Kleber Mendonça Filho’s sophomore film walked away empty-handed from the Cannes Film Festival in May despite arriving with a lot of buzz on the strength of 2012’s highly regarded Neighboring Sounds (O Som ao Redor). But most reviews ranged from positive to ecstatic, and Aquarius has done quite well on the festival circuit since then, winning Best Film at the Sydney Film Festival, World Cinema Amsterdam and Poland’s Transatlantyk International Film Competition; the Special Jury Prize at the Lima Latin American Film Festival; and the Grand Jury Prize at the Amsterdam Film Festival. To top it off, Sonia Braga won Best Actress in Lima and at the International Cinephile Society Awards for her portrayal of a widow fighting to save a two-story building from encroaching development.
Don’t Call me Son (Mãe Só Há Uma)
On the heels of her big international breakthrough, Anna Muyalert followed up on The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta) with another look at family and class relations. After learning that he was kidnapped at birth and the working-class woman who raised him is not his mother, cross-dressing 17-year-old Pierre is forced to start a new life with his middle-class biological family. Don’t Call me Son won the Preis der Männer Leser Jury Award at the 2016 Berlinale’s LGBT-themed Teddy Award, and it’s been featured at several fests (New Zealand International Film Festival, Vancouver Latin American Film Festival, International Festival of Melbourne) in recent months; it’s screening at the London International Film Festival in October.
The Violin Teacher (Tudo Que Aprendemos Juntos)
After blowing his chance to audition for São Paulo’s symphony orchestra, concert violinist Laerte is relegated to giving music classes to teenagers in the Heliópolis favela. That, of course, turns out to be a life changing experience — and if The Violin Teacher sounds like a “based on a true story” sort of thing, that’s because it is. Sergio Machado’s sophomore film extends the winning streak kicked off by his 2012 debut, The Invisible Collection (A Coleção Invisível); it took home the Best Brazilian Feature Film at the 2015 São Paulo International Film Festival, and later this month it will have another shot at an award at the Milwaukee Film Festival.
My Hindu Friend (Meu Amigo Hindu)
The late Hector Babenco’s last film sounds rather autobiographical: dying, cantankerous film director Daniel (Williem Dafoe) befriends a young Hindu boy while receiving cancer treatment in Seattle. This was Argentine-born Babenco’s last film, and it sounds somewhat autobiographical (although Babenco died of a heart attack rather than cancer). Dafoe received the Best Actor award at the Montreal World Film Festival last week.
Between Valleys (Entre Vales)
Veteran TV and film actor Ângelo Antônio plays two roles (a homeless man and a successful business consultant going through a rough patch) whose lives intersect in São Paulo’s concrete jungle. Philippe Barcisnki’s sophomore film, a co-production with Germany and Uruguay, was made in 2012 but just received the Special Jury Award at the 1st BRICS Film Festival in New Delhi last week.