Film critics in Brazil say that the critically acclaimed film Aquarius with actress Sônia Braga was passed over for representing Brazil at the Oscar because of the outspoken director’s public condemnations of the lawmakers who orchestrated a coup against former President Dilma Rousseff, according to Variety Magazine.
The country’s embattled Oscar’s selection committee nominated David Schurmann’s Little Secret as Brazil’s offering for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in February 2017. At least two films dropped out of the running for the prized spot in protest of the appointment of film critic Marcus Petrucelli to the selection team.
Petrucelli has publicly criticized Aquarius director Kleber Mendonça for his denunciation of Brazil’s President, Michel Temer, who was part of the conservative politicians who spearheaded the removal of the twice-elected Rousseff.
In social media posts, Petrucelli previously accused Mendonça of embarrassing Brazil at the Cannes Film Festival. Mendonça and the cast of Aquarius had staged a protest on the red carpet at Cannes in May, just days after Rousseff’s was suspended from office on allegations of corruption.
She would subsequently be impeached on August 31. Cast members held up signs with messages such as “Brazil is experiencing a coup d’état.”
Onlookers at Cannes responded to the protest with applause, while Petrucelli dubbed the claim of a coup a lie.
Schurmann, director of the Oscar submission Little Secret, told Variety that Brazil’s Oscar selection process fell victim to the country’s political climate, which elevated pressures to single out a film with “a political angle and agenda,” which may not necessarily be the best film.
Previously, Mendonça told Variety that there was a great deal of speculation that Aquarius would be “sabotaged by the illegitimate government.”
Aquarius tells the story of an aging music critic, played by Sônia Braga, who resists pressure from a bullying property developer to sell her apartment with a stubborn and humorous air that spikes tension through the course of the film.
Critics have described the film as a metaphor for some of Brazil’s deep-seated problems, such as corruption.
Though pushed out of the Best Foreign Language Film category, Aquarius could still have a shot at making it to the Oscar’s with Sonia Braga as a nominee for best actress in a leading role after her performance was highly celebrated at Cannes.
Little Secret (Pequeno Segredo), which hasn’t opened yet, tells us a story based in an episode with the director’s family, the Schurmanns, known for sailing throughout the world.
The plot deals with Kat, a little girl who died in 2006. She was the adopted daughter of Heloísa and Vilfredo Schurmann and inspired the best-selling book “Little Secret: Kat’s life lesson to the Schurmann family,” written by Heloísa in 2012.
The film’s cast includes Julia Lemmertz, Maria Flor, Fionnula Flanagan, Marcello Antony, Erroll Shand and Mariana Goulart.
The controversy over the Oscar’s selection comes less than two weeks after the vote in the Senate to definitively remove Rousseff from office and install Michel Temer as president.
One of the first contentious moves by Temer’s interim government was to axe the Ministry of Culture, folding it into the Ministry of Education for the first time since the offices were separated in 1985, after the fall of the dictatorship.