Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho’s controversial “Aquarius” continues to stir big emotions, even months after its debut at the Cannes Film Festival.
At a special preview of the film at New York City’s Angelika Theatre on Thursday evening, the film was greeted by a group of protesters who turned out in support of the film and its creator, who has been very vocal about his opposition to Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s recent impeachment — perceived as many to be part of a coup — and continuing a conversation started earlier this year.
The film follows 65-year-old Brazilian widow Clara (Sonia Braga), a former music journalist who is set on living out the rest of her days in the apartment complex where she grew up. Although she pledges to stay in the apartment until she dies, her plans are waylaid when young real estate developer Diego (Humberto Carrão) tries to push her out of her home so that he can transform the forties-era building into a luxury condo.
In May, the filmmaker made his feelings clear at the film’s Cannes premiere. Back then, we reported, “Before his latest film’s world premiere earlier today, he and several of his collaborators held up a large banner reading ‘Stop coup in Brasil’; smaller signs emblazoned with the words ‘We will resist’ and ‘Brazil is not a democracy anymore’ were held up behind it.”
The protest was not overlooked by the Brazilian government, who are perceived to have fired back at “Aquarius” and its filmmaker by appointing film journalist Marcos Petrucelli, a strong opponent of both Dilma Rousseff and Filho and his film, to be a member of the official selection jury that will choose the country’s Oscar submission, effectively knocking “Aquarius” out of the race.
A number of other filmmakers pulled their films in protest — including Gabriel Mascaro’s Venice winner “Neon Bull,” Anna Muylaert’s “Don’t Call Me Son” and Aly Muritiba’s “To My Beloved” — and the country ultimately picked David Schurmann’s “Pequeno Segredo” as their submission.
“Aquarius” will be available in limited release on Friday, October 14.