Brazilian producers’ growing interest in co-production was under the spotlight at this year’s RioMarket, held alongside the Rio International Film Festival.

Although a co-production treaty between Brazil and the US is unlikely - the Americans don’t have a central regulatory agency for the audiovisual industry like in other countries - there are possibilities for collaboration between the two countries.

In one seminar at the RioMarket, New York-based media lawyer W. Wilder Knight II suggested that documentaries could be a field where producers could come together “if there is a subject of common interest”.

It was suggested that finance could be raised through crowd sourcing, although he admitted the culture of giving seems to have more of a tradition in the US - where 80-90% of Americans give to charity at least once each year - compared to Brazil where culture has always been heavily subsidised. Direct investment in Brazil doesn’t have a long tradition, Knight explained.

Meanwhile, Alexander Jooss, London-based head of business affairs/SVP international production and acquisitions for Universal Pictures International (UPI), argued that product placement and sponsorship could provide a significant amount of financing for a project planned between the US and Brazil.  

He pointed to UPI’s involvement in production in local markets around the globe such as France, Germany, Spain, Russia and China.

In Brazil, the US major had been a partner on José Padilha’s Golden Bear winner Elite Squad, and two films with O2 Filmes: Heitor Dhalia’s 2009 film Adrift and Stephen Daldry’s Trash, which is currently shooting in Rio with 80% in Portuguese and 20% in English.

Jooss was in Rio with another three executives from UPI’s London office, including JJ Lousberg and Luane S. Gauer, to have one-to-one meetings with local Brazilian producers in order to identify projects that Universal could board to produce for the Brazilian market with the potential for distribution elsewhere.

Producing with the UK

While the negotiations for the UK-Brazilian co-production treaty have long been concluded, producers are still having to wait for the UK authorities to ratify the agreement before they can embark on any official co-pros with Brazil.

Working Title’s production of Stephen Daldry’s Trash has had to be structured as a tripartite co-production with Germany (who has had a co-pro treaty with Brazil since 2011).

The British Film Institute, which has identified Brazil as “a priority territory for the UK film industry, envisaging growth opportunities primarily across co-production, export, cultural exchange and production services”, said that the treaty is anticipated to come into force in September 2014.

But the bureaucratic delays from Whitehall did not stop a delegation of UK producers, including Mike Downey, Ann Beresford and Christopher Simon, with the BFI’s head of international affairs Isabel Davis, travelling to Rio to meet their opposite numbers from the Brazilian production community and discuss projects with co-production potential.  

Producing with South Africa

In another RioSeminar, Johannesburg-based producer Neil Brandt of Fireworx Media reported that the treaty between Brazil and South Africa is likely to be in place by mid-2014.

“With a bit of luck, the treaty will be signed some time in the first six months of next year,” Brandt said, adding that his company is currently developing two feature films and two documentaries with Brazil. He also knows of another six projects planned by South African companies.

“There is a lot of potential, but everybody is waiting for the treaty. Until it’s in place, it’s more difficult,” he explained, adding that the first results of the treaty could be seen in 2015.

According to Brandt, closer collaboration between the two industries will be encouraged in the future by delegations of producers visiting their respective countries: 20 South African producers are set to visit the Rio Content Market next year, and the Durban International Film Festival has invited a group of Brazilian producers to come to South Africa next summer when the festival will also be staging a Brazilian Focus.

Meirelles-produced football doc

During this year’s Rio festival, German-born producer-director Hank Levine revealed that the forthcoming Football World Cup in Brazil next summer has generated renewed interest in the documentary Ginga which he co-directed with Marcelo Machado and Tocha Alves in 2004.

Produced by City of God director Fernando Meirelles at his Sao Paulo company O2 Filmes, Ginga explores Brazil’s fascination with the sport by following seven real-life characters, aged 13 to 20, who come from different geographical regions and varying social and ethnic backgrounds.

Levine, who is currently overseeing post-production on Karim Ainouz’s latest feature Praia do Futuro, told ScreenDaily that the documentary has been picked up by the UK’s Mr Bongo for theatrical release next year, and Cologne-based Real Fiction - who will also distribute Ainouz’s film in Germany - is planning a theatrical and DVD release in 2014.

Demonstrations disrupt festival screenings

Film festivals often seem to be operating in a bubble completely divorced from the everyday events going around them. But at time over the past week the action on the streets of Rio de Janeiro proved to be as exciting or disturbing as many of the films on the cinema screens.

Guests attending the opening film on Sept 26 were forced to seek shelter in the cinema foyer after the end of the film because of the pitched battles between police and protestors outside.

As a result, gala screenings at the key festival venue in the Odeon Petrobras Cinema were moved on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings (Oct 4-6) because of further demonstrations concering alleged police brutality against protestors and gripes about the millions being spent on the forthcoming World Cup and Olympics.

Precautionary measures were being planned by the festival this week for films scheduled to screen in the Première Brasil competition, since the demonstrations were due to resume.

Splendid isolation

However, many international guests were not affected by these disruptions as they tended to concentrate on travelling between the festival hotel (the Windsor Miramar instead of the Copacabana Palace which was booked out with a large conference) and the Festival Centre at the Armazém da Utopia in the dockland area, currently undergoing major regeneration.

The venue provided by the City Mayor as part of the metropolis’ support for the film festival could be seen as akin to a poisoned chalice since the Festival Centre was not anywhere near any of the screening venues.

A temporary cinema had been constructed at the Festival Centre, but only a couple of Brazilian films were shown there each day. The opportunity to catch a film in a nearby cinema between panels or a meeting with a buyer or producer was logistically nerve-jangling given the notorious traffic congestion in the centre of Rio.

As one international guest noted, the spread-out nature of the festival’s screening venues was “particularly challenging” for first-time visitors to Rio and was not made any easier by the fact that there was no map provided in the festival documentation indicating the locations of the respective cinemas.

Some brave souls ventured into the city’s (clean and safe) Metro or travelled by bus to the cinemas in the Cinelandia district, while others spent “a packet” on taxi fares.

Among the industry guests attending the RioMarket and film festival were sales agents Ida Martins (Media Luna), Youn Ji (Autlook Film Sales), Klaus Rasmussen (Global Screen), Paola Corvino (Intramovies), Mike Runagall (Altitude Film Sales), entertainment lawyer Harris Tulchin, Berlinale Panorama section head Wieland Speck, distributor Ed Fletcher (Soda Pictures) and marketing supremo John Durie (Strategic Film Marketing).