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Samba Sizzle: New Brazilian Cinema At MoMA

Monday, July 28-------As the summer sizzles in New York City, the sound of samba cannot be too far behind. A revival of an old tradition----dancing to live music under the stars----has swept New York in the last few seasons, with many venues and styles of music for budding Fred Astaires. A favorite for summertime heat is samba, the music of Brazil. This summer, the sizzle is not only on the street, but up on the big screen.

Since last week, the Museum of Modern Art has been presenting Premiere Brazil!, its sixth annual exhibition of contemporary Brazilian cinema. A collaboration between MoMA and the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, this series introduces New York audiences to original films by both new and established Brazilian filmmakers.

Brazilian cinema has a long history starting with the start of sound films, but grew especially popular and influential with the Cinema Novo movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The recent docudrama City of Men is just one example of recent Brazilian cinema that has captivated a worldwide audience.

The 10 feature and documentary films comprising this year’s selection showcase the diverse palette of both filmmaking styles and subject, ranging from Marcos Jorge’s Estômago: A Gastronomic Story (2007), a comic fable that also serves as a gastronomic allegory for ambition and survival, to Cao Guimarães’ Andarilho (Drifter) (2007), a story of three lonely drifters, the second installment in Guimarães’ ambitious trilogy on solitude.

One of the highlights of the series are the rich variety of vibrant films about Brazilian music and musicians, including the international premiere of The Mystery of Samba and the world premiere of The Man Who Bottled Clouds, director Lirio Ferreira’s engrossing portrait of popular songwriter Humberto Teixeira. Most filmmakers will be present to introduce the first screenings of their films.

Other strong entries in the series include Basic Sanitation, The Movie, a lighthearted tale about the intersection of social activism and filmmaking; My Name Ain’t Johnny, in which the familiar perils of drug dealing and drug abuse are explored in a new light through expressive camera movement and inspired direction; and Sign of the City, an evocative ode to São Paulo in which a few lonely strangers find their paths converging in the night.

 

The flourishing Brazilian documentary scene is represented by Drifter, a hauntingly gorgeous portrait of human transience; The Xavante Strategy, the story of the Xavante tribe’s courageous attempts to keep their culture relevant; and Pindorama: The True Story of the Seven Dwarves, the amazing story of the seven dwarves of the Pindorama circus, which tours the poorer reaches of northeastern Brazil.

With Brazil becoming a major political and economic power due to its sugar cane-as-ethanol crop (gas is less than $2.00 a gallon......suckers), its cultural influence is also ascending. The films in this series present both an accurate and poetic picture postcard of a complex mix of paradise and purgatory that is an essential part of the Brazilian view of life. So, samba over to 53 Street and get your Brazilian wax.....it's air-conditioned too. For information on the full series and other MoMA attractions, log on to their website: www.moma.org

 

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