Inspired by the global success of Walter Salles, Fernando Meirelles and now Jose Padilha, a new generation of Brazilian producers and directors is emerging with its eye firmly on the international market.
Production companies such as Gullane Filmes, Bananeira Filmes and Ginga Eleven Producoes are branching out beyond the social dramas the international market knows so well, keen to present a different image of Brazil to the world.
The Gullane brothers, Fabiano and Caio, run Sao Paulo-based Gullane Filmes. They produced the hit local film of 2007, Cao Hamburger's The Year My Parents Went On Vacation. The 1970s coming-of-age story about a Jewish boy screened in Berlin, sold widely around the world and was Brazil's official foreign-language Oscar entry.
This year, three Gullane films were selected for Venice: Jose Mojica Marins' Encarnacao Do Demonio, which screened out of competition, and two international co-productions, Marco Bechis' well-received Italian-Brazilian collaboration Birdwatchers and Yu Lik-wai's Plastic City (Brazil-China-Hong Kong-Japan), which were both in competition.
'The Gullane brothers know the international market very well and are very serious producers,' says the Milan-based Bechis. 'I had to trust them completely as I went to Brazil alone (to shoot Birdwatchers) and all the crew were unknown to me.'
Birdwatchers was shot in Mato Grosso do Sul, a southern, heavily forested region of Brazil and tells the story of a Guarani-Kaiowa community which lives in conflict with the land owners on the border between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
'We believe Birdwatchers can do well in Brazil and abroad because it deals with a contemporary minority's situation, a topic that (should) hold the world's attention,' says Caio Gullane.
Ginga Eleven is another energetic Sao Paulo outfit convinced of the merits of international collaboration. It is run by Brazilian producer Ivan Teixeira and Hank Levine, a German-born producer who has lived in Brazil since 2000.
'Our aim is to make films that work in the local market and have the potential to cross over to international viewers,' says Levine, who co-produced Meirelles' City Of God in 2002.
Levine and Teixeira, who was the line producer on Meirelles' Blindness, are busy with 13 new projects, most of which are international co-productions. They include Carlos Oliveira's Rosa Morena, Mika Kaurismaki's Kristina and PCC - Primeiro Comando Da Capital, to be directed by Austrian director Hans Weingartner.
Ginga Eleven is also the Brazilian co-producer on Peter Greenaway's The Pelican Company, about Hendrik Goltzius, a 17th century pornographic etchings artist, which is set to shoot partly in Sao Paulo next year. The project is set up as a Dutch-Canadian-Brazilian co-production, with the Rotterdam-based Kasander Film Company and Screen Siren Pictures in Vancouver.
'The co-productions are good not only for guaranteeing distribution in the other countries but for helping improve the skills of Brazilian professionals,' says Levine. 'But we won't compromise the story. We want to tell Brazilian stories with authentic national subject matter.'
PCC, for example, is based on the real events that took place in 2006 in Sao Paulo, when a criminal gang launched a wave of attacks against civilian and authority targets.
'I have always wanted to work in Brazil, where I have the impression people are open to my style of film-making,' says Weingartner. 'My films work better when people watch them with their heart and soul, like the Brazilians, and not with their heads, like many Germans.' Weingartner's 2005 film The Edukators garnered more than 60,000 admissions in Brazil, more than the average local release.
Vania Catani, the producer of A Festa Da Menina Morta, which screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes earlier this year, believes Brazilian producers should work more closely with their counterparts in Argentina, the region's other film heavyweight.
'Together we would become stronger, especially in negotiations with European, American and Asian markets,' suggests Catani, who is producing Paulo Caldas' romantic drama Dirty Love for Bananeira Filmes.
But one of the biggest international stumbling blocks for Portuguese-speaking Brazil can be its language. 'It isolates us within our continent and from the rest of the world at the same time,' claims Leo Monteiro de Barros of Conspiracao Filmes.
He believes Brazilian films must have a distinctive edge of their own. Conspiracao's The Mystery Of Samba, a feature documentary directed by Lula Buarque de Hollanda and Carolina Jabor about the veterans of the Velha Guarda da Portela samba school, screened at Cannes, while Breno Silveira's Once Upon A Time In Rio, a romantic drama set in Rio de Janeiro, was launched at Toronto.
Over the last 15 years, Brazil has rebuilt its film industry. Producers may depend on state funding and local incentives but production levels have risen thanks to two tax policies known as the Rouanet law and the audiovisual law.
'At the beginning of the 1990s Brazil produced an average of two to three features a year. By 2007 we reached almost one hundred feature films,' says Caio Gullane.
The growing number of films and their ever-increasing international profile has encouraged producers to work on a global scale. It makes financial sense too: few films can raise 100% of their finance within Brazil.
'The process of raising finance is very slow and time consuming,' says Barros, who is now based in Hamburg. Conspiracao established an office in the German city earlier this year in order to focus on international co-productions.
Ancine (the Brazilian National Agency of Cinema), which administers much of the national funding, is apparently working to speed up its processes but some producers are calling for an overhaul of the system.
'The incentive system could also be more sophisticated, with automatic tax refunds, like the Canadian system,' says Levine, who recently received funds from Ancine for his project Rosa Morena, a drama about a Danish man attempting to adopt a Brazilian child.
'We'd been waiting for approval for more than two months, which could have jeopardised us,' he explains. 'We risked losing the Danish and Scandinavian money.'
The Programa Cinema do Brasil, which was formed in 2006 by Sao Paulo's film industry union and the Brazilian Export Promotion Agency (Apex), is working to improve local production and help make international co-productions easier.
'The system of tax benefits in Brazil is slow,' says Andre Sturm, president of the Programa. 'The good news is that before the end of the year there will be a new fund where co-productions will be able to get finance quicker.'