The sprawling sand dunes of the Brazilian Lençóis Maranhensesshine on the trailer for Marcelo Botta’s feature debut “Betânia,” set to have its world premiere at the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival. Paris-based MPM Premium, known for supporting burgeoning Brazilian talent, is handling sales on the title.
Comprising a majority of first-time actors and shot amongst the scenic dunes in the northeast of Brazil, “Betânia” tells the story of its titular character, a 65-year-old staunch matriarch forced to move out of her agrarian village after the premature death of her husband. Through exploring generational conflicts within Betânia’s family and the clash between tradition and modernity, director Botta creates a nuanced drama prodding at themes of over-tourism, sustainability, queerness and identity.
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“’Betânia’ is a love letter to Brazil’s ancestral music, to festive traditions, and to communities from the sandy dunes of Lençois National Park that resist the deforestation and the pollution of the Amazon river,” Quentin Worthington, head of sales and acquisitions at MPM Premium, told Variety.
“The use of vivid colors, aerial shots with drones and an upbeat musical score invite us on an unforgettable journey where we ultimately feel part of this very precious and dear community,” Worthington concluded.
“Betânia” is inspired by the story of real-life community leader Maria do Celso, who fought for decades to bring energy to her isolated village nested in the dunes and who Botta met while shooting a documentary project back in 2018. The film went on to take part in the Primer Corte pix-in-post competition at 2022’s Ventana Sur 2022, where it won three post-production prizes.
Before working on his feature debut, Botta directed documentary and fiction series for Paramount+, MTV and Fox, having filmed in more than 20 countries.
There are over 60 musical moments in the film, with the soundtrack going from remixed versions of popular American hits to traditional Brazilian music such as Tambor de Crioula and Bumba Meu Boi. Botta not only personally curated all tracks featured in the film, but also produced original songs for “Betânia,” emphasising music as an element that holds a “central place in his narratives.”
“Betânia” was shot in 2022 and financed by Salvatore Films, in association with Ventre Studio, which stepped in at a time of scarce funding resources for Brazilian cinema coinciding with the Bolsonaro regime.
MPM Premium boarded the project late in 2023, with the film entering a growing roster of new Brazilian talent at the company, including Flávia Neves’s Berlinale-selected “Fogaréu” and Iuli Gerbase’s Sundance breakout, “The Pink Cloud.”
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