Yellowknife filmmaker hopes to hit it big at Brazilian box office

Want to know the advantages of a trip abroad? Look no further than Yellowknife filmmaker Kirsten Carthew, whose trip to South America years ago led to a script that debuts this year on the Brazilian big screen.

Kirsten Carthew shares screenwriting credit on Portugese romantic comedy 'Uma Loucura de Mulher'

Hitting the big screen as part of a major box-office production is a dream for many Canadian screenwriters — however, very few imagine the film to be in Portugese.
Carthew's film follows the story of a woman who is forced to rebuild her life after a scandal causes her politician husband to announce she is going to a mental asylum. (Imagem Filmes)

But one of those few is Yellowknife's Kirsten Carthew, who shares screenwriting credit for Uma Loucura de Mulher, a Brazilian film that's currently in post-production for a 2016 release.

"It was always intended to be translated in Portugese," she said, "to be played in Brazil, as a Brazilian/Portugese film.

"It's a romantic comedy, and the translation doesn't really translate well into English... but essentially, it's 'Woman of Madness.'"

The idea for the film, which focuses on the wife of an aspiring politician forced to rebuild her life after slapping a senator on camera, has gone through a few iterations, said Carthew, initially focusing on a character who became a cosmetics saleswoman for Avon. 

Carthew on the set of The Sun at Midnight, a Canadian film which she directed, wrote, and produced. (submitted)

"It's gone through some iterations, but my interest in it was through seeing a sort of company or corporation like Avon, and how it really empowered women in ways that I didn't appreciate that it could," she said. "Because in Brazil, society is very much gender split. Women definitely didn't work, but when it came to cosmetics, they could.

"And I would read stories about women going into the Amazon in these small wooden canoes, and braving all these animals to sell people lipstick who'd never even seen other people before. 

"So thematically this story is about designing your own life, or someone else will do it for you."

From Great Slave Lake to the Amazon

The story of how Carthew, a filmmaker based in Northern Canada, wound up writing a film for South America's largest country begins with a trip abroad — and ends with a little luck. Carthew travelled to Brazil years ago, becoming infatuated with the country's culture, which led to the screenplay. 

She sat on it for years, until meeting a studio executive by chance while at film school in Los Angeles. 

"She was like... 'I'm just starting up a new company that is designed to create Brazilian-American co-productions, so if you know anyone who has a script set in Brazil, send it my way,'" Carthew said. 

"And I said: 'I wrote one!' And she said: 'send it to me.'"

Three months later, Carthew received a call — her film was being optioned in Brazil and translated into Portugese. Eventually, it would be made on a budget of $7.5 million Real, or about $2.5 million Canadian. 

"It's an A-list Brazilian cast, really awesome," she said. "It's a pretty big budget in Brazil — that would be a good budget in Canada!"

Carthew hasn't yet seen the finished film, but a trailer has been released online and is gaining positive reaction. However, she's hoping that her film is set up to be a big hit. 

"It's going straight to the box office, because it's meant to be commercial," she said. "The thing with Brazil is it has 200 million people, so hopefully it will do really well."

with files from Lawrence Nayally