‘Adrift’ Director Heitor Dhalia Preps, Talks ‘DNA do Crime,’ the New Netflix Banner Thriller from Brazil (EXCLUSIVE)

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Heitor Dhalia, one of Brazil’s foremost and most ambitious movie auteurs, director of  “Drained,” “Adrift” and “Bald Mountain,” is teaming with Netflix to make “DNA do Crime,” a banner title for the U.S. streaming giant in Brazil, one of its largest international markets.

Described by Dhalia as “one of the biggest series ever produced in Brazil,” the eight-part scripted skein, which goes into production on Oct. 31, turns on a heist of epic proportions, which takes place on the Brazil-Paraguay border.

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When federal police officers are called in to investigate, they discover “the beginning of a thread that unravels, like no other, the construction of crime in the country,” the synopsis runs.

“The series will try to open a new paradigm for the genre,” Dhalia told Variety. “It also talks about the tragic flaws in all of us, our deep nature,” he added.

Inspired by true events, “DNA do Crime” is created by Dhalia. Its initial idea was developed by Dhalia, Leonardo Levis (“Brotherhood”) and editor-scribe Bernardo Barcellos (“Dente por Dente”). It is produced by Paranoid Filmes, Dhalia’s label, and Netflix Brazil. Dhalia will oversee the general direction of the series and its production along with Netflix. Screenwriters are Barcellos and Bruno Passeri (“Os Ausentes”), “both extremely talented and with a lot of experience in the genre,” Dhalia commented.

Admired arthouse auteur Aly Muritiba, a specialist in pivoting point of view (“Rust,” “Deserto Particular,”), collaborated on first stage development, as did Levis. The writers’ room includes David Kobi, Rosana Rodini, Mariana Vielmond, Eduardo Melo and Juaar.

Dhalia broke out with his second feature, “Drained” (2006) a dramedy of obsession, with Selton Mello, then directed daughter-father relationship “Adrift,” with Vincent Cassel, selected for Cannes’ 2009 Un Certain Regard. After English-language abduction thriller “Gone,” with Amanda Seyfried, he took another change of direction co-writing and directing “Bald Mountain” (2013), an epic-scale Western tinged gangster movie of friendship riven by the greed and corruption set in 1980 at Sierra Pelada, the biggest hell-on earth open pit mine in modern history, in the Amazon jungle.

From what Dhalia told Variety (see below), “DNA do Crime” looks set to inherit that film’s ambition. Foreseeably it will also take on some of his kinetic style in action scenes.

Dhalia’s latest big title comes as over he last decades has alternated movies – multi-part “Tungsten” (2018) and “Anna” (2019)  – with high-profile crime series such as Globo’s “Tainted” (2014), and most especially “Arcanjo Renegado,” (2020-21) for Globo’s upscale SVID service, Globoplay.

“DNA do Crime” is one of four new productions announced by Netflix Brazil on Monday, Sept. 5. Two more new titles star Brazilian comedy megastar Leandro Hassum – series “B.O.” and movie “Meu Cunhado e um Vámpiro.” Production has begun on a new four-part mini-series, inspired by the 1993 killing of eight homeless people, including six minors, outside the Candelária Church in Rio de Janeiro. Luis Lomenha (“Minha Rua”) serves as showrunner.

Netflix Brazil also announced a sequel to the movie “Rich in Love” and four series renewals: “Sintonia” Season 4, “Back to 15” Season 2, “Smother-in-Law” Season 2, and “Love Is Blind: Brazil” Season 3.

The new slate announcement, Netflix’s third in 10 months in Brazil, comes as it is ramping up the scale of banner shows, such as “Senna,” diversifying in genre and driving hard into regional and minority talent. In 2022, Netflix will invest 5 million Brazilian reais ($967,000) in training programs for local talent, targeting in part under-represented groups. Programs include a new initiative, Segundo Ato, for Black and Indigenous screenwriters. 

“We want our creative and production partners to have the best experience working with us to bring incredible stories to our members. And while today the landscape is very different from where we started, there is one thing that remains absolutely the same: our commitment to the Brazilian creative community. Brazil is a fundamental part of our strategy,” said Elizabetta Zenatti, Netflix VP of Brazil Content.

Here’s a fuller version of Variety’s brief interview with Heitor Dhalia:

How new is the series for Brazilian production? And what is new?

This is one of the biggest series ever produced in Brazil. A series about crime and borders. We are elevating to a place that has not yet been reached in Brazil. The series will try to open up a new paradigm for the genre, raising the complexity of the elements involved.

And how big? I think it’s Netflix’s big thriller bet for second half 2022…

The series covers bank robberies, city domination and brings to onto the scene the biggest bank robbery gangs in the world. These are highly complex and highly-planned operations. My creative process as director contemplated all these challenges, as if we were going to build a chessboard, in which our lenses occupy the columns and diagonals. A series about reasoning, investigation and spectacular actions.

How do you imagine directing the episodes, with what kind of directorial style in terms of camerawork, lenses, lighting etc. 

The series, inspired by real events, aims at understanding the DNA of crime in Brazil and showing the complexity of the country’s criminal groups, which expand to other countries on the continent. It also talks about the tragic flaws in all of us, our deep nature. The series also shows the police trying to reinvent themselves as an increasingly prepared antagonist, with increasing ambitions.

The series, I believe, traces the heist back to parts of Brazil’s ruling elite, including political bigwigs. It is billed as “unraveling, like no other, the construction of crime in the country.” Could you comment?

I’ve always done auteur films, but in the last three years we’ve been making very successful series about crime. I always liked this genre that has attracted great directors. Crime has a fascinating plot and takes us to a deep place of being a human being. I want to bring an auteurist signature each time to such a fascinating genre. I continue to be interested in another type of narrative, but the enormous success and recognition of the latest works encourages me to continue following this line. Doing big projects for a big audience in my country and around the world encourages me to keep going.

How would you place “DNA do Crime” in your work as an auteur and where do you want to take your career as a director and producer?

“DNA do Crime” has high values of creation, direction and production. We’re working in this pre-production phase – as we will start shooting at the end of October – to elevate this investigation and crime storyline into an amazing series for fans of the genre.

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