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By Anita Kirpalani, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of the most famous independent film festivals, the Sundance Film Festival, just closed its doors on January 30th in Utah (USA), after a well-rounded ten days of intense film-screenings. Brazilian films were, as each year, present, although shyly with two short-movies in competition – Cinderela by Magali Magistry, and Tempestade (Storm), by Cesar Cabral – and the first international screening of Tropa de Elite 2: O Inmigo agora e outro (Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within).

Wagner Moura reprises his role as Captain Nascimento in Tropa de Elite 2
Wagner Moura reprises his role as Captain Nascimento in Tropa de Elite 2, photo courtesy of Rio Filmes.

After a tremendous success in Brazil – second biggest admissions in the history of cinema in Brazil with more than 10 million spectators – Tropa de Elite 2 got off its international tour to a flying start with the prestigious Sundance Festival.

José Padilha, the director, was chosen as one of the jurors of the World Documentary section and his movie, Tropa de Elite 2, was classified in the Spotlight Section that the organizers of the festival affectionately define as “cinema we love” – a pretty clear endorsement statement.

Yet the American critics and media don’t seem to have picked up that much on one of Sundance’s coup de Coeur and what could become a major international blockbuster. Only a few movie buff bloggers and the English newspaper The Guardian have reported on it and, without any surprise, they are raving.

The foreign fans of Tropa de Elite 1, which won the Golden Bear in 2008, or of the filmmaker José Padilha who also directed the highly acclaimed Onibus 174, will have to wait for IM Global, which handles the foreign sales of the movie, to make a deal.

The two other Brazilian torchbearers at the festival were in for competition, although none of them won it. Yet as said by Cesar Cabral, the director of Tempestade, a beautifully-made short animation movie that tells, with a touch of poetry and surrealism, the story of a sailor caught in a storm on the way to see his beloved: “Being chosen amongst 6,000 movies in such a festival already is an amazing award.”

Tempestade, a Brazilian short film
Cesar Cabral's Tempestade, a Brazilian short film in competition at 2011 Sundance, image provided by Tempestade.

A stop motion movie that was shot frame by frame, Tempestade was inspired by a Beatles song – Eleanor Rigby – and the texture and light of the 19th century British painter William Turner, since it was produced for the Brazilian British Council’s sponsored Festival called Cultura Inglesa which selects every year pieces of art that must be British-inspired.

Cinderela – a short-fiction that stages, on the rhythms of baile funke, the macabre attempt of Luiza to conquer her lover that just got engaged … to another woman – is on the other hand, a French-Brazilian production.

The movie, which displays beautiful photography and good actors, was actually shot in Rio’s Copacabana and Santa Teresa by the French director, Magali Magistry, and produced by the Brazilian Franco Filmes, and the French Caimans Production. “It helps a movie like this to have two producing countries, because it opens up new doors” says Ailton Franco, the Brazilian producer who is also at the head of the Carioca Curta Film Festival.

Brazilian movies certainly seem to be breaking through these past years, with a long-expected revival of Brazilian cinema, which the success of Tropa de Elite 2 symbolizes. As Cesar Cabral says, “It is a really exciting moment of one’s career to be at Sundance, but also for Brazilian cinema. We’ve gone from 10 Brazilian feature films a year to 100, and there is a strong incentive from the government.”

Indeed, a day before former President Lula yielded his position to Dilma Rousseff, he increased the quotas of Brazilian movies that theaters should offer. This might ease up the distribution problems that local directors and producers often have to tackle with. “This is important,” says Ailton Franco, “because there is a real war in the distribution market and there is very little space for Brazilian cinema.”

Cesar Cabral also insists that good conditions are necessary to enable movies to conquer the market even though “it is a question of quality first.” Hopefully, the increasingly dynamic Brazilian film space will keep up with the quality of this year’s Sundance select few, and show even stronger next year.

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