Smiling Eyes

Documentary series for web | COLOR | Sound | 3 episodes  | 10′ | 2021



Conceived by Gabriela de Palhano, TV Globo reporter also affected by facial paralysis, the series was conceived and produced in partnership with Paulo Mendel and 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.



“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.



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)



“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. “

Director Statement