Drawing: Fernando Meirelles

Autographed drawing of director Fernando Meirelles

Brazilian film director Fernando Meirelles is not only an excellent filmmaker he’s an even better human being. I have had the privilege of meeting him in London on a few occasions and they have always been memorable. The last time was outside the Corinthia Hotel on the northern bank of the river Thames on the first Sunday in February this year as he prepared to go to the BAFTA Awards. His latest film THE TWO POPES with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce playing Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis respectively was nominated for Best British Film.

Fernando became interested in filmmaking while studying architecture at the University of São Paulo. “An architect is someone who really doesn’t know how to build a building. They need engineers, just as directors need writers and actors. What both architects and directors do is bring a vision”, he has said. He followed the film path and with considerable success winning over 65 awards.

After initially working in television, he made his first feature MENINO MALUQUINHO 2:A ADVENTURA in 1998. Based on Paulo Lin’s best-seller CIDADE DE DEUS, his 2003 film adaptation, CITY OF GOD went on to huge success. It was a low budget production, with an intimidating story of the growth of organised crime in a Rio de Janeiro superb, involving over 350 characters, using mostly inexperienced actors.

Fernando was nominated for a Best Director Oscar and his direction was also recognised at the Cannes Film Festival. His next feature, John Ie Carre’s thriller THE CONSTANT GARDENER (2005) was nominated for four Academy Awards, ten BAFTAS, including Best Film and Director and three Golden Globes. BLINDESS, the story of a city ravaged by an epidemic of instant white blindness was nominated for the Palm d’Or in 2008.

Away from cinema and TV, Fernando has directed an opera, Bizet’s PEARL FISHERS and was one of the directors of the 2016 Olympics opening ceremony in Rio. He is also a farmer. He plants sugar cane, avocado, coffee and mahogany, developing ways to produce organically on a large scale. His future plans involve working on projects related to the environmental crisis and climate emergency. But he is quoted as saying, “I will never stop making a film. I can’t help myself.”

It was great to catch up with him for a brief chat at the Corinthia, where he signed for me on 2 February, before heading to the BAFTA ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall.


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