Los Silencios (2019)


Direction: Beatriz Seigner
Country: Brazil / Colombia / France

Los Silencios, the sophomore feature film by Brazilian writer/director Beatriz Seigner, is a conscious refugee tale and a saddened look into war, loss, forgiveness, and relocation, all wrapped in political package.

The occurrences take place in an interesting milieu, a tiny swamped Amazonian island located at the border of Brazil, Colombia and Peru, which doesn’t really belong to any of these countries. Amparo Gomez (Marleyda Soto) had been living in San Martín, in the interior of Colombia, with her guerrilla-supporter husband, Adão (Enrique Diaz), and their two children, the effusive Fabio (Adolfo Savilvino), 9, and the speechless Nuria (María Paula Tabares Peña), 12.


After her husband went missing in the battle against the oppressive Colombian paramilitary, she was threatened to death and ultimately resolved to flee to the cited island, where aunt Abuelita (Doña Albina), is waiting for them. The latter puts a word in her favor to the president of the island (Heider Sanchez) since she dwells there for 20 years. However, he is more interested in making business with greedy rich men than sheltering another refugee. The islanders are furious because the government wants them to sell their houses for a very low price in order to build a casino and a resort. Whether in big cities or small towns, this is a recurrent situation that keeps contaminating our society. The story increases the enigmatic tones when Adão arrives on the island. Is he real or a ghost?

Despite occasionally veiled with haziness and bringing no nuance to the lukewarm ambiance, the film is observant, compassionate, and holds up the longer you analyze it. The blend of gritty, sad realism and otherworldly connection has proved substantial.


Long Way Home / Temporada (2019)


Direction: André Novais Oliveira
Country: Brazil

Although unfurling slowly and feeling somewhat turgid in its behaviors, Long Way Home / Temporada, a project by André Novais Oliveira, offers warm, friendly vibes along the way that might keep you connected. One of the strongest aspects of the film is the unexpectedness of a plot bolstered with credible performances from Grace Passô and debutant Russo Apr.

At the center of the tale is Juliana (Passô), a married woman who leaves her small-scale Brazilian hometown, Itaúnas, to embrace the bigger metropolitan town of Contagem, where she was called for a coveted yet poorly paid governmental job within the public-health department. She becomes a fighter in the arduous endemic control of the Dengue mosquito. Her husband is supposed to join her after she settles down but vanishes without a trace.

Meanwhile, Juliana befriends her immediate superior Russão (Apr), a nice, funny guy who plans to open a barber shop and, against all the expectations, finds out he is a father.


Every co-worker has a story and a cross to bear, but they find support in one another with an empathic understanding and abundant compassion. After all, Juliana is forced to a fresh start. With her arms wide open, she embraces a new life where everything is unfamiliar and uncertain. Yet, there’s always something to discover in each and every experience.

Disillusion, frustration, and affliction counterbalance friendship, self-discovery, and hope. Oliveira’s direction is virtuous and his vision substantiates humanity. Still, he could have included the violence theme, a major problem in Brazil, in order to make this snapshot even more authentic. Although I didn’t get completely fulfilled in the end, the film has quite a few fascinating moments and is worth seeing.


Araby (2018)


Direction: João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa
Country: Brazil

Establishing a tidy, if uncommon, structure, Araby, has something commendable to say about life on the streets and the hardships of getting and maintaining a job in Brazil. To tell their message, the pair of directors, João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa, take us to a smoky little town in Ouro Preto, state of Minas Gerais. There’s sadness all around and elderly people needing care. This is the village where Andre (Murilo Caliari) was born, a solitary teenager who is neglected by his ever-traveling parents. He takes care of his sick young brother with the help of an aunt, nurse Marcia (Gláucia Vandeveld), and seems to have an erratic personal life.

When we thought Andre would be the central character of the story, the camera shifts its focus to Cristiano (Aristides de Sousa), a hardworking ex-con who is employed in the old metal factory, guarantor of the town's financial stability. After a serious work accident, Cristiano is taken to the hospital and remains there unconscious. During this time, Andre goes to his place to get some clothes and finds a handwritten notebook with descriptive points of view and past episodes of Cristiano's life.


Memories and states of mind were tossed in those pages, and that’s how we get to know more about a humble man who once had to steal to eat. He worked in a variety of fields - from civil construction to fruit picking to weaving factory - and stained his hands with blood, although, in an involuntary way. Yet, nothing had been so insuperable to him than experiencing disillusionment in an amorous relationship. The last pages reveal how tired and consumed by frustration he was.

Toggling between the feverish and the vulnerable, Araby is contemplative in the tone and depressive in the message. Its shots are unconventionally composed and some of the sequences are roughly edited, displaying live acts of Brazilian folk music that linger for quite some time. It has a penetrating narrative spell, though, that puts us in a sort of trance.

Even with all its flaws, you will be moved by its humanity, but don’t be surprised if a deep feeling of solitude invades your spirit.


Vazante (2018)


Directed by Daniela Thomas
Country: Brazil / Portugal

Vazante” takes us in a solemn journey to 1821 Brazil, where Antonio (Adriano Carvalho), a wealthy cattle herder returns to his secluded estate farm located in the middle of a clearing in Diamantina Mountains, Minas, just to find out that his wife died in labor together with their baby. Has a signal of power, he brought a few African slaves with him, but promptly abandons the farm in a disheartened state, entrusting his senile mother-in-law, Zizinha (Juliana Carneiro da Cunha), to the long-time servant Joana (Geísa Costa), and the farm to Manuel (Alexandre da Sena), his loyal foreman.

Bartholomeu (Roberto Audio), his cordial brother-in-law, arrives with his greedy wife, Ondina (Sandra Corveloni), and their 12-year-old daughter, Beatriz (Luana Nastas). With Antonio absent, he becomes the master of the house, but his inexperience and softness allow some rebels to escape after making him a hostage. They also steal mules, a price that the penniless Bartholomeu cannot pay. This scene is crafted with limited tension and ends inconsequently. Also superfluous is the presence of Jeremias (Fabrício Boliveira), an efficient planter who vouches to do wonders in Antonio's fertile land.


Antonio eventually returns to the farm. His attention turns to his wife's niece, Beatriz, who, although underage, get her parents' encouragement to marry. This works as a payment for the incident described above as well as a guarantee of future economic stability. All the same, Beatriz’s simplicity is observed as she happily eats porridge with the black kids of the house. It’s not Antonio she loves. Her heart beats for Virgilio (Vinicius Dos Anjos), the son of Feliciana (Jai Baptista), a slave regularly summoned to sleep with the lord of the house. The film attains its devastating climax when both women, the servant and the noble lady, get pregnant. Hence, a tragic finale is unavoidable.

Presented with a deliberate languorous pace that makes us absorb every detail while enjoying the magnificent black-and-white cinematography by Inti Briontes (“Night Across The Street”), “Vazante” borrows the depressing noir tones of Miguel Gomes’ “Tabu”, the haunting looks of Ben Wheatley’s “A Field in England”, and the issues addressed in “12 Years A Slave” as a subplot, without beating any of the three. 

Under the supervision of “Linha de Passe” co-director Daniela Thomas, this emotionally wrenching period piece is culturally and historically valuable. Still, regardless the unblemished visual aspect, enriched with stunning landscapes and contemplative images that oppose the characters’ inner conflicts, the script is marred by a shattering predictability.


Nise: The Heart of Madness (2016)


Directed by Roberto Berliner
Country: Brazil

Under the direction of Roberto Berliner, “Nise: The Heart of Madness” is a taut biographical drama based on the achievements of Dr. Nise da Silveira, a Brazilian psychiatrist who rejected aggressive methods such as lobotomy and electroshocks in favor of affection and art as therapies to recover her schizophrenic patients.
Actually, 'patient' is a word that Nise wanted to avoid. She preferred client because she and her team were there to serve them, not to oppress or punish.

In the early 40s, after spending a few years in jail due to political reasons, Nise (Glória Pires) returns to the filthy National Psychiatry Center located in Engenho de Dentro, outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. It’s not only the place that is somber, but also the insensitive doctors and nurses who work there. Immediately, she learns that lobotomy and electric shocks are common treatments in the site, being fiercely advocated by the condescending Dr. Cesar (Michel Bercovitch), a true example of arrogance in the medical class. The manager of the site, Dr. Nelson (Zécarlos Machado), is slightly more understanding but makes clear he won’t go against the adopted procedures, which grew more and more popular at the time.

Appalled and unable to follow these invasive and destructive techniques, Nise is relegated to the chaotic Occupational Therapy Wing. With the help of Ivone (Roberta Rodrigues), a caring nurse, and Lima (Augusto Madeira), a brute slacker turned tolerant ally, she will make a revolution in the sector, also thanks to the collaboration of Almir (Filipe Rocha), an art-lover who brought in the idea of painting sessions for the inmates. 
Her ridiculed practices, which were approved by the master Carl Jung whom she corresponded with, also included daily contact with animals, namely stray dogs that were enthusiastically adopted by the schizoid patients. As expected, Nise’s success didn’t bring accolades from the envious colleagues, who continued to choose the ice pick instead of a paintbrush.

Despite the threatening and tense atmosphere, Berliner sweetens a few scenes that would be stronger without that type of dramatization. There’s a directorial overreaction that seeks to please the viewer by showing the positive side of the treatment, not only on the patients but also on the rest of the characters. For instance, the abrupt changing in Lima’s behavior feels phony. On the patients' side, Emygdio (Claudio Jaborandy)’s open speech before going home feels convenient and formulated. Not to mention the occupants' zombie-like walking, which was too dull and coordinated to be acceptable.

Even with all these reverses, “Nise” is a deeply humane story that everybody should know about. It depicts an important slice of history and advertises human dignity with positivism and pride.
Within an appropriate casting, Glória Pires gives an excellent performance as her broad smiles transpire the happiness of seeing those poor people doing better and the victories of her hard work.
The musical score by the cellist/composer Jacques Morelenbaum is employed to emphasize emotions whenever needed.

Aquarius (2016)


Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho
Country: Brazil / France

With only two feature films, Brazilian writer-director Kleber Mendonça Filho has gained a certain cult status, becoming a powerful voice in the alternative world cinema and a keen observer of today’s Brazil.
If “Neighboring Sounds” (2012) had stricken me with its irreverent tones, the recent “Aquarius”, a character-driven drama, completely enthralled me for nearly two hours and a half.
At the time the film was exhibited at Cannes Film Festival, the film’s cast organized a pacific demonstration where they showed discontentment about the impeachment of Brazil’s president Dilma Roussef and the disgraceful political situation lived in the country.

The story is centered on Clara, a retired upper-class music writer and former journalist who refuses to sell her beautifully renewed apartment to a greedy construction company that is eagerly planning to make some more millions by replacing the decayed Aquarius building. 
The narrative, divided into three chapters, begins in 1980 Recife, where we find a young shorthaired Clara (Barbara Colen really looks like Elis Regina) fairly recovered from a traumatic breast cancer and celebrating the anniversary of her aunt Lucia (Thaia Perez), a former political activist, in the company of her family – husband, three children, and brother.

Many years after, we find Clara (Sonia Braga), now a 65-year-old widow, visibly annoyed in the course of an interview for a local journal. The frivolous questions were not focused on her new book but rather if she could cope with digital music as well as her old vinyl collection. She’s living exactly in the same apartment she lived in the 80’s, cherishing every family memory and determined not to open hand of her patrimony despite the venomous persistence of Diego (Humberto Carrão), the unscrupulous new manager of the construction company. 
There’s a spellbinding eeriness associated with the ghostly apartment building since Clara, now the only dweller, keeps tracing lots of noises and suspicious activities, especially in the apartments above hers.
Activities may include cleaning and security inspections but also unimaginable things like orgies and religious gatherings.

It seems everyone is against her decision of staying in the building. Even her own daughter, who’s divorced and faces a delicate financial situation, doesn’t understand why she doesn’t accept the large sum of money that has been offered to her and move into a more secure apartment. 
The visionary director also takes the time to show us how Clara manages to live by herself, brilliantly exposing her sexual life, uncanny premonitory dreams, and social life in the company of her friends, some of them gossip adepts.

Sonia Braga’s tour-de-force performance, likely the best of her long career, bolsters a film that functions as a stirring contemporary eye-opener with a precise focal point.
I’m thinking of a comparable case in NYC: the famous, now-degrading Chelsea Hotel where people are still living in and nobody can throw them away.

Supported by a set of international producers, including Walter Salles (“Central Station”, “The Motorcycle Diaries”) as an executive, Mendonça Filho holds an unflinching filmmaking style reinforced by a haunting narrative fluency. 
A bow to his new masterwork!

Neon Bull (2015)


Directed by Gabriel Mascaro
Country: Brazil / other

Gabriel Mascaro’s unadorned sophomore feature, “Neon Bull”, brings to the big screen the lives of a few individuals connected to the Vaquejada, the typical rodeo of the Northeast Brazil.

Iremar (Juliano Cazarré) is an experienced bull handler who prepares the opulent white animals before being released in an arena where two men on horseback will persecute and throw them on the ground with a violent tail tug. This is what he does to make a living, but his real dream is to become a fashion designer. In his spare time, he goes to swampy fields where he collects pieces of broken mannequins and other discarded props that he uses to feed his fashion fantasy.
Usually, he has the company of Cacá (Alyne Santana), a sharp-tongued adolescent girl who love horses and whose mother, a dancer named Galega (Maeve Jinkings), is also the driver of the truck that transports the bulls and serves as their improvised home. Iremar and his funny assistant, Zé (Carlos Pessoa), also live in the truck. 
The men have such a great relationship that they share a porn magazine, which has two functions: Zé uses to masturbate while Iremar uses what’s left of it to design his clothing models on top of the naked girls. 
Despite these curious behaviors, everyone shows respect for one another, even if it’s discernible some tension in the way they talk, which happens to be more a natural thing than a confrontation. Many of these verbal tensions come from Cacá’s stubbornness and wry commentaries that leave her mother and the men frequently out of their minds.

Even occasionally infusing a spontaneous humor, “Neon Bull” is a tough watch due to the constant violence that takes both the physical and emotional forms. This factor is counterpointed by explicit images of intense sexual pleasure, when Galega accepts a newly arrived attractive cowboy named Junior (Vinícius de Oliveira, the kid from “Central Station”) as her sexual partner, and when Iremar becomes physically attracted to a pregnant woman, Geise (Samya De Lavor), a perfume seller during the day and a security guard at a knitting factory during the night.

All these dualisms - violence and pleasure, ugly and beautiful, hostile and respectful, reality and dream - make “Neon Bull” such a powerful drama, enhanced by a confident structure and fabulous acting from the cast of professional and non-professional actors.
Mr. Mascaro, even bolder than in his debut feature, “August Winds”, doesn’t refrain from showing whatever he has to, good or bad, to guarantee that the characters’ painful reality is passed to the viewers. The images captured by the cinematographer Diego Garcia are fiercely expressive, showing a mix of compositions that keep alternating between atrocious, brisk, laid-back, and carnal. Some of them can be pretty disturbing with its intensity and rawness, being so hard to digest but also to forget.

The movie’s less positive aspect has to do with a couple of scenes attempting to shock in too obvious ways. Still, this transient quibble doesn’t remove the power of the tale. 
Mr. Mascaro, with his very personal vision, didn’t take the bull by the tail but rather by the horns.

The Second Mother (2015)

The Second Mother (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anna Muylaert
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: In this pungent, keenly observed comedy from Anna Muylaert, a live-in housekeeper, Val (Regina Casé), awaits the arrival of her estranged teenage daughter, Jessica (Camila Márdila), who leaves Pernambuco, where she was raised by relatives, to come to São Paulo in order to attempt the extremely difficult admission exam for a reputable architecture college. Mother and daughter don’t speak with each other for more than 10 years and both are apprehensive about living together. Val’s plan consists in finding a cheap little place for them, but taking into account the surprise of the arrival, she asks her bosses if Jessica can stay in the house for a while. Three persons compose the wealthy family: Barbara (Karine Teles), a snob who seems to be helpful at first, but immediately feels invaded when Jessica asks to stay in the huge guest room instead of in her mother’s simple and tiny space; Barbara’s husband, Carlos (Lourenço Mutarelli), a frustrated, innocuous former artist who stopped working and gradually develops an embarrassing passion for Jessica; and their son, Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), who was raised by Val as her own child, and whose main concerns at the moment are hiding his weed from his parents and lose virginity. The problematic barriers between social classes are the main subject of Ms. Muylaert’s script, which richly unfolds situations with precise focus and lots of laughs, especially due to the heavenly performance of Regina Casé who gesticulates, pulls a face, talks to herself, and occasionally hangs out with other housekeeper’s friends. Jessica is the character to admire, though. She acts comfortably and with no sense of inferiority in front of whoever, revealing a disconcerting self-assurance that drives Barbara and her afflicted mother crazy, while the lonesome Carlos gets more and more fascinated by her way. She reproaches Val for adopting such a subservient behavior and shows to be hurt for having been left behind. Almost reaching the end, an ultimate plot twist can be seen as an obvious tactical opportunity for some. It worked fine for me, just as the narrative exposure and topic resolution.

Futuro Beach (2014)

Futuro Beach (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Karim Ainouz
Country: Brazil / Germany

Movie Review: Brazilian filmmaker, Karim Ainouz, can be proud of his past films. “Madame Satã” and “I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You” were distinguished dramas that elevated his reputation, not only in his country of origin but worldwide. However, his new feature, “Futuro Beach”, starring Wagner Moura (“Tropa de Elite”), Clemens Schick and Jesuíta Barbosa, was more languid than attractive, and more introvert than expansive, never making justice to a potentially interesting plot written by Ainouz and Felipe Bragança (“Heleno”), in their second collaboration after 2006 “Love for Sale”. After an accident that victimized a German citizen in the dangerous waters of Fortaleza’s Futuro beach, Donato (Moura) starts a homosexual relationship with the victim’s close friend, Konrad (Schick). In love, he decides to leave to Berlin with his lover, sacrificing the job of his dreams, and leaving his defenseless younger brother, Ayrton (Barbosa), at his own mercy. Struggling to adapt to a new country and to a new language, immigration revealed to be the most interesting aspect in the film, relegating for second plan the ups and downs of the irregular relationships depicted. Set up in three chapters, the ambiance doesn’t change and the monotony doesn’t go away, not even when Ayrton arrives in Berlin, ready to confront his brother for having let him down. “Futuro Beach” grows tiresome due to a lack of excitement and insistent sexual scenes. The beautiful words by the end, along with the gorgeous images, don’t save the film from some amateurism of processes and frustrating emotional limitations.

The Way He Looks (2014)

The Way He Looks (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Daniel Ribeiro
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Daniel Ribeiro’s coming of age drama, “The Way He Looks”, gained my respect for the positive messages put forward but never reached my deepest feelings or sympathy, as it draws the story of a blind teen student, Leo, who little by little discovers his sexuality. The film opens with a great shot, geometrically composed, of Leo and his best female friend Giovana having a relaxed chat by the pool. They talk about who will be the first girl to kiss Leo who grows more unhappy at home where his super attentive parents don’t give him enough space to live his life. Leo seeks an independence that would be almost impossible in his hometown, São Paulo, that’s why he shows a huge desire to leave and study abroad. In school, he’s subjected to improper behaviors of some colleagues who like to make fun of him. When his stability starts being affected, a new student, Gabriel, arrives at school, getting closer to him as they work on a project. The pair falls in love, fact that will trigger jealousy in Giovana whose friendship becomes vacillating. The only motive that made me keep following “The Way He Looks” relates to the fact that Leo is blind, consequently falling in love with his friend for what he really is, and not for his physical appearance. As for the rest, the film works much better addressing the vicissitudes of friendship than actually portraying a teen gay romance. Unfortunately, Ribeiro’s initial premise seemed to be stuck, where the mix of innocence and dissatisfaction of the main character, resulted more irritating than charming. Exhibiting an intermittent pace and an ultra-sweet finale, “The Way He Looks” failed to enrapture.

Latitudes (2014)

Latitudes (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Felipe Braga
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Co-written by first-time director Felipe Braga and Teodoro Popovic, “Latitudes” was shot in eight different countries, falling in the category of drama-romance. Renowned Brazilian actress, Alice Braga (“City of God”, “Elysium”) gives shape to Olivia, an inveterate traveler and fashion editor, who is always in a rush but suddenly gets trapped by love, after one-nigh stand in Paris with photographer José (Daniel de Oliveira). Despite being committed in distinct relationships, and trying to avoid extra commitment at any cost, both will meet again, incidentally or not, in luxurious hotel rooms around seven other countries, including England, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and Turkey. The film really starts in a languid way, seeming too familiar (Linklater’s ‘Before trilogy’ eventually comes to mind), but over its course “Latitudes” was able to find its own way, putting itself in a place where we can see it with different eyes. Jealousy, doubt and contradictions intrude in the relationship of two wanderers whose dialogues are not always absorbing. The direction of Felipe Braga (no relation with Alice Braga applies) is sufficient but not without some distracting elements that blur the painting. I would say that the story is simultaneously contrived and engaging in its looseness. There’s still time for love? Maybe, but only if it’s the right one. “Latitudes” got a multi-platform release that includes Youtube series, network TV show and theatrical feature-length film.

Tattoo (2013)

Tattoo (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hilton Lacerda
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Love is free and censorship is severe in “Tattoo” aka "Tatuagem", writer-director Hilton Lacerda’s debut fictional feature film. Set in Pernambuco, Recife, in the well defined political context of 1978, the film starts to introduce us with ‘Chão de Estrelas’, a cabaret and night club where theater, poems, dance, and music in the forms of traditional fanfares, samba and Brazilian popular music, compose the subversive enjoyment and freedom of expression censored by a feared military dictatorship. Cléssio is the choreographer of the show and also performer, while Paulete is the real star of the company, an expressive exhibitionist who gets jealous when his sister’s boyfriend, an 18-year-old soldier, gets involved in a torrid gay romance with Clécio. The latter manages to bring all the crew of the show to live in a big house, in a sort of commune, including his partner Deusa and their son, Tuca. The film, in all its libertinism, is based on jealousy and unstable relationships, at the same time that tries to get a hand on the political situation and the repression lived at the time, an aspect that was not so well accomplished. A restless camera moves from one side to the other, capturing the visual richness and warm colors of the places, in a direction and sound design that were a sight for sore eyes. “Tattoo” counts with impeccable performances by Irandhir Santos, Rodrigo Garcia and Jesuita Barbosa, mixing moments of seriousness, flamboyance, anarchy, and humor. The film achieved local success at Rio de Janeiro, Gramado and São Paulo film festivals.

Xingu (2012)

Xingu (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Cao Hamburger
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Brazilian drama “Xingu” was freely based on true stories, telling the path of courageous Villas-Boas brothers, Claudio (João Miguel), Orlando (Felipe Camargo), and Leonardo (Caio Blat) who changed from mere explorers to Indians’ protectors in a remote and unexplored western-center region of Brazil. Set in the 40’s, in a time where president Getúlio Vargas launched a campaign to boost progress and occupation of these regions, the brothers set off on a journey along Xingu River, creating a natural bond with Indians from different tribes. Aware of the white men’s machinations, they decide to fight side by side with the Indians for their rights and territory, threatened by the construction of a military base, illegal distribution of land, and finally the construction of a highway in an area inhabited by Kreen, the most isolated tribe. Claudio and Orlando were the responsible for the creation of a protective area called National Xingu Park, place where the Indians remain confined since 1961. Helmer Cao Hamburger transpired some style and even passion by telling a good story, but the film is not totally devoid of flaws. In some moments, especially in the first half, it showed to suffer from some apathy in its development and evinced a deficient political contextualization. Even so, and regardless some imprudence in determined aspects, the well-performed and nicely photographed “Xingu” is watchable, providing valuable historical information about Brazil and their almost unknown heroes from other times.

Once Upon A Time Was I, Veronica (2012)

Once Upon A Time Was I, Veronica (2012)
Directed by: Marcelo Gomes
Country: Brazil

Review: After “I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You” from 2009, which achieved great notoriety among the critic, Marcelo Gomes returns but not in the same shape as before, to presents us “Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica”, a drama set in Recife, Brazil, that tells the story of Veronica (Hermila Guedes), a newly graduated doctor who struggles to find balance in her life. The moving camera with unfocused shots used in the film’s opening scene, depicting several naked bodies in the beach, arouse my curiosity in knowing more about Veronica, but in the end my expectations became defrauded. Living alone with her retired father whose terminal illness is advancing, and becoming affected by the ails of her patients from the hospital where she works, Veronica is passing through a crisis that she would never thought it was possible. Furthermore, her inability to commit herself in a steady relationship is increasing her pain, especially when her father inquires her about that matter. Without knowing what she wants from life, she often sees herself as a patient to be treated, unburdening her pains to an old tape recorder in the same melancholic way. When the film reaches its end, all the issues concerning Veronica’s life remained out of focus, and the urban depression it tried to convey seemed vague. This major problem prevented it from succeed, regardless of any other beneficial aspects that might have been presented.

Found Memories (2011)

Found Memories (2011)
Directed by: Julia Murat
Country: Brazil / others

Review: Presented with brushstrokes of intimacy and evincing a nostalgic depth that slowly shakes us inside, “Found Memories” can be seen as a kind of fictional documentary about Jotuomba, a remote Brazilian village that is slowly disappearing as its remaining 11 elderly inhabitants are dying. Simultaneously, it depicts the beautiful story of friendship between Madalena, an old woman responsible for making the bread for the village, and Rita, a young photographer who appeared asking for shelter for a couple of days. The film starts showing the monotonous day-to-day life of the villagers. Madalena makes her bread at night, barely illuminated by an oil lamp; every morning she takes the bread to Antonio’s coffee shop, where they have the same quarrel about putting the bread on the shelves; after cleaning the locked cemetery gates, she attends Mass and then shares a meal with all the villagers. Little by little, Rita’s presence will make this ritual more tolerable for them, provoking uncanny sensations of trust and moments of joy that seemed to be forgotten for many years. In its silences, “Found Memories” is a sweet, melancholic, and rewarding piece of filmmaking, which didn’t need more than a few simplistic processes and passionate candidness to captivate. In the end, Júlia Murat’s reflective debut left us with the question: ‘where do we belong?’.

Neighboring Sounds (2012)

Neighboring Sounds (2012)
Directed by: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Country: Brazil

Review: Simultaneously bizarre and audacious, “Neighboring Sounds” was an agreeable surprise. With his witty vision, Kleber Mendonça Filho portrays a middle-class neighborhood of Recife, Brazil. To define its spirit and insecurity, the story guides us through a series of adventurous situations, most of them unexpected and intriguing. The title is meaningful, since the howl of a dog or loud music in the streets could cause exasperation on some characters. Precious details present in every scene help to compose the bigger picture of an unbalanced society with all the problematic aspects about human relationships and personal needs. While some behaviors are completely normal, depicting a calm quotidian life, others seem mysterious or unusual, creating a curiosity that refuses to leave. Some episodes were so delightful, abrupt, and unforeseen, that I kept them in my mind. I’m remembering of insomniac Bia being attacked by a neighbor, smoking a joint with the help of a vacuum cleaner, or getting horny with a washing machine; or even a realistic condominium meeting to discuss what to do with the old doorman who sleeps in every corner. Some other scenes are meant to baffle us, and then are purposely left behind without explanation, accumulating tension that never really bursts in any occasion. This fact can become frustrating for some viewers, but the originality, irreverence, and loose style adopted, made “Neighboring Sounds” a distinct experience, even with an inarticulate storyline.

Southwest (2012)

Southwest (2012)
Directed by: Eduardo Nunes
Country: Brazil

Review: “Southwest” was one of the most pleasant surprises I had lately. Eduardo Nune’s debut is a treat for the eyes, with a dazzling black-and-white photography and delightful details in direction. Showing boldness, both in conception and execution, it intertwines life and death in a Brazilian southwest village, to depict Clarice’s whole life in a single day. I know this sounds weird, but you will notice that the time runs differently here, so don’t expect a conventional storytelling. Beyond that, we have traditional parades, amulets, exceptional music and odd sounds, landscapes, everything working together to provide a whirlwind of emotions and sensations within a dreamlike ambience. “Southwest” is pure art-house, which challenges, provokes and disorients until you become prisoner of your senses. Likely to be seen as a reliving of the past or mere hallucinations, my guess is: it will haunt you, no matter what…

Heleno (2011)

Directed by: José Henrique Fonseca
Country: Brazil

Plot: A biography of the tragic life of one of Brazil's greatest soccer players.
Review: Magnificently acted by Rodrigo Santoro, “Heleno” is a grey portrait of one of the most polemic soccer players from Brazil. Heleno de Freitas, idol of Rio’s team Botafogo in the 40’s, had a special talent for soccer, women and to upset everyone around him. Quarrelsome enough and lacking team spirit, Heleno’s career was stained by adulterous relationships, nightlife and drugs/alcohol addiction. Diagnosed with advanced syphilis, Heleno ended his days in a sanatorium, where he never stopped dreaming about the fame and glory of soccer. Absorbing and forceful enough to surprise us. In black and white.
Relevant awards: Best actor (Havana and Lima).

As Melhores Coisas do Mundo (2010)

Realizado por: Laís Bodanzky
País: Brasil

Um filme sobre a adolescência realizado e interpretado à boa maneira brasileira. Longe de provocar grande surpresa ou de deixar grande marca, tem no entanto uma abordagem simples e directa de vários problemas com possibilidade de emergir nos nossos dias. O argumento flui com naturalidade, retratando temas como a amizade, traição, sexualidade, discriminação, depressão, suicídio, família e escola. Vencedor de diversos prémios do cinema brasileiro, incluindo melhor realização e argumento, atribuídos pela associação de críticos de São Paulo e Festival do Recife.

Waste Land (2010)

Realizado por: Lucy Walker
País: Brasil, Reino Unido

Mais um documentário de qualidade, desta feita sobre os denominados "catadores" de materiais recicláveis de Jardim Gramacho no Brasil, considerada a maior lixeira do mundo. O artista Vik Muniz, dá uma oportunidade aos trabalhadores deste local para fazerem parte de um projecto artístico, onde os lucros das vendas reverterão para a associação de catadores local. Um meio de sobrevivência para muitas pessoas miseráveis mas orgulhosas e conscientes da sua importância para a sociedade. Prémios nos Festivais de Berlim, São Paulo e Sundance, além da nomeação da Academia para melhor documentário.