Rio Film Festival Opens Amid Protest Outside the Theater

"Amazonia"
"Amazonia"
 

The 15th edition of the Rio Film Festival kicked off Thursday night amid a protest by striking teachers outside the theater. The opening ceremony featured Brazilian-French co-production documentary Amazonia, helmed by director Thierry Ragobert (The White Planet).

Protesters yelled at the guests as they arrived at the red carpet entrance, yet the ceremony held at the traditional Cine Odeon in downtown Rio de Janeiro didn’t lose its charm. “They only protest in front of something that has worked. So, our cinema is important,” said fest executive director Ilda Santiago.

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Santiago spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the importance of the festival during its fifteen years. “The festival has been growing each year, but also the city of Rio de Janeiro has become a world reference where more companies are looking for business, co-productions, so this is very important for us,” she said.

According to the director, it was easy to choose the documentary Amazonia to be the opening film of this year’s edition. “Besides the fact that it’s a beautiful film, it’s a result of a huge co-production between Brazil and France, maybe the biggest co-production Brazil has ever done,” she said, adding: “For us to be able to talk about the Amazon, which is a very important place for us and for the world, is a great reason for the movie to be here today.”

Amazonia, which closed the Venice Film Festival this year, has been enjoying a very positive reception from critics. With a $10 million budget ($26 million reais), the film is the biggest production ever shot in the Amazon, and tells the story of an adorable monkey who gets lost in the forest after a plane crash.

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Brazilian producer Fabiano Gullane says it was his dream to make a big movie that could show the grandiosity and importance of the Amazon forest.  “That’s why we chose to shoot in 3D, because of our desire to put the audience literally inside the forest,” he said. “Even though everyone knows about the Amazon and talks about the Amazon, nobody really goes there, so we wanted to give this gift to the world, a trip for the audience so they can really see the Amazon,” he said.

About the fact that a monkey is the film’s lead role, Gullane says the choice was very obvious because of the way these animals are similar to humans. “Monkeys are very smart, the way they express their emotions, we always thought about the monkey since the beginning of the script, so we couldn’t choose another animal to represent the film,” said Gullane.

Amazonia will be released in Brazil on December 13th , distributed by Imovision, Globo Filmes and Telecin.

During its 15-days run, Rio Fest will screen around 350 films from over 60 countries. It also will honor American director Paul Schrader with a special retrospective of his work and the Latin American premiere of his latest film, The Canyons, on October 1st.

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