Rio Int'l Film Festival expands its reach

Festival screens in a variety of neighborhoods

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Young men speeding down the road on scooters, armed with machine guns, went fairly unnoticed by the audience piling into the Canita Block community center in Complexo do Alemao Saturday night. Both Alemao residents and festivalgoers showed up for a special screening of “Complexo: Parallel Universe,” a documentary centered around life inside Alemao, which considered by many as Rio de Janeiro's scariest favela, or slum.

Makers of the documentary, brothers Mario and Pedro Patrocinio, organized the screening inside Complexo as part of this year's Rio International Film Festival, which began September 23.

Originally from Portugal, the Patrocinio brothers lived full time inside Alemao while shooting their documentary. They claim they had from the very beginning the intention of eventually bringing the film back to the neighborhood that spawned their ambitious film.

“Some of these people have never even been to the cinema,” said director Mario Patrocinio while behind him both young and old sat staring wide-eyed at the massive flickering screen displaying his film.

Along with the Alemao gala, this year's festival has also screened films in other favela communities like Providencia, Complexo da Mare and Tavares Bastos as part of the festival's Cinema in the Square program, which hopes to expose those who are not normally close to or cannot afford to go the theater an opportunity to see some of its films.

Beyond the favela screenings, and in a style more indicative of Rio's festival, several films have played to packed houses of adoring moviegoers all around the city. Friday evening showcased a posh downtown premiere of Jonathan Nossiter's “Rio Sex Comedy,” with stars Charlotte Rampling and Bill Pullman on hand to present the film with Nossiter. The international co-production shot, in Rio and produced in multiple languages, is a prime example of how Rio has been working hard to make good on its promise to cultivate both foreign and domestic film production within the city.

While it hasn't always been simple to attend different screenings scattered throughout the city, by giving several unique neighborhoods the chance to be part of the festival, organizers have thus far succeeded -- in a city where the juxtaposition of physical geography and rich and poor is perhaps more severe than any where else in the world -- in threading a greater connection between Rio's diverse population.

The Rio festival ends on October 7.