Fourth Annual Brazilian Film Week, Washington, D.C., October 22-28, 2010

[Click here for a posting on the Fifth Annual Brazilan Film Week.]

My wife and I attended two of the films presented at the Fourth Annual Brazilian Film WeekOut of Tune (Os Desafinados) [YouTube clip] and My Name Ain’t Johnny [YouTube clip].  We enjoyed both films, which is remarkable because our experience with past Brazilian film expositions in Washington has been quite uneven.  Some have been excellent, but many of them impressed us as folkloric and amateurish.  Based on the quality of recent films, it appears that the Brazilian film industry is maturing.

I found My Name Ain’t Johnny to be the stronger film.  It is the true story of João Guilherme Estrella (“Johnny”), a boy from a prosperous middle-class family who became a big-time cocaine dealer.  It has vivid scenes of a prison, corresponding closely to what I have read of Brazilian prisons as a special kind of hell in which the inmates are free to torture and murder their fellows.  The film was well-paced and well-acted.  Of special interest is the relatively mild treatment of a major drug dealer by the judicial system, and the surprisingly benign result of that treatment.

In Out of Tune, a story of a fictitious bossa nova band, Cláudia Abreu was for me the stand-out performer.  She is fully convincing as a love interest, although less convincing as a singer and flautist.  The film as a whole seemed haphazardly organized, with confusing jumps in time.  I agree with other reviewers who fault it for unsteadiness of tone, varying from comedy to tragedy without clear focus.  Nonetheless, for my wife, the film vividly recaptured the atmosphere of the ’60s.  It is easy to photograph both Rio and New York lovingly, as this film does, but the backgrounds in both films obviously were shot forty years later than the events they were intended to portray.

Here is a list of a few Brazilian films we have especially enjoyed:

Opera do Malandro [IMDB] [Can’t find it on Netflix]  A very funny opera.

Central Station (Central do Brasil) [IMDB] [Netflix]  This film was nominated for an Oscar as best foreign film.

How to Be Single in Rio (Como Ser Solteiro) [IMDB] [Can’t find it on Netflix]  A delightful, but very lightweight, comedy by Rosane Svartmann.  When we had drinks with her in Rio, she invited us to attend a film school she was teaching in the Vidigal favela.

City of God (Cidade de Deus) [IMDB] [Netflix]  A very tough film about the Rio suburb, Cidade de Deus.  The film was nominated for four Oscars.

Four Days in September (O Que É Isso, Companheiro?) [IMDB] [Netflix]  Fernando Gabeira, whose kidnapping of the American Ambassador is portrayed in this film, appears as himself in How to Be Single in Rio.

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