Profile: Kleber Mendonça Filho

By June 15, 2018

Kleber Mendonça Filho is most well known for being a film director, however, he has also written screenplays, been a critic and a producer. His films have won over 120 awards around the world and he remains a prominent feature in Brazil’s arts scene.

Mendonça Filho was born in Recife, Pernambuco in Brazil, 1968. Having studied journalism at the University of Pernambuco, his first career move began by writing for newspapers such as Jornal do Commercio and Folha de São Paulo as well as being a film critic.

Throughout the 1990s, Mendonça Filho began to experiment with different filming techniques and genres such as fiction and documentary, after which he began to practice with 35mm filming. As Filho began to develop his craft, his first directorial endeavours began with a series of short films such as Eletrodoméstica (2005) which is a short film about a family who posses a home full of electronics and anticipate the arrival of a 29’’ TV set, and ‘mockumentary’ Recife Frio (2009) which looks at urban development and climate change in Recife.

It was in 2013 when the director finally produced a feature length drama, O Som ao Redor (Neighbouring Sounds), which focused on the lives of Brazilians living in an apartment block, and the security that worked around the streets there. The drama, which brought into focus elements of crime, history, noise and violence went on to win a number of awards both nationally and internationally, and Filho’s name rose into the directive sphere.

Since then, he has worked on a number of projects in the film industry, with his latest creation being the full-length film Aquarius, which was released in 2016. The film follows the life of Clara, a 65 year old woman who is fighting against a planned new build, and wants to protect the memory of her home. The touching film has received positive acclaim for it’s messages into family relationships and memory.  In an interview at Sydney Film Festival, Mendonça Filho spoke about his film Aquarius, which focuses on a widow who lives by the sea.

‘‘The heart of the film is memories.‘‘ he said.  ‘‘The film itself is very much about the past, the present and the future, and there are many elements throughout the film that work as some sort of time device, or time machine which take us backwards and forwards.’’

‘’It’s really about a lot of personal memories from my own family, there’s a lot of my mother in the main character and it just became a very emotional piece. I hope the audience understands the different levels of personal experiences.’’

As well as having a personal significance for Mendonça Filho, the premier of Aquarius was also caused controversy and saw some shun the director. According to reports of the event, the film was set to make its world premiere at Cannes when ex-President Dilma Rousseff was impeached, days earlier. Whilst the director was on the red carpet with his cast, the whole group held signs that read ‘Brazil is not a democracy.’

As a backlash, the new government made sure that the film was not nominated for the Foreign Language Oscars Award. However, it was eventually released for viewing in Brazil on the same day that Rousseff was officially dismissed from her post as President.

The director continues to write, produce and direct spectacular and captivating Portuguese-language films which captivate the feelings of Brazilian living. His next film, Nighthawk, is currently in post-production and is going to feature a story about a film maker who travels to the interior of Brazil and uncovers some dangerous secrets from a village he finds himself in.