One of these nine films will take home the Rio fest’s top prize

The 19th edition of the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival kicks off Friday, and packs in more than 250 titles over the next 11 days, including the latest from Woody Allen and Guillermo del Toro, plus the winners of this years’ Venice and Berlin fests.

Of particular interest to us is the festival’s only competitive section, Première Brasil, which screens new Brazilian productions, most of which are world premieres. Here are the nine fiction films that will be in competition at Première Brasil, with teasers/trailers when available.

Sugar (Açúcar)

Bethânia (Maeve Jinkings), a multiracial woman, finds herself in a present where both the past and the future look menacing after returning to her family’s old sugar mill. The publicity materials suggest this is a magic realism tale that uses Bethânia’s multiracial background as a metaphor for Brazil’s own racial confusion. Looks like another winning turn for Jinkings, who’s starred in some of the most successful Brazilian films in recent memory, including Neighboring Sounds (O Som ao Redor) and Neon Bull (Boi Neon).

Something Like That (Alguma Coisa Assim)

Alguma Coisa Assim was originally conceived by co-directors Esmir Filho and Mariana Bastos as a short film, which won the best Screenplay Award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival’s International Critics’ Week. They have now expanded it into an 80-minute feature that weaves together three encounters between Mari (Caroline Abras) and Caio (André Antunes) over a 10-year period, inviting a reflection on sexuality, labels and how time shapes relationships. No trailer, but you can watch the original short right here (sorry, no subtitles):

Liquid Truth (Aos Teus Olhos)

Rubens (Daniel de Oliveira), a swim coach, is falsely accused of molesting a 7-year-old student. Carolina Jabor, daughter of CInema Novo pioneer Arnaldo Jabor, has been coming into her own as director in recent years; here, she takes a timely look at how quickly public shaming can upturn someone’s life in our connected age. Liquid Truth is getting its U.S. debut this month at the Chicago International Film Festival (more on that later).

One of these nine films will take home Rio's top prize

Friendly Beast (Animal Cordial)

An upscale São Paulo restaurant owner tries to protect his staff and customers after his establishment is burglarized at the end of the day by two armed men. Friendly Beast‘s main distinction is being the first Brazilian slasher film directed by a woman, but it also bills itself as a tale of ambition gone wrong.

Good Manners (As Boas Maneiras)

Another shot at horror from Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas, the directorial duo behind Hard Labor (Trabalhar Cansa). Unlike that well-regarded 2011 psychological thriller, Good Manners has decidedly supernatural overtones of the werewolfian kind. The film is getting its Brazilian debut after a decent run in the international film circuit, winning the Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in May.

Life is a Bitch (Como é Cruel Viver Assim)

Four broke, frustrated friends decide that kidnapping a millionaire is the ticket out of their miserable lives. Sounds like a populist comedy, which is what one would expect from director Julia Rezende, known for the 2013 Brazilian box office hit Meu Passado me Condena. The Melissa McCarthy wannabe in the trailer — ugh.

Tarnished Land (O Nome da Morte)

The true story of Júlio Santana (Marco Pigossi), a devout Christian who was also a hitman responsible for 492 murders. The source material, a 2006 book by journalist Klester Cavalcanti, is reportedly solid, but director Henrique Goldman’s previous entry in the based-on-a-true-story genre, 2009’s Jean Charles, was rather corny.

One of these nine films will take home Rio's top prize

Paris Square (Praça Paris)

Camila (Joana de Verona), a Portuguese psychotherapist who comes to Brazil to study the effects of violence on society, gets involved in an intense doctor-patient relationship with Glória Grace Passô), who is struggling with her troubled past growing up in a favela. This taut psychological thriller breaks new ground for veteran helmer Lúcia Murat, who’s known to dwell on her past as a leftist guerrilla. Paris is Square is also debuting stateside in Chicago (where Murat has been a regular) this month.

One of these nine films will take home Rio's top prize

Unicorn (Unicórnio)

The long-awaited follow-up to Southwest (Sudoeste), Eduardo Nunes’ enigmatic 2011 debut, is a mashup of two short stories by Hilda Hilst, a Brazilian literary figure still awaiting to be discovered by the international public. This tale of the tangled relationship between a 13-year-old girl, her parents and the goat herder next door is sure to deliver magic realism, gorgeous visuals, and confused audiences.

Written by Sergio Barreto

Brazilian-American editor, web developer and (occasional) event promoter. As founder and content director for this site, I keep an eye on what's wrong with Brazil, but what really makes my heart beat faster is sharing the exciting things happening in Brazilian tech, music, film, and other creative industries.

H.I.G. Capital bets on São Paulo real estate, buys corporate center

H.I.G. Capital bets on São Paulo real estate, buys corporate center

An open-air, free mental health clinic in São Paulo

An open-air, free mental health clinic in São Paulo