Ventana Sur’s coveted Paradiso WIP Award, made up of a $10,000 cash prize, went to Brazil’s “The Cuban Doctor.” Its director, Bernard Lessa, reflected on the significance of the award: “It’s a very important initiative and a partner in the cause of Brazilian cinema,” he said, as he expressed his joy at receiving the accolade.
Lessa’s story turns on Akin, a Cuban doctor working in Brazil during former President Jair Bolsonaro’s controversial tenure, who faces political headwinds while he’s simply trying to do his job with the respect and kindness his patients deserve.
“In January of 2019, when Bolsonaro started his presidency I was filming ‘The Night’s Substance,’ my last film. It was made with a very low budget and the sensation left after we ended the production was that we were doing what we were supposed to do, as well as we were not sure if or when we would be able to film again. “
“‘The Cuban Doctor’ began to be written at that moment and reflects that feeling of a fear of not being able to film again. In that sense, cinema for me is the same as practicing medicine was for Akin,” he mused.
Although the Paulo Gustavo Law is injecting some R$3 billion into culture ($612 million), 70% for the audiovisual sector, split between Brazil’s states and cities, , Lessa is still wary.
“In Brazil we live each day at a time. We are still very vigilant because although we have Lula in the presidency, we still have a very conservative Senate and Congress and that do not really care about culture. So, there’s still a lot of battles to be fought, but yes, I feel kind of optimistic right now.”
“The Cuban Doctor” is now in post, in its final editing phase, said Lessa.