The year 2020 will be remembered for Covid-19 and the consequences brought by the pandemic. Contrary to all predictions made at the turn of the year, 2020 has been a time of mourning, introspection, and reflection.

From China, a country that has been talked about a lot this year, came the artwork of the 44th São Paulo International Film Festival. It is an emblematic photo by the great filmmaker Jia Zhangke, in which a man is seen burning incense for the statue of WenQuxing, the legendary deity of literature and writing. Jia also brings us the documentary Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue and the short film Visit, in which Covid is the main character. 

Coronation, by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, addresses Covid-19 through powerful images secretly shot in Wuhan, while Abel Ferrara shows us the pandemic’s arrival in Europe in the documentary Sportin’ Life.

Covid-19 is not only present on the screens, it is still among us. With theaters closed and uncertainty remaining, the 44th Mostra was forced to take place online and in drive-in cinemas only. Unlike 2009, when for the first time Mostra had a selection of its program online (the first online film festival in the world!) to expand access to people outside of São Paulo, today the internet is what allows us to exist. It also allows Mostra to be present all over Brazil, with its full program available everywhere.

We hope Mostra will be a bit like the incense smoke that symbolizes comfort, purification, and healing in so many religions and rituals. The unusual circumstances have not been of detriment to the selection of films for the 2020 edition, which is strong and full of surprises, coming through the clouds and waves of the internet.

As in all editions, Mostra presents a vast panorama of world cinema, including renowned authors and new directors. In this year’s program, we will also screen films that have won awards at festivals such as Berlin, Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, Rotterdam, and Venice, as well as some of the world’s leading documentary festivals.

For the first time, the Humanity Award will be given not to an individual, but a group of people: the employees of the Brazilian Cinematheque. In a very troubled year for the institution, its employees showed a moving commitment to our heritage and our memory.

The second Humanity Award will honor the monumental career of master Frederick Wiseman. In a year where elections will take place in many parts of the world, he gives us City Hall, a film that

helps us understand the difference between a politician and a statesman, as well as the difference between government officials and civil servants.

Producer Sara Silveira will receive the Leon Cakoff Prize for her persistent and courageous career of more than 30 years, and for her efforts to reveal new Brazilian filmmakers and make their voices heard around the world.

The 44th Mostra also pays tribute to filmmaker Fernando Coni Campos by screening three of his films: Voyage to the End of the World (1968), Sweet Thieves (1977) and O Mágico e o Delegado (1983). 

However, Mostra is not only about films. In its fourth edition, Forum Mostra will be held online, making it possible for international guests to participate. In addition, master Ruy Guerra will teach an online course entitled “The History of Cinema according to Ruy Guerra”. We hope that watching and discussing films will bring us a variety of smoke with different perfumes that will help alleviate our afflictions. 

We thank our partners and sponsors, who have remained by our side even in troubled times.

Have a good Mostra!

Renata de Almeida