Guilherme de Almeida Prado: Between Reality and Fiction

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The boundaries between reality and fiction, the feverish passion for the cinema, which translates itself into an absolute exclusivity towards his means of expression – and the nickname of the most cinephile of all Brazilian filmmakers –, the sophiscated style and mainly a film trajectory that started out in the Boca do Lixo in São Paulo, learning from practice with craftsmen like Ody Fraga and Claudio Portioli, so he could follow his own path as a very personal director, are some of the main characteristcs of Guilherme de Almeida Prado, one of the most talented film directors in Brazil. It was via all these particularities that he’s gotten the most successfulm films of his career: The Lady from the Shanghai Cinema; Scent of Gardenia; The Magic Hour and Whatever Happened to Dulce Veiga?, and also a special aura of a cult director mostly appreciated and followed by his admirers everywhere – the very same ones who await for a film of his from five, eight or ten years, not because he wishes to be like that, but mostly because of the difficulties in trying to establish a career most of the times damaged by misunderstanding and unpopularity if compared to other directors.

Born in Ribeirão Preto, a city according to him, “where there was nothing to do”, and where, during his youth he found the cinema – “going to see the movies every afternoon” – and where he also started making experiments with Super 8, Guilherme graduated in Engineering from Mackenzie University in São Paulo, the metropolis he adopted after the family sold their only house in Ribeirão. He always knew he wanted the cinema. Started out as a Production Assistant for the Brazilian Pornochanchada in the 1970s, and soon after he was shooting his first feature, the low-budget production of As Taras de Todos Nós, which was a huge popular success. Thanks to this film, he could evolve to a more personal kind of cinema, with The Flower of Desire, which already brought out the elements that would make him known and that would explode in his next movie, The Lady from the Shanghai Cinema, winner of many national and international prizes.  

He was also the only director in Brazil to have a film under production during the extinction of Embrafilme in the beginning of the 1990s – and it didn’t take long for, with his next production, The Magic Hour, helping to establish either the career of producer Sara Silveira and his longtime friend Carlos Reichenbach, who, thanks to the prestigie of this film, could start out their production company Dezenove Som & Imagem. Still, in the 1990s, Guilherme could almost direct the Ed Wood project, “but in the last minute Tim Burton came along, and the producers passed me over in the negotiations”, one of the many fun stories which are part of biography. He debuted as an actor in It’s Almost True, from his friend and fellow director Emanuel Mendes, in 2014, in the role of a typical 3rd World film director, and giving an overwhelming testimony of what he thinks about Brazil and Brazilian Cinema as a whole.

The two met in 1998, when Mendes took one of his first short film screenplays to Guilherme. They saw they shared many things in common, not only in style, in film taste, but also about the reflections on the medium they’ve chosen to work. “It was a natural choice bringing Guilherme to the It’s Almost True project”, says Sincronia producer An Nakamura. “A lot of the things through which he has passed (and still does) in relation to his aesthetic choices, not working with the Brazilian clichè, going against the formulas, of what you expect from a Brazilian director, Emanuel has in a way or another also gone through. Guilherme’s lines in the film are after all a huge relief on what means the idea of “the truth is always out there, overseas, about what Europe or the United States, the predominant regions in the world for art and culture, impose to the rest of the world.” This is an idea, btw, that only shows once again the personal, inventive and charismatic style of Guilherme de Almeida Prado.