Smiling Eyes | Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Winner of Best Directing (Non-fiction) and Best Diversity Series (Rio Webfest 2021).

Nominee for Best Non-fiction Series (Webfest Berlin 2021).

"Smiling Eyes" is a documentary series about people with long-term facial paralysis. The difficulties of relating to the world around them without the control of such spontaneous and fundamental movements for human communication are treated in a light way in three episodes directed by Paulo Mendel. Each episode tells a story of the physical and emotional transformation of different cases and shows unexpected examples of overcoming difficulties, in addition to those obtained in the long treatment of connecting feelings with facial expressions.

Conceived by Gabriela de Palhano, TV Globo reporter also affected by facial paralysis, the series was conceived and produced in partnership with BlankTape. The episodes take place in Goiânia, São Paulo and Recife. In 2020, filming would begin outside Brazil, but the project was interrupted due to the covid-19 pandemic.

EPISODE 1 - Little Princess
The strength and delicacy of Giovana, an 11-year-old girl, who is born with facial paralysis and from an early age faced bullying and rare problems for such a young child. After having a visible improvement with the treatment abroad, nothing stops her from pursuing her big dream: to be an actress. The episode embarks on little Giovana's worldview, from her innocent princess pranks to a surprising conversation with her cousin and best friend, Bia, in which they reveal something that was hidden so far. (Goiás, Brazil)

EPISODE 2 - The First Note
Trumpeter since the age of 8, Wellington doesn't give up playing in the church orchestra even though he cannot play his instrument during years of sequels due to the bell's palsy. He and Anésio, a co-worker who noticed the appearance of the first symptoms, recall the long period in which the smile triggered in Wellington the feeling of shame, not joy, which gradually changed him as a person. When a problem with his son João Pedro comes up, he rethinks his life and finds reasons to smile again. (São Paulo Brazil)

EPISODE 3 - Glasses
A serious car accident marks the story of Fernanda. Despite suffering from multiple traumas, her biggest challenge is to express herself due to her bilingual anomie and bilateral facial paralysis, which prevents her from crying even on the saddest day of her life. It is the daily life between art and culture that inspires her to continue recovering. Behind the lenses of her inseparable glasses, she is still on recovery and searching for what she calls a "new harmony". (Pernambuco Brazil)

  • Paulo Mendel
  • Gabriela de Palhano
  • Elena Pashova
  • Giovana Rosseto
    Key Cast
  • Wellington de Aguilar
    Key Cast
  • Fernanda Matos
    Key Cast
  • Paulo Mendel
  • Paulo Mendel
  • BlankTape | Art and Films
    Production Company
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Television, Web / New Media
  • Runtime:
    32 minutes 24 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 12, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    12,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Portuguese
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Rio Webfest 2021
    Rio de Janeiro
    November 26, 2021
    Brazilian premiere
    Winner of Best Directing (Non-fiction) and Best Diversity Series. Also nominee for Best Variety Series.
  • Webfest Berlin 2021
    December 13, 2021
    German Premiere
    Nominee for Best Non-fiction Series.
Director Biography - Paulo Mendel

Paulo Mendel is a director, cinematographer, editor, visual artist and independent curator. He explores audiovisual possibilities in different media, especially the interface between art and video and between video art and documentary. He has worked in short and feature films, commercials, animations and art films. His hybrid works – webdocumentaries, video installations, multimedia stage designs, videodances – have been exhibited at major festivals, such as the Bienal de Sao Paulo, the Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil and the Prague Quadrennial, and are included in collections such as those of Circuito Videodanza Mercosur and Centre de Vidéo-danse de Bourgogne.

In recent years, Mendel began to create in other media – such as web-art and oil paintings – as well directing projects of his production company BlankTape, with which he also organizes online exhibitions, a way to dialogue with other artists and reflect upon contemporary production. Recently, a short documentary directed by him won the APA Award 2019, the most important recognition in the field of visual anthropology in Portugal. In 2019, his first fashion film won six internationals awards, including for Best Director in London and for Best Photography in Barcelona.

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Director Statement

The challenges in communicating that the people of this series go through are also my own when it comes to capturing these stories with the camera. Even in a close up some expressions may go unnoticed, but the sparkle in the eyes will not. We are looking for that spark in each episode – which makes the eyes smile – in and out of the picture.