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Just like Israeli cinema, the Brazilian movie industry has been enjoying a boom over the last ten years, starting with films such as the searing prison drama, Carandiru; <Central Station, the saga of an orphan abandoned in Rio de Janeiro, and City of God, a terrifying look at gang warfare in the favelas of Rio. Now, you can see the best of recent Brazilian releases at the 7th Brazilian Film Festival in Israel, which will take place throughout the month, until August 21, at the Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Rosh Pina, and Sderot Cinematheques (check individual cinematheque schedules for times and dates).
Thirteen feature and documentary films will be shown during the festival. The films vary from serious dramas and documentaries about social issues to comedies and movies about music and the arts. The wide variety of highly acclaimed films will be an attraction to anyone who has a love of the country, or just enjoys a good film.
The opening film of the festival is The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, directed by Cao Hamburger (yes, it's pronounced Cow Hamburger). There were packed showings of this film at the Jerusalem Film Festival earlier this summer and now viewers at the other cinematheques around the country will get a chance to see this film. The film tells the story of a young boy, Mauro, who loves soccer and is excited that Brazil will compete for the World Cup in 1970, the year the film is set. But his parents are political activists who go into hiding when the dictatorship cracks down. They drop him off at the Sao Paolo apartment of his grandfather, an Orthodox Jewish barber he has never met. What they don't know is that his grandfather has suddenly died of a heart attack, so his grandfather's best friend reluctantly takes him in. His mother is not Jewish and he doesn't know the first thing about Judaism, but now, living in Sao Paolo's Jewish and Italian Bom Retiro neighborhood, he finds himself adopted by his late grandfather's shul.
If you're thinking that this sounds like one of those nauseating films in which a crusty old codger's heart is melted when he is forced into contact with a cute kid, you're wrong, fortunately. This is a multi-layered drama, told from the boy's point of view. The film gives a vivid portrait of a particular Jewish community that is more familiar than exotic, as well as a snapshot of an era. But it never loses sight of the boy's heartbreaking situation, and accurately shows the fear and confusion that a child in this situation would experience. It can be grouped in a kind of mini-genre of coming-of-age films about children who lived through Latin American political turmoil during the Seventies, along with Kamchatka from Argentina and Machuco from Chile, both also excellent films. It's a story that those children are now old enough to tell, and it's inherently very dramatic. It's been called the best Brazilian film since Fernando Meirelles' City of God and in fact was written by the screenwriter of that film, Braulio Mantovani. The young star of the film, Michel Joelsas, is coming to Israel and will attend some of the screenings.
The deadly fallout from the dictatorship's repressive rule in the Seventies is the subject of another film, Sergio Rezende's Zulu Angel. It's based on a true story, well known in Brazil, of a successful fashion designer whose son was abducted and killed by the dictatorship in the Seventies. Previously apolitical, she began a crusade to discover the truth about his death and to recover his body, and finally died in a mysterious car crash. The film touched a chord with the Brazilian public, many of whom are eager to see those traumatic years revisited on film.
The title of Flavio R. Tambelli's The Passenger: Adult Secrets may make it sound like a porn film, but it's actually the story of a young film student in Rio who wants to build an identity separate from his father, a successful banker and macho man who thinks his son is not aggressive enough with women. When his father is found murdered in a remote area far from the city, the son begins to investigate and discovers his father's secret life. The screening of this film at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Sunday at 9:30 p.m. will take place in the presence of director Tambellini as well as film critic Luiz Carlos Merten, Ana Paula Santana of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture and fellow director Silvio Tendler, whose documentary, The Global World as Seen from Over Here: A conversation with Milton Santos, is playing later in the week. Tambellini will attend screenings of The Passenger at cinematheques throughout the country.
Carlos Diegues, who was part of the Cinema Novo movement in the Sixties and made Bye Bye Brazil in the Seventies, returns with The Greatest Love in the World, an allegory about the many sides of contemporary Brazil. A Brazilian scientist returns home after working for many years in the US and discovers he has a terminal disease. An adopted child, he decides to find his birth mother, which brings him into contact with residents of some of Rio's most poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
In Karim Anouz's atmospheric drama, Suely in the Sky, a young woman living in Sao Paolo with her husband and baby returns with her child to their village in northeastern Brazil. Her husband is supposed to join her, but when he doesn't show up, she must decide whether to get back together with her childhood sweetheart or to scrape together the money to return to Sao Paolo.
The 12 Labors by Ricardo Elias looks at a young petty criminal who tries to make a new life for himself as a motorcycle deliveryman in Sao Paolo after he gets out of jail.
The black comedy Drained makes a contrast to the rest of the festival fare. Directed by Heitor Dhalia and featuring Brazilian star Selton Mello, it tells the story of a mild-mannered pawnshop owner who becomes a bully and misogynist after a strange and unpleasant smell starts wafting up from his drain, which may or may not come from the body of his father who disappeared mysteriously. This odd film has gotten great audience response around the world.
Like The Passenger, Forbidden to Forbid by Jorge Duran, looks at the lives of Brazilian students. What begins as a love triangle brings the three students into contact with urban violence in a way that changes them forever.
Those who think of music immediately upon hearing the word 'Brazil' may well be interested in two music-oriented documentaries. Decio Matos Junior's Fabricating Tom Ze, is a look at one of Brazil's most controversial contemporary musicians, concentrating on his 2005 European tour. Miguel Faria Jr.'s Vinicius is an homage to singer and composer Vinicius de Moraes, one of the founders of Bossa Nova.
Joao Jardim, in A Better Day, looks at Brazilian high school students at five schools in three different cities and examines their cultural differences, economic inequality and common ground. Another documentary, Faixa de Areia also examines inequalities by looking at Rio's public beaches and interviewing those who frequent them.