The Way He Looks movie: Gay teen love story is Brazil’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission
In mid-September 2014, The Way He Looks / Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho was selected as Brazil’s entry for the 2015 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Written and directed by 32-year-old São Paulo native Daniel Ribeiro, The Way He Looks (the Portuguese-language title literally means “Today I Want to Go Back Alone”) won two awards at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival: the International Film Critics’ FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film in the Panorama sidebar and the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender characters.
Based on Ribeiro’s 2010 short I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone / Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho, The Way He Looks tells the story of Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), a blind 15-year-old struggling to become less dependent on his overprotective mother. He decides to take part in a cultural exchange program, but his plans – and his life – are dramatically changed following the arrival of Daniel (Fábio Audi), a new student at his high school. Meanwhile, Leonardo must also cope with the jealousy of his best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim).
Besides its two Berlin wins, The Way He Looks has also taken home Audience awards at several international LGBT film festivals, including Los Angeles’ Outfest, the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and the Torino International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
‘Historic moment’ and three gay-themed Brazilian movies
“This is a historic moment for Brazil, with the current debate about diversity. It seems to be the right time for Brazil to broach this topic,” Daniel Ribeiro told the Brazilian website UOL. “And I think this has led to their choice of film to represent us [at the Oscars].”
Surely displeasing the country’s rabidly anti-gay Christian Right, Brazil’s Ministry of Culture selected The Way He Looks from a pool of 18 feature films, including two others also focusing on gay relationships:
- Hilton Lacerda’s 1970s-set Tatuagem (“Tatoo”), in which an 18-year-old soldier (Jesuita Barbosa) becomes attached to a cabaret performer (Irandhir Santos).
- Karim Aïnouz’s Praia do Futuro (“Futuro Beach”), starring Wagner Moura (Elite Squad) as a lifeguard who develops a complex relationship with the German man (Clemens Schick) he had saved from drowning.
Below: ‘The Way He Looks’ trailer.
Brazilian Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees
To date, only four (officially) Brazilian movies have been shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar:
- Anselmo Duarte’s biting critique of the Catholic Church (and religion in general), the Palme d’Or winner Keeper of Promises / The Given Word / O Pagador de Promessas (1962), starring Leonardo Villar (who turned 90 last July 24), Glória Menezes, and Norma Bengell.
- Fábio Barreto’s Italian immigration drama O Quatrilho (1995), with Brazilian television star Glória Pires.
- Bruno Barreto’s political drama Four Days in September / O Que É Isso, Companheiro? (1997), featuring Fernanda Torres and veteran U.S. actor Alan Arkin as a kidnapped American ambassador in Rio de Janeiro. (Bruno Barreto is Fábio Barreto’s brother.)
- Walter Salles’ road movie Central Station / Central do Brasil (1998), with Best Actress Oscar nominee Fernanda Montenegro, Vinícius de Oliveira, and Marília Pêra. (Fernanda Montenegro is Fernanda Torres’ mother.)
Set chiefly in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, the Marcel Camus-directed Black Orpheus / Orfeu Negro won the 1959 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The French-Brazilian coproduction, however, was officially submitted to the Academy as a French film.
‘The Way He Look’s movie: Brazilian box office and U.S. release date
According to Box Office Mojo, Daniel Ribeiro’s The Way He Looks has grossed $1 million at the Brazilian box office. The film is no. 74 on the chart, right behind Spike Jonze’s Her.
For the record: With a gross of $33.22 million, the Angelina Jolie fantasy Maleficent is thus far the top 2014 movie on the Brazilian box office chart, followed by Josh Boone’s The Fault in Our Stars, with Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, and the Darren Aronofsky-Russell Crowe collaboration Noah. (Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, Francis Lawrence’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is poised to dethrone Maleficent after it opens in Brazil on November 19.)
Mostly greeted by positive notices, The Way He Looks was released in Brazil on April 10, ’14. Via Strand Releasing, the film opens in New York City and Los Angeles on November 7, ’14.
In addition to Ghilherme Lobo, Fábio Audi, and Tess Amorim, The Way He Looks also features Selma Egrei, Isabela Guasco, Victor Filgueiras, Júlio Machado, Lúcia Romano, and Eucir de Souza.
Fábio Audi and Ghilherme Lobo in The Way He Looks movie image: Vitrine Filmes.