• Golden Globe Awards

1999: “Central Station” – When Brazil Stepped Up

On the edge of a new century, something very special happened at the 56th Golden Globe Awards: for the first time ever, a Brazilian film won the then Best Foreign Language Film (now Non-English Language Film) prize: Central Station, directed by Walter Salles.
Awards for movies from overseas countries were random at the Globes until 1974 when the international trophy was officially created. From the first steps to the more organized years, up until the 1950s, European countries dominated (and still tend to dominate) this section of the international awards: movies from the United Kingdom have 19 wins, followed by France with 14, and Italy with 13.
Back in 1999, Mexico was the daring Latin American country opening some space on the international side of the Golden Globes. In 1958, Tizoc, written and directed by the Mexican pioneer Ismael Rodriguez, received an award. From then to 1999, three films from Mexico were nominated for the Non-English Language Film Golden Globe. Argentina came next, with two nominated films: 1955’s The Lady of the Camelias, directed by Ernesto Arancibia, and 1986’s The Official Story, directed by Luis Puenzo, which took home the Golden Globe.
Brazil, a country roughly the size of the United States, which speaks a unique language (Portuguese) and has a passion for cinema, took some time to challenge its Latin American colleagues. With two nominated pictures — Bruno Barreto’s Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands in 1979, and Héctor Babenco’s Pixote in 1982 — Brazilian cinema was finally ready to step up.
Central Station was the answer.

Inspired by an urban drama — a young boy who stole a radio and was killed by police on the streets of Rio de Janeiro — Central Station was Salles’s 10th picture, after acclaimed documentaries and two very well-received features, 1991’s High Art and 1995’s Foreign Land. “This film is about the possibility of changing one’s life through the discovering of affection,” Salles said at a Hollywood Foreign Press Association press conference in November 1998.

The core of Central Station is an idiosyncratic duo: a prickly retired schoolteacher who makes a living writing letters for the illiterate passengers who crisscross Rio’s central train station, and an orphaned boy who decides to make her his family. The boy is played by Vinícius de Oliveira, only 13 years old at the time, in his first work. Brazil’s top actress, Fernanda Montenegro, is the irritable ex-teacher, and for her performance, she was nominated as Best Actress – Drama.
The turn of the century yielded a wave of new films and filmmakers from Brazil, as well as Latin America more broadly. Salles would be nominated twice more — in 2002, with Behind the Sun, and in 2005 with The Motorcycle Diaries. In 2003, Fernando Meirelles’s nominated City of God became one of the top hits of Brazilian cinema. Mexico became a regular visitor to the nominations, and more Latin American countries — including Chile, Guatemala, and Peru — also joined in.
New entries, new ideas.