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Director Emanuel Mendes First Short Film Now on Box Brazil

by Milena Sardoz

After some years stored in the Sincronia Filmes archives, the production company decided to rescue the first two short films made by the director and founder of the company, Emanuel Mendes: Assis & Aletéia (2002) and Amarar (2008), which will undergo a new remastering process and might be back on screens in a little while. Made in film, the first one in 16mm and the second in 35mm, in a totally independent way, the films were produced way before Mendes founded Sincronia – and produced by other production companies with which the director had been associated with at the time. The material was archived on Betacam tapes and, after some conversations inside Sincronia, both Mendes and partner and producer Janaina Zambotti resolved to open the boxes, not only to verify the state of the whole thing, but also because of the interest of the television streaming channel Box Brazil Play and its subsidiaries on the films.  

“We hadn’t seen the material in such a long time, in the case of Assis, for more than twenty years”, states Janaina, “but, of course, there was an interest and curiosity from us in knowing what was the state of it, if it was possible to rescue it, so, if not exactly to restore them (which is more expensive and way more complicated), at least doing a remastering – something that would depend on evaluating the material, in reality a telecine made during the time when the films were being on post-production”, she says. ” We were truly surprised to see that the images and sound were intact, thus allowing us to even work on them, reedit them – even finding some left over scenes and non-used footage that we could insert”. With this, under the command of senior editor Alberto Ismael, the faithful Betão, and the supervision both from Janaina and director Emanuel Mendes, the two shorts could finally leave an existential limbo to which they were exiled to a new life, this time in the digital universe, and towards the streaming TV and video on demand markets.  

Shot on locations in São Paulo, Brazil, and in the small town of Pouso Alegre, in the state of Minas Gerais (which lended the train station and the locomotive which are a set in the short), Assis & Aletéia is a surreal tale of love inspired by two passions of Mendes, the Spanish director Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) and the painter Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), in particular the most famous work of the duo, Un Chien Andalou (1929), a landmark in surrealism in the movies, and talks about a young man (the actor Fernando Seth, who unfortunately did not go on with his career) who meets by chance a girl (whose face we never see, and played by Gabriela Pinheiro) on a train wagon, and gets truly obsessed by her navel. Written by Mendes and his cousin, Christiano Lima, the film provoked all kinds of reactions in film festivals – since its first screening at the Gramado Latin Film Festival in 2002 (a courtesy of filmmaker Carlos Reichenbach, who loved the short) up to boos and shy applause and/or awkward reactions after the end with so many different audiences. Until today it remains one of the most enigmatic short films of modern Brazilian cinema, working with one obsession from the cinema of Buñuel – the repetition of scenes, situations and ideas -, only to see it all struck by the final twist, that changes the entire film perception.     

“What is going on there is not the action based on dialogues, but the feelings and sensations of the characters”, says Mariana Tavares, from Rede Minas TV, who interviewed the director for the 2008 edition of the Belo Horizonte International Short Film Festival. “Both films are not that black and white, you have to set the puzzles in your head. It´s up to the viewer to form his or her own story interpretation. This way, the films respect the public´s intelligence”, continues Mariana. This obviously does not mean a secret to success or an easier embrace by the audience. “People have forgotten how to think – they´re too much tied to what they see on TV, on advertising, the ready-made formulas, they want to leave the theater having understood everything, knowing exactly who was the hero and who was the villain. If they are challenged into thinking a little bit more, if they have to make an effort to understand something, or even deal with ambiguity (which is something they are mostly incapable of), the immediate reaction is to reject what they´ve just seen”.

Challenging and fascinating, Assis & Aletéia is back on the screens, and joins the third work by director Emanuel Mendes, the irreverent mockumentary It’s Almost True (2014), on the television. To watch them, it’s just tuning in on Box Brazil Play and its subsidiaries.

Watch below the rerelease trailer the folks at Sincronia edited for the film.

Milena Sardoz is in advertising and journalism, and is a regular contributor to this website. 


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