Malu on a Bicycle.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Brazil has a vibrant film industry, but it’s rare that Brazilian movies are shown in commercial theaters. You can keep up with the best of the latest Brazilian movies, though, by heading to the 11th Brazilian Film Festival in Israel, which begins on July 31 and continues through August at cinematheques in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and Sderot.
This year’s festival will include five films – four features and one documentary – that were produced in the last two years. These films examine the diverse, fascinating and sometimes dangerous reality of daily life in Brazil.
In the past decades, the Brazilian films City of God, Carandiru, Linha de Passe, Lower City and The Eye of the Storm have been successes at film festivals throughout the world. Alice Braga (the niece of 1970s bombshell Sonia Braga), who starred in Lower City, has crossed over into Hollywood stardom, appearing opposite Will Smith in I Am Legend. But other than Braga, Brazil’s actors have usually stayed on their home turf.
The festival’s opening attraction is the film Malu de Bicicleta, directed by Flavio Tambellini. Based on the novel by Marcelo Rubens Paiva, the film tells the story of Luiz Mario, a São Paulo nightclub impresario and playboy. He is surrounded by all kinds of women, but he limits all his relationships to one-night stands until one day, in Rio de Janeiro, he falls head over heels for singer Malu, who practically runs him over on her bike. The couple has an idyllic romance until Luiz learns something about Malu that makes him insanely jealous.
The crime drama Boca follows the trend of movies dealing with the grittier side of Brazilian life. Adapted from his autobiography, the film recounts the story of Hiroito, aka the King of Boca do Lixo (a red-light district in downtown São Paulo in the 1950s). Hiroito was born into a wellto- do artistic family, but at the age of 21 he was accused of murdering his father, who was stabbed more than 40 times with a razor. Although he was never charged, the arrest brought him into contact with the seamier side of the city, and he began his rise to crime kingpin.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is another melodrama, although this one has comic overtones. It tells the story of Baby, a chain-smoking, 40-something guitar teacher who longs for romance. When Max, a musician, moves in next door, she falls in love with him, and the two begin a passionate affair. Baby quits smoking but finds herself involved in a fateful romantic triangle.
Dive into the Blue is about street kids forced to choose between survival and crime. Even though one is a champion diver, this isn’t enough to keep him out of danger. The film has won praise in Brazil for its mixture of humor and drama.
The one documentary in the festival lineup, Dzi Croquettes, provides a change of pace. The Dzi Croquettes were a Brazilian theater group that challenged the Brazilian government and its violent dictatorship. They were banned and censored by the military regime and yet revolutionized the gay movement worldwide, changing theater and dance for a generation.
Their history embraces Brazilian pop culture of the 1970s and 1980s, the violent years of dictatorship in Brazil, the sexual revolution and the beginning of the AIDS era. They were loved and admired by luminaries such as Mick Jagger, Jeanne Moreau, Omar Sharif, Maurice Béjart, Josephine Baker and Liza Minnelli, who became a personal friend and played a major role in bringing them to Paris and helping them to be discovered in Europe. The film was directed by Tatiana Issa and Raphael Alvarez. Issa’s father, Américo Issa, worked with the group from 1970 to 1978, giving his daughter the chance to grow up among these iconic performers. The documentary is informed by her eccentric childhood. The film won awards all over the world, including at the Torino International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Miami Brazilian Film Festival.
This lively festival is sure to attract devotees of international film, as well as Israel’s many Brazilian émigrés.