Jonathan Romney – British Film Institute, 10/28/2011
This year, Rio is big in Rio. The Fox/Blue Sky Studios animation, set in Rio de Janeiro, is everywhere in the city, its blue macaw hero selling everything from sweets to batteries, with an exhibition of the film’s artwork on display at the National Museum of Fine Arts.
But it’s not entirely a case of Hollywood selling the city back to itself; director Carlos Saldanha is himself a carioca (Rio native) and has gone out of his way to present a dream image of the city that will appeal to Brazilian as well as international tastes. In April, the film grossed $8.4 million in its opening weekend in Brazil, and I’m told by Sergio Sa Leitão, head of local film body RioFilme, that city mayor Eduardo Paes considers the film “as important for the city as the Olympics or the World Cup.”
Overall, the cheerful birds and beasts of Saldanha’s film offer a brighter, more upbeat vision of Brazil than recent, more adult Rio-set national exports such as City of God and the Elite Squad diptych. Inevitably, you find yourself going to the Festival do Rio hoping you’re going to see the successors to these, the latest art-house batata frita (hot potato to you).