Biography forFernando MeirellesDate of Birth9 November 1955, São Paulo, São Paulo, BrazilMini BiographyFernando Meirelles was born in a middle class family in São Paulo City, Brazil.He studied architecture at the university of São Paulo. At the same time he developed an interest infilmmaking. With a group of friends he started producing experimental videos. They won a hugenumber of awards in Brazilian film festivals. After that, the group formed a small independentcompany called Olhar Eletrônico.After working in independent television during nine years, in the eighties Meirelles gravitated towardspublicity and commercials. He also became the director of a very popular childrens television show.In the early 90s, together with Paulo Morelli and Andrea Barata Ribeiro, he opened the O2 Filmesproduction company. His first feature, in 1998, was the family film "Menino Maluquinho 2: AAventura". His next feature, "Domésticas" (2001), exposed the invisible world of five Brazilian maidsin São Paulo and their secret dreams and desires.In 1997 he read the Brazilian best-seller "Cidade de Deus/City of God", written by Paulo Lins, anddecided to turn it into a movie despite an intimidating story that involves more than 350 characters.Once the screenplay, written by Bráulio Mantovani, was ready, Meirelles gathered a crew mixed withprofessional technicians and inexperienced actors chosen between the youngsters living in thefavelas surrounding Rio de Janeiro.The film was a huge success in Brazil and began to attract attention around the world after itscreened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002. "Cidade de Deus/City of God" (2003) has won awardsfrom film festivals and societies all over the world, as well as four 2004 Oscar nominations, includinga Best Director for Fernando Meirelles.TriviaMember of the Juri of the 29th São Paulo International Film Festival, held in São Paulo, Brazil, fromOctober 21st to November 3rd 2005.Founded the studio Olhar Eletrônico with a group of friends in the 80s.His father was a doctor.Has two sisters named Márcia and Silvinha.Has a son named Francisco "Kiko" Meirelles and a daughter named Carolina Meirelles.
Married to a ballerina, Ciça.His favorite director is Paul Thomas Anderson.Personal QuotesIve always been very independent, Ive always produced my own things; I dont know how to share.A big studio invests a lot of money, and they want control. Im not prepared for that yet.Harvey Weinstein liked "City of God" from the beginning. He didnt want to change anything. Whenthe films release was done, he called me to say, "This film deserves more than it got, and weregoing to spend money and do a campaign, and were gonna get nominations." From the businessside, it was a bad experience, but I would do it again. I dont think I signed a good contract. I didntreally believe in the film. It was a low-budget Brazilian film in Portuguese -- what can a film like thisdo? Harvey liked the film more than I did. They paid exactly what was on the contract.Im going to do some big film at some point but not now. My ideal career would be to do what PedroAlmodovar does (in Spain). Id like to make Brazilian films for international audiences that are notbig-budget. This would be the best.This is the part that I like most, in the process, is to edit and try to find the story. Sometimes youthink you have a film, and then you change something and it becomes different. Its a wonderful job.Because it surprises you.I never stop working on a film. I cant help myself.If you do a film with a high budget, people want to control it. Marketing people tell you what to do,and where to cut, so they can get their money back. I am more interested in doing smaller films that Ican control.When you do a film, everything is related to point-of-view, to vision. When you have two charactersin a dialog, emotion is expressed by the way people look at each other, through the eyes. Especiallyin the cut, the edit. You usually cut when someone looks over. Film is all about point-of-view...Its much easier to shoot in English, [as it provides, at least, for] a decent budget so I can do what Ihave in mind.I really recommend you, Sunday morning if you have nothing to do, wake up in the morning, put [on]a blindfold and stay til 4, 5 in the afternoon. Its really fantastic!" He explains: "Sound and smell ismuch enhanced, but also your thoughts, because you cant read, you cant be distracted, so yourewith yourself.An architect is somebody who really doesnt know how to build a building. [They need engineers, justas directors rely on writers and actors. What both architects and directors do bring is] a vision.
[Blindness (2008)] is not about blind people, its about human nature, about people who have justgone blind with no time for any adaptation. The only character whos really blind (Maury Chaykin) iscompletely adapted and so efficient that hes able to control all the others. I never even thought thatthe film could hurt blind people, because thats not what it is about. I know some artists, scientists orbusinessmen that are blind and brilliant in their jobs. We all know that.Where Are They Now(April 2008) Producing a Brazilian version of the Canadian cable series "Slings and Arrows" (2003)
Fernando Meirelles City of God Interviewed by Tom DawsonHow hard was it to adapt such a sprawling novel for the screen?It was a big challenge. The book is about 600 pages and there are 250 characters but it has no real structure - itsvery episodic. The author Paulo Lins, who was raised in the City of God slums, presents a character and you followhim for 20 pages. When he dies, you start following somebody else, and that carries on right until the end.We decided to split the film into three parts, each different from the other. In the first part the romantic criminalscome in and theres a warm atmosphere. In the second they have moved onto drug dealing, and the cameramovements are free and relaxed. Towards the end, war breaks out between the dealers and the images are chaoticand out of focus.Was it difficult to direct so many young non-professionals?No, it was easy to work with them because they were so enthusiastic about doing the film. They liked beingrespected and for people to listen to them and to applaud them. We auditioned 2000 kids from poor areas andchose 200. We spent six months working on improvising scenes. They ended up creating about 70% of thedialogue. They were so keen that they used to arrive at work an hour before shooting started.How was "City of God" received in Brazil given its controversial subject-matter?It was a huge success in Brazil and attracted 3.4 million spectators. It was more popular than "Star Wars" and"Minority Report". It moved from the cultural pages to the political pages - one of the presidential candidates askedto see the film and talked about it in a speech. So teenage drug-dealing became an issue in the campaign.How did you approach the violence that is an important aspect of the film?I think the violence in the film is totally different to what you see in American movies from people like Tarantino. Itried to avoid graphic violence: we have only three sequences involving blood and in the rape sequence you dontsee the rape. Even in the gang-war scene at the end, I had a voice-over talking about something else to distract theviewer. I used music throughout the film to create a distance from the action.
"We were far from the picture-perfect postcard image of Rio de Janeiro," says Rocket, the ray of hope at the heart ofdirector Fernando Meirelless Cidade de Deus (City of God), the true story of two children who grew up in the favelasof Brazil during the 60s and how one turned to violence and another turned to photojournalism during the disco70s. Meirelless competency as a storyteller is remarkable, as is the jittery lyricism with which he connects the filmsmany narratives, exposing an epic battlefield of urban corruption at the center of one of the worlds most populouscities. Tarantinos influence is all over City of God though the effortless grace with which the entire film is assembledmore accurately brings to mind Scorseses Goodfellas. Since the films world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival,Meirelles has used the films unprecedented success as a platform to focus the worlds attention on the darkness ofRios slums, one of the most violent and dangerous places in South America. Take City of God then as ahumanitarian effort, Meirelless attempt at globalizing the horrors of the favelas for the sake of their potentialemancipation. Slant Magazine recently spoke with Meirelles about his next project, his role in the resurgent LatinAmerican film movement, and how City of God has taken on a life of its own as a stirring work of political activism.Slant: How important was the Paulo Lins book in Brazil?Fernando Meirelles: Paulo Lins was raised in City of God. He was doing research for an anthropological work aboutdealers in the favelas and his boss asked him to write a novel about it. He took eight years writing it. When the bookwas published, it was a bestseller in Brazil because it was very shocking for us. Nobody knew exactly what happenedinside the favelas and this was a book that was telling the story from the inside.Slant: How did you come to be involved in adapting the book for the screen?FM: A friend of mine gave me the book and said that it was an amazing piece and that I should shoot the film. In thebeginning, I wasnt interested because I didnt like action films and I didnt know anything about drug dealers. But Idecided to read the book and it was amazing. I was shocked, because I live in Brazil and the story seemed like it wastaking place in another place and era. It didnt seem like it was 1997 in Brazil, so I wanted to understand and showthat world. But I did the film thinking about Brazilian audiences. I never thought the film would be an internationalproject.Slant: Apart from being Brazilian yourself, how familiar were you with the favelas before you began production onthe film?FM: I knew a lot from newspapers, television and even from other films, but this was information coming from amiddle-class point of view. All the information I had about the favelas was from my part of the country. The bookwas written from the other side, from inside the poor part of Brazil. When I decided to do the film, I wanted to putthe camera on the other side and tell it through Paulo Linss point of view and not a middle-class one.Slant: What has been the impact of City of God in Brazil?FM: The film was such a hit in Brazil because of all the debates it provoked. Ive been to a lot of universities andunions with the film. Lula [Brazils president, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva] came to me and said that my film changed
his policies of public security. It was great to hear that.Slant: Whats the current state of the favelas?FM: Now its worse than it was in the 80s, when the film ends. The drug dealers control all the favelas, especially inRio. During the late 70s and early 80s, in each favela a guy like Little Ze took control of all the territory in order tosell drugs and control the lives of everyone who lived there. In the 80s, all those bosses began to control theirneighbors and other areas. They didnt just want one area for themselves, so they began to control other areas. Nowin 2002, Rio de Janeiro is split between three criminal factions: the Red Command, Friends of Friends, a faction runby ex-policemen, and the Third Command. All the favelas belong to one of those three factions.Slant: During shooting, did you worry at all about your safety and were you afraid that you were exposing policecorruption?FM: No. The police didnt know that I was talking about their corruption until later. And we werent really afraid toshoot inside those areas because we had permission to be there from the community centers inside the favelas. Wenever talked directly to the drug dealers but we knew nothing would happen to us. It was very relaxed.Slant: Can you discuss the role music plays in the film as a cultural hallmark of favela life?FM: Brazil is a very musical country and music is part of our lives. If you go to a favela and walk by the houses,theres always music playing, like samba, funk and rap. I was kind of criticized in Brazil because the film has somuch music and because its very happy and funny sometimes. But when you go to a favela, its a very fun place tobe. The film tries to capture that same feeling.Slant: What was your goal in working mostly with non-professional actors?FM: I decided to use non-professionals because I wanted to recreate the same feeling of the book. This wassomething I learned from Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, to never give my actors the script. I would just tell them theintentions behind each scene and character and let them improvise. So 70% of what you see and hear on the screenthey created by themselves. This is what gives the film its sense of reality.Slant: Whats your involvement with filmmaker Kátia Lund?FM: Kátia was finishing an amazing documentary about drug dealers called News From a Private War, so I knew sheknew a lot about this universe. I went to Rio and invited her to work with me to create a workshop for those boysthat wanted to work as actors in the film. Because we worked so well together, we invited her to join the project as aco-director. We had a special way of co-directing. She didnt choose locations or art direction. She didnt edit andnever talked to the director of photography. She was really just focused on the acting.Slant: Can you discuss the themes of hopelessness and redemption in the film?FM: For the drug dealers, theres no hope. Theres no way out for them and, in the end, they all die. Rocketrepresents hope in the film. Hes a blend of Paulo Lins, someone who was raised in City of God and became a knownwriter, and his friend Rocket, who became a photographer.Slant: What do you think of the comparisons that have been made between your film and other films like Goodfellasand Pulp Fiction?FM: Pulp Fiction is quite different from City of God because Tarantino uses violence as an amusement, somethingfunny and spectacular. City of God does the opposite. When you watch my film, you dont want to be part of thesegangs. I think theres a certain morality there. Every time I had an opportunity to show violence I tried to avoidshowing it on purpose. I dont think crime is glamorized in the film.Slant: What is happening these days in the Brazilian film community?
FM: Were very enthusiastic here. In the 80s, we were doing five or six features a year. Last year, we did 45. Theresdefinitely a new generation coming out. Theres a guy called Berto Brechi, who did a great film called The Intruder.Andrucha Waddington, who did Me You Them, will be releasing a new film. And Walter Salles just finished TheMotorcycle Diaries, the story of Che Guevara.Slant: Youve said, "City of God is not only about a Brazilian issue, but one that involves the whole world. Aboutsocieties which develop on the outskirts of our civilized world." Can you talk about this a bit?FM: When I was traveling with the film through different festivals, journalists would ask me how my society allowsthings like this to happen and why we dont take care of this problem. My answer is always the same. I live inmiddle-class Brazil and not in the other side of Brazil. No matter what happens in that part, it seems like it doesnteffect us. We allow things to get to this point because we dont think this is our problem. Its the same relationshipeverywhere-in the U.S., in Latin America, in Africa. There are a lot of people without food and everyone thinks it isnttheir problem. This isnt true because its a worldwide problem, especially since all economies are so related.Slant: Youve received several Hollywood offers because of the films success.FM: Yes, a lot [laughs]. Like 30 of them.Slant: And you havent taken any of them?FM: No, because Im involved with this project Intolerance, The Sequel, which Im going to shoot in 2004. Im soenthusiastic about it. Were still writing the script. Maybe in five years Ill do something in Hollywood but I dont thinkIm prepared yet. Ill always be very independent. I financed City of God myself so Im not used to anyone telling mewhat to do. I have to learn to relate to producers and studios. Im afraid of studios [laughs].Slant: Is Intolerance, The Sequel a sequel to the D.W. Griffith film?FM: The name is a joke but Ill try to keep it. It deals with the same idea. Intolerance tries to tell the story of mankindon a timeline. Im going to talk about mankind on a geographical level. Its like a little puzzle. Five different storiesand, after 30 minutes, the stories begin to connect and, in the end, its the same plot. It takes place in the desert, inChina, in Kenya, in New York, in Brazil. It seems kind of ambitious but its a dramatic comedy. The theme of the filmitself is globalization. No country is as unfair as the world itself.