Brazilian filmmaker Roberto Farias died today at the age of 86 of prostate cancer, which he had been battling for over five years. With a professional career spanning over sixty years, he had a big influence in Brazilian cinema as a director, producer, screenwriter, and distributor.
Born on March 27, 1932 in New Fribourg, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, he started his film career in the early 1950s as an assistant director for Watson Macedo, who was making films for the Atlântida studios. Farias made his first film in 1957, the musical comedy Rico ri à toa, followed by No mundo da lua (1958), and Um candango na Belacap (1960).
His 1960 crime film Cidade Ameaçada—based on true events—follows the story of a São Paulo criminal known as "Passarinho." The film participated in the official competition for the Palm d'Or at the 13th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.
Critical acclaim came with this 1962 film O assalto ao trem pagador / Assault on the Pay Train, which became one of the most influential Brazilian films of all time. Based on true events and starring Eliezer Gomes, Reginaldo Faria—the filmmaker's brother, Jorge Dória, and Grande Otelo, the film follows a gang that successfully robs a Brazilian payroll train but have difficulty keeping their newfound wealth a secret.
In 1965, Farias created Difilm, an independent film distribution company, along with Cinema Novo filmmakers Luiz Carlos Barreto and Glauber Rocha, and the production company R. F. Farias. With his production company, Farias directed Brazilian superstar singer Roberto Carlos in the blockbuster trilogy Roberto Carlos e o diamante cor de rosa (1968), Roberto Carlos em Ritmo de Aventura (1968) and Roberto Carlos a 300 quilômetros por hora (1971).
In 1982 Farias directed Pra frente Brasil, one of the first films to openly portray the repression of the Brazilian military dictatorship. The film won the top award at the Gramado Festival and participated in the official competition at the 33rd edition of the Berlinale. In a censorship attempt, the film was seized by a Brazilian diplomat on its way to an international festivals, and after a long battle the film was able to screen in Brazil.
Between 1974 and 1979, Farias was the director of Embrafilme—Brazil's national agency for film production and distribution—and became the first filmmaker to oversee this government agency. He was also director of the Brazilian Academy of Cinema, and founder of Canal Brasil. His last film as a director was the 1987 Os trapalhões e o auto da Compadecida.