A QUIET PROTEST ACCOMPANIES BRAZIL’S “MAGNIFICENT” CANNES ENTRY
These days, the only thing in Brazil that is more abundant than coffee is chaos — economic and political. A week after the country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached by the legislature, a screening of Brazil’s entry in the Cannes Film Festival’s official competition, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, was accompanied by an anti-government demonstration on the red carpet by the film’s director, stars, and crew. The demonstrators particularly wanted TV viewers watching the ceremony to take notice of the fact that the new “interim” president of their country had wasted no time in abolishing the Ministry of Culture — the government body that underwrites most of Brazil’s motion picture productions. At a news conference the following day, Sonia Braga, who stars in the film as an elderly music critic battling a powerful real-estate developer who wants to demolish her apartment complex to make way for a high-rise, commented, “It was very important to take this international platform here to expose what’s happening in Brazil.” Filho added that he didn’t want the protest to be “noisy,” so instead he had the group hold up sheets of paper with just a few sentences in large type on each that, he said, “expressed what is happening in Brazil.” He added, “Cannes has many cameras and powerful long lenses and it worked very beautifully.” The demonstration received even more intense coverage than it would have ordinarily after Aquarius received overwhelmingly positive reviews earlier in the day from critics attending the festival. Peter Bradshaw in Britain’s Guardian newspaper described it a “a densely observed and superbly acted portrait of a woman of a certain age.” And Robbie Collin in the London Telegraph called it “magnificent,” praising not only Braga’s performance (“[She invests] the character with a hard-won dignity that often has you stifling a cheer”) but also just about everyone else connected with the production. “The film’s lucid sense of place and space,” he wrote, “helped along by the camera’s eye for sensual visual detail and sound designed to make your eardrums groan in delight, is one of the film’s most generous pleasures.” Those reviews, incidentally, are certain to wind up on the computer screens of the current Brazilian leadership. At the news conference, Filho remarked “They picked the wrong month to extinguish the Ministry of Culture, because a movie made with very public funds is currently competing at Cannes.” Several critics have signaled that the protest could very well boost the film’s chances of winning the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.