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RioFilme Distribuidora de Filmes


Riofilme is a company owned by the city of Rio de Janeiro but run as a private corporation, with the mission of helping and sustaining the development of the audiovisual industry in Rio and in Brazil, by co-producing and co-distributing films and cultural initiatives.

Born in 1992 as a distribution public company, it’s now the engine of the film industry, that’s actually an important issue in Rio’s development strategies.

We met the young president Sergio Sa Leitao and his assistant Antonio on April 7th in the Riofilme new headquarters, a beautiful recently restored 19th century landmark building in the Laranjeiras neighborhood, known as Casas Casadas, where we talked about their mission and activities, their organization, the audiovisual industry in Brazil, and the always present issue of Brazilian identity.


The Mission and the Activity

In Brazil everything is centralized. And the financing system for the arts is not an exception: the Ministry of Culture rules, and Riofilme could look like a branch of a simple policy-maker. But Riofilme is an active player: its aim is to develop the film industry, with all the economic and social implications that such a medium could bring, and without a previous public policy.

Their areas of activity are:

–          investments

–          cultural policies

About investments

Their scope of action is focused mainly on the city of Rio de Janeiro, being their headquarter and the most important centre of the industry in Brazil: the greatest part of film companies (small, medium and big) and the major TVs (TV Globo) are settled in Rio, 50% of films are produced here, and 80% of the total Brazilian box office is realized in Rio.

Even companies established in S. Paulo end up producing their films in Rio.

To foster the sector, Riofilme invests in film companies (often independent) to help them in realizing their projects. These projects are found both in a proactive way (Riofilme is always looking for ideas or products to sustain, also with public calls and selections) and on proposal (many filmmakers present their projects, at different stages of production – often in post-production, when they go out of budget –  to get financial and logistic support).

Riofilme, thus, neither produces nor distributes; the organization does not work on its own films, it just co-produces other people’s films and helps out producers and distributors, selected by an internal committee and supported by the Riofilme Commission.

About cultural policies

Their social focus is on the democratization of access and fruition of the audiovisual products. Riofilme sees in the decrease of ticket sales not only an indicator of exceedingly high prices, but a real sign of social exclusion: the majority of people can’t enjoy the audiovisual media.

Riofilme organizes public screenings, completely free, of films concerning social issues. In their pattern portfolio (their choice of projects to support) 2 out of 5 films must be aimed to reach more than 1 million. And when they say 1 million, they’re talking about people, not money: with 1 million people attendance, the box office is variable (they proudly count also tickets given for free or for very low prices).

The tax shelter (taxes discounts for filmmakers) in Rio is the most progressive, and it is an important incentive. All the actors of the sector are a community (again a centralized system) with a shared and simple strategy: help and invest, to create value.

The Organization

Riofilme acts as a not-for-profit development agency.

The Municipality and the Prefeitura “hire” Riofilme with a management contract, lasting 5 years, containing goals, roles, rules and responsibilities.

An investment plan and a business plan must be presented; a variable budget is assigned by the City to sustain the activities.

Every profit is to be reinvested.

Riofilme is judged by the local government according to the profits they are able to make, but mainly, by the externalities they’re able to generate (measured in terms of: jobs created, increase in taxes from the audiovisual industry, dimensions of the industry itself).

Many performance indicators are considered today (in the past 5 years, the government cut funds and interests in Riofilme activity, but now the new government is more collaborative): Getulio Vargas University has been hired to make a study on the economic impact, and to better measure the importance of Riofilme’s activity.

The industry

The Brazilian film market represents 90% of market share while the rest is made up of foreign films (especially from the U.S.A.). The main goal is to find a balance between American productions and local production, following the benchmark of France (the most powerful local producer towards Hollywood productions); but also to open to other countries’ films.

Behind any strategy regarding a national film market, the big issue is: to be a producer country or to be a consumer country?

This strategic dilemma is the first to be solved. Countries like Ireland or South Africa are definitely consumers: they attract foreigners, have advantages in terms of distribution and revenues from theatres, but lose the chance to express their identity through their own content.

Brazil wants to be a producer country, and export its films. The issue of identity is crucial for them, and they don’t want to be depicted by someone else, as happened with Mexico (known as lazy and dishonest thanks to American majors’ productions).

Shoot your identity or Hollywood will do it for you.

The issue of identity

The most vibrant mark of Brazilian cultural process is the mix of influences that lead to a result that’s different from the sum of its component: and that result becomes Brazilian.

Anthropophagia is the keyword: eating, processing, vomiting.

Brazil appears as open to other cultures; there are many nationalities, but no ghettos; the situation is not always peaceful, but they can manage it.

What today is considered traditional, is the final product of this process of mixing and digesting, taking and rendering. And anthropophagia itself is probably their most real tradition.

by Camilla Guatteri

RioFilme website

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  1. RioFilme and CMF Agreement | On Screen Manitoba

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