Few export products are as successful as capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art that mixes dance and music in exquisite way. You can certainly find a good capoeira school near you, no matter if you are in Lithuania or China.
If you still didn’t fall for it, you will, after watching this beautiful video, made by D’un Autre Monde, a French group that produces coreographies inspired by capoeira.
Check also this post, about “Besouro”, a film about a famous capoeirista who defied gravity and the Devil. Choreographed by Huen Chiu Ku, that worked in “The Matrix” and “The Tiger and the Dragon”, it has been recently released in Brazil and is beginning its international career.
The first shows an ice-cream salesman in Praia do Futuro, a beach of Fortaleza, one of the main cities of the Northeast region (seen before on Eyes on Brazil).
The second is a scene of a classic Brazilian movie – “Tristeza do Jeca“. Jeca, the character interpreted by Amácio Mazzaropi in several movies between the fifties and the eighties, is a caricature of the caipira, the illiterate guy from the countryside of São Paulo. In this scene, Jeca is visited by the sons of the landowner, and we can see the contrast between two worlds and two expressions of the Portuguese language.
Before Bossa Nova, there was baião. This contagious rhythm from the Northeast of Brazil was taken to Hollywood by Carmen Miranda, in the thirties, and later originated forró, one of the most delicious forms of Brazilian dance. But the huge international success of Tom Jobim and other Bossa Nova artists somehow eclipsed baião, that only recently had its world revival, thanks to David Byrne.
If you want to learn about baião – and you should – check this trailer of the new documentary “O Homem que Engarrafava Nuvens” (The Man that Bottled Clouds), that portraits its creator, composer Humberto Teixeira. The videoclip is, unfortunately, only in Portuguese, but you will definitely get the vibe.
Teixeira produced some masterpieces that became well-known in the voice of his main partner, Luiz Gonzaga, the so-called “King of baião“. You may have heard Gonzaga singing “Asa Branca” or “Qui Nem Jiló” or “Adeus Maria Fulô“. The trademark of baião is the use of the sanfona (a type of accordion) and of the zabumba, a drum played with a mallet and a stick, each striking one side.
One curiosity: Teixeira was the father of Denise Dummont, a Brazilian actress that had some success in the US in the eighties, playing in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1985) and Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” (1987).
Keep your eyes on José Padilha, the director whose movies dissect the social mechanisms that perpetuate violence and poverty. His latest work, “Garapa” (the sugar cane juice used to conceal hunger when one has nothing else to eat), will be representing Brazil at the Sundance Festival, the biggest showcase of independent movies. The film follows three starving families during a month. It is in black & white, has minimal interventions and no soundtrack. It obviously disregards mainstream moviegoers but those willing to pay to get depressed on the way to enlightenment.
Padilha´s films are consistently disturbing. His first feature as a director, “Bus 174” (Ônibus 174), recalls an episode where police intervention converted the robbery of a city bus into a tragedy.
Then, he produced “Estamira“, that depicts a schizophrenic woman who has lived for decades in a landfill in Rio. In 2007, he was widely acclaimed by “Elite Squad” (Tropa de Elite), the fictional portrait, in all hues of red, of the clashes between the police and dealers based in the favelas (shantytowns) of Rio. An estimate of 11 million people watched the pirate version of the movie – the rumour is that allowing piracy was part of its promotional strategy. It seems to have worked – it was a blockbuster in movie theaters and gave Padilha the Golden Bear of the Berlin International Film Festival.
Check this interview with Padilha on “Garapa” during the Tribeca Film Festival, in New York
It was high time capoeira were represented in the big screen in all its glory. A movie just released tells the story of Besouro (The Beetle), a true myth among those who practice the Afro-Brazilian martial art/ballet. The director João Daniel Tikhomiroff had a high budget for Brazilian standards – US$ 7 million -, spent in a production that embellishes an art that is, to begin with, extremely beautiful. Several actors are true capoeiristas and their fight scenes were coreographed by Huen Chiu Ku, that previously worked in “The Matrix”, “The Tiger and the Dragon” and “Kill Bill”.
The film is based on the book “Feijoada no Paraíso“, written by Marco Carvalho, a novel based on the life of the fighter, who lived in Bahia in the 20’s. The movie portraits the racial conflicts in the country, that had freed the slaves only three decades before. Besouro was known for his ability to fly and his corpo fechado – a supernatural protection obtained through candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion. He also challenged the powerful landowners that had, and still have, lots of power in the region.
Ailton Carmo, the 22-year-old baiano that plays Besouro, never acted before, but has been practicing capoeira for most of his life. In a recent interview he remembers that, when he was 9, he watched an American movie called “Only the Strong” (Esporte Sangrento) that depicted a capoeirista (played by Mark Dacascos). He says he told his mother: “Mainha, one day I will represent my culture”. I wish Ailton and the film a happy international career.
Brazilian filmmaker José Maria Marins – a.k.a. Zé do Caixão – built an international fan base thanks to his psychedelic and campy horror features. Coffin Joe, as his movie persona is known to foreign audiences, is a blasphemous undertaker obsessed with Satan and the desire of conceiving a son. The character appears in several features, beginning in 1964 with “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” (À Meia-Noite Levarei sua Alma).
Marins’s adventurous life will be soon portrait on the big screen by Matheus Nachtergaele – actor previously seen in two award-winning films, “Central Station” (Central do Brasil) and “Four Days in September” (O que é isso, Companheiro?). The feature about Coffin Joe should be produced next year, and it will be directed by Vitor Mafra, who has a background in publicity, just like Fernando Meirelles and other directors that Brazil is exporting to Hollywood.
The film is definitely promising. Marins’s story is almost as exotic as Coffin Joe’s. He produced his first movie when he was 10, using a camera borrowed from his father – a movie theater manager and former toreador. His first short, “Final Judgment” included a scene where a flying coffin would rescue good souls and send the bad ones to eternal damnation. He kept faithful to this theme.
His colorful portrait of Hell, in an otherwise black-and-white movie, in “This Night I’ll Possess Your Soul” (Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver), released in 1967, remains one of his most powerful scenes.