of a machine that may start turning again at any moment.”

In the late 1990s, kidnapping became the crime of choice in Rio de Janeiro, with ten or more high profile cases each month. The population, at least those with money, were scared, and the authorities appeared paralysed as large ransoms were paid and some of the kidnapped were held for months or never returned. As corrupt police and officials looked the other way, justice was neither done or seen to be done, as the machine, and those linked to it, were funded by the money being generated from the kidnappings.

To stop the rot, and as a last resort, two police officers – one an incorruptible killing machine with over 100 kills to his name (played by Silvio Guindane); the other a dirty cop known for extorting money from the criminals (Erom Cordeiro) – were brought together and put in charge of Rio’s Anti-Kidnapping Division by the city’s Secretary for Public Safety & Security, a hard line general from the days of the military dictatorship, and his head of police, a socialist lawyer. The Division is their story and how by using very good intelligence and some questionable methods to solve the kidnappings, the two policemen come close to victory as the ends do seem to justify their means. But can too much intelligence be a dangerous thing? The film is based on the real events and the real people.

Amorim’s previous films have screened at, among others, the Toronto, Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, San Sebastian and Rio de Janeiro film festivals. They include the thriller Motorrad, selected for Toronto in 2017; the Brazil-Japanese co-production Dirty Hearts (Corações Sujos); the ethical thriller Good, with Academy Award nominee Viggo Mortensen, a film considered one of the ten best movies of 2008 by The Hollywood Reporter and Rex Reed (The New York Observer); and The Middle of the World (O Caminho das Nuvens) with Wagner Moura; as well as five successful television series.

Despite his work with Brazilian TV, Amorim has deliberately chosen not to cast well-known Brazilian television actors in The Division, as he wants the characters to be credible and real.

Working with the screenwriting team, and as a consultant on the film, is José Luiz Magalhães, a Rio police officer for over 30 years who led the actual team that ended the kidnapping wave in Rio de Janeiro. In The Division, his first work as a screenwriter, he tells his own story, and helps add essential context and the truth of what happened and who was involved.

“He is a brave man,” says Amorim. “As are all the people involved in this project. We have had to change names to keep people alive.”

Amorim was also helped on The Division by José Junior, Creative Director and CEO of AfroReggae Audiovisual (the film’s production company), who has created and produced several television series for channels in Brazil such as Multishow and GNT, including Urban Connections (Conexões Urbanas). He was also the producer of the multi-award winning documentary Favela Rising. The Division is AfroReggae Audiovisual’s first feature, and in Brazil it will also be expanded into a multi-part TV series for Globosat.

“José gave us the access to people and places, and opened doors to locations where the real action took place,” adds Amorim. “He also made sure that the weaponry and other details used in the film are correct.”

Junior has mediated in a number of armed conflicts in Rio in a search for peace, and he is considered a pioneer for his work in helping free people in the favelas from a life of drugs and trafficking while helping to re-socialize them. His extraordinarily brave work at AfroReggae has been recognised internationally.

The film reunites Amorim and WTFilms, the Paris based sales company successfully sold the director’s Motorrad.  “Vicente’s style is immediately recognizable. He has a strong visual signature and the grittiness that buyers expect on Brazilian genre and action films,” explain WTFilms executives Dimitri Stephanides and Gregory Chambet.

Other partners in The Division include the co-producers Hungry Man, an international production company with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and one of the world’s top production companies for commercials. Its short film Asad, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013, and the company was nominated for an International Emmy this year for its five-part Words In Series (Palavras Em Série).

Co-producers include the successful Brazilian companies TV Globo, GloboFilmes, Globosat, GloboPlay, and the film’s Brazilian distributors, Downtown Filmes and Paris Filmes.

 

Brazil’s Film Industry Optimistic for 2019

9 Dec

Critical Divide learnt that panellists at Festival do Rio’s RioMarket  were unanimously optimistic for 2019 after what all agreed had been a difficult year in 2018 for distribution, exhibition and getting “bums on seats”.

Factors contributing to what is expected as being a disappointing year for ticket sales and revenues for theatrical releases included the World Cup, the Presidential Elections, and a truckers strike that almost brought Brazil to a halt for two weeks. Panellists also mentioned a disappointing line up of both domestic and international titles that failed to find or excite an audience in Brazil.

For nearly a decade Brazil had seen growth for theatrical releases. It had to stop at some point, so after eight consecutive years of increased ticket sales and revenues in Brazil, 2017 became the year of no growth, but the numbers were still very strong. As panellist Patricia Kamitsuji of Fox-Warner noted, head offices in the US were not complaining about the results they were seeing from Brazil.

Cinema admissions in Brazil had gone from 89.1 million in 2008 to 112.7m in 2009; 134.9m in 2010; 141.7m in 2011; 148.9m in 2012, the year Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup; 151.2m in 2013; 157.2m in 2014; 170.7 million in 2015, to the record breaking 185 million in 2016, the year of the Rio Olympics. In 2017, no record, but still the very respectable sales of 183 million tickets were achieved, a drop of just 1.5%, compared with 2016, but still the second best year on record.

The decline, for the reasons already mentioned, is likely to be more marked in 2018 with only 127 million tickets having been sold up until the end of September, but the market is already showing signs of recovery in October and early November. Kamitsuji mentioned both “A Star is Born”, which has sold over one million admissions in four weeks, and “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which sold 500,000 tickets over its first weekend and has since passed one million admissions and grossed close to US$12 million.

Panellists noticed that what was more encouraging is that these two films did not fill the normal blockbuster form of an established franchise or action character. All panellists, however, noted that both for international and domestic Brazilian releases, it was the top ten releases that did really well, with the other 400 titles struggling and offering room for improvement.

The average occupancy rates of the 3,316 screens in Brazil, the majority in multiplexes, has been around 19%, and this is likely to have fallen to 18 or 17 percent in 2018. But capacity is a problem whenever a major blockbuster is released. The expansion of screens in Brazil, now back to the levels of 1975, has also slowed in 2018 and this was put down to the current economic climate in Brazil that saw a slowing in the expansion of shopping centres where new screens would be located. Shopping Centre screens are also the most successful in Brazil in terms of revenues and tickets sales.

2016 was also a record year for Brazilian productions with 30.1 million tickets sold during the year, grossing some R$354.8 million, or approximately US$112 million. Seven Brazilian films sold over one million tickets in 2016, with 15 productions selling between 100,000 and a million tickets.

In 2017 Brazilian films sold just 18.5 million tickets, a fall of 38.5%, grossing R$253 million, or approximately US$79 million, from the release of 154 domestic productions. Only four Brazilian films sold over one million tickets in 2017 lead by Cesar Rodrigues’ “Minha Mãe É Uma Peça 2” (My Mom Is A Character 2), starring TV and theatre comedian Paulo Gustavo, which grossed R$89.2 million (US$27.8m) in 2017, which when added to its year end revenue from 2016 saw the film’s total rises to R$124.2m (US$38.8m). Other Brazilian films to pass the one million admission mark in 2017 were “Polícia Federal – A Lei É Para Todos” (1.38 million), “Os Parças” (1.3 million) and “DPA – Detetives do Prédio Azul” (1.2 million). Brazilian films had a market share of 16.4% of admissions and 18.9% of revenues.

2018 is looking better for Brazilian films at the box office with a 37.7% increase in sales up to the end of September, a period in which tickets to international releases fell 14.1%. Rio de Janeiro remains the state with the highest market share for domestic Brazilian releases.

Overall the top grossing film of the year in Brazil in 2017 was “Fast & Furious 8: The Fate of the Furious” that grossed US$41.7m from tickets sales of 8.5 million. The rest of the top ten was made up of “Justice League” (US$41m / 8.4m); “Beauty and the Beast” (US$40.6m / 8.3m); “Despicable Me 3”  (US$39.3m / 8.89m, the highest ticket sales of the year); “Wonder Woma” (US$ 34.2m / 7m); “Spider-Man: Homecoming” ($32m /6.7m); “Thor: Ragnarok” (US$31.2m / 6.4m) “Logan” (US$28.5m / 6.4m); “Minha Mãe É Uma Peça 2” (US$27.8m / 6.5m in 2017 and 9.3m in total) and The “Shack” (US$22.4m / 5.1m).

So far in 2018 the ten top grossing film through 2 December are “Avengers: Infinity War”, that has grossed US$66.7m; “Incredibles 2” (US$37.6m); “Black Panther” (US$37m); Brazil’s “Nada a Perder” (Nothing To Lose – US$33m); “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (US$24m); “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (US$21.3); “The Nun” (US$20.5); “Fifty Shades Freed” (US$19.7m); Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” (US$19.5); and “Venom” (US$19.0).”

The Brazilian comedy “Os Farofeiros”, by Roberto Santucci, is 17th in the year’s overall box office having grossed approximately US$9.8m and sold 2.6 million tickets.

Optimism for 2019 comes from an extremely strong expected slate of releases, both international and domestic, that have a proven track record of getting the fans in Brazil through the door and in to the seats. Panellists also saw a boost of national optimism when the new Brazilian President takes power at the start of January, a “feel good” factor that should last at least six months. There is also no World Cup or Olympic distractions in 2019, although Brazil will host the Copa America from 14 June to 7 July.

Among RioMarket’s optimistic panellists, spread across two panels, were Marcos Oliveira of Universal Pictures Brasil, Patricia Kamitsuji of Fox-Warner, Paulo Pereira of Cinépolis, Marcelo Bertini of Cinemark, Bruno Wainer of Downtown Filmes, Silvia Cruz of Vitrine Filmes, Luiz Severiano Ribeiro Neto of Kinoplex, Edson Pimental of Globo Filmes, Leonardo Eddie of Urca Filmes, and Luana Rufino of ANCINE. The moderators were Caio Silva of ABRAPLEX and Mariza Leão of Morena Filmes.

 

Redentor produced for Festival do Rio 2014

20 Oct

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Critical Divide explains the Brazilian election to Variety’s readers

18 Oct

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Festival do Rio coincides this year – as it does every four years – with Brazil’s presidential election and the elections for the National Congress, state governors and state legislatures. The elections take place on Sunday, Oct. 5 and voting in Brazil is compulsory. If none of the candidates obtains over 50% of the valid votes, a second round will be held on Oct. 26. Incumbent President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) is running for re-election. But she is challenged by 11 other candidates of whom Minas Gerais Senator Aecio Neves from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and Marina Silva from the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) are her main rivals.

Just over a year ago, it was assumed that Rousseff’s re-election would be something of a stroll in the park for her and her party, and she would easily pass the 50% required at the first time of asking. But then came the protests. Quiet at first, but rising to a violent crescendo where it was openly discussed if Brazil would be fit to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The protests seemed to cover every possible theme and topic, and embraced every age group and social background. They even disrupted last year’s Festival do Rio screenings at the Odeon Petrobras in Cinelandia as its location was a focal point for protestors.

Yet it could be said that this is all history, as the protests diminished and Brazil went on to host one of the most successful – some would say “the” most successful – World Cup. The president was still booed at the matches she attended, but so was FIFA president Sepp Blater. Rousseff may have been hit and wounded, and accusations of her party’s corruption and incompetence continued to grow, yet her opponents still looked far from likely to upset the apple cart or the gravy train that many of her party workers appeared to be riding.

Opinion polls gave Rousseff a comfortable lead over her main rivals, but it now started to look as if she would not get the magic 50% required in the first round, yet this would be a temporary blip as she was almost certain beat her most obvious opponent in the second round, Aecio Neves.

Yet everything changed when the original PSB candidate, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash in Santos on Aug. 13 The party quickly chose Marina Silva, who had been his running mate and who had run for the presidency on her own party ticket four year ago, to replace him.

The bounce in the polls was dramatic, more than any Hollywood screenwriter would dare to script, and riding a wave of emotion the PSB saw its poll ratings jump in days from less than 10% to over 33%, passing even the president’s rating. Polls also showed that if Silva and Rousseff were to face off, Silva would be a comfortable winner.

But Brazilian voting patterns are nothing if not volatile, and in recent days the concerted negative attacks on Silva by the president and her party machine has seen Rousseff re-take the lead. Yet if Silva can stop the president reaching 50%, there will still be all to play for in the head- to-head in the second round.

So what does the election mean to the film industry and culture in general?

In truth, and this would sadly be true in most of the world, culture is not very high up the pecking order when it comes to vote-changing issues. Although as veteran producer Luiz Carlos Barreto noted in O Globo, one of Rio and Brazil’s main papers: “Artists are only called to decorate the hustings during the elections, never to discuss culture.”

Globo, to its credit, did attempt to bring culture into the presidental debate by asking all the three main candidates questions on cultural issues that had been set by cultural big hitters including Barreto, actress Patricia Pillar, musician Ivan Lins, director and actor Domingos Oliveira, and the director of Porto Cine, Adailton Medeiros, among others.

What was abundantly clear from the answers was that not one of the candidates had given much weight or thought to cultural issues, with the answers being penned by their political advisers and spin-doctors.

Sadly, none of the candidates gave a clear answer to the questions, and almost went out of their way not to commit to any concrete proposals for the development of the cultural sector. As Barreto noted: “The answers were conventional, without any new vision as how to formulate public policy for all the different strands of culture. The ideas and visions were very general.”

If you could spot a trend in the replies it was that the current president thinks she and her government have been doing a great job, so don’t really need to change their position; Silva placed culture in with education, so issues were viewed for their educational impact rather than cultural or financial impact; while Neves said he would like to see a more private-public business partnership in developing Brazil’s cultural sector.

It is unlikely that any party has won or lost votes on its cultural positioning, but voters may have noted that the artistic community that once flocked to support the ruling PT when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was its charismatic leader and president, have been shifting to support Silva.

The most vocal, not surprisingly, are the more successful artists that don’t need to go cap in hand to the government for support and funding. Highly respected musician Caetano Veloso has been very vocal in his support for Silva, explaining to the public and his 1.5 million Facebook followers why he thinks it is time for a change with a vote for Silva.

The most surprising switch of allegiance – and potentially more damaging – has been that of Veloso’s fellow musician and friend, Gilberto Gil, who was Lula’s high profile Minister of Culture. He too has switched to Silva and has even written a campaign song for her.

The public support of cultural figures may not influence the outcome of the first round of voting on 5 October (although a week out from election it was estimated that as many as 20% may still be undecided), but it could make a real difference in the run up to the second round on 26 October. Especially if they are willing to share the hustings with Silva and become even more vocal in their criticism of the existing government.

Another prominant supporter of Silva is the film director Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”) who is promising to bring his very considerable marketing clout and experience to the electoral party and produce some promotional spots for the second round when Silva would have equal air time on television with Rousseff.

Ex-president Lula, who hand picked Rousseff to succeed him, can be only too aware that it was a Meirelles short promotional film that helped swing the vote for Rio to host the 2016 Olympics, and beat other cities that had appeared to be the clear front runners.

On a more local front, the Brazilian film industry is probably quietly pleased to see the current governor of Rio, Luiz Fernandes do Pezao of the PMDB, recovering in the polls and looking well placed to win at the second round of voting for governor of the state of Rio. His predecessor, Sergio Cabral, was recognized as having done a lot for the city and state, in term of both the World Cup and Olympics, and security, but was dragged down by a number of scandals that resulted in various measures and funding to support the film industry, including the Marca RJ announced in Cannes, never coming to fruition. There will be hope that some of these support mechanisms and funding will be reinstated should Pezao win the election.

Overall, filmmakers in Rio can look forward to two years of relative stability, as that is how long the current mayor, Eduardo Paes, has left in office. It is the mayor that funds RioFilme and the Rio Film Commisssion, and makes Festival do Rio possible.

Ironically, there were political protests again at the opening of this year’s Festival do Rio, but all fairly good-natured. The protest was by filmmakers who are accusing the mayor and governor’s office of only supporting commercially interesting projects rather than artistically driven projects that have little chance of making their money back.

An argument that will be familiar in many countries, yet Brazilian filmmakers may have to re-think their position as in 2013 a healthy 120 Brazilian films were made and released, yet less than 20 found an audience of any note to help the domestic share of the box office creep above 18% of tickets sold. It is unsustainable, especially to politicians, to fund so many films that fail to find an audience.

While non-Brazilians filmmakers who deal with Brazil will watch the elections with interest, their main wish, regardless of who wins, will be to see less bureaucracy in Brazil and clearer rules and transparency when it come to the taxation levied on film projects on a municipal, state and federal level. Many foreign producers have been caught out in the past 18 months by extra taxes asked for by Brazilian production companies and partners on costs that were not included in the original budgets.

Brazil needs to simplify the filmmaking process and the time it takes to process funding requests if it wants to attract more production and to benefit from the exposure the country received during the World Cup and will again in 2016 with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The question now is if the next president or governor of Rio will show more interest in culture and filmmaking when in office, than during their campaigns.

Variety reports on Critical Divide’s activities at Festival do Rio

18 Oct

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Critical Divide’s Chris Pickard, a veteran not only of Brazil but also of the Rio Fest and RioMarket, has unveiled a bevy of Brazil-based projects under the banner of The Sound of Brazil.

Pickard, who was responsible for the original idea and for co-producing Julien Temple’s “Rio 50 Degrees,” which has screened at the Festival, told Variety he aimed to have most of the slate ready to air in 2016, the year of the Rio Olympics and Paralympic Games. He is hopeful some may even be ready for 2015, when Rio celebrates its 450th anniversary.

The season of music documentaries and performance films is being developed with the BBC in the U.K., and other international broadcast partners. Films look to build on the growing cultural partnership that started to develop between Brazil and the U.K., and especially Rio and London, during the 2012 London Olympics.

With the ever-closer cultures of Brazil, the U.K. and Europe in mind, a first project comprises a three-part series looking at the evolution of musical culture – and dance- in Brazil from the arrival of the first missionaries to the very latest sounds and musical talent. For the U.K. and certain international markets the programs will be presented by Katie Derham, the face of classical music at the BBC as well for the BBC Proms. Derham, like Pickard, has long-standing family ties with Brazil.

Partnering Derham and Pickard in developing the season are James Joseph of Creedence Productions , a highly respected and well-connected music and entertainment lawyer whose management company, with offices in London and Los Angeles, looks after Nina Simone, Cleveland Watkiss, Cassandra Wilson and Julian Joseph, amongst others, and Mark Barrett, ex-head of Classical Music at BBC Worldwide Music and previously Classical Manager Europe at Sony Music Entertainment.

A number of Joseph’s clients have toured Brazil and worked with Brazilian artists in Brazil as well as in the U.S. and Europe. He has also filmed programs and projects in Brazil with Fernando Meirelles and O2 Filmes.

One of those larger projects, which Joseph expects to have wide international appeal, is a special “homecoming” concert in Rio de Janeiro for musician Sergio Mendes. It would include many leading international and Brazilian names that have collaborated with him over the years, including talent featured on the soundtracks of Fox’s animated films “Rio”. There will also be a full standalone documentary about Mendes who was the artist who took Brazilian music global in the 1960s, and is often better known internationally than in his own country and city.

“We hope to stage the concert in 2015 as part of Rio’s 450th anniversary celebrations and then have the programe and documentary ready to broadcast in 2016 which will be the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sergio Mendes, plus Brasil’ 66 by Herb Alpert,” Pickard explained.

Also on the slate is a program about Brazilian baroque music with Harry Christophers and a Brazil Sixteen; a look at the club scene in Rio, São Paulo and Salvador its sounds in “Brazil: Shaken and Stirred…with a Twist of Hackney”; and a docu exploring how musical talent is fostered in Brazil: “From Tin Cans to Strings.”

The most ambitious part of the slate turns, however, on a program series is a series that will introduce and showcase Rio’s Carnival parade by parachuting six major international names into the city’s iconic event to mirror certain elements of the parade.

Pickard first developed the project with the late Gus Dudgeon, Elton John’s producer for many years, who realized there was no accessible TV title to capture a larger audience and explain what actually happens in artistic terms with the parade. As Dudgeon noted, Carnival is more spectacular than any rock show he had seen, even Elton’s.

“I have been involved with carnival for over 30 years – so I have form in this department,” Pickard says.

“It is now a question of getting our final ducks in a row before more details can be unveiled as it requires a somewhat complex relationship of working not only with the Mayor’s office in Rio, but also the League of Samba Schools and TV Globo that so brilliantly film the parade to broadcast live over two nights to Brazil.

He added: “This program, I can promise, will help open the eyes of the world to what an astonishing and creative event the parade is. Our stars are also going to have a lot of fun along the way and they will be the catalyst to build a large global TV audience.”

If Pickard and the team can get everything to align, they will look to film during carnival 2016 and have the edited shows ready for broadcast prior to the Rio Olympics that open on Aug 5 2016.

Pickard held meetings related to the project while at the Rio Festival.

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Festival do Rio dailies edited by Critical Divide

12 Oct

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