More of what you need to know about the eight Brazilian films (six full-length features, one short and one documentary) screening at the 28th Chicago Latino Film Festival. All screenings are at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60657.
Day of Black (Dia de Preto)
Synopsis: A modern day twist on the Brazilian legend of the first free black slave, this tale follows a young black man running for life from his boss and gang of goons searching for the stolen historical golden cow bell he took. We are reeled into a fantastical chase pushed to the edge of our seats with suspense and wonder.
The lowdown: Most Brazilian indie films receive some government funding, but Day of Black‘s three co-directors happen to work at Ancine, the federal agency tasked with boosting homegrown cinema — and so, in a twist of bitter irony, conflict of interest rules prevented their project from being financed by their employer.
So Day of Black turned into a piece of guerrilla filmmaking. Completing the film took five years, and co-directors Daniel Mattos, Marcos Felipe and Marcial Renato had to pony up some personal funds and convince most of the cast and crew to get paid from box office proceeds.
On the plus side, they had nearly unlimited creative freedom, and they took a lot of chances. The film tackles racial prejudice, a taboo subject in a country where people like to believe that sort of stuff doesn’t happen in their backyard, and the non-linear narrative is full of the kinds of homages and allusions you’d expect from the work of three lifelong film buffs who finally got their chance to sit in the director’s chair.
It’s too early to tell if their gamble will pay off; Day of Black has been making its way around the festival circuit, winning a few awards along the way (Best Soundtrack at the Sunset Film Festival, Best Actor at Brazil’s Petrópolis Film Festival), but it has yet to find mainstream distribution. So if you believe in supporting genuinely independent cinema, this is a movie you don’t want to miss.
Screenings: Thursday, April 19, 9:15 p.m.; and Sunday, April 22, 6:45 p.m.
Dismissed (No Olho da Rua)
Synopsis: Othon, 38, collects scrap metal from the steel mill where he used to work and sets up a haulage service with his pick-up truck. After his truck is stolen, his wife leaves him, taking the children with her. With no money for the rent he is evicted from his house and starts sleeping in the streets until he decides to go back to the mill to demand his job back.
The lowdown: Dismissed is the first full-length feature by Rogério Corrêa, who previously directed several shorts and medium-length documentaries; much of his work revolves around labor issues, and Dismissed premiered at the headquarters of the country’s largest steel workers union in the outskirts of São Paulo.
So this is an unabashedly leftist film, which may help explain why it screened in Cuba’s Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano de Havana. Most Brazilian reviewers found Dismissed to be well-intentioned but simplistic and old-fashioned; some traced its didactic tones back to the Cinema Novo era, while others compared it unfavorably to They Don’t Wear Black Tie (Eles Não Usam Black Tie), a classic Brazilian labor drama that won the Golden Lion at the 1981 Venice Film Festival.
Screenings: Sunday, April 15, 3:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, April 17, 8:45 p.m.
Marcelo Yuka: Follow the Signs (Marcelo Yuka: No Caminho das Setas)
Synopsis: Marcelo Yuka was at the height of his music career when in 2000, nine gunshots during a robbery put him in a wheelchair at the age of 34. While searching for physical and spiritual health, he has evolved to become irreverent, more complex as an artist and also an activist in a continuous struggle for social justice.
The lowdown: Marcelo Yuka was the drummer and songwriter for O Rappa, one of the key Brazilian rock bands of the 1990s. This documentary recaps O Rappa’s rise and clarifies the tiff that caused Yuka to be dumped by the band less than a year after the incident that left him paralyzed; surprise, surprise, it was all about money.
But this isn’t merely a rock band biopic; director Daniela Broitman, who previously worked as a journalist and produced documentaries for the PBS Frontline/World series, covers Yuka’s post-O Rappa career and his work on many social causes. Reviewers praised the film for striving to paint a full portrait of Yuka as a human being and for refusing to paint him as a victim.
Screenings: Saturday, April 14, 9:45 p.m.; and Monday, April 16, 6:30 p.m.
We’re Together (Estamos Juntos)
Synopsis: Carmen is a young doctor that dedicates her time to her work and volunteering. She soon finds herself overwhelmed and overextended, with her friendships and her love life taking unexpected turns and becomes more and more dependent on her friend Murilo. However, when her security blanket turns out to be something of a facade, can Carmen find within herself the power to take the reins of her own life?
The lowdown: The existential drama We’re Together won seven awards at the 2011 Cine PE festival, including Best Picture, and it found some success in Brazilian cinemas thanks to a supporting role by Cauã Raymond, a soap opera hunk and former model who’s been named the country’s sexiest man — and who probably left his (female) fans disappointed by playing a gay character.
Critics highlighted the lead performance by Leandra Leal, who’s grown into one of Brazil’s top film actresses in recent years. The cinematography also received much praise; director Toni Venturi displayed a keen eye for the São Paulo’s mixture of grit and glitz in his debut, Cabra Cega, and here he did it again.
Screenings: Saturday, April 21, 4:15 pm; and Tuesday, April 24, 6 p.m.
Is watching movies not enough for you? Then you’re in luck, because Casa de Cultura Brasileira has put together a panel discussion with the Brazilian directors who will be attending the festival. The discussion will focus on Brazil’s film industry and will be held on Thursday, April 19, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the DePaul Student Center, room 105A, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, IL 60614.
Originally published in our first website, Chicagoano.