The father and son team of Fernando and Quico Meirelles film an imaginary Brazil in Misty Peak

They’re directing Misty Peak, a Brazilian production on HBO which takes place in a parallel reality in which marijuana has been legalized in Brazil; the first season of 10 episodes will premiere in 2019

Pedro Rocha, O Estado de São Paulo

December 11, 2018 | 3:00 am

A few days ago, the crew for Pico da Neblina (Misty Peak), a new Brazilian production for HBO which will premiere next year, was filming in the neighborhood of Vila Madalena in São Paulo. In one of the scenes, police violently attack the protagonist Biriba (Luis Navarro). The series, an O2 production under the overall direction of the father and son team of Fernando and Quico Meirelles, takes place in a parallel reality in which marijuana has been legalized in Brazil. This issue, however, according to the directors, is an allegory to talk about what’s happening in this country. “It’s the contemporary world, but in a parallel reality,” Quico Meirelles told Estado on the final day of filming.

Luis Navarro is the ex-drug trafficker Biriba in Misty Peak Photo: Alile Dara/Promotional

Misty Peak follows the life of Biriba, an ex-drug trafficker from the periphery, as he tries to become successful while abiding by the law now that marijuana is legal. However, he has to face prejudice related to his origins as well as competition from experienced businessmen. “Our protagonist is a young black man, and we talk a lot about the issue of racism. We’re trying to create a faithful portrait,” affirms Quico.

To Fernando Meirelles, who wasn’t on the set during Estado’s visit, but answered a few of our questions by email, the series assumes the point of view of those who live in exclusion. “The theme of exclusion is very present. Biriba is black and the son of an ex-convict. Even though he’s competent and serious, he needs to put in double the effort to escape this stigma.”

To help them tell this story, Fernando and Quico decided to work with new faces, actors from the periphery of São Paulo. “The premise of the series is to be as fresh as possible in all ways, in terms of language, camera movement, narrative and new faces,” Quico explains.

The O2 production company conducted casting online and received more than 2,600 video tests. After a long selection process, 18 little known actors were selected. The protagonist Luis Navarro was one of those who sent in a video, but he wasn’t selected. When he gave a ride to his friend Henrique Santana, chosen to play Salim, a co-star of the series, Navarro was recognized by the production crew and was given a surprise test. “Even though I’ve already acted in a few roles, this is my first starring role,” he tells us. Navarro defends his character, whom he calls a “Brazilian hero.” “He has ambitions, but doesn’t want to be a millionaire. He wants to use the money to give his family a comfortable life,” he relates. “He wants to leave this life of crime, which he entered because of his father. Everything that happens to him in the series is very heavy.”

Quico Meirelles: ‘We talk about racism. We’ve trying to create a faithful portrait’ Photo: Fabio Braga/O2/Promotional

Even though the series portrays a neighborhood on the periphery, they avoided repeating a story about the violence of the slums like City of God, directed by Meirelles. “It’s a neighborhood that’s far from the city center, but it isn’t a slum. We’ve seen films with policemen climbing hills with guns in their hands, and we didn’t want to do that,” explains Quico.

According to Fernando, it’s his son Quico who’s directing the series. “I’m directing two episodes and I follow orders. Since I’ve been traveling a lot, we exchange messages using WhatsApp,” he says by email from London.

The first season of Misty Peak will have 10 episodes, an hour each in duration. In addition to two episodes directed by Fernando, four of them will be directed by Quico, three by Luis Carone and one by Rodrigo Pesavento. According to Quico, the four of them have gotten together to create continuity. “Together we’ve created the language, camera movement and dramaturgy.” Filming is finishing this month.

‘In terms of protests against the series, I hope that God listens and makes them happen,’ says Fernando Meirelles

To the director, all he wants is to have created a product that is relevant enough to cause mobilizations online.

Fernando films Misty Peak with his son Photo: Fabio Braga/O2/Promotional

The story takes place in a Brazil in which marijuana has been legalized.

Many countries have already legalized it or tolerate its consumption. Decriminalization comes later.

Legalization is the path. We’ve just entered a longer path full of obstacles, but like climate change, it’s inexorable.

Are you concerned with protests or boycotts?

The fact that conservative people are in power will not make people who are interested in this subject disappear. In terms of the online mobilizations and protests, I hope God listens and makes them happen. What we want most is to be relevant regarding this issue.

The series presents a scenario in which marijuana is legalized in Brazil. Are you personally in favor of legalization?

The series begins when the law is passed by Congress, so we don’t discuss the pros and cons of legalization much. I don’t smoke, but I’m in favor of legalization. As far as I know, the money from the illegal sale of marijuana provides a base for the supply chain of crime. A steady flow of money keeps the machine running. When you cut off these funds by legalizing commercialization, you compromise other criminal operations. Another argument is that today no one stops smoking because it’s illegal. In other words, since legalization won’t increase consumption, at least the government will benefit from the taxes it’ll receive from this enormous industry.

Do you think that what’s happening at the moment will influence the audiovisual scene in Brazil?

Up until now, we haven’t had any clues as to what will happen, so I’m waiting and giving them the benefit of the doubt for now.