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Premiere Brazil: Sultry Cinema At MoMA


Monday, July 16--------As the summer turns sizzling in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is appropriately presenting a program of sultry cinema from Brazil in its fifth annual exhibition of contemporary Brazilian cinema, entitled PREMIERE BRAZIL! The program began last Thursday and continues through January 23rd in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. The series is a collaboration between MoMA and the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival. This year, 12 new films, all US or New York premireres, explore contemporary life in a country of great contrasts.....from the drama and struggles of people living in favelas (shanty towns) of Rio to the growing middle class enjoying stability, democracy and consumerism for the first time. The program is an intoxicating mix of gems from both emerging and established directors and offers a sumptuous canvas from one of cinema's most dynamic film industries.

The program opened last week with the New York premiere of ANTONIA, which was introduced by director  Tata Amaral. Co-produced by Fernando Meirelles, director of the acclaimed CITY OF GOD, the film is set on the outskirts of São Paulo, where the struggle and resilience of four black girls in a pop/rap band blends believably into the real environment of the favelas and the accompanying dreams of a better life. The film’s four young actresses joined the director for a lively post-screening question and answer session. The film's bouncy score was a high note.

One of the most anticipated programs in the series, presented this past weekend, was a double dose of one of Brazil's best known films. MoMA presented a restored version of the classic 1981 film PIXOTE, directed by Hector Babenco, the semi-documentary landmark film about the street children of Sao Paulo, that became an international sensation. That cinema classic was complimentedby the US premiere of Felipe Brisso and Gilberto Topczewski’s documentary PIXOTE IN MEMORIAM (2005), which revisits the cast and explores the fates of its actors, including the charismatic young lead Ramos da Silva, whose destiny bore an uncanny resemblance to that of his fictional character. In the film, interviews with Nick Cave, Julian Schnabel, and Spike Lee make clear the pervasive influence of the original film, while director Hector Babenco discusses his relationship with the young actors whose lives were changed by his film’s success. The July 14 screenings were followed by the U.S. premiere of FORBIDDEN TO FORBID (2006), the feature directing debut of Jorge Durán, screenwriter of the 1981 film. Set in a different time, class, and milieu, it too connects young people’s lives to the political and social situation of today’s Brazil.

Other gems in the series include CASA DE ALICE (Alice's House, 2007), a domestic drama set in a working-class district of São Paulo and the first fiction feature by documentary filmmaker Chico Teixeira; the world premiere of CAO SERN DONO (Stray Dog, 2007), a collaboration between directors Beto Brant and Renato Ciasca, that examines issues of mortality and maturity in the realm of Brazil’s socially comfortable middle class; and OS 12 TRABALHOS (The Twelve Labors, 2006), the feature debut of Ricardo Elias, which offers a contemporary interpretation of the myth of Hercules, in which a motorbike delivery boy must accomplish 12 tasks over the course of a day in order to keep his job.

Tom ZeTom ZeMusic has been a powerful force in Brazilian cinema through the decades. This year, three films examine Brazil’s national identity through its musical forms and traditions.  Carlos Diegues and Rafael Dragaud’s AFROREGGAE (2006), looks at the importance of a new type of reggae to be integrated in the favelas to combat violent gang culture; CARTOLA (2006), by Lírio Ferreira and Hilton Lacerda, celebrates the life of Cartola (1908-1980), one of the most important composers of Brazilian music, through reminiscences of musicians who knew him, rare performance footage and archival film of parades and carnivals in Rio; and FABRICATING TOM ZE, by Decio Matos, Jr., a lively documentary that incorporates video, animation, and film as it follows the 2005 European tour of the iconoclastic Tom Zé, a leading practitioner of Tropicalismo—a mélange of bossa nova, rock and roll, Bahia folk music, African music, and Portuguese fado that arose in the late 1960s and is enjoying a popular revival. Audiences will be doing the samba down 53rd Street as MoMA brings a touch of Brazil to Manhattan for the next few weeks.

For more information on the films, the schedule and upcoming film events, visit the website of the Museum of Modern Art at: www.moma.org

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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