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Co-Productions on the Rise in Brazil

Variety logo Variety 5/19/2017 Anna Marie de la Fuente
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Better late than never. In February, the U.K. and Brazil ratified a film-TV co-production treaty first unveiled in 2012.

At the Rio Content Market in March, Brazilian and French film authorities signed a framework collaboration pact hailed as a first step toward their own bilateral co-production treaty. The main Brazil event at Cannes will be a U.K.-Brazilian co-production meet, organized by state-backed film promotional entity, Cinema do Brasil.

Brazil’s film industry has long been a force to reckon with on the international stage. But the thrust of its film policy abroad over the past decade has been into international co-production, particularly in Latin America. Spearheaded by state-backed film agency Ancine, this Portuguese-speaking nation has forged co-production treaties with a host of countries including Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, Chile, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Venezuela; and it is signatory to multilateral treaties such as the Ibero-American Film Integration and the Latin American Film Co-Production Agreements.

“In the last eight years, Brazil participated in more international co-productions than in the past 30 years,” says Andre Sturm, chairman of Cinema do Brasil. The reasons are far more than just a question of funding or tapping the incentives of each country.

“Working with Latin America has several advantages, such as geographic proximity, similar cultures, economic and political treaties — but the language barrier can be an issue,” says Sturm. “At the same time, a few years ago Brazilian filmmakers chose to post-produce their films in neighboring countries, due to costs, and this often resulted in spontaneous co-productions.”

“Co-productions allow for the exhibition of our films in other countries, and conversely, their films’ distribution in Brazil,” says Vania Catani, whose Rio-based Bananeira Filmes is a lead co-producer, alongside Argentina’s Rei Cine, of the $3.7 million eight-country co-production “Zama” by Lucrecia Martel (“La Cienaga”). The film is still in post.

“Zama” does not lack in star backers: Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar of El Deseo, Spain, are co-producers. Executive producers include Mexican celebrities Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna of Canana. They join producers from France, the U.S., the Netherlands and Portugal.

Based on Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 existential novel, “Zama” centers on a 17th century Spanish officer (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) who awaits his transfer from Paraguay to Buenos Aires.

“I think cinema can and should break frontiers and I am willing to work for it,” Catani says.

“Latin America is a very heterogeneous region; each country has its own peculiar culture,” says producer Ana Alice de Morais of 3Moinhos, a co-producer of Argentine road movie-family drama “Malambo King” by Juan Pablo Felix. “Despite this diversity, they can have many social issues in common; some of them even share similar political histories. There is also a very similar way of producing and doing business.”

Fellipe Barbosa was considering cuts mid-shoot to his 2017 Cannes Critics’ Week entry “Gabriel and the Mountain” when additional coin came in through Arte France and Yohann Cornu of Damned Films. “I wouldn’t have been able to finish my film without co-production funding,” Barbosa says. “The main advantage [to co-production] is collaboration: this is priceless, to collaborate with a different school of cinema, in my case, the French one, working on sound and color during post-production, with amazing professionals.”

Barbosa, like many of Brazil’s emerging talent, has been educated abroad. He has an MFA in film from Columbia U. “As an official co-production with France, we fall into the French quotas for distribution, which makes the release of the film potentially bigger in France and Europe,” Barbosa adds.

Perhaps unprecedented for a Brazilian film, “Gabriel” also had the support of Kenya’s Vincho Nchogu, who served as line producer as the film shot for 72 days across Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi. Using actors and some of the real people who had interacted with Gabriel, “Gabriel and the Mountain,” traces the last days of Barbosa’s childhood friend who died on the slopes of Malawi’s highest peak.

Naturally, there are still some obstacles to hurdle.

“The biggest challenge to participating in a co-production is the time it takes for the evaluation of the project and the release of funds,” says Argentine producer Gema Juarez Allen, who co-produces “La Cama,” by Monica Lairana, with the Netherlands’ Topkapi Films, Germany’s Sutor Kolonko and Brazil’s 3Moinhos. “Sometimes the obligation to cast actors from co-producing countries can also stretch the integrity of a plot,” she adds.

“An international co-production is laborious; there is more bureaucracy involved,” concurs “La Cama” co-producer Morais.

“Latin American film funds are infinitely less crowded than the major European funds. On the other hand, the bureaucracy — something that Latin American producers are familiar with — is much larger,” Sturm says.

However, as Catani points out, “creative differences do exist, but can be a stimulating challenge.”

And Brazil is also looking beyond its regional neighbors. According to Sturm, Cinema do Brasil is hoping to open up markets in China and South Korea and plans to participate in the Hong Kong and Busan festivals as the first step.

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