Brazilian media giant Globo TV brings one of its most sumptuous period miniseries, “The Brothers” (“Dois Irmãos”), to the Mipcom confab. Based on Brazilian writer Milton Hatoum’s eponymous second novel, the series was adapted by Paris-born screenwriter Maria Camargo, who holds a film degree from Puc-Rio and has a string of film and TV credits to her name, including Globo series “Female Mail” (“Correio Feminino”), International Emmy-winning telenovela “Side by Side” and a co-writing credit for 2016 feature film “Nise – The Heart of Madness” She has also written, directed and produced several short films as well as authored a number of books.
This is one of the latest mini-series in Globo TV’s Mipcom slate, which includes seven telenovelas, five other series, and five feature films, and part of Globo’s drive to offer a diversity of event-driven content, in this case the adaptation of a classic novel in 10 episodes. Globo’s executive director of int’l business Raphael Correa Netto leads the team at the Cannes convention.
Set in 1920s Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state whose mixed-race inhabitants include Portuguese Catholics, Lebanese Maronite Christians and Middle Eastern Arabic traders, “The Brothers” centers on Omar and Yaqub, twins of Lebanese descent whose rivalry for their mother’s attention drives them apart and leads to the rupture of their family.
Airing in Brazil early this year where it had an average daily audience of 38 million, the miniseries was filmed in 2015 at Globo Studios in Rio de Janeiro and on location in Manaus and on the shores of Rio Negro, the largest dark water river in the world.
It was the fourth most-buzzed-about Latin American project on social media in January, according to trend-tracker The Wit.
Variety spoke to Maria Camargo to discuss the challenges of adapting the epic novel:
In the book, the narrator is the illegitimate son of Domingas, the servant, but in the series, it seems to be the father of the twins, Halim, narrating. What made you decide to do this? What other changes did you make?
The storyteller is in fact still Nael, the illegitimate son of Domingas. The series’ main point of view is also his. Halim becomes a kind of “co-narrator” – his memories and accounts are raw material for Nael to elaborate the story itself. What I did was create a “storytellers time” for Nael and Halim, to which we often return to. Time permeates the series in a different way than it does in the novel. If in the novel, the dialogue between the two characters is distributed throughout their lives, in the series the conversations happen in a very determined time and space: in the river, inside a boat, while looking for something or someone. But why are they sailing? What are they looking for? In what period does this happen? These details are gradually introduced throughout the episodes, and reveal other sides of the story.
This dramatic focus – somewhat inspired by Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and, of course, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” – would allow us to take a deeper dive into Halim’s memory, in building Nael’s personality and in the intimacy of the two characters.
I have always felt that the important thing was to be faithful to the nature of the story, not necessarily to the facts told in the book. The story of Milton Hatoum, as he himself put it, was to walk through another language structure – and it was to that other language that I had to be faithful.
Many new scenes were created, others were cut or reinvented; time has been amalgamated, compressed or distended – because time in literature is very different, and the writer’s job is to find the audiovisual time in the story he is telling, to be faithful to that “time,” not to literature. I always say that I betrayed the book many times, but always out of love.
Was it challenging to adapt this book? How long did it take you to write?
More than a job, “The Brothers” was a love story. And love stories, though beautiful and rewarding, are always laborious… The wait was long. It took fifteen years from when I first read the book – I have read it 27 times since then – to the time when the series aired. Of course, I was not working on it all this time; the project stopped and started a few times. First, it was a plot for a feature film. It later became a TV series in eight episodes, then in 10 episodes – which was eventually the final version. Time, the driving force of the novel, became an important character in this story as well.
And beyond the wait and the immense challenges of the work itself, there was the responsibility to adapt an immense work, which quickly became a classic of Brazilian literature – a responsibility as great as the privilege of having the story in my hands.
Did Globo support your vision? How did this project come to you? Or did you pitch the project to Globo?
From my first reading of the novel, it became clear to me that in addition to its rare literary quality, there was also in “The Brothers” an unequivocal potential for a screen adaptation. I also anticipated that the very particular and universal family from the book’s pages could lead me, as a screenwriter, to waters of greater depth than those I had been sailing. The project to adapt “The Brothers,” therefore, began with me, but it really advanced in a partnership with director Luiz Fernando Carvalho and Globo TV, who shared with us the view that this was a unique story that should be told on television.
What is your next project?
I am finalizing a drama series for Globo, which is already in pre-production. And I have another project for TV on the horizon. I’m also writing a feature film called “Matches” (“Fosforos”), an adaptation of Adriana Lunardi’s book “A Vendedora de Fósforos” (“The Match Seller”). I’ve also written a documentary about the late Brazilian filmmaker Hector Babenco, which is directed by Bárbara Paz and is currently in the process of editing.