Brazil picks gay youth film ‘The Way He Looks’ for Oscar race

Daniel Ribeiro’s feature-length debut, The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho), was selected by Brazil’s Ministry of Culture as the country’s submission for the best foreign-language film category at the 2015 Oscars, Minister Marta Suplicy announced on Thursday. The film was chosen over 17 other national features by a committee comprised of five industry pros, including director Jeferson De (Brother).

An expansion of a 17-minute short directed by Ribeiro in 2010,  The Way He Looks centers on Leonardo, a blind teenager who struggles to cope with both his disability and an overprotective mother. The plot thickens when a new student Gabriel, arouses in Leonardo previously unknown feelings.

The nomination may be a boost to Brazil’s LGBT community, which has been rocked by recent cases of violent gay-bashing. Suplicy praised the film for its positive take on the topic in a statement.

The movie is universal inasmuch as it depicts the feeling harbored by a teenager who’s surprised to discover himself sexually. [This feeling] is handled smoothly, which is not very often seen when it comes to homosexuality. It focuses on an age group in which it is rather difficult to address [the topic] in a sophisticated way, without falling into a cliché.

The Way He Looks has been well-received at several international film festivals, winning  the Teddy Award for Best Feature at the Berlin Film Festival last February, in addition to  audience awards at the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival and at LGBT festivals in New York, San Francisco, and Turin.

The Way He Looks is scheduled for release in the U.S. on Nov. 7. Jon Gerrans and Marcus Hu, co-presidents of distributor Strand Release, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter:

We’ve seen how well this film connects to audiences and critics alike. The Way He Looks is definitely one of the films that we’re thrilled to be working on and hope Oscar voters respond to the film the way we have embraced it.

The Academy will disclose in January which five foreign features will compete for the Best Foreign Language Film Award. The last Brazilian film to be nominated in the category was Walter Salles’ Central Station (Central do Brasil) in 1999; since then the Academy has snubbed acclaimed films such as City of God (Cidade de Deus), Madame Satã and Neighboring Sounds (O Som ao Redor), although City of God director Fernando Meirelles did snag a Best Director nomination in 2004.

With reporting from ABr

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.

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