South American cinema showcase

It’s pretty well known that the Academy Awards and other prestigious ceremonies don’t always reflect the best we have in world cinema, thought of course appearing in the Oscars means good business. Since Central Station, the Brasilian drama directed by Walter Salles was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 1998, South America’s film industry has experienced such a crescendo around the globe. The film has been treated as the vanguard for an age of renaissance of filmmaking across Latin America. And as the eyes of the world are drawn to the continent, so too this month are those of London; to get in tune with this entire scene all you need do is rise from your chair and explore the city, and here’s what we recommend…

South American Renaissance
Rubbing shoulders with Festival Brazil, Southbank Centre neighbour the BFI is running a month-long season celebrating South American film which has caught the world’s eye, also explored in The Faber Book of New South American Cinema, by Demetrios Matheou. Diversity best describes the current scene amid the countries’ ever-changing political and social landscapes, and this is reflected in the more notable traits in the continent’s craft: in its imaginative documentary-making (with The Blondes and Bus 174 if you’re quick on Sat 7th), its partiality for road movies (The Motorcycle Diaries, left), an enviable number of female directors, and a strong collaborative rapport between the countries. Six Brasilian titles feature in the line up, with pearls like City of God, the clever Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures, as well as Lower City and Central Station.
1st–31st August
BFI, Belvedere Road, South Bank – SE1 8XT &

2nd Brazilian Film Festival of London
Instigated by Circuito Inffinito, who showcase yearly the best of the country’s diverse cinema scene in eight cities across the globe, the second London edition kicks off with a Gala screening at the BAFTA with the unmissable Lula, The Son of Brasil. The film tells the story of the young mechanic who would go on to become president of Brasil. If you prefer your biography a little less serious, check out the glamorous and tragic story of popular entertainer-turned-pornstar Rita Cadillac – The Lady of The People. However, there’s plenty more to be seen, from a twisted rom-com about a threesome gone wrong to a series as part of Festival Brazil exploring the development, impact and influence of key figures in the music scene. To know more about the Brazilian Film Festival of London click here.
1st–5th September
Apollo Cinema Piccadilly Circus, 19 Regent Street – SW1Y 4LR 0871 220 6000

Rio Breaks

If you fancy staying in the comfort of your own home, go for the new DVD release Rio Breaks, nominated for Best Documentary at the Hawaii International Film Festival. Set in Rio de Janeiro, this bittersweet surf documentary mixes the volatile vibe of Favela do Pavão, controlled by one of the city’s most dangerous drug gangs, with the dreams and excitement of two surf-obsessed boys in the landscape of Arpoador Beach. Director Justin Mitchell sets the scene: “Fabio had just turned 13, didn’t go to school, his father had been killed by his own drug gang, his mother had abandoned the family and he lives with his Grandpa way up at the top of the favela. Naama, 12, is a sweet jokester, from an extremely poor family – but at least he has one”.

To read an interview with the director and screenwriter of Rio Breaks, Justin Mitchell and Vince Medeiros, simply click here.

Out on DVD now and available on Amazon UK (and Factory 25 ships directly to Europe).

South of the Border
Branded as “controversial” decades ago, the American film-maker Oliver Stone also turned his eyes to South America. In 2009 he went on an expedition to Venezuela, to interview President Hugo Chavez and examine if he really was the “anti-American” force the media has claimed. Later though, Stone and his crew went down to several other countries and talked to the presidents Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brasil), Cristina Kirchner (Argentina) and her husband and ex-president Néstor Kirchner, Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raúl Castro (Cuba). “Every single one of them was extremely positive about Chavez”, says the director, and the film is decidedly critical of US foreign policy, and positive towards left-wing South American leaders. And now you can make your own conclusions as the documentary South of The Border has just arrived in UK cinemas.
In cinemas now

By Airton Rolim

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