Brazilian Government Steps Up Pressure on Director Kleber Mendonça Filho to Pay Back Grant Funds

Director Kleber Mendonça Filho

Director Kleber Mendonça Filho

The Brazilian government declared yesterday that filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho has a 30-day period to return 2.2 million reais, the equivalent of $507,670 USD, funds that were offered for the production of his acclaimed debut feature, Neighboring Sounds / O Som ao Redor. Officials claim the monies must be repaid since the film's final budget exceeded the maximum cap for films considered under the federal grantmaking rules.

 The Audiovisual Secretariat published a decree yesterday in the nation’s Federal Official Gazette that announced the outcome of the government decision. Mendonça Filho has one month to send proof of the return of funds to Brazil’s Fundo Nacional de Cultura (National Cultural Fund). The decree also demands that Mendonça Filho return resources received to carry out eleven other audiovisual projects within ten days. This official move comes days after director Mendonça Filho was denied an appeal.

As has been widely reported in Brazilian press, the Ministry of Culture claims that the film irregularly won a federal edict for the sponsorship of low-budget films in 2009. The maximum budget of films accepted for consideration was to be R$ 1.3 million ($356,000 approximately), but Brazil’s National Cinema Agency (ANCINE) reports that Mendonça Filho presented an initial budget of R$ 1,494,991 (about $410,000)—already 15% above the stipulated maximum. After winning the competition, the budget ostensibly rose higher still to R$ 1,949,690. Accounting for inflation, the figure Mendonça Filho owes is R$ 2,242,643.30.

Winner of the Cinema Tropical Award for best Latin American film in 2013, Neighboring Sounds has won both national and international awards, and was considered a “revelatory debut feature” by the New York Times. Mendonça Filho’s newest film, Bacurau, is set to premiere in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, which takes place later this month. 

The filmmaker commented on the government’s pending decision this past April, stating to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that he “is not the first or the last artist to be attacked by those in power. It's not news.”