Stephen Daldry’s ‘Trash’ applauded at Rio Film Festival for its non-Brazilian Brazilianness

Are we ready for the “Brazilian answer to 'Slumdog Millionaire?'”

Rio Film Festival audiences quickly granted “Trash,” the latest from “The Hours” director Stephen Daldry, that label after the the film pleased crowds with comedy, child wonder, and “offshore” energy (as trades love to refer to it). Polling attendees after the film's applause-filled premiere, a Variety reporter found many locals agreed that, despite “Trash” not being a true Brazilian movie, “it is not non-Brazilian in the best sense.” Many praised it for being more entertaining than most “favela” (or, Latin America slum) dramas.

Whether Americans will ever see it is up in the air.

Based on Andy Mulligan's young adult novel of the same name, “Trash” tells the story of three “dumpsite boys,” who “make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city.” Their lives spiral out of control when they find a wallet containing a key that the police hope to obtain – by whatever means necessary. In the book, the city is left ambiguous, though Daldy told reporters in a press conference that Rio made the most sense on several levels. “There were other countries that we thought about but we knew that in Brazil we would get the support that the film needed. We also knew that that O2 Filmes had a system to source Brazilian actors who could play the parts in the film.”

O2 Filmes, the company behind “City of God,” co-produced “Trash” with Working Title, helping the British production team wrangle talent like Wagner Moura (“Elysium”) and Selton Mello, two major names in their home county. Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen costar, giving the film recognizability beyond Brazil, but in the end, the movie rests on the shoulders of three young newcomers, who Variety praises for their “infectious energy and sheer pleasure in comradeship.” Daldry and writer Richard Curtis aimed for authenticity with “Trash,” a factor that could make American release more difficult.

“As a writer who is very, very particular about every word that I”ve written being said exactly right, I changed my method of working and worked very closely with Felipe Braga, who”s a Brazilian writer, to make sure that everything I wrote made sense to him,” Curtis said in the press conference. The two worked out scenes together, tying the movie into Brazil's modern cultural infrastructure. “We didn”t want a translated movie. We wanted something that had the colors and flavors of Brazil but was also understandable for audiences around the world,”said casting director Christian Duurvoort.

The film's dual citizenship makes it an easier sell across the globe, but a recognizable setback for subtitle-averse American audiences. “Slumdog Millionaire” nearly went direct-to-video. 10 yeras later, with VOD more prevalent than ever, “Trash” has a steeper uphill battle.

Global business could be the difference between making a splash in next year's Oscar race and not even receiving an invite to the party. Universal International will release “Trash” this Thursday on over 250 Brazilian screens (which Variety notes is high, comparing it to Sony's “The Equalizer,” which played 335 screens). From there, the film makes a few film festival stops before landing in the U.K. for a Jan 30 2015 debut. There is no U.S. release date at this time.

Daldry is a three-time Best Director nominee (2001's “Billy Elliot,” 2003's “The Hours” and 2009's “The Reader”) – could “Trash” sneak him into the running once again?