Not many Latin American films make it to US theaters these days, so it is always with great anticipation that I wait for the Brazilian Film Festival, an ongoing circuit that makes an annual stop in New York, starting at Central Park Summerstage and then on to Lower Manhattan's Tribeca Cinemas.
The festival opens with a live concert by Rio de Janeiro-based Silvia Machete, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who is yet to become a household name either in Brazil or abroad. In previous editions, the Festival showcased more "name" artists like Maria Rita and Margareth Menezes, but this year they apparently went for a change in musical direction.
Following the concert is a screening of "If I Were You 2," a sequel to a highly successful comedy in which a couple (played by Tony Ramos and Gloria Pires) accidentally get their minds swapped after an electrical storm and as a result learn to understand each others' private worlds better.
Another interesting feature is Budapest, an adaptation from the eponymous novel by Chico Buarque de Hollanda. The plot follows José Costa (Leonardo Medeiros), a ghostwriter who accidentally ends up in Hungary during an emergency landing while enroute from Istanbul.
Fascinated with the language and culture, he later decides to spend some time there and learn how to speak Hungarian – the one language that – as the narrator explains, "the Devil respects." Shot on location both in Rio and Budapest and spoken in Portuguese and Hungarian, it is one of the must-sees this time around.
Documentaries are also plentiful during the event. One that has sparked my curiosity is Wandering Heart (Errante Navegante), an account of Caetano Veloso's international tour in support of 2003's English-language CD A Foreign Sound, which received mixed reviews back then and much criticism from more purist Brazilian fans who considered the disc a sell-out.
There are countless shorts included this year (my personal pick being Cleansing of Bomfim from Bahia to New York, about the ritual cleansing of Manhattan's 46th St. before Brazilian Day) in addition to dramas, comedies and various other genres – which just might please the most avid movie fanatic.
Brazilian Film Festival
opening at Central Park Summerstage
August 2, 2009
Event continues at Tribeca Cinemas during the following week.
Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He can be reached at email@example.com.