Brazilian director Carolina Markowicz’s debut feature film, Charcoal (Carvão), earned rave reviews last year after world premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) then making its European debut at Spain’s San Sebastián International Film Festival. (The film has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews.)
Now she’s poised to repeat the hat trick with her follow-up film, Toll. Only this time, TIFF is celebrating Markowicz with its Emerging Talent Award, and Tollwas selected as the closing night film for San Sebastián’s Latin Horizons section.
Markowicz has been drawing worldwide attention since her 2018 short film The Orphan – starring Kauan Alvarenga in a role with similarities to his character in Toll – debuted at Cannes, where it took The Queer Palm. It went on to play in over 200 festivals, winning more than 50 awards.
Well-known Brazilian actress Maeve Jinkings co-stars in both Charcoal, which is about a family offered a diabolical deal to put their ailing elder to rest and host a drug kingpin on the run, and Toll. Here, Jinkings plays a single mother struggling to make ends meet who puts herself in jeopardy to afford conversion therapy sessions for her son (Alvarenga).
She works at a motorway toll booth and has a freeloading criminal boyfriend.
Both films tackle societal injustices and the stresses of poverty. This makes sense considering the context in which Markowicz and other Brazilian filmmakers are working. She describes how some politicians view the Brazilian film sector as an enemy, and several – including former president Jair Bolsonaro – have made publicly inflammatory comments about homosexuality. (People across Brazil’s sector expressed deep concerns when Bolsonaro first came to office in 2018 in interviews I conducted for The Hollywood Reporter).
The environment offers inspiration. “I think I am a filmmaker who takes risks,” Markowicz says. AWFJ spoke with the director in advance of her busy fall release schedule about her newest film, the challenges for Brazilian filmmakers – particularly women, the possibility of meeting one of her filmmaker inspirations at TIFF this year, a run for the Oscars and a potential future project in the US.
Read the Q&A at AWFJ.org.