Creating an event that makes difference to people

Interview with Suzana Amado, founder of Filmambiente (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Green Film Network festivals are spread all around the world and this time we “travel” to Rio de Janeiro, where Suzana Amado and her team have been holding Filmambiente for last 5 years. Film producer  herself, Suzana knows that films are strong visual tool that aims straight to your heart. So one day she turned from the festival guest to festival organiser.  Every month we ask environmental film festival directors about their work, their festivals and plans for the future. Welcome to the story of Filmambiente.

Suzana Amado

How did it all start? How Filmambiente was born?

As a producer, for years I have been going to numerous festivals here in Brazil and around the world with the films I produce. I love it, because I think film festivals are a great moment of congregation, of bringing cinema people together, not only to watch the great films our colleagues are producing, but also to exchange experiences and ideals. And for a long time, each time I went, I wished someday I could be working at an event that celebrated cinema and could make a difference to people. For me, good films have always been the best entertainment. But also a great instrument to reach people. Movies can touch your soul, bring out emotions and make you dream.

And then, one day, getting to know there were so many great films on the subject, that really could help a transformation, I decided to start Filmambiente. I had a great partner – Marcio Guimaraes – that dreamed on with me until we could make it happen. It took a while, giving us time to design the event we dreamed. As he said, “we should have a boutique event, not a shopping mall event: gather le crème de la crème – not too many, only the best films produced yearly”. And here we are, with the great help of Ol, our sponsor until this day. Unfortunately, Marcio died before our second edition. But every year we do our best to honor him, and to achieve this ideal.

Marcio Guimaraes at FIFE 2012

Do you remember your very first festival? 

I remember the feeling of joy we had in our first edition. There were only six of us – Marcio Guimaraes, Bernardo Thedim Schubnel, Rafael Alves, Raquel Couto, Michael Greif and me – sharing the same feeling, of having accomplished the dream: good films, (we presented two Oscar winners that year) and great guests that enjoyed being here in Rio and sharing. We could not publicize much, but the word-of-mouth worked fine, the audience came and enjoyed too. Greatly, I guess, because they keep coming back each year.

Filmambiente has been building up a group of fans that give us feedback on our misses and hits. And they keep us going, filled with good energy, knowing they’ll be waiting for the next edition.  At the end of the day, that’s the reason for Filmambiente existence: the audience and the possibilities of transformation environmental films can bring to our life.


What is the most difficult in your work now?

We start preparing the next edition as soon as the festival ends. And our first mission is to find sponsors. It’s a yearly challenge we face. Even though we do have one sponsor that has been with us since the first festival – OI and OI Futuro – it’s central we add new ones, as the costs are big and we do not want to lower our aim to prepare the best festival we can.

What do you like the most about your work? 

The best thing of preparing a festival like Filmambiente is to be in contact with great films that reveal amazing stories that are taking place all around the world. For the good or for the bad, we face reality of how mankind is dealing with the challenges to keep Earth a place to live healthily, in a just and respectful way towards nature and man. Sometimes it’s an alert, sometimes is a breath of hope; sometimes it makes us ashamed of fellow men, sometimes very proud of being part. But always, always, the experience is very transforming. And at the end of each year we get a glimpse of it. And this is a great fuel that drives us to the next edition.


What is the film festival that you remember the most?

The great thing about being part of Green Film Network is to get to know festivals spread around the world with the same purpose. When Filmambiente joined GFN there were only seven of us.  Now we are almost thirty. Isn’t it amazing?!!!

I wish we could visit at least one each year, to exchange experience and bring the Filmambiente crew to experience it too. So far we have being to FIFE, in France for two years, Cinemambiente, in Italy, Cuernavaca, in Mexico, FICA, our neighbors here in Brazil and CineEco, in Portugal for two years too. In all of them we learned a great deal, in all of them the experience was great. The difference is very enriching and empowering.

What is your advice for other film festival organizers? Some word of wisdom.

It was very important for us to try to know and understand as best as possible our audience. Some films work for some communities, some do not. Sometimes I come across a film I love but I feel it will not work here. We try to select the films we feel the audience will appreciate and therefore let the idea it brings enter their mind and soul. This is the only way it might help a transformation. (Humor and humanity touch – verbal preach not always…if you know what I mean).


What are other ways that work the best in your experience? 

I remember when I went with a film I produced to the San Sebastian Film Festival, what a difference it made when we discussed the film with the audience. They could ask the actor and the director whatever they wanted, and this certainly helped shortening the cultural gap between Rio and that Basque region.

So when we started Filmambiente we decided to have a Q&A as it happened there: very informal, immediately after each screening. It works very well. We know now that a film that has a representative present to discuss it afterward brings at least 30% more people to its screening. We also only present films in Portuguese to the communities at the periphery of Rio, to facilitate the fruition – no need to read subtitles. And the People’s Choice award is great to help us confirm what audiences are perceiving of the festival, what kind of film they appreciate. We try to keep this in mind when selecting films.

By Anastasia Laukkanen