The red carpet made its way past works by some of Brazil’s most famous artists. It was a special evening. For the first time, the Festival do Rio held an event in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, and it was the first time the public joined invited guests for the opening night.

The Cidade das Artes (City of the Arts) was chosen as the location for the opening ceremony of the 18th edition of the biggest film event in Brazil. ith, Guests mingled among the large-scale sculptures by Raul Mourão and José Bechara as the festival’s trademark glowed on the concrete wall of French architect Christian de Portzamparc’s building.

The opening film of the festival was Arrival by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, renowned director of “Incendies”, “Prisoners” and “Sicario”. Gustavo Felipe Pereira, an advertising agent, was among the first to arrive at the event. “My expectations are as high as they could be. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film ever since it was announced that it was going to the Festival de Cannes. I’m a big science fiction fan. I’ve watched all the trailers, and the photography is beautiful!”, he said.

Actor Cristiane Torloni was the MC for the event, which began with a speech by the director of the festival, Walkíria Barbosa. She opted to speak not about film and audiovisual productions, but rather about intolerance. “We who work in the culture and entertainment sector must make efforts not to be intolerant because it goes against what we do, which is art. We recognize the impermanence of things so we must give the best of what is in our hearts”, she said, to rousing applause from the audience.

Ilda Santiago expressed the organizers’ happiness at holding the premier at the Cidade das Artes. “This is a big gift for the country. It’s a huge pleasure to give this global, post-Olympic city an event that we’ve been building for many years with passion, a lot of hard work and partnerships. What’s most important is the cooperation of so many people.” The director thanked the sponsors, supporters and the public.

“I must thank all the producers and distributors who have made it possible to have this wonderful banquet of films over the next 11 days. It’s the first time we’ve had members of the general public at our opening event, and I extend my gratitude to them. It is they who will fill the theaters and allow us to continue our work.”

Ms. Santiago noted that Arrival was the perfect complement to the grandeur of the Cidade das Artes. “By showing this film this evening we celebrate the career of this esteemed director whose films we’ve been screening since he made films in Quebec. It’s a celebration of the greatness of film. Great films can come from anywhere in the world,” she concluded.

Rodrigo Saturnino Braga, of Sony Pictures, surprised the audience when he took to the stage to present a special video message for the opening of the Festival do Rio from Villeneuve, who was unable to attend because he was filming.

Arrival is a fantastic and powerful story about language.  The screenplay by Eric Heisserer is based on the short story, Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang. And all the actors - Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker – fell in love with it. It is with great pride that I present the film to you today,” the director declared.

In this science fiction film, people encounter mysterious space ships that touch down across the globe without any apparent explanation. A linguist is hired to translate the language used by the aliens in order to understand why they have come.

As the audience made their way out of the theater, a sculpture by Angelo Venosa hanging from the ceiling seemed to dialogue with the characters of the film, and reinforce the notion that film is a universal language that can reach everyone.