Thursday, August 24, 2006


4th Brazilian Film Festival of New York

From August 6-13, Brazilian movies took center stage in New York. The 4th Brazilian Film Festival of New York (the festival also takes place in Miami, Barcelona and Beijing) held court at the Tribeca Cinemas, where 15 films were screened two times each.

The festival began on Sunday, August 6 in Central Park with a performance by Brazilian pop star Lenine (pictured at right), followed by a screening of This Is Bossa Nova, directed by Paolo Thiago. Lenine combines rock and samba with panache. The film traces the roots of the delicate music that has long been one of Brazil's principle exports.

During the week of screenings, which included many after-parties, I saw several films:

Angels of the Sun, directed by Rudi Lagemann
This sad story of young women being sold into forced prostitution is well told. One teenager, Maria, escapes twice and the second time ends up in Rio, where she's recruited by a madam. Maria runs aways again, hitchhiking her way north, but the movie offers little hope for Maria and others caught in the clutches of Brazil's ugly secret.

Teen Mothers, directed by Sandra Werneck
Set in the favelas of Rio, this documentary is as real as it gets. Teenaged girls get pregnant and have the babies, despite their age. Due to poverty and Catholicism, abortion is not an option. Many of the girls accept their plight, becoming young mothers, like their own mothers before them. For those unfamiliar with Brazil and even for those familiar, this is a fascinating look at what goes on high in the hills above Rio.

Women of Brazil, directed by Malu De Martino
The lives of five women are depicted in this episodic film. Because of its structure, you may choose to like one character more than another, such as Telma, a carnival dancer who falls during her judged segment and then attempts to commit suicide, despite winning the contest (which she doesn't know at the time).

Brasilia 18%, directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Shown originally at Tribeca Film Destival in May, Pereira dos Santos' film is a mediation on power and misogyny in Brazil. A medical examiner is expected to conclude that a female Congressional aide's death was due to natural causes. But when he decides otherwise, the examiner becomes caught up in political intrigue and is forced to make an unethical decision.

Arido Movie, directed by Lirio Ferreira
This road movie set in northeast Brazil features a band of stoners who smoke pot wherever the go. Essentially, they follow a friend who's attending a family funeral. Full of spunk and a sense of adventure, Ferreira's feature is one of the few movies at the festival that might capture an American audience.

In Evil Hour, directed by Ruy Guerra
Adapted from the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, this movie is set in a small town during a constant downpour. It works almost as a play, with people holed up in their homes and bars, going steadily stir crazy.

The winner of the Crystal Lens Award, selected by audiences, was After the Ball, directed by Roberto Bontempo, about a widow who has to decide between two elderly suitors.

BRAFF is produced by Inffinito Foundation of Brazil and directed by Adriana Dutra, Claudia Dutra and Viviane Spinelli. Make sure to attend it next year.


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