Should Nothing Else Work Out (Se Nada Mais Der Certo)

Brazil. 2008. 120 mins. Director: Jose Eduardo Belmonte. Production company: Film Noise. International sales: Film Noise (+ 55 11 2589-2098). Screenplay: Jose Eduardo Belmonte, Luis Carlos Pacca. Main cast: Caua Reymond, Caroline Abras, Joao Miguel, Luiza Mariane

Curiously pertinent in light of the world financial crisis, Jose Eduardo Belmonte's film follows a big-spending journalist whose inability to pay his rent and bills sends him and his drug-addled girlfriend spiralling into a vortex of petty crime, drug dealing and police corruption. While individual scenes are electrifying, the narrative whole is somewhat fractured and unwieldy, although a couple of terrific performances keep the drama buoyant, namely Caua Reymond as the journalist and Caroline Abras - a deserved winner of Rio's best actress prize - as a vulnerable lesbian dealer who leads him into the path of crime.

Winner: Best Film, Best Actress, Best of Brazil section


Brazil. 2008. 109mins. Director: Mauricio Farias. Production companies/int'l sales: Fraiha Producoes +55 21 3259-9452 Screenplay: Bernardo Guilherme, Mauricio Farias Main cast: Andrea Beltrao, Marco Ricca, Matheus De Sa, Giulio Lopes

A Brazilian Gloria directed with slick mainstream appeal by Mauricio Farias, Veronica has the sharp focus on pace and story that many of the other films in competition at Rio lacked, not to mention a knockout performance by Andrea Beltrao in the title role. Veronica is a school teacher who goes on the run with one of her young students after his parents have been slaughtered in a favela killing. Nothing is particularly fresh in the story - she is a ballbreaker whose initial disinterest in the boy turns into maternal affection; her ex-husband is a cop who turns out to be involved in the killings - but Farias tells it with style and makes the most of the teeming Rio streets. The festival title most likely to sell to overseas markets.

December (Feliz Natal)

Brazil. 2008. 104 mins. Director: Selton Mello Production companies: Bananeira Filmes, Mundo Cane International sales: Bananeira Filmes (+ 55 21 2225 6552) Screenplay: Selton Mello, Marcelo Vindicatto Main cast: Leonardo Medeiros, Darlene Gloria, Paulo Guarnieri, Graziella Moretto

The directorial debut of popular film and TV star Selton Mello falls prey to the familiar indulgences of a first time film-maker. His portentous story of a 40 year-old man (Medeiros) returning to his uber- dysfunctional family for the first Christmas in years is a Home For The Holidays from hell, as various family members throw barbs, scream, pop pills, gulp down booze and generally inflict maximum damage on each other. Although filled with memorable imagery, its emotional impact is dulled by Mello's self-consciousness. After every single male character has broken down in tears, you feel that Mello and his actors have lost touch with authentic reactions.

The Dead Girl's Feast

Brazil. 2007. 110mins. Director: Matheus Nachtergaele Production companies: Bananeira Filmes International sales: Spier Films (+44 20 7326 8461) Screenplay: Matheus Nacheteregaele, Hilton Lacerda Main cast: Daniel De Oliveira, Jackson Antunes, Cassia Kiss, Dira Paes, Juliano Cazarre

First screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes but now trimmed to a more manageable running time, Mathew Nachtergaele's beguiling drama about faith and phony religion sets up a theatrical bunch of characters in a steamy river community on the upper Amazon. Rio best actor winner Daniel de Oliveira is the fey young man declared a saint by the people around him after allegedly performing a miracle 20 years earlier, while revolving around him are true believers and true wastrels using the annual festival in his honour for their own benefit. A solid festival title if not destined to be a prolific seller.

Winner, Best Director, Best Actor, Best of Brazil section

Youth (Juventude)

Brazil, 2008. 72 mins. Director/screenplay: Domingos Oliveira Production companies: Teatro Illustre, Forte Films International sales: Main cast: Paulo Jose, Domingos Oliveira, Aderbal Freire Filho

Veteran film-maker Domingos Oliveira takes a lead role alongside two other eminent Brazilian thesps Paulo Jose and Aderbal Freire Filho for this stagebound tale of a weekend in which three ageing men meet up at a country house to celebrate their friendships and assess their lost opportunities. There's pleasure to be had in watching the three actors strut their stuff, especially as absinthe-fuelled revelations are uncovered and tempers flare, but the comic ensemble is ultimately more suited to the stage or television than the big screen and Oliveira exerts little energy in rendering the wordplay cinematic.

The Pit (Rinha)

Brazil, 2008. 132 mins. Director: Marcelo Galvao Production companies: Gatacine International sales: Gatacine (+ 55 11 3205 4568) Screenplay: Marcelo Galvao Main cast: Leonardo Miggiorin, Elder Torres, Paola Oliveira, Dannilu

Rinha paints an unusual portrait of the rich/poor divide in Brazil by focusing on brutal bare-knuckle fights between poor wrestlers which take place at exclusive parties attended by disaffected rich young people who bet on the fighters. Director Marcelo Galvao based the film on fact and the setup itself is intriguing, but at 132 minutes, the film is punishingly long with one or two subplots and at least two fights too many. Still he displays visceral visual skills in the shocking real-life fights captured on screen and the premise has promising remake potential. The film is shot in an awkward mix of American English and Portugese.