Posts Tagged ‘hollywood’

Lights, Camera, AÇÃO!

July 29, 2010

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During the making of ‘O Divino, De Repente’ (2009)

Brazilian cinema, as an artform, is known for experiencing large fluctuations in terms of frequency of releases, due to the industry’s reliance upon the State for funding and incentives.

Despite this, the country has been responsible for some incredibly evocative and moving content over the past few years. Several key films have done much to lift the profile of Brazilian cinema overseas, showing the world an urban lifestyle far removed from the glamorous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

In the 1940’s American genre films were very popular and many Brazilian production companies began to emulate them. The Cinematográfica Vera Cruz was one of the most prolific; established in 1949, Vera Cruz cinema represented the highly commercialized content that was beginning to characterize mainstream Brazilian cinema. Significant investment was made to these production houses, leading to large scale Hollywood-style studios that many felt produced films with high budgets but low on content.

As a result, many film-makers began to feel disillusioned and started experimenting with independent cinema. In the 50’s and 60’s a group of Brazilian directors began to practice a particular style and technique of film-making which became known as Cinema Novo.

Characterised by the Portuguese phrase ‘Uma câmera na mão e uma idéia na cabeça’, or ‘A camera in the hand and an idea in the head’, Cinema Novo was a retort, inspired by Italian Neo-Realism and French ‘Nouvelle Vague’ movements, against the output of the Vera Cruz, and aimed to authentically represent Brazilian life. Even today, with Brazil’s rise as a global economic power, the distribution of wealth is tremendously unbalanced; rich playboys party in the clubs of Rio de Janeiro while slums filled with the poor cover the hills overlooking the city.

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Cinema Novo addressed this by using Brazilian poverty as a main focus of the story-telling; a focus which, although the movement ended in the early 1970’s as a result of political oppression, can still be seen in contemporary works such as Carandiru (2003) and the Academy Award-nominated City of God (2002).

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Scenes from City of God (2002)

Brazil’s varied and engaging artistic output means that the country is constantly recognised as being a unique and rich cultural hub; for example, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, (MoMA), held a film exhibition between 15-29 July entitled ‘Premiere Brazil!’

Held every year in conjunction with the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, the event provides a platform for both new and established Brazilian film-makers to have a chance to premiere their works to American audiences.

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An image from Waste Land (2010) Directed by Lucy Walker. Image courtesy of moma.org

Over on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival (LABRFF) has just finished its third edition, running from 27th April – 2nd May. LABRFF aims to provide a link between Brazil and Hollywood, raising the profile of Brazilian film-makers in the industry and promoting their films to a wider audience.

February saw the 2nd annual Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival, held over three days in the heart of Hollywood. HBR FEST is, according to their website, ‘a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the cultural and commercial exchange between Hollywood and Brazil.’

Much like LABRFF, the aim of the festival is to raise the profile of Brazilian filmmakers in Hollywood and elicit production and financing opportunities for international filmmakers; the first edition of the show in 2009 was held at the Egyptian Theatre and Mann Chinese 6 Cinemas, and was reportedly a great success for those involved. A total of eight feature films, documentaries and shorts are all given an enviable platform from which to air, many of them premieres.

Such cultural exchanges are very important; with the majority of the world’s cinema emanating from Hollywood it would be very easy for content to become homogenised and repetitive. By bringing in influences from countries such as Brazil, the industry can be sure of plenty of inspiration from a variety of global cultural capitals.

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With a landscape such as this, it is little wonder that Rio de Janeiro has inspired generations of Brazilian film-makers

In London earlier this year, Nike Sportswear premiered the release of Cadência, a major new film documentary and exhibition by director Daren Bartlett at Shoreditch’s Rich Mix exhibition centre. According to a review in Don’t Panic magazine, “Cadência sets out to articulate the ambiguous essence of Rio de Janeiro’s symbolic identity through its people, passions and traditions by exploring the underground phenomena of traditional kite culture, the masquerade of Clovis and of course, football.”

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In addition, an exhibition inspired by the film took place across the road at Nike’s 1948 store, featuring large-scale visual and audio projections taken from the film, a selection of art stills by Jiwon Park and catering by Brazilian restaurant Raizes.

Elsewhere in London, the HSBC-sponsored ‘Festival Brazil’ at the Southbank Centre runs from 19th June – 5th September, and celebrates Brazilian heritage in a vibrant and dynamic way. Although the event does not specifically feature cinema, it is an incredible celebration of Brazilian culture, from food and dance to literature and art.

Brazilian culture is unique in that its inclusive nature makes it feel accessible by people all across the world; the energy, vibrancy and richness of picture-postcard beaches and festivals juxtaposes with the gritty romance of the Cinema Novo favelas, providing beauty for those of all tastes. Given the ‘A camera in the hand…’ philosophy that underpins independent Brazilian cinema, there are arguably fewer places in the world where you’d rather be holding a camera.

James

Money For Old Rope

October 9, 2009

Hollywood as we are all aware, has strong liberal sentiments. We watch the armies of Prius scurrying round the globe; vocally promoting the most progressive of causes. An endangered lab rat in Dubai, a boycott of a well known chocolate vendor or political conflict in a far far away land. But when it comes to progression within their own industry, Hollywood is the perfect example of cultural conservatism. Any person who has scouted the papers or dubya’s over the past year would be hard pressed not feel a strange sense of deja-vu. Film and Television it seems, has become obsessed with the past, redressing themes from the old to the damn near pre-pubescent.

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Now you can forgive me if some of what I say appears just as unoriginal as the summer Blockbuster offerings. But the trend of remakes, re-drafts and reboots is becoming more and more frequent. The list of upcoming recycled properties is pretty staggering, especially when you look at the great filmmakers behind the texts. Filmmakers who have proven they have the artistic ambition to do something more original – have begun embracing nostalgic, more familiar material.

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Step forward Steven Spielberg, the most successful filmmaker of all time announced that he will be ‘reimagining’ Harvey, the 1950 comedy starring Jimmy Stewart. Next we have Robert Zemeckis, another filmmaker with near-perfect credentials. He will be breathing new life into the iconic Yellow Submarine animation. Looking further, we have Bryan Singer’s upcoming remakes of Excalibur and Battlestar Galactica; while rocker turned auteur, Mr. Rob Zombie; still bloodied from the second Halloween set, is trying his hands at the tongue-in-cheek horror The Blob, the films third offering to an ever forgetful public.

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Shoot ‘Em Up director Michael Davis is trying on Outland for size. Screen Gems is moving ahead with a new take on Peckinpah’s classic Straw Dogs. Believe me when I say, I wish I was finished – damn you hyperlink! Studio wise, were getting a Columbia Pictures remake of the 1990 sci-fi film Total Recall. Hancock director Peter Berg will have a look at Lynch’s Dune, Brett Eisner will reinvent Flash Gordon and Danny ‘Bhangra’ Boyle’s DNA Films is planning a new Judge Dredd movie. Terminator Salvation director McG will plummet 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, while Twilight filmmakers Summit Entertainment are having a ganders at the Highlander franchise.

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There are countless remakes already on the studio release slates. MGM has a new version of Fame sitting atop mount box-office; with a remake of Red Dawn in the works. Sony, which gave us a remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 this summer, has a vehicle for Will Smith Jr in Karate Kid; coupled with our chubby cherub Seth Rogen as the Green Hornet next summer. Mr Murdoch will also be throwing a few flicks in the mix. New versions of Gulliver’s Travels, The A-Team, and yet another Predator offering. Universal has updates of both The Wolfman and Robin Hood, the latter with Russell ‘fighting round the world’ Crowe taking lead and Ridley Scott behind the camera.

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No, still not finished. Paramount will have us tapping our feet to Footloose next year and begging Murphy to call it a day in Beverly Hills Cop. Warner brings up the rear with Sherlock Holmes, Clash of the Titans and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Sadly, the only thing new and exciting audiences will get from Hollywood over the next few years are creative justifications for what is essentially – money for old rope. In an attempt to distance himself from the original Blob, Rob Zombie insisted, ‘My intention is not to have a big red blobby thing – that’s the first thing I want to change,”. Thank you Rob, very nicely put. The only thing I would question is why you would want to call it The Blob then. Just a thought.

So, why are there all these bloody remakes? Apathy? maybe. Economic woes? quite possibly. Is it familiarity? That detective, is the right question.

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The figures speak for themselves sadly. Since January 2007, the ten highest grossing films at the box office have all been sequels, reimaginings of established franchises or action movies based on comic book characters. The marketers would suggest that we live in an environment so full of Jeremy Kyle and clutter that having a picture with a little spice of nostalgia is a crucial selling point. If you can sell a film around some form of familiarity, something the audience can latch onto, then you might just hit the jackpot.

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We live in a world where the whole concept of originality is being reinvented. Artists are simply hitting the replay button, spending more time re-imagining, rather than rethinking, redefining and re-re-re-re…

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Dré