Brazilian filmmaker FERNANDO MEIRELLES made the drug dealer thriller City of God with poor kids in shanty towns, and it kicked Attack of the Clones’ ass at the bOX office. Words: Tom Dawson
new year. and the international resurgence of
Latin American cinema shows no signs of
slowing down. Following the likes of (chiral Station. Antares I’irms. Y 'Iir Mama Tam/tier: and Nine Qm'wis comes an exhilarating Brazilian drama. ('ity altiml. Based on Paulo l.ins's sprawling novel and spanning some three decades. it’s an epic account of the growth of organised drug-dealing in a slum housing project. the so-called (‘ity of (iod in Rio de Janeiro. Foettssing particularly on the experiences of the young Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues). an impoverished African-Brazilian seeking to escape from the ghetto via his gift of photography. the ﬁlm combines an ingenious. multi- layered narrative with a kinetic visual style. And in Brazil itself it‘s been a huge hit. attracting nearly three and half million spectators. and outperforming Attack ()fi/It’ Clones and t'Vliiim'ity Report despite its limited advertising budget.
‘The project was a big challenge.‘ says its fortysomething director. Fernando Meirelles. ‘because the original GOO-page book has no structure. Paulo Lins presents a character. you follow that guy for 20 pages and then he dies. And then you follow another one and that's how it goes on until the end. When I read the book I was really shocked by what he had written. because although I‘d lived in Brazil my whole life. I didn't know what went on in the slums except from television and
newspapers. Paulo was actually raised in the (‘ity of
(iod; he‘s like Rocket in the lilm. lt‘s told from an insider‘s point of view which we wanted to follow to
26 THE LIST '2 1‘) Jan 700.“;
‘We wanted to explain how drug- dealers took control of these areas in Rio’
Latin American cinema is where it’s at
explain how drug-dealers took control of these areas in Rio.‘
Meirelles decided to split (‘in of Carl into three distinct sections. with each segment having its own aesthetic and musical sensibility. ‘lnitially in the l‘)(i()s. when the first criminals come into the area.' explains Meirelles. ‘you have perspectives and landscapes and horizons. They are romantic criminals. so it‘s a warm. bright atmosphere. Then we
jump ten years and it’s all hand-held and colourful.
and the criminals have moved onto drug-dealing. It‘s a happy part of the film. and the camera movements are free and relaxed. In the third part we didn‘t respect the rules of editing and there are out—of-focus images. lt‘s chaotic and like a documentary. If you watch the film from beginning to end. it looks like we‘re losing control of the film. but then the story is about chaos coming to these areas.‘
From the outset Meirelles knew that he wanted to shoot in authentic favelas (shanty-towns) and to use predominantly non-professional teenage actors. 2()()() interviews were arranged around the city. from which 2()() children from poor backgrounds were selected to embark on a sixth month programme of improvised rehearsals. ‘Acting for me is like drawing or music.‘ reckons Meirelles. ‘Some kids are naturally good - you can’t teach charisma. We never gave those who were playing the various characters a script of the whole lilm. We gave them the outline of a scene and got them to improvise. I‘d say 70% of the dialogue is created by the actors themselves — they are the co-authors of this film.‘
Was it not difficult. though. working with so many inexperienced children and directing them in situations of such visceral intensity'.’ ‘Not at all.’ smiles Meirelles. "l‘hey were so enthusiastic about doing this lilm. They were there an hour early each day and they didn't want to leave at night. They enjoyed everyone listening to them and applauding them. I think it would be much harder for me to deal with Julia Roberts. where you have to deal with bodyguards and assistants!’
GFT, Glasgow; Cameo, Edinburgh from Fri 3 Jan. See review, page 27.
Bough cuts Lights, camera, action . . .
IF ONE OF YOUR NEW YEAR resolutions is to make a movie - and. as Barry Norman never did say: “And why not?‘ — then maybe yOu should enter the Jim Poole Short Film Award. run by Edinburgh‘s Cameo Cinema. Named after the late founder of the Cameo. the competition is open to new comers. old corners and all comers. The winning film. chosen by a panel of industry professionals. will be shown at the Cameo as well as other Cinemas in Scotland and England. and the winning filmmaker will also receive :1 531000 cash prize. The winner could then put that money to good use. getting her or his next film project off the ground. see.
IF ONE OF YOUR NEW
Year resolutions is to gen up on Canadian cinema, then maybe you should check out the Canadian Cinema Showcase taking place at the Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh’s Filmhouse. Six new Canadian films are being screened in the week leading up to the Friday 17 January release of Spider, directed the country’s best- known auteur, David Cronenberg. The films include Bay of Sorrows and Love, which has been compared to the Oscar- winning bereavement drama In the Bedroom, the French language rom-com Soft Shell Man, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival last August, Rare Birds, which stars William Hurt and Molly Parker, Denis Villeneuve’s Maelstrom, Punch - a film about topless female boxing (!) - and the 805 arthouse classic by Denys Arcand, The Decline of the American Empire. Those checking out the Canadian showcase could then boast to their pals about what a
knowledgeable filmgoer they are, see.