Jesse Tate

brasil_film_festThe 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.

last_stop_174Making 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.

favela_on_blastA 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.

Read more London's Brazilian community out in force for Cine Fest Brasil:


A strong, well-made drama that always feels original despite being set in much of the same social background as the major international successes that were ‘Central Station' and ‘City of God' (life and crime in the favelas, homelessness and the search for lost family).  Crime, drug addiction and evangelicalism are presented without judgement but as what they are: human attempts to survive.  Watching the experiences and conditions that lead characters to commit atrocious acts helps explain these actions for what they are - misguided rebellions against a society that has administered them countless injustices.

Cris Vianna gives a heartfelt performance as a mother searching for her child, and there are some fantastic uses of Brazil's most famous land mark, the Christo Redempto statue, as an all seeing conscience watching down on sins committed.  Sublime cinematography and strong performances from a cast boasting only three professional actors embellish a gripping story, though its real originality is in the truthful psychological study of the protagonists decline.

favela_on_blastPropelled forward with the raw exuberance of the music and characters within the dance music scene of Brazil's favelas, rarely is a documentary so sexy, foul-mouthed and downright fun.

Refreshingly void of narration or authorial presence, ‘Favela on Blast' drops you in at the deep end of Rio's ‘Funk Carioca' scene, relying only on personal accounts from the D.J's, M.C's and characters within it.  And tell their story they do, with the same relentless energy and bravado as their music, raw machismo is countered by even blunter female comebacks in hilarious tit for tat musical exchanges.  Music and image are combined confidently to create mini-crescendos followed by the breathing space reminiscent of the morning after.

Though the film might pack even more punch if condensed to around an hour, ultimately the overestimated playing time doesn't detract too heavily from this explosive experience.  Sit back, turn it up and don't even try and stop yourself bouncing in your seat.