With the world premiere of Aquarius at the upcoming 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, director Kleber Mendonça Filho joins a select group of Brazilian filmmakers that have participated in the official competition at the world’s preeminent film festival.
Lima Barreto was the first Brazilian director to ever participate at Cannes with the film O Cangaceiro / The Bandit, which went to win the Award for Best Adventure Film at the 1953 festival. Barreto would return to the competition with the 1961 drama The First Mass / A Primeira Missa.
During the 1950s three productions directed by non-Brazilians would represent the South American country at the French Riviera: Samba Fantastico by Jean Manzon and René Persin in 1955, Sob o Céu da Bahia by Ernesto Remani in 1956, and Black Orpheus / Orfeu Negro by Marcel Camus in 1959, which went to win the coveted Palme d’Or. A year later, Roberto Farias would make his debut in the official competition of the festival with Cidade Ameaçada.
The first and only Brazilian filmmaker to receive the Palme d’Or was Anselmo Duarte (pictured above left receiving the award) with O Pagador de Promessas / The Given Word in 1962. Carrying a political and social punch, it’s a drama about biases and misunderstanding with a simple premise— a peasant farmer makes a vow to carry a cross into the local church if his injured donkey is cured. The film also went to get an Academy Award nomination.
The 1960s saw two other Brazilian films participated in the French competition: Men and Women / Noite Vazia by Walter Hugo Khouri in 1965, and The Hour and Turn of Augusto Matraga / A Hora e a Vez de Augusto Matraga by Roberto Santos in 1966.
Cannes celebrated the Brazil’s Cinema Novo with eight Brazilian films in competition in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Brazilian new wave figures Nelson Pereira dos Santos and Carlos Diegues have participated the most times at Cannes with three competition films each.
Pereira dos Santos’ films that have competed for the Palme d’Or include Barren Lives / Vidas Secas in 1964, The Alienist / Azyllo Muito Louco in 1970, and The Amulet of Ogum / O Amuleto de Ogum in 1975, while Carlos Diegues films included Bye Bye Brazil in 1980, Quilombo in 1984, and Subway to the Stars / Um Trem para as Estrelas in 1987.
Influential director Glauber Rocha has also participated in Cannes with two films, Black God, White Devil / Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) and Antonio das Mortes / O Dragão da Maldade Contra o Santo Guerreiro, which won the filmmaker Best Director, he is the only Brazilian filmmaker to receive the honor.
The 1980’s continued to celebrate figures of the Brazilian new wave with Arnaldo Jabor’s Love Me Forever or Never / Eu Sei que Vou Te Amar in 1986, for which Fernanda Torres was presented with the Best Actress Award, and Ruy Guerra’s Kuarup in 1989.
Argentinean-born Brazilian director Héctor Babenco has participated in the main competition in three different years: the first time in 1985 with Kiss of the Spider Woman (which earned the Best Actor Award for William Hurt), in 1998 with Corazón iluminado, and more recently in 2003 with Carandiru.
While the 1990’s seemed to witness a disappearance of Brazilian cinema it came back in full force at the turn of the century. After Babenco’s Carandiru in 2003, 2008 saw the unprecedented participation of three Brazilian filmmakers in the official competition: Fernando Meirelles with Blindness, and Walter Salles (pictured right) and Daniela Thomas with Linha de Passe, which was presented with the Best Actress Award for Sandra Corveloni. Salles returned at the main competition in 2012 with the international co-production On the Road based on the famed novel by Jack Kerouac.