Henrique Goldman’s Jean Charles has taken $416,121 in its opening weekend in Brazil, catapulting it into Screen’s International top 40 chart, despite only opening in the one territory.

Playing on 153 screens in Brazil, with the same number of screens expected next week, it reflects the strength of feelings in the territory for the film’s subject – the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by British police in 2005. He was wrongly suspected of being a terrorist following the London bombings. The fact that De Menezes is played by Selton Mello, Brazil’s hottest film-star, will also have boosted box office sales.

Produced by Luke Schiller and Carlos Nader of UK-based outfit Mango Films, Jean Charles is executive produced by Stephen Frears (The Queen) and Rebecca O’Brien, of 16 Films, who most recently produced Ken Loach’s Looking For Eric.

O’Brien produced Brazilian born/London based Goldman’s first feature, Princesa in 2001 and “was very keen to support Enrique on this project, which is a really interesting take on the Jean Charles story because it looks at the normality of his life and the community he lived in”.

The finished script is a collaboration between Goldman and Brazilian script writer Marcelo Starobinas, who worked as a journalist at the BBC World Service’s Brazilian desk until 2006 and had covered the de Menezes case.

The film focuses on Jean Charles, his cousin Vivian (Vanessa Giacomo) and a community of Brazilians living and working in London. “The film talks about something bigger than his death. It deals with Brazilian immigration – so often immigrants are portrayed as either monsters or victims. I wanted to show them as a group of young, enterprising hardworking people living in London,” says Goldman.

The film was initially commissioned by the BBC as a TV docu-drama, but Goldman was not happy with the ‘court room drama’ style script with its emphasis on the shooting itself and the aftermath. “Anyone who saw the media coverage knows that the police killed the wrong man. I wanted it to be a celebration of Jean Charles life, because that is how Jean Charles would have wanted to be remembered. He was a really funny, charismatic guy,” says Goldman.

Although the BBC pulled out of the film three weeks into pre-production, Goldman says he was “actually relieved”. He adds: “It meant I could go and make the film I wanted to make.”

The film received support from the UK Film Council, and was pre-sold to Imagem Films in Brazil, making it an unofficial UK-Brazil co-production. “The plan was always to release in Brazil first. It was what the distributors wanted,” says O’Brien.

With the autumn festival season around the corner, Goalpost Films, who are handling international sales, will now try and secure distribution in the UK and worldwide, buoyed by the film’s success in Brazil.