audiences will soon have the chance to know the work of
filmmaker Aluizio Abranches, one of the most innovative directors
making movies in Brazil today. Here he talks to Brazzil about the
reaction to his work, his love of film and the state of filmmaking in
Abranches has been recognized at home, in Europe, and on the international
film festival circuit as one of the most innovative artists in today's
Brazilian cinema, yet recognition in the United States is late in coming.
Although his 1999 debut feature Um Copo de Cólera (A
Fit of Rage, available in VHS) won the Panorama Award at the Berlin
Film Festival and enjoyed commercial success in European release, the
film was never shown to American audiences.
feature, As Três Marias (The Three Marias), also played
in major international film festivals and was shown in European features,
but unlike Um Copo de Cólera this film has been picked up
for American theatrical release. Empire Pictures, an influential U.S.
distributor of European and Asian productions, has chosen As Três
Marias as its first Latin American offering. The film will have its
American theatrical première on May 30 at Cinema Village in New
York (www.cinemavillage.com) and is scheduled to play in other major cities
across the United States throughout the spring and summer.
As Três Marias
is a violent, disturbing drama about the consequences of being obsessed
by revenge. The story focuses on Filomena Capadócio, the matriarch
of a family who is abruptly visited by tragedy. Filomena's husband
and two sons are brutally murdered by the sons of Firmino Santos Guerra.
Thirty years earlier, Filomena had been engaged to Santos Guerra but left
him before their wedding to marry his rival Borges Capadócio.
The result of this union filled Santos Guerra with rage and he promised
to someday exact revenge on the newly married couple.
Filomena buries her
husband and sons and begins to set plans to have revenge against the Santos
Guerra family. She brings together her three daughters (Maria Francisca,
Maria Rosa and Maria Pia) and sends them off into the backlands of Brazil
to locate and hire three ruthless killers. Maria Francisca has to
find the gunman known as Zé das Cobras, who has not spoken to a
woman since the death of his mother. Maria Rosa looks for Chief
Tenório, a backwoods cop who is also a knife specialist, and persuade
him to break the laws he defends. Maria Pia goes off in search of
Jesulino Cruz, also known as "The Devil's Horse," but there
is a slight obstacle in her path: this killer is locked up in prison.
Abranches, who was
born in Rio de Janeiro in 1961, recently previewed As Três Marias
at the local Havana Film Festival in New York, an annual presentation
of contemporary Latin American cinema. Brazzil spoke with
him following the film's screening at the festival.
audiences got their first chance to see the film in early April at the
Havana Film Festival in New York. How did the audiences at the festival
respond to the film?
better than I had expected. Apparently they liked the film very
much and they stayed for the Q&A that lasted more than a half-hour.
I was not even planning to do that, but as the audience stayed then so
did I. They found it very different, especially the narration, but
I had the impression they were taken by it. Someone in the audience
said it was a very delicate film. That can sound weird for As
Três Marias, but I liked it somehow agreed with them.
did audiences in Brazil and Europe react to the film?
well. It was shown in many festivals, including Berlin in 2002.
In Italy, it actually went over better than in Brazil. The distributors
there, Teodora Films, did a much better job releasing it in Italy then
they did in Brazil. My first picture was also very successful in
Italy. Teodora Films actually began their distribution work in Italy
with Um Copo de Cólera and since then the company has now
released about 30 films and became very successful. They got some
money out of Um Copo de Cólera and they decided to invest
in As Três Marias, which they are now releasing in Italy.
I think they are going to be part of my next project.
didn't get to see Um Copo de Cólera in the United States.
my first feature film was not released in the U.S. I don't know
if it is because of the language. American audiences are not used
to watching films with subtitles. In Brazil, 90 percent of our films
are American and we watch them with subtitles. But now in the U.S.
there is a growing Latin population in Miami, California and New York,
so maybe there is a growing market for these films. That's why I
am glad As Três Marias will be released here by Empire Pictures,
because unless you have a blockbuster picture like City of God
it is very difficult for a Brazilian film to get an American release.
in any event, not many Brazilian films play in the U.S. For those
of us who do not have access to today's Brazilian films, what is the state
of filmmaking in Brazil?
would say Brazil produces around 40 films a year, that's increasing from
the last two-to-four years. There was a period end of 1980s to mid
1990s that Brazilians made one or two films a year, including one children's
film. Film production began to increase in 1995, during the government
of Itamar Franco, when he created a new law that subsidized companies
investing in a film with tax deductions. It worked, but for a company
to invest $3 million the film would have to pay back $30 million to make
a profit. It's not the solution for the Brazilian cinema, but is
has worked for the past few years.
did you get into the film business? Was this always your career
I originally studied economics. I finished my university studies
at the Faculdade Cândido Mendes in 1982 when I was 20 and then I
went to London to do a Masters in economics. I was always interested
in film, growing up watching Buñuel, Fellini, Godard, Truffaut,
and some of the American classics like Elia Kazan's Splendor in the
Grass (I watched it 25 times), Hitchcock, Woody Allen. Although
I was very much interested in films, I didn't know I could make them.
But when I went to London I kept passing the London International Film
School. One day I went in and asked what I could do to get into
the school and they gave me an application to prepare. And a month
later I got started in the film school.
you graduated from the school in 1984, you worked in an associate level
on several American productions based in Latin America, including Moon
Over Parador and Where the River Runs Black. How can you compare
the focus of an American film production to a Brazilian film production?
were very different films from the ones I am now making, mainly because
they were made by major U.S. film companies with a commercial focus.
I have nothing against that, as I want to make a big commercial success
(it's my fantasy). In Brazil there are films made with that purpose,
and that is fine since it is what makes the industry go on. And
there are American films with the filmmaker's distinct signature as well.
The ideal, of course, is when you can make a film the way you want and
it's successful not only with the critics but with public attendance as
do you want audiences to take away from As Três Marias?
I finish and release a film, I feel it is not mine any more. Everyone
can have their own feelings and interpretations. However, there
are some issues that interested me, especially what do you do when destiny
interferes with your plans. Also, the code of violence and revenge,
which is usually associated with men; but in the case of As Três
Marias, women take revenge.
There is, however,
one aspect that is very clear and that is violence and revenge doesn't
take you anywhere. It doesn't matter what reason is behind it, even
in the film's case where revenge comes after great pain. We should
remember one thing about an eye for an eye: Gandhi once said that if everybody
did that the whole world would be blind.
For more information
on the U.S. release of As Três Marias, go online to http://www.empirepicturesusa.com/ep/show_movie.asp?title=10017
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