Skin of Glass

A journey to reckon with Brazil’s harsh inequality begins when filmmaker Denise Zmekhol discovers her father’s architectural masterpiece is occupied by hundreds of homeless people.

Plinio Hokama and Angel
Funding Initiative
Diversity Development Fund
Open Call
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Producer & Director

Denise Zmekhol

Syrian-Brazilian director Denise Zmekhol’s films have been awarded for their visual style and deft storytelling. Her film Children of the Amazon, supported by ITVS, aired on PBS. She co-produced the Emmy-winning PBS series Digital Journey and presented the story of her film Skin of Glass at Pop-Up Magazine and a TEDWomen conference.

Other ITVS Films
Children of the Amazon
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Richard O'Connell

Richard O’Connell is an Emmy- and Peabody-winning filmmaker and producer. His film The Corridor broadcast on PBS and won the Critics Award at the Mill Valley Film Festival. In addition to Skin of Glass, he is working on a hybrid documentary about the life of a writer and retired bank robber. O’Connell teaches film at Berkeley City College.

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Leah Mahan

Leah Mahan is a documentary director, producer, writer, and teacher. Her work was nominated by the DGA for Outstanding Directorial Achievement and aired on PBS’s POV. She served as a Fellow at the Sundance Documentary Editing and Story Lab, Sundance Stories of Change, and as a Research Fellow at the Center for Environmental Filmmaking.

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Amir Soltani

Amir Soltani is an Iranian-American storyteller and human rights activist. He has worked across media as an author, journalist, and filmmaker. He has also worked in business, nonprofits, and philanthropy, most recently as executive director of the Semnani Family Foundation.  

Other ITVS Films
Dogtown Redemption

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The Film

When Brazilian-American filmmaker Denise Zmekhol discovers that her late father's most celebrated work as an architect is now São Paulo’s tallest homeless occupation, she begins a journey to reckon with her past and the harsh inequality transforming the country of her birth. Her initially personal quest forces her to face a growing global crisis: one in six people in the world are squatters. The film evolves as a poetic essay on displacement, the concept of home, and the role of architecture in urban life. A modernist icon affectionately known as “Pele de Vidro” (Skin of Glass), the building itself becomes a central character. Roger Zmekhol, a Syrian immigrant to Brazil, was just 32 years old when he designed it. Conceived in the vibrant era of Bossa Nova and Cinema Novo, it was built in the early days of a dictatorship that would hold power for two decades. Ultimately, through in-depth interactions with the homeless who occupied her father’s building, Denise starts to see Pele de Vidro from a larger perspective. The dramatic changes that transform the building reflect Brazil itself during eras of darkness, transformation, and rebirth. The film builds a searing portrait of a country in crisis through the personal story of a father and daughter and the built environment of São Paulo where their lives, memories, and dreams overlap.