Now in its fifth year, the Brazilian Film Festival of London (Braff London) returns this year, with a small but carefully chosen selection of films balancing historical subject matter and more light-hearted concerns.
In recent years, Brazilian cinema has come to be categorised by its two biggest exports, the kinetic energy of Fernando Mereilles (City of God) and the down-to-earth humanism of Walter Salles (Central Station). This year’s selection seems to lean more towards the latter, with Oscar-nominated Bruno Barreto’s (Four Days in September) Reaching for the Moon one of the festival’s highlights. It tells the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop and her troubled relationship with Brazilian entrepreneur Lota de Macedo Soades. For those seeking something that goes down a little easier, there is the warm-sounding documentary Margaret Mee and the Moonflower, which chronicles the life of the great UK botanical artist who studied at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts before moving to Brazil.
Symptomatic of Braff’s desire to give equal weight to serious drama as it does to smaller stories is We Are So Young, a biography of Renato Russo, who fulfilled his dream of becoming a rock star when he formed Brazil’s first punk band, before becoming one of the key voices of his generation. Loosely based on one of Russo’s most enduring songs, ‘Faroeste Caboclo,’ Brazilian Western details the relationship between a reluctant drug trafficker and a senator’s daughter. The film had an unusually troubled journey to the screen, filming having been pushed back by copyright wrangles over Russo’s song, but its inclusion at this year’s Toronto’s Film Festival suggests that it could be one to look out for.