Tracing the Brazil - U.S. connection

Bozo biopic is Brazil’s 2018 Oscar hopeful

So far, 2017 has been the first year in recent memory in which a Brazilian movie fails to achieve must-see status in the U.S. specialty circuit, but that may change now that seasoned distributor Gullane is set to pitch Oscar hopeful Bingo: The King of the Mornings (Bingo: O Rei das Manhã) to American audiences.

Bozo the Clown was franchised to Brazil’s SBT network in 1980, and was portrayed by Arlindo Barreto from 1982 to 1986. Behind the scenes, however, Barreto was more like Krusty the Clown; his career had started out in soft-core porn, and he developed a raging substance abuse problem during his stint as headliner of the daily variety show Programa do Bozo.

Bozo biopic is Brazil's 2018 Oscar hopeful
Arlindo Barreto, in character (screen grab)

Barreto’s classic tale of downfall and eventual redemption was tailor-made for the big screen. To prevent legal hassles, the character’s name was changed from Bozo to Bingo, and the trademark wig morphed from red to blue. The real-life names of all the characters who cross Bingo’s path were also changed, except for porny disco-starlet-turned-GIF-queen Gretchen, who’d never sue because she knows no shame and is probably enjoying the publicity anyway.

Bozo biopic is Brazil's 2018 Oscar hopeful
Gretchen the gif queen …
Bozo biopic is Brazil's 2018 Oscar hopeful
… and her younger self as portrayed in the movie

Barreto is played by Vladimir Brichta, who Brazilian film buffs may remember from The invisible Collection (A Coleção Invisível), which made the U.S. festival circuit a few years back. More notably, Bingo marks the directorial debut of Daniel Rezende, whose brilliant work as an editor earned him an Oscar nomination for City of God (Cidade de Deus).

Bingo opened in Brazil on August 24 to positive reviews; the critical consensus pegged it as an assured debut and an amusing romp packed with references to 80s Brazilian popular culture. And on Friday, the Brazilian Film Academy named it as the country’s submission for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Filmmaker and producer João Daniel Tikhomiroff, one of the 200 members of the commission behind the nomination, said the decision took into account factors such as universality, cinematic qualities and international appeal. “[The film] meets every requirement,” he said. “In addition to being extremely well-structured in its screenplay, cast, and editing, it’s really well crafted. It made a great impact on us, and that’s the first criterion we focused on.”

The ball is now in the court of Gullane Filmes, Brazil’s top production house, which previously tried — and failed — to nab Oscar nominations for four films: Hector Babenco’s Carandiru in 2003, Cao Hamburger’s The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (O Ano em que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias) in 2006, the animation Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury (Uma História de Amor e Fúria) in 2013, and The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta?) in 2015.

Those previous efforts didn’t translate into Oscar nominations, but studio head Fabiano Gullane expressed cautious optimist about Bingo‘s chances to O Globo, noting that this is the kind of film American audiences respond well to, and that Rezende already has a history in the U.S., having edited films including Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

With reporting by ABr