Press release: Focus on Brazil @ exground filmfest 32: Energetic & Political Cinema for Curious Eyes
Udo Kier in BACURAU

23 current and historical films // panels on human rights situation and contemporary Brazilian filmmaking // program also features photography and video art exhibitions

With twelve short and eleven feature-length films, including a host of premieres, this year’s Focus program at exground filmfest offers a look at the vibrant world of Brazilian cinema. Among the highlights are a once-banned classic epos by Glauber Rocha as well as contemporary productions from award-winning directors such as Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles and Karim Aïnouz and exciting works by emerging Brazilian film scene talents. In addition, a short film series curated by Carsten Spicher (Oberhausen International Short Film Festival) will take viewers on a journey through time illuminating the country’s social and political context. Finally, the Focus program also includes a multi-faceted supporting program, with photo and video art exhibitions and panels on human rights, environmental policy and the situation of contemporary filmmakers under the Bolsonaro regime featuring high-calibre participants. As in past years, selected films from the Focus program will also be shown in Frankfurt am Main and Darmstadt following the festival.

The Focus is particularly interesting as a snapshot on the eve of radical societal and cultural-political changes – triggered by the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro in January 2019 –that will no doubt fundamentally impact Brazilian cinema,” explained curator Amos Borchert regarding the choice of this year’s exground Focus country. “In addition, with our selection of brave variations on genre cinema and brilliant auteur films we aim to show the cinematic range of this special film country.”

Women Behind the Camera: Trans-Identities, Female Solidarity and Feminism

A great number of the stories presented in this year’s focus program are told from the perspective of female directors and cinematographers. For instance, in her first feature-length documentary film FABIANA, Brunna Laboissière paints a witty and bitter-sweet portrait of the eponymous protagonist, a transwoman and trucker who has criss-crossed the country at the wheel of a 30-tonner for the past three decades. In spite of the tough exterior gained from so much time on the road, Fabiana’s enthusiasm for the diverse encounters she has had in her travels is contagious. Director and cinematographer Brunna Laboissière, who is also a member of this year’s international jury, will be on hand in Wiesbaden for the German premiere of her film.

Multi-award-winning cinematographer Hélène Louvart is responsible for the precise image composition in Karim Aïnouz’s THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURÍDICE GUSMÃO (A VIDA INVISÍVEL DE EURÍDICE GUSMÃO). Louvart’s camerawork bathes this drama about two sisters in 1950s Rio de Janeiro in a sensual atmosphere full of vibrant colour.

The feminist documentary fiction BARONESA deals with female solidarity. In the film, director Juliana Antunes, who will be presenting her work in person at exground filmfest, follows two female friends around the favelas of Belo Horizonte in their everyday lives marked by violence, as they joke around, chat about sex and try to beat the heat.

Self-Assured Genre Films

A collection of sure-handed approaches to genre cinema makes up a further central section of the Focus program, like the exground opening film THE FATHER’S SHADOW (A SOMBRA DO PAI) by Gabriela Amaral Almeida. Following her mother’s passing and inspired by countless horror films, nine-year-old Dalva decides to face death head-on. Amaral Almeida pulls off a psychologically sophisticated family melodrama that feeds on fantasy and horror tropes.

The boundaries between magic and reality are blurred in THE DEAD AND THE OTHERS (CHUVA É CANTORIA NA ALDEIA DOS MORTOS) by João Salaviza and Renée Nader. In an attempt to escape a foreordained career as a shaman, young Ihjãc leaves his rainforest village for a provincial city. Shot on 16mm stock, the film is enchanting not only for its reserved, semi-documentary approach to narrative, as its colours, moods and motifs are equally mesmerising.

The boundaries between fiction and reality are also fluid in CALYPSO by Rodrigo Lima and Lucas Parente. With its associative imagery, CALYPSO takes up the story of the real historical figure Luz del Fuego (1917–1967), actress, snake dancer and founder of Brazil’s first nudist club. The directors interweave archival materials of this modern, feminist “witch” with intense shots of nature, performative elements and breath-taking sound design. Rodrigo Lima is expected to attend the German premiere of his film in Wiesbaden.

In their award-winning work BACURAU, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles have concocted a refreshing hybrid combining elements of the science fiction and western genres. In BACURAU, the inhabitants of the eponymous village must fight back with all they’ve got when a group of American tourists attempts to hunt them down for sport. This unpredictable film is an emphatic wake-up call regarding the inhumanity of Brazil’s current extreme-right-wing turn.

Highly Topical Political Parables

In addition to BACURAU, other films in the Focus program examine the effects of fascism, dictatorship, corruption and environmental devastation and can be interpreted as allusions to the current political situation in Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro. With THE SLEEPWALKERS (OS SONÂMBULOS), Tiago Mata Machado delivers a Kafkaesque political parable of fascism, resistance and freedom. exground filmfest is proud to host the German premiere of this compelling work. 

In a similar vein, exground will be presenting a historical document created in the era of Brazil’s military dictatorship: ENTRANCED EARTH (TERRA EM TRANSE) by Glauber Rocha, a leading proponent of the Brazilian “Cinema Novo” movement. Released in 1967, the film, set in the fictional land of Eldorado, relates the tale of the poet and intellectual Paulo, who serves various political leaders only to lose his life in the end. The multi-award-winning cult classic is notable for its charmingly composed dialogue and lavish sets.

Focus Short Films: Examining Current and Historical Events

The social and political conditions in Brazil from 1985 on, characterised by brutal military dictatorship, the difficult transition to democracy and the democratisation of the country’s media, are treated by the five short films featured in the program DIE BRASILIANISCHE ERFAHRUNG (THE BRAZILIAN EXPERIENCE), curated by Carsten Spicher (Oberhausen International Short Film Festival).

The series FRAGILE TRÄUME (FRAGILE DREAMS) showcases contemporary Brazilian short films that exhibit a high degree of formal, aesthetic and thematic diversity. From documentary musical and poetic experimental film to passionate work of protest, colourful tragicomedy to imaginative animated film, the selection here runs the gamut.

Focus Supporting Program: Society, Politics and Art in Brazil

In the supporting program, two panel discussions will examine the devastating effects of the current Bolsonaro presidency. One panel will feature a screening of the documentary film INVASÃO À AMAZÔNIA by Martin Keßler, which deals with the struggle of the indigenous population against the destruction of the rain forest. Following the film, the director will be joined by journalist Wolfgang Kunath and international law expert Dr. Lothar Brock for a discussion.

In the scope of another panel, director Brunna Laboissière (FABIANA) and curator and distributor Daniel Queiroz will delve into the current situation for Brazilian filmmakers under the moderation of Latin America expert Dr. Peter W. Schulze.

Finally, two art exhibitions also offer insight into Brazilian society. The photography exhibition BRAZIL – PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANJA KESSLER features the artist’s unique perspective of Brazil and its people, beyond worn-out clichés. Jonathas de Andrade’s video work O PEIXE (THE FISH) will be on view at Nassauischer Kunstverein; the piece is inspired by a ritual practiced in a village on Brazil’s northeast coast wherein fishermen hug the fish that they have just caught.

The full program for exground filmfest 32 will be available from 28 October 2019 at

exground filmfest would like to thank all of its supporters and sponsors.


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