City Slicker: Fernando Meirelles

Photo: Jimi Celeste/PMC

Director Fernando Meirelles has a brash visual style and two exceptional recent films: 2002’s City of God, set in the slums of Rio, and last year’s The Constant Gardener. Now his invigorating Brazilian TV series, City of Men, based on City of God (sort of—see below), is premiering this week. Adam Sternbergh spoke to Meirelles about his taste in TV and the striking verisimilitude of Entourage.

I wanted to talk to you about your show, City of Men, which is going to be shown in the U.S.—
I didn’t know! On TV? Which channel?

The Sundance Channel.
I know we sold the episodes for DVD, but I didn’t know it was going to be shown on TV. Fantastic!

Did you find that adapting your film to TV was—
Wait! Do you know how many episodes?

Fourteen, I believe.
We’ve done nineteen altogether. So probably they’re showing the first three seasons.

In Brazil you’re on a fourth season?
The fourth is the final season. Now we’re starting to shoot a feature film based on the series.

But isn’t City of Men already based on City of God?
We started all of this with a short film called Golden Gate, which was a rehearsal for City of God—like a rehearsal for the actors and the crew. But it was very successful, and TV Globo here in Brazil asked us to do four new episodes. So from the short film that was a rehearsal for the feature, we did a series for television. And now that series is becoming a feature.

What’s the main difference between City of God and City of Men?
City of God was mostly about drug dealers, but City of Men is a story about fatherhood. One of the boys is 16, and he has this kid. He doesn’t really want to be a father, and he never knew a father of his own. So this is what the film is about: A father is born.

Are there any American TV shows you particularly enjoy?
I don’t watch a lot of television, but I like the scripts for Nip—what’s the name?

It’s a bit overdramatic, but it works. How about comedies?
I like Scrubs. And there’s an interesting series also, it’s about a girl who’s dead, and she has to get the souls of people. It’s a comedy, but it’s a dark comedy.

Are you thinking of Dead Like Me?
That’s right. I like very much the tone. It’s a bit British, I would say. You don’t know exactly why it’s funny, but it’s funny. And I was sent the DVDs for Entourage. I’ve had a bit of experience in Los Angeles with agents and managers, so I felt it was very accurate.

Has your experience with Hollywood been similar?
For my last film, I was dealing with Focus, and they’re all very smart people. But being in Los Angeles and seeing this big thing that exists around people—dressers and lawyers and agents and managers and secretaries—this was so new for me. Then I watched this TV series. I felt it was very precise.

City of Men
Premieres April 4, 9 p.m., Sundance Channel

City Slicker: Fernando Meirelles