Fernando Meirelles on Working With Netflix on 'Two Popes,' Marvel Films Making Him "Sleepy"

Fernando Meirelles - Getty - H 2019
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for BFI

Speaking at the Mumbai Film Festival, the Brazilian director behind 'City of God' said he is developing his next project for the streaming giant, which will be based around climate change.

The Two Popes director Fernando Meirelles weighed in with his view on the raging debate among filmmakers over the merits of superhero movies.

Celebrated directors such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Ken Loach have all in recent days given their flatly negative view of the cinematic value of films by Marvel in particular. Speaking at a master class at the Mumbai Film Festival, where the acclaimed Brazilian filmmaker also received an excellence in cinema honor, Meirelles was a little more diplomatic in his language. "I watched Spider-Man eight years ago that was a ... I am not interested. Doesn't mean it is bad," he said.

The 63-year-old Brazilian helmer first broke through with 2002's City of God, which received an Oscar nomination for best director while his 2005 title The Constant Gardener, earned a best supporting actress Oscar for Rachel Weisz. He also directed the 2008 adaptation of José Saramago's novel Blindness, and the 2011 film 360.

The Two Popes is Meirelles' first film for Netflix, stars Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, and premiered at Telluride. The film revolves around Pope Francis' surprising ascension in 2013.

Meirelles sat down with The Hollywood Reporter in Mumbai to talk about his experience of working with the streaming giant and expanded further on what he thinks of Marvel superhero films.

This is your first film for Netflix. What are your views on the debate over theatrical versus streaming distribution?

I think this debate is like you have to write some books on a typewriter and some on a word processor. I mean, this system that you make a film and then it goes to festivals followed by theatrical release and then it goes on a platform, that's how it is now. It is nonsense to say that the film should only have a theatrical release. That's not how it is anymore. And the beauty of the platforms is that it goes to the theaters and immediately it is available on the platforms and you don't have to wait for eight months. Like it or not, that's how it is. For me its great. Right now we are promoting The Two Popes in 35 festivals, so we are having a life as a theatrical film and then we will have three weeks of theatrical release and then it goes on the platform. I think we have the best of two worlds. It is a film for the theater and on the platform it will reach 10 times more audience. The relationship with Netflix is very good. I am already working on a second project.

What is your next project for Netflix?

It's about climate change. We are still developing it. I know we have a concept, and have started to develop a script. Hopefully, we will have a script by June to shoot next September. There is one part of the story that is set in Bangladesh and it's easier to shoot that in India because you have a solid film industry with great crew and similar landscape and people [like Bangladesh].

What are your views on the ongoing debate over how cinema is changing because of superhero films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

I know that they are big but I don't watch them. I mean, I like the technique, sometimes I watch fragments and trailers and all the VFX and the production is really spectacular, really first class people are involved. But I can't engage with the story, I get sleepy. Sometimes I watch those at the cinema and after half an hour I am sleepy. It's very overwhelming. It doesn't interest me at all.

So in this scenario, how do you see traditional cinema surviving in the age of VFX cinema?

With Netflix and the platforms, it is a great moment for cinema because five years ago the studios would have to make films that were for a broader audience. So for whatever story you made, you wanted big names to make the story more appealing for a bigger audience. With Netflix they have a much broader potential audience. So if you do a niche film, say on LGBT or a film on the church, or a film like Roma, no studio would have produced a black and white film in Spanish without known actors. But with a platform it is possible. I know Netflix in India is producing 18 films plus 22 series. This wouldn't happen with the other system. Now we can have very specific films for specific audiences. I am very excited about this new moment in cinema.