FESTIVALS: What It Means to Watch Movies In São Paulo
by Gabe Klinger
(indieWIRE/11.7.00) --When one speaks of the city of São Paulo, it is always best to start with the hard facts. As Brazil's economic center, it is the most densely populated and largest growing Latin American city, which also has its downside. São Paulo's "Zona Sul" (South Zone) neighborhood has the highest crime rate of any area in the Western hemisphere. This is a city that poses an enormous sociological question mark with its ever-widening gap between the ultra-poor and the super-rich. The middle class is a myth, though if you look hard enough, you would most likely find it in the 10 theaters and "Cine Clubs" that occupied the 24th São Paulo International Film Festival, a two-week annual refuge from the truly intense streets.
The Brazilian population is big on storytelling and notorious for its yearly output of lavishly produced soap operas. It's no surprise some of this year's most championed directors in the festival included Ettore Scola ("The Dinner"), Patrice Leconte ("The Widow of St. Pierre") and Alfred Hitchcock (the newly restored "Rear Window"), each a master of his own narrative territory. For such an intimidating city, the cheers were much less blasé than that of Torontoans, and with new films from art-house crazies like João César Monteiro ("Snow White") and Kim Ki-Duk ("The Isle"), the walkouts and hisses were, well, equally apparent. São Paulo rivals several world festivals with impatient crowds. This can be at least partially accounted to the questionable tastes of fest director Leon Cakoff, who seems to have scrapped international leftovers like Daniel Fridell's "Swedish Beauty," Gordon Eriksen's "The Love Machine," and the new "Shaft" as mindless filler.
Flipping through the program book, there seems to be a lot of good stuff to pick from, but even more to leave uninspired. In contrast to the Iranian and Chinese entries, the strong Brazilian contenders were few in numbers. The critical favorite was Laís Bodanzsky's "Bicho de 7 Cabe