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Fernando Meirelles: “As a spectator I prefer the cinema; as a director, 'streaming' "

The Brazilian director and producer, known for films such as “The City of God” and “The Two Popes”, talks about his closeness to the new platforms, seeing them as an opportunity for growth.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a blow to the face for the film industry. Hundreds of productions had to be postponed, and even canceled, due to the contingency and the health emergency that shook the entire world in 2020 and continues to do so to this day.

On April 22, Meirelles participated in the International University Film Academic Festival (FACIUNI), promoted by DirecTv through a master class aimed at film students in which he spoke about the evolution in the film industry and the changes that have brought about large streaming platforms. In addition, he also spoke about how the pandemic affected the productions that were in progress.

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The director believes that this initiative, which spreads, supports and promotes the next generation of filmmakers, provides opportunities for young talents to foster the growth of the film industry in the region while creating a legacy within the local heritage by maintaining the Culture through stories told by film students in each country is essential for the growth of Latin American cinema and its expansion around the world.

“The advice that I would give to all those who want to start in the cinema, is not to keep their ideas . There are a lot of people who have ideas for a movie and keep them saved, and honestly, I think that’s a mistake, ”Meirelles commented in his master class.

Although the Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles confesses that for him the pandemic was not “so bad” in creative terms, he does emphasize the changes that have been taking place in recent years with the arrival of streaming platforms and the challenge it represents. for the industry to get back on track after a long hiatus.

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At 65, Meirelles has had an exceptional career in independent cinema, being the director of films such as Ciudad de Dios (2002), 360 (2012) and Los dos popas (2019), several of them nominated for Oscars and Globes. It is curious to think that his beginning in the cinema was, according to him, accidental, since he was an architecture student at the University of São Paulo, but the audiovisual world always caught his attention … so he dedicated himself to making experimental films in their free time.

He enjoyed 100% learning, practicing, watching the entire editing process over and over again in the company of his friends. This is how he discovered his talent, he never imagined that he would become one of the most important Latin American references in film and television, until in the mid-1980s he directed the famous children’s program Rá-Tim-Bum , which would open the doors to larger projects in the future.

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In the 90s, Meirelles founded the production company O2 Filmes, together with Paulo Morelli and Andrea Barata Ribeiro. Some time later they began to work on Ciudad de Dios , a film based on a true story written by Brazilian Paulo Lins and that would catapult Meirelles to fame. After its release in 2002, the film was sent to the Cannes Film Festival that same year, and in 2003, Meirelles was nominated for an Oscar for best director.

The reason why Ciudad de Dios became a cult film was because it wanted to capture a real life story, putting as a base theme the complicated situation of violence, drug trafficking and juvenile delinquency in the favelas of Brazil. “For the filming, the filmmakers had to ask the collaboration of the head of a favela to be able to film in their area and thus have the appropriate security conditions to make the film,” says Meirelles, adding that the chief gave the green light to the realization on the condition that the actors were people who lived right there in the favela.

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That was an essential point in the success of the production, because it gave the story that touch of reality that made the film successful in several countries. But beyond the cinema, the director and producer has been adapting satisfactorily to the arrival of platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney. In fact, the producer of Los dos papas was Netflix, and to this day it continues to work hand in hand with this platform, although it was forced to put a pause on a project that was on the way, due to the pandemic.

“My plan for 2020 was to write a script for Netflix, and between August and September I had to start traveling the world to see the locations. Production should be finished by today, but because of the pandemic I had to stay in São Paulo and now I’m waiting for the vaccine to be given, ”says the director. “I don’t know when I will be able to travel, but I must say that during this break I have done other interesting things, like meditation, and also started other visual projects. For me, the pandemic was not bad. “

Although the time in confinement helped him focus on other projects, Meirelles assures that he also reflected on the drastic changes that the film industry has had to undergo with the arrival of platforms, in addition to the great challenges that returning to theaters implies. of Latin American cinema after the pandemic.

“I think that the change, not only in the Latin American industry, but also worldwide, has been enormous, because before everything was focused on North American studios, and now with streaming that is changing a lot… films are being produced in several countries ”Meirelles emphasizes, taking Brazil as an example, where according to his account, the platforms are making more than 20 productions.

For the Brazilian director, it was important to realize the power that streaming acquired little by little, and not see it as a threat, but rather as an opportunity for the entire union due to the breadth and versatility of the content. “When you make films in an American studio, it must be a production for a large audience, while on platforms you can make niche films,” he adds.

“The platforms bring with them a better market and a much greater need for production. A clear example is The Two Popes , if Netflix did not exist, it would have been a film with a very small audience, because only Catholics and a very specific niche of people would see it ”, emphasizes Meirelles, stating that as a spectator he likes to go to the movies more , but as a director and producer he prefers streaming . “I have never seen so many movies in my life as during the pandemic,” he reveals.

Although his training in the audiovisual field was quite informal, Fernando Meirelles has become one of the most respected Latin American directors and producers in the film industry, being recognized for winning the Young Cinema award: Best International Film at the International Film Festival of Venice in 2005 for The Constant Gardener , the Grand Prize of the Public of El Periódico de Catalunya at the Sitges Film Festival in 2008 for Blindness , the nomination for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 for Blindness and of course his Oscar nomination in the category of Best Direction in 2003 for Ciudad de Dios .

“Today there are directors who are very sensitive to actors, others who know how to structure a story, others who know how to tell it with images, and so on. Personally, I have a facility for ideas, I allow myself to go to the set without much preparation because I know what I have to do, and I am clear about the order in which I want to start filming … I allow myself to improvise. I would believe that if someone wants to be a director, they must know what the strength of their work is, ”he concludes.