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“Filmmaking is the art of the encounter”

Industry Report: Documentary

Matheus Mello • Producer

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The Brazilian Emerging Producer, now based in Spain, talks about producing documentary films and finding audiences for his productions

Matheus Mello  • Producer

An interview with Matheus Mello, a Brazilian producer now based in Spain selected for the 2023 Emerging Producers programme. Read his EP profile here.

Why do you produce documentaries? Do you see documentary cinema as an instrument of social and political change?
Matheus Mello: I strongly believe that there is a fine line between fiction and documentary films that has been fading over the years. There is a rise in hybrid forms and creative documentaries which introduce a strong authorial perspective. They unveil reality through the lenses of the filmmaker. That is why I love to produce documentary films. Because there is an opportunity to take on the current issues and the possibility to empathize with the characters or the subject. I honestly think that filmmaking is the art of the encounter, where we can bring close together different realities and gazes. Also, documentary filmmaking gives you the possibility to start with a given idea and end up surprising yourself; in that sense, reality is the queen.

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Historically, documentaries were considered educational, or informative works; but more and more they are works of art as they can be entertaining and thus reach a larger audience. I think that good examples of this are: Elena (2012) by Petra Costa (the biggest box office for a documentary in Brazilian cinemas), Silence of Others [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Almudena Carracedo, Esther …
film profile
]
(2018) by Almudena Carracedo & Robert Bahar, and The Mole Agent [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Maite Alberdi
film profile
]
(2020) by Maite Alberti.

Where do you find audiences for your films?
Every film and every documentary film is a world in itself. So for every new project I have, I seek ways to connect to its potential audience. There are more and more tools to do so. Trying to find the best outlets, which is a part of the job of the producer and also the sales and marketing professionals. It may help bring to the table the relevant conversations we are trying to trigger to make our audiences, local or global, aware of its issues. For that, I have been using more and more the Audience Design tools put together by the Torino Film Lab initiative. They help identify our potential audience since development, and this work is being done throughout the process of filmmaking until its distribution. Also, recent studies show that there is a growing market for this type of films, where their consumption is on the rise and should become a multimillion-dollar industry by 2029.

What films have you seen recently and would recommend watching?
I have recently seen Milisuthando (2023) by Milisuthando Bongela, produced by Marion Isaacs, a colleague producer that participated with me in another workshop given by Realness Institute in partnership with EAVE, Atlas Marrakesh, and Rotterdam IFFR. Marion showed us her film at a private screening in Rotterdam, after premiering it in Sundance and I was mesmerized by its quality and honest approach to the subject. It is a coming-of-age personal essay on love and what it means to become human in the context of race. It explores the memories and experiences of Milisuthando Bongela, who grew up in apartheid without knowing it was happening until it was over. Another documentary that has influenced me a lot was The Mole Agent (2020) by Maite Alberti, for its emotional take on strong real characters and singular use of the genre cinema, in this case, noir film, to create a narrative creative documentary.

What projects do you have underway (including fiction films and other projects)?
I have been developing The Ship and the Sea from Lara Sousa & Everlane Moraes, a creative documentary about "what it means to be black in the diaspora and in the contemporary Mozambique, Africa". It is a project that I have been creatively working on with the creators since we finished film school in Cuba. I have also taken part in the development of various projects in Spain as Executive Producer to take them into packaging, financing and production. Nevertheless, I am looking for stories from underrepresented communities, and also for those where I can be a bridge between Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

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EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.

Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2024 edition is 31 March 2023.

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