The first London Brazilian Film Festival hit town last week with the warm and vocal audience participation of the city's expat community, and a couple of cinematic gems.
You get the sense that organizers ‘Inffinifo' want to express that there is so much more to Brazil, and it's cinema, than the sex, violence and poverty stereotypes reinforced by its big hits over recent years. However, and despite some works of interest in other areas, it seems that what Brazilian cinema does best - and what it's best filmmakers are doing - is to continue that exploration. Stories from Brazil's most impoverished communities make for such good cinema because drama is at its most electric when following people in extreme situations. The more the realist illusion is enhanced through the excellent documentary style techniques of ‘Cinema Novo', the more powerful these extremities appear.
Making this case most clearly was Bruno Barreto's exceptional Last Stop 174 (click for my review) - a fiction inspired by the real life events portrayed in the 2002 documentary ‘Bus 174'. A gripping story enhanced by high production values and accomplished directing, this more than merits an international release.
Also explosively transporting life in Rio's ghettos to celluloid was Favela On Blast (click for my review). Propelled forward with the raw exuberance of the music and characters within the clubbing scene in Brazil's favelas, rarely is a documentary so sexy, foul-mouthed and downright fun.
A surprisingly fun and un-indulgent film was ‘Smoking I Wait', in which director Adriana L. Dutra uses her personal attempt to quit smoking as a base from which to explore the history and current state of the tobacco industry. Well made and engaging, it did suffer from a problem evident in all the documentaries screened at the festival - an overestimation of its own playing time.
Special mentions should go to the crowd pleasing ‘If I were you 2' and ‘The Childrens Orchestra', though the stageyness of teenage coming of age drama 'Before the World Ends' only reinforced how well Brazilian's make the type of film that this was not - gritty realist drama's. Compare it to Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' excellent ‘Linha De Passe' of last year and this feels a much less successful exploration of similar themes.
Cine Fest Brasil's tagline is ‘No limits for Brazilian Cinema' and though its understandable they should not want to be limited to stories of poverty, sex and violence alone - the Brazilian cinema that is pushing boundaries still focuses on this.