Category Archives: Film

Dirty hearts: Japanese immigrants that denied their defeat in WWII

In 1945, the war was over in the Pacific and emperor Hiroito surrended to the Allies. But some Japanese that immigrated to Brazil were certain that their country had won the conflict and the news were mere American propaganda. They created the Shindo Renmei, an organization that hunt and killed fellow Japanese immigrants that didn´t believe in Japan´s fall. Some were hunted down and assassinated – by their own countrymen – causing the start of a new, private war. The story is told in detail in the book “Corações Sujos”, by journalist Fernando Morais. And, now, it is also a film, directed by Vicente Amorim, to be released in Brazil in October. Mostly spoken in Japanese, it is both a thriller and a love story, narrated by the wife of one of the fanatics.

This is the movie´s first teaser:

Nelson Cavaquinho at home at Mangueira

Samba is not necessarily joyful. Nelson Cavaquinho was one of the great masters of melancholic samba. Death and lack of hope are constant in his more than 600 songs. In one of his masterpieces, “A flor e o espinho” (the flower and the thorn), he sings: “Tire o seu sorriso do caminho/Que eu quero passar com a minha dor/Hoje pra você eu sou espinho/ Espinho não machuca flor /Eu só errei quando juntei minh´alma à sua
O sol não pode viver perto lua” (Take your smile away/Because I want to pass by with my pain/ Today I am a thorn for you/ A thorn doesn’t hurt a flower/ My only mistake was to add my soul to yours/ The Sun cannot live close to the Moon).

In this controversial and beautiful 1969 short documentary by Leon Hirzman, the composer is shown at home, at Mangueira shanty town, singing, opening his heart, drinking, offering beer to a kid. It doesn’t have English subtitles, but it has few dialogues anyway.

Carlos Saldanha, the soul of Rio (the animation film)

Rio, the animation that just took in $40 million on its opening weekend (that is, last weekend) in the USA, after accumulating $168 million in other countries, is the latest Hollywood incursion of carioca director Carlos Saldanha, who also directed the Ice Age saga and co-directed Robots. Considered one of the best movie animators out there, he was nominated to the Oscar for his short Gone Nutty. If you understand Portuguese, check this great  one-hour interview on Roda Viva TV program,  where he describes his trajectory. Otherwise, you can check this  short video in English where he is interviewed by young viewers of his movie.

Saldanha is only one of the shiny stars of the Brazilian renaissance in Hollywood. This week, Forbes magazine reminds us that: Continue reading Carlos Saldanha, the soul of Rio (the animation film)

80 years of “Limite”, the best Brazilian silent film

Limite“Limite”, the experimental silent feature that some consider the best film ever made in the country, is celebrating its 80th anniversary. Shot in Mangaratiba, close to the city of Rio, and released in 1931, it is a poetic reflection on memory. The plot is simple: in a drifting boat, two women and a man recall their past. One woman escaped from the prison, the other was desperate, and the man had lost his lover. They have no further strength or desire to live and have reached the limit of their lives.

The photography is quite outstanding and the soundtrack by Sergei Prokofiev, Eric Satie, Claude Débussy (among a few others) a great match. “Limite” was conceived and directed by Mário Peixoto, then in his early twenties. He never worked on movies again.

It was almost forgotten for a few decades –  its only copy being almost lost during the 1950s – but was rediscovered in the 70s and became a celebrated cult movie. Recently, Larry Rohter, former New York Times correspondent in Brazil, wrote about it in the daily: Brazil’s Best, Restored and Ready for a 21st-Century Audience. According to Rohter, “Orson Welles, in Brazil in the early 1940s to make a movie of his own, did view it in its entirety and pronounced the experience “fabulous.””

“Limite”, as the NYT points out, was recently digitally restaured by Instituto Moreira Salles, and exhibited in the Cannes festival. While this version is not released, enjoy it on Youtube:

Wagner Moura, Brazilian cameleon

Photo by Marcelo Freixo 123 via Flickr

You may have seen him in Elite Squad (1 and 2) and in a few Globo soap operas. Baiano Wagner Moura is one of the biggest stars of the new generation of Brazilian actors. In his new movie, “VIPs”, he plays a character similar to Leonardo di Caprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr. in “Catch me if you can” – a chameleon capable of living different lives and fooling the crowds. “VIPs” tell the real story of Marcelo Nascimento da Rocha, an impostor that pretended, successfully, to be the son of the owner of Gol, one of the country’s main aviation companies.

Here is the official trailer:

Brazilian music with English subtitles

Ever wondered what these songs are about?

  • Beija eu (Marisa Monte)
  • Já sei namorar (Tribalistas)
  • Como nossos pais (Elis Regina)
  • Águas de março (Elis Regina and Tom Jobim)
  • Tocando em frente (Maria Bethânia)
  • Você é linda (Caetano Veloso)
  • Samba de Orly (Vinícius, Toquinho, Tom Jobim and Miúcha)
  • A novidade (Gilberto Gil)
  • Por Enquanto (Cássia Eller)

The music videos below will bring you some light. They have decent English subtitles (and some also include Portuguese subtitles, particularly cool if you are learning the language). In case the subtitles don’t show up on your screen, click  on the CC red button that appears under the screen of certain Youtube clips.

Continue reading Brazilian music with English subtitles

Beloved criminals

Meneghetti desguised

Brazilians have a somewhat disturbing tenderness for certain types of criminals. Let me drop some names that will prove my point: Meneghetti, Adhemar de Barros, Lampião and your generic malandro.

Take, for instance, the figure of Gino Meneghetti. Born in Pisa, Italy, in 1870, he became a huge celebrity in São Paulo, between 1914 and the sixties. He was known as the “good thief”, “the greatest criminal of Latin America” and the “roof cat”, due to his ability of jumping from one house to another to deceive the police. The public passion for Meneghetti florished thanks to the massive media coverage of his feats and the fact that he never hurt anybody, only stole from the rich and performed spectacular escapes.

The second name in our list: coffee producer and politician Adhemar de Barros, the very popular governor that ruled over São Paulo state during part of the forties, the fifties and the sixties. One of his mottos, of striking candor, is still remembered by those who distrust politicians: “Roubo, mas faço” (I steal, but I also build). Indeed, he was very hard working and left a legacy of power dams, roads, schools and hospitals. But his government was also marked by several corruption episodes. Till today you can find elder adhemaristas that still long for those days.

Continue reading Beloved criminals

Brazil and food, a love story

Ten dishes for your delight:

  • Once upon a time, landowners used to invent dietary taboos to convince their slaves that they shouldn’t eat certain things. Two of these taboos remain strong. The first says that you might die if you ate mangoes with milk. Mangoes were (and are) very abundant in the Northeast and, thus, common in the slave’s plate. Thus, the masters were trying to avoid their access to the milk. The other taboo involves eating bananas, another abundant fruit in most of the country. “Banana, de dia é ouro, de tarde é prata, de noite mata” (Banana is gold in the morning, silver in the afternoon, and fatal during the night) warns a popular saying, efficient in keeping the slaves away from the orchard after the twilight.
  • Overheard in an international cruise, days ago. “Brazilian passengers want lots of food, don’t really care if a dish is hot or cold,  salty or sweet. But they want to eat a lot and several times a day”, writes architect and blogger Duílio Ferronato, who is working as a cook in a transatlantic, as he describes the orders he received from his superior. “European passengers, in contrast, eat less, use less salt and are more exigent. They want their dishes warm, with a beautiful presentation”. Continue reading Brazil and food, a love story