MOSTRA III: brazilian film series
† Tuesday through Nov. 17
† Multiple venues, including Columbia College, 1104 S. Wabash; DePaul University, 247 S. State; Roosevelt University, 425 S. Wabash
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:18AM
Mostra III: Brazilian Film Series offers social insight into Brazil via cinema. Now in its third year, this non-profit event features recent Brazilian dramas and documentaries that address power, race and culture.
In Portuguese, “mostra” means “a show,” and this series indeed focuses on diverse issues of regional geopolitics. If the cinematic styles are less than revolutionary, as Brazil’s Cinema Novo movement advocated in the early ’60s, the films’ content is unmistakably on message.
Founded and directed by Ariani Friedl, Mostra is a spinoff of Partners of the Americas, an international community service group. It aims to improve “the lives of people across the Americas” through “one-to-one diplomacy” using films about “our largest neighbor in the hemisphere.”
Opening Tuesday and running through Nov. 17 at nine venues, Mostra will present more than two dozen features, documentaries and shorts. Screenings are free, except for the opening-night gala ($40) and the closing-night gala ($25), where Brazilian fare will be served. Five Brazilian filmmakers, as well as local experts, will appear at screenings.
Among the highlights is Jayme Monjardim’s “Olga” (2004), a historical biopic about a Communist Party operative whose 1935 subversive mission in Brazil backfires. Deported to Germany, she gives birth to a daughter before dying in a concentration camp. Her idealism is celebrated in this straightforward yet sentimental, 140-minute portrait. In Toni Venturi’s “The Blind Game” (2005), offers a more conflicted view of radicals on the run in 1971.
Crime and class are the themes of two dramas set in the present day. In Breno Silveira’s “Once Upon a Time in Rio” (2008), a love story with a tragic finale of gunfire, an Ipanema hot-dog vendor falls for an upscale lawyer’s daughter in a nearby high-rise. But the favela and Prada cannot live happily ever after in this classic exercise in social commentary. Set in Sao Paulo’s Capao Redondo slum, Jeferson De’s “Brother” (2009) centers on three young men who grew up together but took different paths as they reunited at a birthday party. Once again, crime wrecks prospects for a better life. Neither film critiques society. Bad choices by characters are at fault.
Renato Terra e Ricardo Calil serves up copious clips from live television broadcasts of singing contests in his 2010 documentary “A Night in ’67,” set against the rise of the influential Tropicalia movement. The doc’s best historical detail: a protest against imperialist Yankee electric guitars. European ballet, meanwhile, is embraced by two teens keen to escape the slums of Rio in Beadie Finzi’s documentary “Only When I Dance” (2009).The politics of culture are examined in the Mostra’s two best films: “Parallel 10” (2012), a documentary by Silvio Da-Rin, observes anthropologists contacting indigenous peoples near the Peruvian frontier. Cao Hamburger’s “Xingu” (2012), which just screened at the Chicago International Film Festival, tracks the adventures of three young brothers from the city who sign up — and lie about their literacy — for a government project in the 1940s to tame the Amazon. Along the way, they devote their lives to preserving the way of life of native peoples. This uplifting epic affirms the intercultural mission of Mostra.
Bill Stamets is a locally based free-lance writer and critic.