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Location Spotlight: How Recife Blends the Past and the Future


Story Productions on Recife’s filmmaking and colonial history that combines with its “silicon valley” future

Location Spotlight: How Recife Blends the Past and the Future

The largest city in Brazil's Northeast and once the capital of Dutch Brazil, Recife is home to stunning beaches, a flourishing creative industry and impressive colonial architecture - it even has a world heritage site (Olinda) right next door. As well as a booming industry of local production talent, Recife is also home to award-winning film directors, including Kleber Mendonça, Marcelo Gomes and Hilton Lacerda. Furthermore, with flights from Lisbon, Recife is just a seven hour hop from Europe due to its location on Brazil’s east coast.

LBB> Why should production companies and teams shoot here?

Not only does Recife have a rich cinematographic history – a number of important Brazilian films were made there during the 20th century – the wider state of Pernambuco does, too, with a proportionately high number of national and international film awards under its belt. In more recent years, Recife has developed its economy through a creative and digital cluster called the Porto Digital, also known as Brazil’s “silicon valley”. The Porto Digital was established in 2010, through partnerships that include the British Council. The initiative has regenerated a section of Recife's historic centre and is now home to around 300 companies with a focus on post-production.

LBB> What would you say are the top locations in Recife that are the biggest attributes to local production?

Recife’s mix of old and new gives it an architectural diversity that provides an array of filming options, from the historic centre’s colonial buildings that date back five centuries to the modern skyscrapers on the seafront in the neighbourhood of Boa Viagem. Recife's closest neighbour is Olinda, which is just a 20 minute drive from the geographical centre of the city. Although separate municipalities, the urban spread of both combine, making it very easy to transit between the two. Founded in the 16th century, Olinda's historic centre is packed with stunning colonial buildings – a reminder of its former status as the wealthiest town in Brazil – and is deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage site status.

LBB> And what about any natural locations and the climate of the region?

The beaches in and around Recife are the setting for a local love affair with sun, sand and sea. Tropical beaches, with coral reefs and natural pools, are where the waters from the Beberibe and Capibaribe Rivers meet the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, Recife is sometimes called the "Venice of Brazil" for its dozens of bridges which span the rivers, linking its many neighbourhoods. Mangroves, river deltas, forests are all within an easy 2-hour drive from the city, providing yet more location options for all types of shoots.

Driving inland from Recife, the green scenery gives way to the semi-arid Agreste, a well-known habitat characterized by its hilly, rocky landscape and dry weather, including the mountains of the Serra Negra. Heading further inland, the Agreste transitions into the rugged sertão (bush) – a dry, poor region where the locals are renowned for their grit.

LBB> How is the infrastructure in Recife for supporting large productions? Access to high-level cameras and kit, casting, crews, studios etc.

From production staff to hotel and security personnel: the price of most aspects of filming in Recife are cheaper than in Brazil's two main production centres – São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Some equipment can be rented locally for reasonable prices, but for larger productions, more sophisticated equipment is often brought by road from São Paulo. In short, for productions looking to keep their budgets low, without comprising on quality, Recife is a good choice when it comes to filming in Brazil.

The federal as well as Pernambuco state government offer funds that can help finance co-productions, and our doors are always open to conversations about co-productions with producers from around the world. To access grants and funding from Funcultura – a Pernambuco state funding body for culture – usually requires a partnership with a production company in Pernambuco.

LBB> And how about the local talent?

Thanks in part to Recife's history of film and TV production, the city is a hotspot for local talent, from art directors to DOPs, directors and producers. Unlike in some of Brazil's regional capitals, the city holds on to its young, creative talent, making it easy for international productions to find talented and experienced film crews, videographers, directors, producers, editors, motion graphic designers and all manner of other production personnel. The city also runs a wide range of audiovisual courses, further boosting the talent pool. 

LBB> Are there any events or ideal times to go to Recife - either as a tourist or to film?

Recife hosts a number of major events throughout the year, most famously Carnaval, which is normally held in February or March. Each event in the city's cultural calendar tends to involve its own set of traditions, from music to costumes and dancing and are a great moment to film the city at its festive best. On the flip side, events such as Carnaval fill up the city's hotels and streets and can make straightforward procedures such as getting permission to film overly time-consuming.

Carnaval – Brazil’s best-known festival – is celebrated in different ways in different cities. In Recife, the party lasts for six straight days and nights, and tends to blend almost seamlessly with the celebrations of neighbouring Olinda. Some of the most famous traditions include the march of papier-mâché giants and the Galo da Madrugada parade - which marks the beginning of Recife’s Carnaval, where over 1.5 million people come together.

Recife is also well known for its Festas Juninas (June festivals) – traditional midwinter celebrations that take place all across Brazil, celebrating rural life with country dancing and forró music. Film festivals are also held in Recife during the year, especially between September and December.

LBB> Do you have any other tourist recommendations? 

Recife welcomes millions of tourists each year and is well set up to cater to them. Its infrastructure boasts plenty of hotels and has one of the best restaurant scenes in Brazil, offering quality and good prices. In short, the city is a great location for visiting crews to spend a few days.

LBB> And of course, Story Productions is based in Recife!

Our multilingual production team has been arranging shoots all over Brazil for years, from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon and, of course, Recife. Our local network of producers and fixers in Recife has opened the doors to people and places that have made all the difference to our clients, including Yap Films for the Discovery Channel, who hired us to film in Recife for a documentary on mosquitoes.

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Story Productions, Fri, 26 Nov 2021 15:17:25 GMT