Premiere Brazil! Film Festival at The Museum of Modern Art

NEW YORK, – The eighth annual Premiere Brazil! film festival, a collaboration between The Museum of Modern Art and the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, introduces New York audiences to original and accomplished recent work by both new and established Brazilian filmmakers. All of the new films being presented this year—11 features and four shorts—are New York premieres, and first screenings will be introduced by the filmmakers. Also featured are two classic films from the 1970s by Carlos Diegues. Screening at MoMA from July 15 through 29, Premiere Brazil! is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art; and Ilda Santiago, Director, the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.

This year’s festival opens with the New York premiere of Lixo extraordinário (Waste Land) (2010), directed by Lucy Walker and co-directed by João Jardim and Karen Harley. This documentary follows contemporary artist Vik Muniz as he creates a recent series of portraits of people who subsist on the recyclables they scavenge from the world’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho, outside Rio de Janeiro. The film explores the emotional journey of his three-year collaboration with the catadores, the inhabitants of this “trash city,” who pick through the refuse, saving books for a local library, salvaging edible meat, and gathering the objects that Muniz then uses to create their likeness.

A number of evocative new works deal with the collision of modern lifestyles, urban expansion, and the force of nature in the vast Brazilian landscape. For example, Maya Da-Rin’s beautifully photographed Terras (Lands) (2009) takes place on the shared border of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, where an island surrounded by the immense Amazon rainforest is populated by both indigenous people and urbanites. Ana Maria Magalhães’s documentary Reidy, a construção da utopia (Reidy, Building Utopia) (2009) focuses on architect and urbanist Affonso Eduardo Reidy, who turned Rio de Janeiro into a modern city with such projects as the Museum of Modern Art and the Flamengo Embankment. In Marcelo Gomes’s ingenious and original blend of fiction and documentary, I Travel because I Have To, I Come Back because I Love You (2009), a geologist travels into the scrublands of northeastern Brazil’s Sertão region to ascertain possible routes for a new canal, and ends up discovering his own limits.

This year’s classics selection, dedicated to the continued preservation and celebration of the legacy of the influential Cinema Novo movement, features new prints of two of Carlos Diegues’s seminal films from the 1970s. A restored print of Xica da Silva (1976), courtesy of Cinemateca Brasileira, São Paulo, offers a romanticized retelling of the true story of an African slave who became the lover of a Portuguese royal agent in the diamond-mining state of Minas Gerais. Also screening is Diegues’s Bye Bye Brasil (1979), in which a traveling sideshow made up of a magician, a strongman, and an exotic dancer stops in rural villages hoping to mesmerize the townspeople out of their money.

Other highlights of the festival include a film by first-time director Esmir Filho, Os famosos e os duendes da morte (The Famous and the Dead) (2009), which is set in rural Brazil, and follows a teenage Bob Dylan fan who reaches out to the world through the Internet while coping with traumatic memories of loss and death. Comic relief comes in the form of Anna Muylaert’s É Proibido Fumar (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) (2009), a wacky and charming film about a chain-smoking woman who finds love—and other excitement—when a bachelor moves into the empty apartment next to her. The inspired Dzi Croquettes (2009), directed by Raphael Alvarez and Tatiana Issa, follows the infamous titular Brazilian dance-theater group at the heart of the 1960s Tropicália cultural movement. The group used imagination, irony, and humor to confront Brazil’s violent dictatorship, and in the process revolutionized the nation’s gay rights movement and changed the language of theater and dance for a generation.

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