Report by Candice R. Reisser (PROTECT THE NATION)
The Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival promotes itself as the premiere short film festival in Latin America, and it certainly does not disappoint. Thanks to a passionate team of curators led by director Zita Carvalhosa and extensive funding by sponsors such as Brazilian energy behemoth Petrobras, the festival enjoys a very respectful status as a sophisticated and colorful showcase of the latest trends in filmmaking around the world.
The festival was created in 1990 by the Associação Cultural Kinoforum, Brazil’s leading organization dedicated to the promotion and development of the national cinema. Two decades on, the SPISFF has evolved into an influential meeting place which aptly reflects Kinoforum’s philosophy of culture being “the most democratic human tool capable of creating other possible worlds.” 2011 was one of Kinoforum’s biggest events to date. The festival featured an extremely diverse program of 470 short films divided into over two dozen sections including international shorts, a Latin American showcase, four Brazilian programs, four explorations of feminine “plurality”, fashion clips, youth movies, highlights from countries such as Germany and China and much more. The international section featured a host of award-winning films from festivals such as Sundance, Rotterdam, and Clermont‐Ferrand.There were also a slew of side panels, exhibitions and a video library available to the public. One friendly aspect of the SPISFF was that all of these events were free, which attracts a large general audience of curious, enthusiastic people of all ages. As far as awards are concerned, the festival is adamant about creating a non‐competitive atmosphere to enjoy the films (well, the non‐Brazilian ones at least!). Filmmakers should be aware that the international program offers no special recognition apart from a general audience award. This arguably hurts the festival’s international status due to the lack of cash prizes or the popularity of being an Academy Award qualifier. Another thing filmmakers should know is that though some of the screenings do take place in English, for the most part the program is held in Portuguese. Translators are provided for filmmaker introductions and the audiences seem to take a particular delight in the films English is not widely spoken though, so be prepared for shy smiles of appreciation after your screening in lieu of feedback. One 2 particular pleasure for filmmakers is inclusion of some excellent film venues. The fest’s home base is the Cinemateca Brasiliera, Brazil’s national film center housed in a beautiful industrial space with two cinemas, a bar/restaurant, videotheque and garden. Other venues include the arty Espaco Unibanco and the Museum of Image and Sound.
One of the nicest things about the SPISFF is its amazing hospitality and hearty, down‐to‐earth attitude. This is an extremely social festival, easily the friendliest one I have ever been to. What a sweet surprise to be greeted by showers of congratulatory hugs from filmmakers from Mexico, Brazil and Argentina after screening my little shortie. Staff members are no different. They will gladly drag you off of the dance floor at 1AM to go to a club on the infamous Rua Augusta street or to an impromptu house party in the middle of nowhere. There are parties, dinners and happy hours every day, with plenty of free alcohol and great music if that’s what you are into. Which leads us to one big, undeniable draw of this festival, of course, the travel aspect? Who could argue against the allure of a sponsored stay in one of the most exciting countries in the world? And it is exciting. Brazil strives onward towards status as a global superpower fueled by an explosion of ambition and creativity, from the armies of businessmen striding down Avenida Paulista to the funky hipsters of Vila Madalena. And in case you were wondering, the city’s reputation for danger is hugely exaggerated. Just dress warmly and bring along a Portuguese-speaking friend who can help you call a taxi at the end of the night and you’ll be more than fine.