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Photos: Angelo Brum

After a grueling 15 month pre-production during one of the most devastating global pandemics in history, principal photography for the feature film A Song for Victoria (directed by Cesar Raphael and starring Nicole Olmedo) finally started last month in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 

“I am beyond excited about beginning to film! People don’t know how much this really means to me. This is not just a movie, it’s something I’ve been fighting for, for the last 10 years. And now to stand on set on the 1st day of filming and actually begin, it’s such a feeling, such a milestone; but this is just the beginning,” Cesar said.

Cesar Raphael, who is originally from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is a full fledged filmmaker. He’s a writer, producer and director who also acts, edits and choreographs as well. He’s been making films since he was 7 years old and now, at 35, he has already lived a full life as a filmmaker: Funding his own production company, directing his debut short film, going through the festival circuits where he was able to show his work on 4 continents, earning many accolades, including 14 awards as a film director and being honored by FORBES Magazine as one of the 30 under 30 most prominent people in Brazil. The awards and recognition led him to contracts, gave him a manager in Los Angeles, and awarded him 6 years living in Hollywood where he was mentored by the Oscar winner writer/director Bobby Moresco (from Crash and Million Dollar Baby). Additionally, while in LA, he was able to hone his acting skills in schools like The New York Film Academy and The Lee Strasberg Institute and it was there where he met his now life partner; Swedish model and actress, Nicole Olmedo. 

Nicole was a 22 year old aspiring actress who had just arrived to Los Angeles when the 2 met in an acting school in Burbank. They fell for each other, she moved to LA and started a career in modeling. 

But the couple did not just fall in love and ride into the sunset. There were many challenges, as neither of them was a U.S. citizen, nor were they from the same country, and therefore they had to move around for visa and work-related issues. From Brazil, to Los Angeles, England, Sweden and back… after 6 years together, the couple landed in Cesar’s hometown in Brazil in early 2020, bringing with them their first baby, 3 month old Lily Rose, born in Stockholm. 

It was from their love; for each other and for their craft; their desire to be together, and the challenges they faced, that the movie A Song for Victoria was born.

The film tells the story of a failed depressed musician (played by Cesar Raphael) who slowly re-gains his lost inspiration and joy of life thru the relationship with his new neighbor, a beautiful mysterious foreigner (played by Nicole Olmedo). 

The movie also stars the award winning Brazilian actress Thais Maya, who will be traveling to Brazil to begin filming her scenes in the coming months. She’s based in San Diego, California and met Cesar in a film festival in Los Angeles, where her film Siren was in competition. 

A Song for Victoria is Cesar’s debut feature film. Per usual, he took on all of the roles: writer, director, actor, and producer, but this time he’s not alone; Nicole has co-written the script with him and is also co-starring and co-producing the film, all while co-parenting their daughter.

A Song for Victoria is a low budget independent feature, produced in what Cesar calls a “refined gorilla style.” The movie, like Cesar, is an amalgamation of things; it is a romantic-dramedy-musical. Cesar aspires to recapture the poetry of the silent pictures, the magic of musicals from the Golden Era of Hollywood, fashioned with the classiness of the romantic comedies of the 60’s. If you knew Cesar, you would see that he dresses and walks the walks of all of those genres. He tends to wear armor like clothing with shoulder pads, lots of black, and he’s always wearing shades.  When he enters the building you feel like you’re in the presence of a movie star and his cologne lingers in the room long after he departs, leaving a lasting impression; but when he opens his mouth, he vacillates between seasoned business man and a giddy teenager who is in love and still appreciates Walt Disney.  He could be seen as aloof or standoffish, but when he’s around Nicole, he lights up like a child. Nicole is warm and beautiful, and her almond-shaped eyes are a window to her wide open soul. They are perfect yin and yang.

Even in an auteur film like this, moviemaking is all about team work and the crew can make or break a film: “In a completely independent production like this, the relevance of our crew and a supportive community is at the center of it all,” says Cesar.

Photos: Angelo Brum

“We’re deeply grateful to Multimarcas Consórcios and Rede Prime, some of our main investors, to Ville Celestine Hotel and Condo, who arranged our accommodations here in Brazil, to Funarte, who borrowed us their amazing studios for months, to our Director of Photography Luan Kraz, our Producers Daniela Savassi and Rosangela Machado and our whole crew, who worked endless hours and within a very small budget. None of this could be possible without our partners, investors and the support from our family and friends,” Cesar continued.

If you are wondering how this film with an eclectic directing style, and a low budget, set in Brazil, spoken mostly in English and starring a Swedish actress, will look, then you will have to wait until the 2022 LA premier at the LABRFF – Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival.  

In the meantime, you can watch behind the scenes videos on YouTube and experience the harrowing journey along with them.

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