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News
'City of God' director ready for Oscar party


Photo
PHOTO COURTESY OF MIRAMAX
Lil' Ze begins his life of crime in the Brazilian epic "City of God," which has garnered four Oscar nominations and been re-released in Tucson. Writer and director Fernando Meirelles couldn't be happier.
By Lauren Hillery Staff Writer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 26, 2004
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With the Oscars only three days away, the relatively unknown Brazilian director who made "City of God," Fernando Meirelles, has no Versace-like designer to sponsor him.

Meirelles admits he is unprepared thus far.

"I'm going to have to get (a tuxedo). I don't have one yet," Meirelles said.

But with "City of God's" four nominations: cinematography, film editing, writing (adapted screen play) and directing, it's essential he get his act together.

While "City of God" has blown away audiences across the globe, it's Meirelles' relatively limited film training that's made the film's success so surprising.

"I didn't study film. I'm an architect and I started doing experimental video in school, architecture school. And then I moved to independent production for television," Meirelles said.

But Meirelles must have done something right, considering that two years after its original release, "City of God" is being re-released across the globe to help the box office numbers- $6 million in the United States - reach the critical success level.

It would have been difficult to predict this film's success, especially for Meirelles, because his intention was simply to educate a Brazilian audience about the subculture slum life in Brazil.

"I wanted to show how life was in the other part of Brazil. Because Brazil is like two countries. There is an official Brazil, mostly the middle-class Brazil. And there is this other Brazil. And we barely know what happens inside," he said. "We hear about crimes and we see in the newspaper boys being shot and being killed every day. And we never know where this comes from. This explains, in a certain way, how we let this situation come to the point that we see today."

After reading Paulo Lins' book "Ciudad de Dios," Meirelles bought the rights to make a film that shows what's really happening in his country from an inside point of view.

"I wanted to do the film with the same point of view. Try to tell the story from the inside point of view. That's why I worked with no professional actors, but boys from those neighborhoods.

And I shot the film in real locations to get the same feeling that I got from the book," Meirelles said.

The film follows the life a young aspiring Brazilian photographer during the1970s as he works his way into mainstream media success by playing off both sides of a vicious gang war.

With his specific audience in mind, Meirelles said he would never have expected the film's monumental success.

However, he is perhaps most shocked by the film's record-breaking success in Brazil. He expects the film to sell 4 million tickets in Brazil after its re-release.

It's not just the widespread success of the film that's amazing; it's his directorial nomination that is most phenomenal, considering the company Meirelles is in.

The other nominated directors are Hollywood heavyweights Peter Jackson ("The Return of the King"), Clint Eastwood ("Mystic River") and Peter Weir ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World."

But the calm Meirelles is not worrying himself with pressure and nerves; he's more excited that he'll be attending the Oscars and the after party with his closest friends, also nominated for the film.

"This is a good thing. Me, Cesar (Charlone, cinematographer), Braulio (Mantovani, writer) and Daniel (Rezende, editor). We've been working together for 10 years in the same company, in the same place every day. They're all going to be there, of course, so we're going to have a private party I'm sure," Meirelles said.

While Meirelles will be finished with the mayhem of the Oscars after this weekend, the industry is still keeping him busy. Meirelles is working on a film called "The Constant Gardener," a British independent film, backed by Focus Features.

Ralph Fiennes plays a British diplomat who goes to Kenya to investigate a report about the pharmaceutical industry making money in underdeveloped Africa.

"It's kind of a political thriller, but also a love story," Meirelles said.

Following that, he's working on a sequel to "Tolerance," a story about globalization involving five different stories, in six different countries, in seven languages.

"That I'm going to be shooting at the end of this year hopefully," Meirelles said.

He'll be going back to Brazil to shoot that film, but if all goes well, we might see him back in the states for a future Academy Awards.



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