Brazilian filmmakers have been leaving the Cannes Film Festival empty-handed since 2008, when Sandra Corveloni won Best Actress for Walter Salles’ Linha de Passe, and the 18-minute short Muro received the Regard Neuf award in the parallel section Directors’ Fortnight.
The long drought came to an end at the 2016 festival. On Saturday, Eryk Rocha won the L’oeil d’or award for Best Documentary for Cinema Novo, an essay on the Brazilian film movement that made global waves in the 1960s.
Appropriately enough, Eryk Rocha is the son of the late Glauber Rocha, who was not only one of the leading forces behind the Cinema Novo movement but is to this day the Brazilian filmmaker with the best track record at Cannes; he won the FIPRESCI Prize for Entranced Earth (Terra em Transe) in 1967, Best Director for Antonio das Mortes (O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro) in 1969, and Best Short Film for Di Cavalcanti in 1977.
Brazil notched another win as the festival came to a close today, with The Girl Who Danced with the Devil (A Moça que Dançou com o Diabo) receiving the Honorable Mention in the Short Films competition — an achievement made more significant by the fact that director João Paulo Miranda shot the 14-minute feature on a minuscule R$ 500 ($141) budget.
On the downside, Aquarius underperformed. The sophomore film by Kleber Mendonça Filho, director of the highly regarded Neighboring Sounds, had been gathering buzz since very early in the year, when Cahiers du Cinema listed it among the most eagerly awaited films of 2016. It had its global debut at Cannes on May 17 to very positive reviews (here’s one and another), and Brazilian media speculated it might walk away with the Palme D’or, or at least Best Director or Best Actress (Sônia Braga).
But Aquarius fizzled in the awards department. Still, its success in the arthouse circuit is all but guaranteed, partly because of the free publicity it gained thanks to its cast and creative team protesting against Brazil’s interim government on the red carpet.