By Maíra Amorim, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – For the fifth year running Brazil was not represented at an Oscar ceremony, and the Ministry of Culture’s candidate for Best Foreign Language Film – Salve Geral (Time of Fear), by Sérgio Rezende – did not even figure among the Academy nominees. To cut closer to the bone, this year’s award went to an Argentinian production, The Secret in Their Eyes.

André Beltrão in 'Salve Geral', photo by Globo Filmes.

Despite the strong storyline, Salve Geral failed to make the anticipated splash even in Brazil, with audience figures of less than 200,000. The story is set in a Sao Paulo prison where, in 2006, a series of violent attacks took place led by the criminal group PCC (Primeiro Comando do Leste or First East Command), and was hyped as the next City of God or Tropa de Elite, but was roundly ignored by critics and cinemagoers alike.

The last time Brazil appeared at the Oscars was back in 2005 when the film Motorcycle Diaries by Walter Salles, was in the running for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Song – for which Jorge Drexler was eventually awarded the gong with his ‘El Otro Lado del Río’.

One year earlier City of God by Fernando Meirelles received four nominations (Directing, Editing, Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography) but disappointingly left the show empty handed. Before that, in 1999, Central Station, also by Walter Salles, received two nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress (Fernanda Montenegro), but again went home without a gong.

More recently the country has been faring even worse when it comes to the Awards ceremony. Since The Motorcycle Diaries the choices from the Ministry of Culture have been Last Stop 174 (2009, Bruno Barreto), The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (2008, Cao Hamburguer), Two Sons of Francisco (2007, Breno Silveira) and Olga (2006, Jayme Monjardim). None of them have made it on to the Academy shortlist.

Seu Jorge in 'Tropa de Elite 2', photo by Alex Lima.

With one eye on next year’s prize, nobody can yet predict which film will be chosen to represent Brazil, but already one of the most anticipated releases for 2010 is Tropa De Elite 2, expected to be released here in August.

The first movie came out in 2007 and was seen by nearly 2.5 million film fans. For the second part, director José Padilha is hoping to avoid the piracy which blighted the original’s release months in advance. To make sure everyone is kept updated with the filming and ready for the release, the production has an official blog, a Flickr Album and even an Orkut profile. Now it is only a matter of waiting to see if the sequel will be as successful as its predecessor.

Another highly anticipated Brazilian movie for the year is Cinco Vezes Favela (Five Times Favela), by a directing collective coordinated by Cacá Diegues and set for release on March 18th. A remake of the 1961 original of the same name, it is directed by Cacá Diegues, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Leon Hirszman, Marcos Farias and Miguel Borges. The iconic 1960’s film created the Cinema Novo movement in Brazil, and this time around, Cacá Diegues invited young people from the favelas to tell the story of themselves, almost 40 years later.

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