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José Wilker, Best Actor at the 2007 Festival Cinema do Brasil in Paris

Festival du Cinéma Brésilien de Paris

25 April through 8 May, 2007

                                                       FESTIVAL DE CINEMA DO BRASIL IN PARIS 

           The first week of this 9th  two-prong event (feature competition and documentaries) has ended at the  L’Arlequin Cinema in Paris 'trendy Quartier Latin with the presence of top-notch Brazilian filmmakers, actors and producers, flown over for the event to present each of the  dozen films in competition.

          Big names of Brazil's 'cinema novo' period such as Miguel Farias, Carlos (Caca) Diegues, Sergio Rezende, Joao Batista de Andrade boasted a vigorous older-generation slate of works to compete with newer-comers like the talented only female feature director, Tata Amaral, Heitor Dhalia, Karim Ainouz  and Cao Hamburger.

        Themes prevalent included the military dictatorship, prostitution, poverty, the popes of bossa nova and samba, and violence.

         In THE DAY MY PARENTS LEFT ON HOLIDAYS, a 12- year old youngster fends for himself after his leftist parents in the 1970's, deposit him at his grandfather's in the mixed-ethnic EL Retiro zone of Sao Paolo. The singularity of this starting film is the depiction of the Jewish community in Brazil, the traditions they still uphold. Running through the film is a subtle, but tense mood of uncertainty, prevalent during the 25-year military period where arrestation and disappearances wait around the corner.

        Director Cao Hamburger has woven a sensitive, yet compelling flash-back to two decades, that now can be discussed freely after such a long time of repression.

        The same fearful period is portrayed again in Sergio Rezende's ZUZU ANGEL, a true story about a prominent fashion designer in the 70's searching for her son, a member of a left-wing university group who suddenly disappears. Finding out he was tortured and killed in  military barracks, she attempts to trace his body but confronts deception, intimidation and finally death in her courageous quest. Although far less subtle in its treatment of that ugly period of Brazil's past, Rezende's graphic torture sequences (throwing  salt in Stuart's eyes to start), is realistic to the point of provoking shock for viewers unfamiliar with what was a common occurance then. Unsurprisingly, the film created a considerable stir even in Brazil.

          Experienced filmmaker Caca Diegues, also treats the same era in early episodes of the life of Antonio, an astrophysicist, having lost his best friend at university, to the military ,and who moves to the USA to complete his studies and work. THE GREATEST LOVE IN THE WORLD is the love story of Antonio's father and his real mother, whom he tries to find everything about when he discovers he has an unoperable brain tumour and little time left to live. Returning to Brazil, his investigations take him to a gigantic garbage dump in a favela which  now replaces the rural countryside where his biological mother lived and died after giving him birth. Story is a complex tale with strong Freudian references, weaved by a master using stylish camera work and merits this year's prize for best actor, well-known Brazilian actor José Wilker, also present year's event (see photo) who recently received a medal from the French Academy.

           The BEST film award went to VINICUS, by Miguel Faria Jr. a documentary with epic newsreel and performance shots of various top musicians like Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Toquino, Antonio Carlos Jobim...relating and singing the exceptional and very first Bossa Nova compositions of legendary eccentric Vinicius de Moraes, one of the popes and precursors of that important national music, who managed in his life-time also to work as a diplomat and wed nine wives:).

           Among the younger generation, female director Tata Amoral, paints the odyssey of 4 girls trying to succeed with their hip-hop ensemble in a male-dominated environment. Soon dwindling down to 2 singers, it was a good try even though an attempt to impose hip-hop in a country which has produced such unmatched beautiful sounds like bossa nova and samba, seems to be a lost cause to begin with :).

            Noted filmmaker Karim Ainouz also offers a portrait of the Brazilian woman, in this case, sexy chick Hermila, in her early twenties who leaves expensive Sao Paolo with a baby in tow and her husband soon supposed to follow, back to the provinces, to live with her grandma. It isn't long before she realizes her husband has ditched her and won't come and secondly, her irresistable attraction to men, which she starts cashing in on like mad, offering ' a night in paradise with me ' in order to make more money than usual,to travel on. One can regret however, this idealisation of the leading actress' status, which in no clear terms, is mere prostitution. The  statuesque, attractive actress, Hermila Guedes, also present,  was awarded  BEST ACTRESS prize.

          In a completely different vein of topics, perhaps the most original work was young Heitor Dhalia's THE ODOUR OF THE SIPHON. In this '70's design loft second-hand pawn shop, Lourenço, convincingly interpreted by Selton Mello,  increasingly plays the 'big man', buying and refusing junk for cash and later for other services. At the same time, his Freudian obsession with tpower, money and the perfect female 'behind' wrecks his marriage plans, his professionality and fair play, while concurrently the pesticential smell of his leaking toilet drain swells as  his ego goes up. Completely overriden by the power of manipulating people with money, the tables turn on him to utter chaos. Some similarities can be seen to  Jim Carrey, although this Brazilian counterpart is not quite as sadistic. 

          Informal discussions led by film reps after each feature nicely capped this interesting program.

Next week, from May 2 through 8th,  the Brazilian documentary contest will be held at the Latina  Theatre, near Paris' City Hall. Até Logo !

See more photos here :

Helen Dobrensky

José Wilker, Best Actor at the 2007 Festival Cinema do Brasil in Paris
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