Brazilian Focus at the 45th Durban International Film Festival

The critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning film, City of God, which premiered in 2002 at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the 2003 Oscars, has recently been restored and is being re-released worldwide. The African premiere of the festival will take place at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) in July.

City of God is ground-breaking in its realistic and unflinching portrayal of the stranglehold that gangs had over life in the favelas of Brazil. It is a powerful and unfiltered story about a world of contrasts, where hope and despair coexist. The South African premiere at DIFF is part of a two-year collaboration between the Durban International Film Festival and the Mostra de Cinemas Africanos (Brazil African Film Festival). The BRICS-aligned partnership is supported by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS)

Ana Camila Esteves, the director of Mostra de Cinemas Africanos, sees this as a wonderful opportunity to revisit the acclaimed Brazilian film City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, twelve years after its release. She highlights the significance of this moment, “especially considering how popular the film became in different parts of Africa.” Esteves believes it is an ideal time to reflect on City of God and the contemporary Brazilian cinema selections at DIFF, enabling audiences to understand the evolution of Brazilian audiovisual storytelling.

In addition to several films from Brazil at the DIFF which will offer South African audiences a sense of the vibrant cultural and creative pulse of the country the DIFF is also honoured to host filmmakers Pedro Freire and Guto Parente, directors of Malu and A Strange Path, respectively. Freire is a film, theatre, and television director, writer, and professor at Cuba’s Escuela Internacional de Cine. His first feature film, Malu premièred at the Sundance Film Festival, in January this year. His complex story of a mother and daughter relationship fraught with violent arguments, declining neurological health, and a yearning for the past is told with a haunting lyricism.

Director, screenwriter, and editor, Guto Parente graduated in the first class of the Audio-visual School of Fortaleza, and we are proud to screen his tenth film, A Strange Path which premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. A familial bond is also explored in this film as David returns to Brazil and begins an uncomfortable co-existence with his estranged father during the Covid 19 pandemic. Parente has created a piece of pandemic film, which explores the universal theme of strained family relationships in this tender drama of reconnection and reconciliation.

Daniel Bandeira’s Property is an intense and nerve-wracking survival thriller that tests the viewer’s moral compass. After surviving a hostage situation, a wealthy woman, Teresa, has lived in seclusion. On a trip with her husband, the couple is confronted by the wrath of exploited farm workers embarking upon a protest, and her fears are reignited. The tense standoff escalates, and questions of wrongdoing and legitimacy are interrogated. The extreme disparities between social classes in Brazil are revealed as Bandeira paints a picture of a society in which the rift between the elitist individualism of the rich and the collective rage of the poor seems insurmountable. This gripping thriller is bound to resonate with South African audiences.

Exotismos directed by Alessandra Regina Gama, a graduate of the State University of Goiás, has participated in nine film festivals and been screened on every continent. The colourful and vibrant explorations of Yoná an artist who works in the medium of hair, provides a unique insight into Brazilian society. In a vibrant and intimate setting, she challenges beauty clichés, exploring self-esteem in an engaging artistic journey. While Yoná’s lifestyle is accepted by her mother, her clients are not always as fortunate. Her personal freedom to thrive emboldens her to encourage a cultural effervescence and the expression of a unique style by each of her clients who soon become friends.

“Each one of these films affords a glimpse into aspects of Brazilian society. With many contrasts, there is also a vast array of common experiences and values that our two countries share. Film is a powerful medium to recognise our differences, share our commonalities, and celebrate our cultural and artistic collaboration”, says Andrea Voges, the Head of Programming for the Durban International Film Festival.

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