The Brazilian Brilliance of Beto Brant

Friday, November 30, 2012

By Marcio de Oliveira Bahia

While Brazilian filmmaker Beto Brant was collecting awards worldwide for his production, I’d Receive the Worst News from Your Beautiful Lips (original title: Eu Receberia as Piores Notícias dos Seus Lindos Lábios), Vanderbilt caught wind that Brant was willing to come to Nashville for a special screening of the movie. It was a small window of opportunity—Brant would spend a few days on campus after participating in the Miami International Film Festival before going back to Brazil for his movie’s official commercial release. Vanderbilt’s Brazilianist Group, consisting of faculty, fellows, and grad students across different schools and departments, knew this was too great of an opportunity to pass up.

Brant is considered one of the most important contemporary Brazilian filmmakers. His movies, which combine universal themes and Brazilian issues, are lyrical and reflexive at times, and edgy and daring at other times. Most often, however, his movies unite all these characteristics at once. Brant is one of those rare filmmakers that can make you watch a movie on the edge of your seat, bite your nails, and also reflect about history, society, and human relationships.

Respected by movie critics, and courted by Brazilian superstars who covet a role in his movies, Brant is a force in contemporary Brazilian cinema. Recognition of his talent, though, has long crossed national borders. Many of his movies have won prestigious awards all over the world, including the ground-breaking The Trespasser (original title: O Invasor), which received the Sundance Film Festival’s award for Best Latin American Picture in 2002.

From right to left: Marcio Bahia, John Maddox, Laura Sellers, Sonia Dias, Emanuelle Oliveira, and Beto Brant, taken at the opening screening of the festival.

Emanuelle Oliveira, associate professor of Portuguese, Sonia Dias, a 2011-12 Humphrey Fellow—whose husband, Willem Dias, is a noted Brazilian film editor who cut Brant’s most recent film—and I put our heads together and decided not just to screen his latest movie, but to create a three-day Beto Brant Film Festival, during which the whole university community could interact with the famous filmmaker.

With help from the Center for Latin American Studies, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Film Studies Program, Vanderbilt International Office, and other groups on campus, the festival became a reality.

The initial screening of Eu Receberia, which tells the story of a torrid love triangle set in the Amazon region, stirred an interesting debate about ecology, social awareness, betrayal, love, hate, and the art of filmmaking.

Graduate and undergraduate students filled the movie sessions, volunteered as interpreters, and participated in a brown bag lunch—Making Movies in Brazil—especially organized for them to have a chance to interact “one on one” with Brant. Brant consistently charmed us with his charisma and intelligence during the postscreening question and answer sessions.

The series concluded with a screening of Brant’s 2002 Sundance prize winner The Trespasser, a thriller about two upper-class businessmen who hire a killer to eliminate their business partner.

After three intense days of activities, the director went back to Brazil, leaving behind a legion of fans that learned so much about Brazilian culture through his lens. Judging by his enthusiastic remarks on his Vanderbilt experience, we hope the feeling was mutual.

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