Oscar Directors: Meirelles, Fernando–Nominated for Brazilian Film, City of God

Fernando (Ferreira) Meirelles was born November 9, 1955 in Brazil.

He is still best known for the critically acclaimed City of God, released in 2002 in Brazil and in 2003 in the U.S. by Miramax, for which he was nominated for the Best Director Oscar.

His next film, the 2005 The Constant Gardener, earned the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Rachel Weisz.

He also directed the 2008 big-screen adaptation of José Saramago‘s novel Blindness, and the 2011 film 360.  Unfortunately. both films were artistic and commercial failures, signaling a severe decline in what was a promising international career.

Meirelles’ father, José de Souza Meirelles, is a gastroenterologist who travelled with the family to Asia and North America. His mother, Sônia Junqueira Ferreira Meirelles, worked in landscape architecture and interior design.

Fernando grew up in Alto dos Pinheiros, district of the West Zone of São Paulo, spending his vacations on relatives’ farms.  His father directed some 8 mm films at his university–western and thriller parodies–casting his relatives and friends as actors.

At 11, Fernando spent a year in California, where he came under the influence of the hippie movement. At 13, with a borrowed Super 8 camera, Meirelles began making films inspired by Norman McLaren‘s animations.

In the 1980s, he studied at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of São Paulo. His graduation work was a film, whose equipment he bought in Japan.

While studying architecture, Meirelles became involved in experimental film-making. After some years in independent TV, he became an advertisement director. He is still one of the partners of O2 Filmes, the biggest Brazilian ad firm, which produced his City of God, Domésticas (Maids) and Viva Voz.

Along with friends, Meirelles began his career with experimental films, forming an independent company Olhar Eletrônico. In 1982 the company aired TV programs on current affairs, and the children series Castelo Rá-Tim-Bum (Ra-Tim-Bum Castle).

In 1990, Meirelles and friends closed down Olhar Eletrônico, opening an advertising business, O2 Films.

In 1997, upon reading the book Paulo Lins‘s City of God, Meireilles decided to adapt it to the big screen. It was cast with real inhabitants of slums,  but the shoot was done with a professional crew.

The film, which became an international success, garnered Meirelles a Best Director Oscar nomination.

Moving to Hollywood, following the path of other foreign directors, he made The Constant Gardener, which received critical acclaim, and several Oscar nominations, including the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Rachel Weisz.

Meirelles chose a soundtrack based on African music, and shot most of the film in Kenya.

In 2007, he filmed Blindness, an ambitious adaptation of Nobel-prize winner José Saramago‘s book, Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira. The film, which was released in 2008, served as opening night of the Cannes Film Fest.

Most recently, Mereilles was one of the creative directors of the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.