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Hollywood looks south for new cinematic visions

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Director Fernando Meirelles thumps the pile of scripts stacked on top of his filing cabinet. He picks them up and reels off a list of offers. There is a script from Dreamworks, another from Universal, proposals to make movies about the Middle Ages, World War II, and contemporary New York.

Mr. Meirelles is receiving the big-money offers thanks to the huge success of his latest film, "Cidade de Deus" ("City of God") which opens in the US and Europe next month. The enlightening and often violent film about the rise of drug trafficking in a Rio slum of the same name has piqued the interest of Hollywood executives, as well as of Brazilians, who have turned out in unprecedented numbers.

It also confirms a boom in Latin American filmmaking. In addition to Brazil's "City of God," industry experts say a new generation of Argentine filmmakers are coming of age. In Mexico, the impact of such recent releases as "Amores Perros" in 2000 and this year's "The Crime of Father Amaro" - the biggest-grossing Mexican film of all time - have many believing in a new golden age of Mexican cinema.

"Something is definitely going on," says Diana Sanchez, the Latin American program director for the Toronto film festival. "There is definitely a surge."

"City of God" traces the history of life and crime in a Rio favela, or housing project. Built as a model complex in the 1960s, it was, like much of Brazil's low-cost housing, ignored by authorities. Soon, it fell into the hands of the drug traffickers who were beginning to establish footholds in Brazil.

Life in the 'City'
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