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Oscar Watch: Hermano by Marcel Rasquin, Venezuela

Oscar Watch: Hermano by Marcel Rasquin, Venezuela

Venezuela’s submission for Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film Oscar, Hermano, (official site: just showed at the Havana Film Festival in Cuba, where it won the Special Jury Prize for Opera Prima (First Film), and played in 800 and 1,200 seat theaters filled with enthusiastic Cubans who loved this international film. Director Marcel was happy to be in Cuba. He also explored its music and made discovery of 96 year old Juana Bacallao who sings cabaret in many of Cuba’s night spots.

Hermano premiered in June at the Moscow International Film Festival where it won the Critics Award and then played at L.A. Latino Int’l Film Festival (LALIFF) where it won the Audience Award. The film gained notoriety in Moscow when Luc Besson picked it up for world sales for his EuropaCorp International after it won the Grand Prize at the Moscow Film Festival where he was presiding over the jury.

This was great but, unfortunately, after Moscow, EuropaCorp’s stock was falling and therefore it decided to change direction and not to acquire the film after all. This left the film in a limbo from June until this month’s Ventana Sur Latin American Film Market in Buenos Aires where bids for U.S. distribution and for international sales representation heated up once again.

Marcel takes all these experiences in stride and remains cool headed, they are business learning experiences for him as this is his first film, and after all, he is new to the business.

The experiences have been truly great for him. He is happy the film speaks for itself and has drawn the attention of the Academy to the Venezuelan film industry which has never had a film been nominated for the Oscar.

Today there are more Venezuelan films in festivals getting world attention than ever before.

Marcel has great faith in the story and its power. The film truly does not end after the credits roll, but it stays with the viewer who processes it for days afterward. It is a classic story with the spirit of a first feature and the talent of a veteran cineaste.

Marcel spoke about why he chose this particular story for his first feature. (It is the story of two soccer loving brothers who live in the poorest – and largest – slum in Latin America. One brother has a plan how to break out for the barrio through football.) Marcel has directed many shorts, dark comedies for the most part, ads and music videos but has never made a drama.

He said that he wanted to speak in the crude, direct tongue of close family and friend relationships among the various types of people in Venezuela.

Venezuela was never a football (soccer) country. It identifies more with the Caribbean where the people prefer baseball. Venezuela traditionally only pays attention to soccer once every four years during the World Cup which, of course, it has never won. But suddenly their teams are playing better, not getting trounced at every game and this started a huge popular movement called “Vinto Tinto” meaning Red Wine, named for the color of Venezuela’s uniform.

Venezuela is also a country of tremendous political tensions and disagreements and for the last 10 years political confrontation has defined the country within and outside its borders. E.g. in the U.S., people widely know of Chavez who handed Obama an important book about Latin America, ‘Open Veins’!

With the Vinto Tinto Soccer Football Movement, for 90 minutes, politics suddenly cease to hold center stage. There is a feeling of unity as opposed to the usual political division; everyone is sharing the same passion.

Marcel, during this time, was living in Australia doing post-graduate studies. One day, a few years ago, during an extremely tense political time, there was a huge rally on the highway in Venezuela. A pro-government crowd was about to clash with the opposition. Suddenly, a football appeared and instead of the violent confrontation, a football match began.

This was the inspiration behind Hermano, and it is having a huge box office success in Venezuela. 17 weeks in the theater is a record not even broken by Hollywood American majors.

Marcel is busy promoting the film, making it available to worldwide audiences, but, of course, he still has a couple of projects he is working on. One is about jealousy which he sees as a need to possess what doesn’t belong to the jealous one. This is a triangle love story co-written with his long time girlfriend who he is not afraid to name The Love of his Life, the actress (and star of Fina Torres’ Havana Eva), Prakriti Maduro who is an accomplished writer herself.

He is also working on a project in L.A., which he describes as “an indie film with a beautiful story, a gem, so well written, a page-turner”. He will be back in L.A. the first half of January when his film will also show in Palm Springs Film Festival.

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