Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Weekend Addiction

Oh sure, it starts innocently enough. First your friend Jim introduces you to Pedro Almadovar. You take a liking to 'Women on the verge'. But then that isnt enough. You go back to him for 'Live Flesh', 'All About Your Mother' and 'Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down'. He is happy to give you what you need. But then, even Almadovar isn't enough so you move on, you need more Spanish film makers. Then you start craving Mexican, Peruvian, Brazilian and Argentinian. Soon you are a full-blown Latin American film addict going to the Vistas Film Festival!

In my full-blown addict state I spent the weekend alternating between my evacuee friends and the Vistas Latin American Film Festival. Both were great! Since Rita decided to spare Houston proper from its predicted destruction, my friends were upbeat and decided to get out and have some fun bar hopping. I had my own non-alcoholic fun at the Angelika theatre seeing 8 films in 3 days.

My picks. Not so surprising, they were all Brazilian films.

(3) Domesticas: A light-hearted comedy that follows the hopes and dreams of several domesticas (maids), living and working in São Paulo.

(2) Outro Lado Da Rua (other side of the street): A romantic dramady featuring Fernanda Montenegro (from Central Station), who I believe is Brasil's answer to Meryl Streep, Bette Davis and Cher. I particularly liked that at 76 years old she could get into leather pants and and a low-cut blouse to strut her stuff into a Rio nightclub (and pull it off). Think Rear Window with a faster pace, more colorful characters but less suspense.

and my favorite ...

(1) Favela Rising:

I heard two girls discussing this film after the viewing. Their earth shattering conclusion - That was merely a commercial for poverty. I'm sorry that was all they got out of it but please allow me to retort. Yes, Favela Rising definitely has a slick and artful production; very creative filming style, leveraging all manner of funky exposure, stills superimposed on moving, color bleaching on negatives and fast-speed, off-centered concert footage. It does have a lounge-esque feel in spots. Commerical quality? Definitely, but you would have to be completely blind not to expect poverty as a major theme when dealing with favela content. Oh and by the way this film is about a social movement, an ongoing one that is trying to bridge the poverty chasm in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary have directed and produced the best documentary I've ever seen. The most visible figures in the film, Anderson Sá and José Júnior, are from the favelas of Rio. But unlike most they stepped out of the narco-trafficking life to start an alternative culture based on music. Afro Brazilian. The film takes you neck-deep into favela life, something better seen in the theatre, I believe. A see saw of escalating hopefulness and plunging despair, the film displays the two men's admirable strength and commitment to giving favela youths a culture of pride. Which they did and are still doing, one small step at a time. Creating a band (and really a cultural icon) called Afro Reggae they recruited would be drug lords out of their 24-year life expectancy and into music. Slow progress initially but they attracted Brasil's Ford Foundation which donated heavily to their cause, creating some momentum forward out of the rubble.

Anderson Sá and José Júnior

A must see, definitely, but not without a warning - the images of favela life are harsh and extremely graphic. But don't let this stop you, the film ends on a upbeat and hopeful note. The music they play is uniquely fantastic -- high energy and infectious, the dancing follows the music.

If you are interested in the music, Sá and Júnior's group, Afro Reggae, put out their first album last year (to the US that is) called Nova Cara (new face).


Blogger theclamwhisperer said...

I still say you should be a film critic. You make me want to run out and see the movies. Very glad you were spared by Rita.

6:42 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Aww, you are too kind! I'm happy just to sling words and post them here :)

8:39 PM

Blogger Sangroncito said...

Hey Jim, back in san francisco from my "domestic" travels, now packing frantically for brazil...when I get to Salvador on 10/3 and have regular internet access I will read all your recent posts to catch up..."see you" in Salvador in about a week...abraço, Michael (sangroncito)

10:30 PM

Blogger Jim said...


Thanks for taking time out to stop by in what I'm sure is a whirlwind of activity to get ready for your new adventure.

Looking forward to Sangroncito, LIVE FROM SALVADOR! :)

11:03 PM

Blogger purpletwinkie said...

OMG 8 films in 3 days. The only time I've ever done that is with porn.

11:10 AM

Blogger Jim said...

LOL, thats a whole other weekend addiction, Scott :)

3:00 PM


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