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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



12th Brazilian Film Festival of New York

With its audience-friendly programming, Brazilian Film Festival heads back to New York June 1 - 7 bearing 13 features and 12 short films. Nine of this year's titles are recent works in competition, each reaching New York audiences for the first time.

BRAFF NY's 12th run also coincides with the centenary of Vinícius de Moraes's birth. To fête the Bossa Nova great, the Festival is screening two films. The first, Carlos Diegues's 1999 drama Orfeu, sets the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice amid Rio's Carioca Hill during Carnaval. Like Marcel Camus's Black Orpheus four decades prior, Orfeu is based on Moraes's play Orfeu da Conceição. The second tribute film is Miguel Faria Jr.'s 2005 documentary Vinicius, which chronicles Moraes's personal and creative life. Audiences will emerge with fresh appreciation of Rio's late celebrated son best known as lyricist of the hit song Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema), who also made his mark as a diplomat, poet, essayist, lawyer, composer and virtuoso womanizer.

Closing night will feature a free concert by Toquinho (Antônio Pecci Filho), the famed Brazilian vocalist, guitarist and composer who joined with Moraes to create 120 songs and 25 records. The performance -- and Festival awards ceremony -- will take place at Central Park's SummerStage (Rumsey Playfield), a subway hop north of the screenings venue, Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick Street).

This year’s roster includes A Wolf at the Door, (O Lobo Atrás da Porta), a white knuckler about a couple's ordeal when their six-year-old daugher is kidnapped and what the husband's philandering may have to do with it. Inspired by real events, Fernando Coimbra’s feature debut earned top prizes at Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Havana, Guadalajara and San Sebastian.

Another title that has garnered trophies on the fest circuit is Tatoo (Tatuagem). Touted as an heir to the spirit of Fassbinder (The Hollywood Reporter), Hilton Lacerda's period drama unfolds during 1978 as Brazil's military dictatorship is starting to unravel. It follows an alternative theater group in and around Pernambuco whose activist LGBT community defies political and moral conventions through dissident art. Lacerda loosely based his story on a real cabaret troupe of the era.

One of two documentaries in competition is Cavi Borges and Luciano Vidigal's City of God: 10 Years Later (Cidade de Deus -- 10 Anos Depos). Fans of the Academy Award-nominated crime drama by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund see how being thrust into the international spotlight impacted the actors -- themselves residents of the featured favelas -- in the decade following the film's release.

Programmed by four curators, main-slate films vie for The Crystal Lens Award. These features as well as the short films in competition are juried by the public. One of this year's curators is screenwriter/songwriter Paulo Roberto Mendonça, who currently heads Channel Brazil S/A.

For the second consecutive year, BRAFF NY is venturing beyond cinema and music to offer Taste of Brazil, a celebration of Brazilian cuisine across the City. For the week of the fest, selected restaurants add a Brazilian dish and cocktail to their menus. This year's 13 participating establishments include Plataforma, Sushisamba and Cantine Parisienne.

BRAFF NY and Taste of Brazil are presented by the production company Inffinito Festival Circuit and Embratur, Brazil's official bureau of tourism. It's a venture of art for art's sake and um pouco mais. The Festival brandishes culture as a tool "to cultivate a foreign audience and to have people visit Brazil," explained Viviane Spinelli, Inffinito director and the showcase's founder in New York and other cities (including Miami, Vancouver, London, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome and Canudos). Beyond tourism, BRAFF also seeks to promote Brazilian products and services and to spark new business abroad. As Spinelli told me, visual storytelling allows the Festival's private and governmental organizers to showcase "beautiful landscapes, music and a different way of thinking." Films are selected both for their artistic merits and for their representation "of diverse perspectives of Brazil."

For the full lineup and ticket information, visit


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