City of God
“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 I can control.” Fernando Meirelles.
Brazilian Academy Award-nominated film director Fernando Meirelles garnered international recognition with his breakout feature, "Cidade de Deus" (2002; aka. "City of God"), an adaptation of the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins that chronicles how drug dealers took control of Brazil's infamous slum. He went on to direct its spin-off, the gritty miniseries "Cidade dos Homens" (aka. “City of Men”), which won Grand Prize of the Critics -- Television from the São Paulo Association of Art Critics.
"With the success of "City of God" I have a lot of people interested in doing projects with me. Whatever idea I have, I have people interested in producing. This is the good thing about the success of "City of God", all the doors that are now open to me. According to my agent I can do two bad movies and I still have some credit. The third one... " Fernando Meirelles.
A one-time the most sought-after commercial director in his country, Meirelles has directed the critically-acclaimed Brazilian films "E no meio passa um trem" (1998), "Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura" (1998; aka. "The Nutty Boy 2"), "Palace II" (2000; aka. "Golden Gate (Palace II)"), and "Domésticas" (2001; aka. "Maids"). He made his first English language feature with "The Constant Gardener" (2005), which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director.
Meirelles' latest film project is the 2008 dramatic thriller film "Blindness," starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. Premiered as the opening film at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2008, the film was nominated a Golden Palm. "Blindness" is commercially scheduled for limited release in the United States on October 3, 2008.
"When you do a film, everything is related to point-of-view, to vision. When you have two characters in a dialog, emotion is expressed by the way people look at each other, through the eyes. Especially in the cut, the edit. You usually cut when someone looks over. Film is all about point-of-view..." Fernando Meirelles.
São Paulo Native
Childhood and Family:
"When you live in Brazil you are very close to poverty. You have to pretend you’re not seeing otherwise you can’t live. This is a very rich country and there is a lot of poverty in Africa which is just eight hours flight from here. The same planet and such a difference and we pretend we don’t see it. It’s the same thing I think." Fernando Meirelles.
In a middle class home in São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, Fernando Meirelles was born on November 9, 1955. Son of a prominent gastroenterologist father who frequently went abroad for business, Meirelles spent a great deal of his youth traveling the United States, Asia and other places. He has two sisters named Márcia and Silvinha. He studied at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Meirelles has a son named Francisco "Kiko" Meirelles and a daughter named Carolina Meirelles with his wife, Ciça Meirelles.
The Constant Gardener
“We're supposed to capture what's in the air and give a form to it. The artist is like an antenna, always searching for new ideas and ways to express them.” Fernando Meirelles.
Receiving his Super-8 camera at age 12, Fernando Meirelles began making experimental shorts with friends and his hobby would later expand during high school as he started to research foreign films for the Cine Club. Although he studied architecture at San Paolo University, the aspiring Brazilian filmmaker was considering a film career, and even presented his senior thesis on urban living as a documentary.
"I've always been very independent, I've always produced my own things; I don't know how to share. A big studio invests a lot of money, and they want control. I'm not prepared for that yet." Fernando Meirelles.
Along with a group of friends (Paul Morelli, Marcelo Machado, Dário Vizeu and Bob Salatini), Meirelles founded the independent production company Olhar Eletronico in 1989 and started making experimental videos and went on to producing TV programs for Brazilian television, including the comedy show "A Comédia da Vida Privada" (1995). Meanwhile, he directed commercials for 10 years and made a name for himself as a successful director in the business in Brazil. He is still one of the partners of O2 Filmes, the biggest Brazilian advertisement firm.
In 1998, Meirelles made his first feature with the family film "Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura" (aka. "The Nutty Boy 2" ), which he co-directed with Fabrizia Pinto. The film won an Honorable Mention of the Children's Cinema Competition Jury at the Cartagena Film Festival. That same year, he co-directed with Nando Olival the 17-minute short drama film about weddings, jobs, children, and trips, "E no meio passa um trem" (1998). It won him Best Director award (shared with Nando Olival) at the Cuiabá Film and Video Festival.
Entering the new millennium, Meirelles directed an episode of the crime/drama/comedy TV series "Brava Gente" and co-directed with Kátia Lund the short 15-minute (USA:21 minutes) film "Palace II" (aka. "Golden Gate"), starring Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha. The film, which was based on an excerpt from the book "God's City" by Paulo Lins, received rave reviews, winning awards at the Flickerfest International Short Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Algarve International Film Festival, Aspen Shortsfest, Berlin International Film Festival, Drama Short Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival, Brazilia Festival of Brazilian Cinema, and Brazilia Festival of Brazilian Cinema.
Meirelles then co-directed with Nando Olival and co-wrote with Cecília Homem de Mello the drama/comedy feature "Domésticas" (aka. "Maids"; 2001; starring Claudia Missura, Grazielle Moretto, Lena Roque, Olivia Araujo, and Renata Melo), which exposed the invisible world of Brazilian maids and their secret dreams and desires. It won the Grand Prix at the Toulouse Latin America Film Festival, Jury Award -- Best Independent Feature at Ajijic International Film Festival, Coxiponé Award -- Best Film at Cuiabá Film and Video Festival, and Best Screenplay at Cuiabá Film and Video Festival.
“This is the part that I like most, in the process, is to edit and try to find the story. Sometimes you think you have a film, and then you change something and it becomes different. It's a wonderful job. Because it surprises you.” Fernando Meirelles.
In 2002, Meirelles and Kátia Lund co-directed the crime drama film "Cidade de Deus" (aka. "City of God"; starring Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino De Hora Phellipe, Seu Jorge, Jonathan Haagensen, and Matheus Nachtergaele), which was released in its home country in 2002 and worldwide in 2003. The film, which was adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins that chronicles how drug dealers took control of Brazil's infamous slum, received four Academy Award nominations in 2004: for Best Cinematography (César Charlone), Best Directing (Meirelles), Best Editing (Daniel Rezende), and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (Mantovani). It also previously had been chosen to be Brazil's runner for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not nominated to be one of the five finalists.
“Harvey Weinstein liked 'City of God' from the beginning. He didn't want to change anything. When the film's release was done, he called me to say, 'This film deserves more than it got, and we're going to spend money and do a campaign, and we're gonna get nominations.' From the business side, it was a bad experience, but I would do it again. I don't think I signed a good contract. I didn't really believe in the film. It was a low-budget Brazilian film in Portuguese -- what can a film like this do? Harvey liked the film more than I did. They paid exactly what was on the contract.” Fernando Meirelles.
"Cidade de Deus" also won Meirelles Guadalajara Mexican Film Festival's Audience Award -- Ibero-American Competition, Cartagena Film Festival's Golden India Catalina -- Best Director and Best Film, Cinema Brazil Grand Prize's Best Director, Cinemanila International Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize, Uruguay International Film Festival's Special Jury Award, and Lima Latin American Film Festival's Elcine First Prize. Additionally, he was nominated BAFTA Film Award's Best Film not in the English Language and Independent Spirit Award's Best Foreign Film.
“About the comparisons of “City of God” and “Pulp Fiction,” Meirelles commented, “'Pulp Fiction' is quite different from 'City of God' because Tarantino uses violence as an amusement, something funny and spectacular. City of God does the opposite. When you watch my film, you don't want to be part of these gangs. I think there's a certain morality there. Every time I had an opportunity to show violence I tried to avoid showing it on purpose. I don't think crime is glamorized in the film.”
On the themes of hopelessness and redemption in “City of God,” Meirelles explained, “For the drug dealers, there's no hope. There's no way out for them and, in the end, they all die. Rocket represents hope in the film. He's a blend of Paulo Lins, someone who was raised in 'City of God' and became a known writer, and his friend Rocket, who became a photographer.”
He also talked about the impact of “City of God,” “The film was such a hit in Brazil because of all the debates it provoked. I've been to a lot of universities and unions with the film. Lula (Brazil's 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.”
Following the massive success of "Cidade de Deus," Meirelles and co-director Kátia Lund went on to directed the gritty miniseries "Cidade dos Homens" (aka. “City of Men”), which shares some of the actors (notably leads Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha) and their setting with the “City of God” film. The miniseries, which was watched by 35 million viewers in Brazil, was released internationally on DVD shortly after the film. A feature length film based on the series (produced by Fox and TV Globo) would later be released in 2007. "Cidade dos Homens" won Grand Prize of the Critics -- Television from the São Paulo Association of Art Critics.
"'City of Men' is a TV. series that we produced for Brazilian television. After 'City of God,' we wanted to keep working with those young actors so we created this show for Brazilian television. We finished the first year and it was very successful, so this year we’ll be producing another season in Brazil. We sold it to 17 countries and now we’ve just sold it to Palm Pictures here in the U.S. Hopefully you’ll be able to see it soon. It’s the story of, two young boys who live in the slum and they are always trying to get some money for their lives, but it’s a comedy, not a drama. City of God was about drug dealers and a slum community. Now it’s a story about everyday life in the slum, very funny." Fernando Meirelles.
In 2005, Meirelles directed a critically-acclaimed adaptation of the 2001 John Le Carré novel, "The Constant Gardener," starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. It received three Golden Globe nominations, for Best Director, Best Film, and Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz), which she won. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Supporting Actress for Weisz, which she won. In their home country, the film had the indications for BAFTA 2006, with 10 indications, including Best Film and Best Director. The film has won the awards of Best Film at the London Critics Circle Film Awards, British Independent Film Awards and Evening Standard British Film Awards. The film also gained the SDFCS Awards. Overall to date, the film has won 18 awards and a further 40 award nominations.
About the film, Meirelles explained, “In Kenya, the faces of the people, the colors, I wanted to bring as much of the landscape to the screen as I could... That's why I thought we should shoot in Kenya with a small crew - you just turn the camera around, and the real thing is happening here. If you do it big - lights, crew - you turn around and there's only crew, and it affects everything all around.”
He also commented on Ralph Fiennes' performance in “The Constant Gardener,” saying, “Ralph deserves an award for this performance. He's so relaxed, so natural. We're used to seeing Ralph Fiennes as cold, rational. Here he's lighter. He brings a humanity to the role. He's played a lot of edgy characters. Here he plays an average character.”
Meanwhile, Meirelles has served as a producer for writer/director Roberto Moreira's crime/drama film "Contra Todos" (2003; aka. "Up Against Them All") and the football documentary "Ginga" (2005; aka. "Ginga: The Soul of Brasilian Football"), which was originally developed by Nike to promote its Brasilian campaign, and a 60-minute version was screened at Nike's parties worldwide. He was also a member of the Juri of the 29th São Paulo International Film Festival, held in São Paulo, Brazil, from October 21st to November 3rd 2005.
In 2006, he co-produced Tata Amaral's musical drama film "Antônia - O Filme" and Cao Hamburger's drama "Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias, O" (aka. "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation"). He went on to produce the dramatic TV series "Antônia" (2006), Philippe Barcinski's film "Não Por Acaso" (2007; aka. "Not by Chance"), César Charlone and Enrique Fernández's dramatic film "Baño del Papa, El" (2007; aka. "The Pope's Toilet"), Paulo Morelli's crime/drama film "Cidade dos Homens" (2007).
“I never stop working on a film. I can't help myself.” Fernando Meirelles.
Meirelles recently returned to the director's chair helming the 2008 dramatic thriller film "Blindness," an adaptation of the 1995 novel of the same name by José Saramago about a society suffering an epidemic of blindness. The film that stars Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo premiered as the opening film at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2008, where it was nominated a Golden Palm. It is commercially scheduled for limited release in the United States on October 3, 2008.
Next, Meirelles will produce and direct a Brazilian drama comedy TV series called "Som e Fúria." He will also co-produce a documentary titled "Art Is Garbage."
“I'm going to do some big film at some point but not now. My ideal career would be to do what Pedro Almodovar does (in Spain). I'd like to make Brazilian films for international audiences that are not big-budget. This would be the best.” Fernando Meirelles.
ALMA: Outstanding Director of a Motion Picture, "The Constant Gardener," 2006
Evening Standard British Film: Best Film, "The Constant Gardener," 2006
ShoWest: International Achievement in Filmmaking, 2003
Flickerfest International Short Film Festival: Best Film (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2003
Guadalajara Mexican Film Festival: Audience Award -- Ibero-American Competition (shared with Kátia Lund), "Cidade de Deus," 2003
Cartagena Film Festival: Golden India Catalina -- Best Director (Mejor Director), "Cidade de Deus," 2003
Cartagena Film Festival: Best Film (Mejor Película), "Cidade de Deus," 2003
Cinema Brazil Grand Prize: Cinema Brazil Grand Prize -- Best Director (Melhor Diretor), "Cidade de Deus," 2003
Cinemanila International Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize, "Cidade de Deus," 2003
Uruguay International Film Festival: Special Jury Award, "Cidade de Deus," 2003
Lima Latin American Film Festival: Elcine First Prize (shared with Kátia Lund), "Cidade de Deus," 2003
São Paulo Association of Art Critics: Grand Prize of the Critics -- Television (Televisão), "Cidade dos Homens," 2003
Havana Film Festival: Award of the Havana University, "Cidade de Deus," 2002
Havana Film Festival: Cuban Press Association Award, "Cidade de Deus," 2002
Havana Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, "Cidade de Deus," 2002
Havana Film Festival: Glauber Rocha Award, "Cidade de Deus," 2002
Havana Film Festival: Grand Coral - First Prize, "Cidade de Deus," 2002
Havana Film Festival: OCIC Award, "Cidade de Deus," 2002
Toronto International Film Festival: Visions Award - Special Citation, "Cidade de Deus," 2002
Marrakech International Film Festival: Best Director (shared with Kátia Lund), "Cidade de Deus, 2002
Melbourne International Film Festival: Grand Prix (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2002
Melbourne International Film Festival: Outstanding Short Film Promoting Human Values (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2002
Algarve International Film Festival: Grand Prize of the City of Portimão (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2002
Aspen Shortsfest: Jury Award -- Drama - Best of Category (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2002
Berlin International Film Festival: Panorama Award of the New York Film Academy (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2002
Drama Short Film Festival: Special Distinction International (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2002
Stockholm Film Festival: Best Short Film (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2002
Toulouse Latin America Film Festival: Grand Prix (shared with Nando Olival), "Domésticas," 2002
Brazilia Festival of Brazilian Cinema: ANDI/Unicef Award - Honorable Mention (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2001
Brazilia Festival of Brazilian Cinema: Canal Brasil Acquisition Award (shared with Kátia Lund), "Palace II," 2001
Ajijic International Film Festival: Jury Award -- Best Independent Feature (shared with Nando Olival), "Domésticas," 2001
Cuiabá Film and Video Festival: Coxiponé Award -- Best Film (shared with Nando Olival), "Domésticas," 2001
Cuiabá Film and Video Festival: Best Screenplay (shared with Nando Olival, Renata Melo, and Cecília Homem de Mello), "Domésticas," 2001
Cartagena Film Festival: Honorable Mention of the Children's Cinema Competition Jury (shared with Fabrizia Pinto), "Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura," 2000
Cuiabá Film and Video Festival: Coxiponé Award -- Short Film - Best Director (shared with Nando Olival), "E no meio passa um trem," 1999