Sylvia Desrochers (pictured), owner of Big Time PR, is returning tomorrow from a most unusual trip. She met up in the city of Manaus, Brazil with a group of east coast entertainment journalists to shepherd them through the seventh annual Amazonas Film Festival.
“Manaus is a city of about two million in the middle of the Amazonian jungle,” she tells FishbowLA via email from the Southern Hemisphere. “It’s only accessible via boat or plane. The reason it’s such a thriving city is because a couple of decades ago, the government made it a free trade zone. If a business can prove that it’s not polluting, it can operate in Manaus tax-free.”
Joining Desrochers at the event were indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn, Jason Guerrasio from Filmmaker Magazine and the Film Journal’s Sarah Sluis, as well as a number of international reporters. A centerpiece of the festival is the Teatro Amazonas, an opera house erected at the turn of the 20th century with rubber boom money and featured, famously, in Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo.
“A couple of the journalists watched Fitzcarraldo again before coming,” she explains. “For film buffs, it’s a real treat to see the opera house in person.”
The strangest point of the trip for Desrochers was a two-day excursion into the jungle, but not for the reasons one might expect. “It was very manufactured, primarily so that the Brazilian soap opera stars – who are huge here – could have their moment on camera,” she says. “It was clearly set up as a, ‘Look at the soap stars in the jungle!’ opportunity.”
“As a publicist, I knew exactly what was going on,” adds Desrochers. “It was so strange for me because we had some really good actors with us: Dale Dickey from Winter’s Bone and Ursula Pruneda from Las Buenas Hierbas, and none of the media even noticed them. They were in two of the best films at the festival and they were completely anonymous.”
The paparazzi principle applies, it seems, even in the remotest parts of the world.