Although Brazil is often associated with beach-bronzed Amazons, Carnaval, soccer, and painful bikini waxes, its cinema has a rich, oft-overlooked history. In 1930, the film Limite by director Mario Peixoto became a silent film masterpiece. In the 1960s, after a military coup resulted in dictatorship, an avant-garde film movement called cinema novo emerged. Directors like Glauber Rocha created politically-charged films with a revolutionary tone throughout the decade — although harsh censorship policies put a serious strain on creativity. During the '80s, the army became less repressive and media control was lifted; but while Brazil returned to democratic rule, a lack of funding crushed the country's meager film industry. Fewer than 10 movies were produced yearly throughout the 1990s. With the industry's resurgence this decade, however, Brazil has been experiencing a new charge of cultural cachet. Case in point: 2003's City of God, which was widely seen, even among the casual moviegoing public.
With more than 30 films screening from Friday, June 5, through Saturday, June 13, South Florida's Brazilian Film Festival is the largest showing of Brazilian films outside of that country. Although most of the festivities are occurring at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, Broward residents can get a taste of Brazil by heading to the Hollywood Beach Theater or Fort Lauderdale's Cinema Paradiso. Below: reviews of two films showing in Broward. Others include Seven Lives, playing in Hollywood; and The Children's Orchestra, Veronica, and Out of Tune, playing at Cinema Paradiso. Prices vary. For a full schedule of films and events, visit www.brazilianfilmfestival.com, or call 305-600-3347.
The Ballroom (Chega De Saudade)
The Ballroom (Chega De Saudade), directed by Lais Bodanzky and Louiz Bolognesi; not rated.
My Name Ain't Johnny (Meu Nomo No Johnny), directed by Mauro Lima; not rated.
The ball begins at 4:35 p.m. in São Paulo. By midnight, five groups, composed mostly of aging retirees (spoiler alert: Brazil isn't populated entirely by Gisele Buncheon clones), will have engaged in an evening filled with enough drama for any Harlequin Romance fan. There's heartache, betrayal, unrequited love, jealousy, sexual intrigue, and the social anxiety associated with not getting asked to dance.
If The Ballroom seems at first depressing and dark, that's only because it is honest. Because of the hand-held camera and brutal lighting, audiences see all the facial imperfections of the once-beautiful Brazilian movie stars. With its examination of humans' continuing battles against loneliness, the film places the harsh reality of aging front and center. One woman laments her loss of sexual allure in a pathetic but sympathetic way, while another hides at the dance hall to escape her husband and their loveless marriage. The most poignant character conflict, however, involves Alice, played by Tonia Carrero, and her husband Alvaro, played by Leonard Villar. Alice, plagued by the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease, can't remember dance steps. Alvaro, an intolerable curmudgeon who fantasizes about his glory days as ballroom king through drunken daydreams, refuses to dance with her and humiliates her constantly. When a male acquaintance compliments the couple's dancing ability by saying they're better than the Argentine couple who've been winning all the competitions, Alvaro responds, "We lost because Alice forgets half the steps."
Nonetheless, the film's comic relief — which includes, among other memorable characters, a very overweight, hopelessly sweaty man who dances all night even if it means dancing alone — counteracts the melancholy and ultimately shows that the dynamism of life doesn't end at 50. The moral of the story seemingly avers that we all have to deal with aging, so stop focusing on the good old days and live — or dance — now.
The Ballroom plays Saturday, June 6, at 6 p.m. at Cinema Paradiso, located at 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Admission costs $9. Call 954-525-3456.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
My Name Ain't Johnny
When a drug-smuggling partner tells Joao Guilherme Estrella, the charismatic protagonist of the multi-award winning My Name Ain't Johnny, that he's saved $1 million and is nearing retirement from the industry, Estrella brazenly responds, "I want to spend $1 million."
Estrella, played by Selton Mello, definitely succeeds, but not before taking the audience on a hilarious ride through parties and anxiety-filled jet-setting. Based on the true story recounted by journalist Guilherme Fiuza, Estrella's unfettered cocaine use defines the pace and tone of the film as it simultaneously drives the narrative. The film is speedy, modern, glamorous, even feel-good, until it comes crashing down. Yet My Name Ain't Johnny never hammers home a lecturing anti-drug message; in fact, the violent exchanges seem to condemn corrupt police and poverty more than the traffickers. Sure, Estrella gets punished. But this is not the film to show your kid when you're having the "say no to drugs" discussion.
Instead, the audience is led to sympathize with the lead character. Estrella, who's nicknamed "Playboy" in prison, is charming, warm-hearted, and simply down to party... hard. My Name Ain't Johnny doesn't tug at the heart strings as much as it lets you live a fabulous lifestyle vicariously through an ever-endearing Estrella. It's Blow without the war wounds. My Name Ain't Johnny starts at 8 p.m. on Friday June 5 at Hollywood Beach Theater (100 Johnson St., Hollywood). Admission is free. Call 954-921-3404.