Brazilian film back at Barbican

Brazilian cinema festival celebrates the colourful lives of the country’s musical legends

At the turn of the 20th century, watching a film in Brazil meant mute projections with a live orchestra accompaniment. Popular musicians used to voice over their own parts, singing from behind the screens. It was only in 1929 that Brazilians were able to watch the first film edited with sound. Today, however, audio comes in digital high definition, but something remains quite undisputed: the high standard of Brazilian music in film.

Acknowledging the international interest in this side of Brazilian culture, and seeking to promote Brazilian cinema in England, film researcher Adriana Rouanet and the Embassy of Brazil decided upon the theme of Music and Rhythm for the 4th annual Cinema of Brazil festival, from 25th June – 3rd July at the Barbican. And this year promises a fine selection of ten award-winning contemporary films, peppered with Q&As, UK premieres, directors and actors.

Curator of the festival, Adriana has been researching Brazilian cinema for 15 years. Talking about this year’s event, she explains: “we’ve tried to escape the topics of city and violence or poverty in paradise, to provide a better knowledge of our culture with fewer stereotypes”. As it happened, it was Adriana’s father who created the Rouanet Law (under which private organisations are encouraged to pay taxes through investing in cultural projects).

According to filmmaker Miguel Faria Jr, American domination of the industry means that Brazilian cinema still struggles to get seen. His latest work, Vinícius, a biography of the great bohemian Brazilian poet-composer Vinícius de Moraes, is one of the pearls of the festival. “I met him in around 1958, at the very beginning of bossa nova, which he was one of the creators of. He also was responsible for my decision to become a filmmaker”, reveals Miguel, whose career started in the 1970s.

Cinema of Brazil features the life and work of the great musical icons Simonal and Arnaldo Baptista. And also introduces the young director Fernando Andrade, in his debut Wandering Heart. The film follows the world tour of the first all-English album by Caetano Veloso, inspired through the insight into the musician’s off-stage composure – Andrade recalls: “I was there just to film the gigs… but his sensitivity and honesty touched me so that I thought this should be made into a documentary”.

The festival is set to take some fascinating twists and turns, no more so than with the infectious rhythms of capoeira in the film Besouro, set in Bahia. The much celebrated Two Sons of Francisco portrays an adventure through the country sound of sertanejo music with the brothers and singers Zezé de Camargo and Luciano, whilst road trip musical The Escape of the Female Gorilla traverses the state of Rio in a camper van. And the traditional dancefloor setting of The Ballroom makes for an interesting contrast to the story of friendship and dreams of a band of female rap singers, in Antônia. The rhythm and tempo of Cinema of Brazil will be upbeat and varied, running just over a week, and you can keep in tune with our highlights below.

The pick of the bunch

For previous editions of the festival, Cinema of Brazil has centred around Afro-Brazilian Perspectives, Urban Tales, and Literature into Film as it’s themes, and with Music & Rhythm for this year, here are just a few of our favourites on offer:

Fri 25 Jun, 7.30pm – Out of Tune
The festival opens with the imagination-capturing feature Out of Tune, by Walter Lima Jr, introducing friends who form a Bossa Nova band in the 1960s and leave Rio behind for New York in the hope of achieving fame and glory.

Sat 26 Jun, 6pm - Besouro
Based on the life of a legendary 1920s Afro-Brazilian capoeira fighter from Bahia, the film’s a mystical tale featuring jaw-dropping fight scenes (by the man behind the choreography of Kill Bill and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), set to the traditional rhythm of capoeira’s berimbau.

Sun 27 Jun, 3.45pm – Simonal
During the 1960s and 70s, Wilson Simonal was a superstar, but suddenly he went from being the most popular singer in Brazil to complete obscurity. Simonal – No One Knows How Tough it Was tells the incredible story of how this came to be.

Sat 3 Jul, 4pm – Wandering Heart
Caetano Veloso closes the festival, not only featuring in Wandering Heart (Coração Vagabundo), a behind the scenes documentary exploring personal identity through his music, but also actually in concert at the Barbican!

For full listings and information about the festival simply visit the website below.

By Airton Rolim

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Cinema Of Brazil: Music & Rhythm
25th June – 3rd July
Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London – EC2Y 8DS
Box office: 020 7638 8891
barbican.org.uk/film

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