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Leon Cakoff, 1948 - 2011

The producer, director and founder of the founder of the São Paulo International Film Festival was 63.

"One of the most important Brazilian personalities to promote cultural resistance during the national dictatorship in the 60s and 70s, Leon Cakoff, founder of the São Paulo International Film Festival (Mostra Internacional de Cinema), died this Friday, October 14," the festival announces. "Since its first edition, Leon struggled against the censorship imposed by the Brazilian military government, bringing films into the country using the diplomatic luggage with the help from embassies and consulates. That's how the festival exhibited featured movies all the way from China, Cuba, Soviet Union, France and the farthest lands."

Cakoff was also a producer who put together the omnibus film Welcome to São Paulo, with short contributions by the likes of Caetano Veloso, Phillip Noyce, Maria de Medeiros, Daniela Thomas, Amos Gitai and Tsai Ming-liang. The 35th edition of the festival, running from this Friday through November 3, will premiere another, The Invisible World, featuring shorts by Manoel de Oliveira, Wim Wenders and Atom Egoyan, among others." Cakoff directed short films himself, such as the 35-minute interview, Manoel de Oliveira Absoluto (2010).

The festival also posts brief remembrances by Walter Salles and Abbas Kiarostami.

Update, 10/23: "You may ask, 'Who was he?'" grants Aaron Cutler at the House Next Door. "For starters, he was Manoel de Oliveira's recent co-producer… He was a partner in UniBanco Arteplex, a large Brazilian art-house theater chain. He was, as critic Amir Labaki put it, the only major Brazilian film personality 'to write, edit books, produce, direct, act, distribute, and exhibit movies.' … The local press has made much of Cakoff's bravery in fighting censorship by showing international films during a military dictatorship that lasted through the mid-80s. I can't speak to that, but I can address a different kind of continuing cultural censorship, one that Museum of Image and Sound director André Sturm spoke about in Thursday night's opening ceremony amid a wave of Cakoff tributes and pledges by Mostra sponsors to continue support. Sturm described the sensation of seeing his first Turkish film during the Mostra's 1983 edition, and the subsequent realization of untapped cinema. That's still the case today, as festival-goers buy tickets for Azerbaijani films knowing that they likely won't have another crack at them. For the vast majority of São Paulo filmgoers (and, really, for the vast majority of the world's moviegoers), a festival proves their best opportunity to discover new classics on screen."

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