Stephen Daldry Attends Rio de Janeiro Slum Screening of 'Billy Elliot'

Stephen Daldry at "Billy Elliot" screening in Rio de Janeiro

The British filmmaker visited the Compleixo do Alemao favela, encouraging underprivileged ballet students.

RIO DE JANEIRO – British filmmaker Stephen Daldry (The Hours, The Reader) visited the huge slum Compleixo do Alemao Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro to encourage young ballet students with a special screening of Billy Elliot for underprivileged children at the Cine Carioca theater.

The director of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is currently in Rio shooting Richard Curtis' adaptation of Trash, starring Martin SheenRooney Mara and Brazilian actors Wagner Moura and Selton Mello.  

Daldry was invited by the ongoing Rio Film Festival’s Generation sidebar, which organizes screenings for child audiences as part of a partnership with the British Council’s Transform Program -- a cultural and artistic cooperation between Brazil and the U.K. held between 2012 and 2016 as part of the Olympic legacy.

Only two boys were among the 40 ballet students in attendance at the screening.

“When we did the film, there were a number of conservatories in the U.K., but the majority of students had been female. This film changed that, and a couple of years after its release, the rate of female and male students became 50-50,” Daldry told them.

Nominated for three Oscars, Billy Elliot (2000) is the story of an 11-year-old boy in a coal mining community in northern England who finds he has a talent for ballet and must struggle to overcome his environment’s prejudice and make his dream come true.

Daldry also explained to the children that ever since actor Jamie Bell played the original role and the story later became a hit Broadway show, there have been about 60 boys playing the title character on stages around the world. “So maybe one day you will be in the Brazilian version," said Daldry.

“I always find a very strong connection with the story in audiences, particularly in communities that were challenged in different ways, whatever language the film is dubbed into,” Daldry told The Hollywood Reporter at the favela after his presentation. “I have found many, many similar experiences, all around the world.”

While describing the film's plot to the children, Daldry also mentioned that anti-riot police forces invade the lead character’s town during a coal miners strike -- inspired by the real conflict of 1984. The event struck a chord in the audience; formerly run by drug lords, the Compleixo itself was violently raided by the police as part of the November 2010 “pacification” of the area.

“We know the story,” they said.

The Rio Film Festival kicked off last week; the British Council’s Transform Program also includes presentations of the animated film The Pirates! Band of Misfits and the documentary InRealLife.