The Rio de Janeiro Film Festival is the annual family feast of Brazilian cinema. "Premiere Brasil" is the festival's main section, and the cinema showing it is the Odeon theater, which is strategically set in Rio's downtown area. Charming fest head Ilda Santiago has made this the place dedicated to select events (opening, closing) and in particular to Brazilian cinema, the premieres of new, or recent movies (both fiction and docs).
There were queues every night. It was an astonishing experience to see how the Brazilian public is especially interested in Brazilian films, and not only interested, but emotionally involved, with a measure of national pride. Aside from the Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI) which goes to a first or second Latin American film (including Brazil), all prizes were given to national films, and there was a special jury dedicated to "Premiere Brasil" only. So, the award ceremony was another evening of and another triumph for Brazilian cinema.
The winner of the evening was a rather coarse adaption of a novel by Guimaraes Rosa, Matraga (A hora e a vez de Augusto Matraga, directed by Vinicius Coimbra, his debut), a film which the jury obviously expected to win considerable box office both in and outside the country (let's hope that these expectations are not disappointed). Two other films were on the list of winners which followed an author's point of view, The Silver Cliff (O abismo prateado) by Karim Ainouz, a film of a developed narration (premiered in Cannes earlier this year, Quinzaine), and Southwest (Sudoeste), the first film of Eduardo Nunes, a film with a daring and artistically elaborated composition of images. It won the Special Jury Prize and the Prize for Best Photography (Mauro Pinheiro Jr), and also received the FIPRESCI prize for Best Latin American film selected from all first and second films screened in "Premiere Brazil" and "Premiere Latina".
The Béla Tarr Enigma was the title of a retrospective dedicated to the Hungarian filmmaker. It's probably brave to show his films to a public which doesn't have too much experience with a more or less experimental, or let's rather say, with an unconventional way of making films, and during a festival which has so many film attractions. Ilda Santiago found a good place: the Instituto Moureira Salles, a small center in the Gávea part of town, with room for an exhibition, with a small screening room (112 seats), a coffee shop, an idyllic inner courtyard. The place belongs to the Salles Family and is run by our colleague, the critic and historian José Carlos Avellar. In the same place, there was an homage to Patricio Guzmán, the Chilean documentary filmmaker (The Battle of Chile / La batalla de Chile) whom FIPRESCI and the Festival honored with a lifetime achievement award.
Successful events tend to get bigger. The Rio Festival presented at its recent 13 day edition some 400 films (does any festival in the world show more?). Among them, there was a good selection of recent world cinema from the festival circuit, welcomed by the Rio public and programmed in theaters spread all over town, thus allowing different levels of society to enjoy the festival. On the other hand, and from the point of view of a festival visitor, Rio is not a small town, and to get from one cinema to another may take longer than a film's duration. Even the festival center was difficult to reach, in a remote part of the port — a seaport building with a nice character of improvisation, with useful facilities, a beautiful view, a pleasant coffee shop, a small projection room, places for workshops, altogether a great place with a stimulating atmosphere, only without a metropolitan setting, with no surrounding structure at all.
While enjoying the Rio Festival, the bad news arrived that Leon Cakoff passed away. He was the founder of the Sao Paulo International Film Festival (1977) and its head until now. Our sympathy goes to his wife Renate de Almeida and his children.
Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival: www.festivaldorio.com.br