In a vibrant move reinforcing its commitment to Brazilian cinema, Paris-based MPM Premium has announced its acquisition of “Betânia,” prior to its Berlinale bow. The film will world premiere in the diverse Panorama strand of the festival.
The announcement marks another stride in MPM Premium’s journey of accompanying new and established Brazilian directors, having previously supported works from Sundance-selected Iuli Gerbase’s “The Pink Cloud” to Berlinale hits like Flavia Neves’ “Fogaréu” and renowned Karim Aïnouz recent experimental docs (“Nardjes A.” “Mariner of the Mountains.”)
“Set in a magical place – the sand dunes of Lençois in Northern Brazil – Betânia is a heartfelt portrait of a community observing the end of the world as they know it,” Quentin Worthington, head of sales and acquisitions at MPM Premium, told Variety.
“Far from playing a sad tone, we got euphoric with self-affirmed characters larger than life, a catchy music playing to our ears and a visually stunning cinematography. The beauty of this diverse and multicultural Brazilian folklore coupled to the sense of urgency conveyed by the film’s environmental message, convinced us to acquire the film,” he added.
The aforementioned Betânia is a 65-year-old matriarch forced to return to her roots after the death of her husband. The narrative delves into her turbulent journey as she and her family navigate the challenges and changes of their traditional life against the encroaching desertification near the Amazon.
The director, Marcelo Botta, has found success with his television work (“Foca News,” “Auto Posto”) honing skills in both documentary and narrative.
This feature was a section fave and triple winner at Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte, in 2022. The project was born from Botta’s documentary background, inspired by the real life story of community leader Maria do Celso. There are said to be hundreds of villages like that of Betânia’s across the vast area of dunes that make up the National Park of Lençóis Maranhenses. It’s a unique place, and the capturing of its essence was pursued through all cast members being from the state of Maranhão.
Salvatore Filmes took on the financing of the film – tough in Brazil as finance has proved thin on the ground over the last few years. Its recognition at one of the world’s major festivals appears to have justified the gamble.