Walter Salles’ latest film, Linha de Passe, was absolutely brilliant, and without a doubt my favorite film of the SFIFF so far. I’ve seen several of Salles’ prior films, including Motorcycle Diaries, Central Station, City of God (coproduced), and Lower City (SFIFF 2006), among others.

I missed Salles last week when he received the Founder’s Directing Award at the SFIFF, so this show was the first time I’d had a chance to meet him. With an amazing list of films, Salles has license to brag, so I was impressed at his modesty and his down-to-earth nature.

Salles is undoubtedly brilliant as well, and a master at what he does, but he was quick to downplay his own contributions and to give credit to his co-director Daniela Thomas and the actors, the majority of whom for which Linha de Passe was their first film.

He was also quick to thank UC Berkeley for rejecting his application to study there years ago – because without that rejection, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Thanks, Berkeley!

Salles both introduced the film, which played at Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive (really, no popcorn?!) and then spent a considerable amount of time chatting with the audience afterward – both in the theater and reception area. The film’s title “Linha de Passe” is a soccer (or football) term for a type of pass that apparently involves the team effort of several individual players (I’m not sure I understood the concept, but Salles graciously tried to explain it to me).

It also applies to the brotherhood captured in the film that exists among Dinho, Denis, Dario, and Reginaldo, four half-brothers being raised by their hardworking, independent mother in a Sao Paulo favela. One of those brothers is actually played by the child actor from Central Station, but I’m going to leave it up to you to figure out which one. The other three brothers were played by boys who live in high-crime, low-income areas in inner city Brazil who were taking acting lessons with an NGO, and who unbelievably had no prior acting experience.

Salles was very generous in discussing his various inspirations for the film with the audience. One of the boys from Linha de Passe, Reginaldo, is based on the heartbreaking true story of a young Brazilian boy who searched endlessly to find his father. The only clue he had was that his father was a bus driver. In hopes of attracting his father’s attention, the boy actually “borrows” an unoccupied bus from a depot, and takes the bus on a joyride around Sao Paulo for three hours before he is caught.

Salles shared that the boy, who ultimately stole at least twenty buses during his adolescence, went on to become a bus mechanic, and now spends his time repairing them. Like the boy’s transformation, Linha de Passe captures the reinvention of the four brothers in the film as well – a reinvention that occurs through experiences related to soccer, evangelism, hard work and general daily struggles, and ultimately, the brothers’ neverending quest simply to be seen.

The film was actually released in Brazil two years ago, and is out on DVD elsewhere. Its release date in the U.S. is unclear, so you’ll have to watch for it.

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