ANOMALY19 REVIEW: Bacurau [2019]

A feast of fear and terror. It’s been awhile since Teresa (Bárbara Colen) last stepped foot in Bacurau, the small Brazilian village where she was born. Escape has proven the only way to become known outside of one’s neighbors since those who remain entrenched by choice (or necessity) are more or less the sole providers of their own survival. This notion might have begun in the abstract with the obvious contrast between a big city like São Paulo and their humble abode, but it’s been made overtly true with food…

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BERLINALE19 REVIEW: Querência [2019]

Treme Terra. You don’t have to look much further than the definition of the title to understand writer/director Helvécio Marins Jr.‘s goals with Querência. Its English translation is “homing” and actually does a good job at getting to the heart of its Spanish metaphysics. The former deals with an animal’s ability to return to a destination after being far away—like a trained pigeon. The latter goes deeper into metaphor, springboarding off its usage in bullfighting terms (the place a bull goes to feel safe within the ring) towards a psychological…

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REVIEW: Tito e os Pássaros [Tito and the Birds] [2018]

You catch fear from ideas. The “outbreak” started years ago when the twenty-four hour news cycle broke onto the scene by stoking fear for ratings out of a necessity for content. We used to only get an hour of local news every night—itself needing to be bolstered by a public interest story or two—with a few national programs enlightening us on world events. Information dispersal became editorializing. Editorializing became for-profit politicization wherein truth was filtered through a partisan prism pre-packaged for Election Day rather than relevancy. News became entertainment, snuff…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Motorrad [2017]

“How did you get past the wall?” You won’t find a better locale for a film than Serra da Canastra in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Its rocky landscapes and serene hills are gorgeous, their quiet solemnity a perfect contrast to the loud gas-guzzling motorcycles director Vicente Amorim has roaming their dirt paths in Motorrad. The only other man-made objects found are constructions out of flat stones—an isolated home or ancient wall that shouldn’t be where it’s found. The same stones line the shores of calm lakes with which to let off…

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REVIEW: Tabu [2012]

“You will not escape your heart” There are definite thematic similarities between Miguel Gomes‘ Tabu and F.W. Murnau‘s Tabu: A Story of the South Seas from its forbidden love to its descriptions of paradises lost. The structures are even identical—albeit in reverse—showing the joy of romance and the pain of losing it. If I were to compare the black and white Portuguese drama with anything else, however, its predecessor of seventy-years wouldn’t be it. No, the aesthetic my mind kept comparing Gome’s film to was Wes Anderson of all people.…

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TIFF15 REVIEW: O sinaleiro [The Signalman] [2015]

“The train was on time” Writer/director Daniel Augusto definitely cultivates a dark tone for his short film O Sinaleiro [The Signalman]. Between the quiet isolation of the titular character (played by Fernando Teixeira) and the almost supernatural occurrences surrounding him, you can’t help but conjure ideas of some spectral evil looming at his door. The monotony of his job—logging an on-time train as just that—places him on a path towards psychological upheaval, transforming what we see into nightmarish hallucination as easily as believing it to be reality. Abstract and devoid…

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TIFF13 REVIEW: Faroeste caboclo [Brazilian Western] [2013]

“A real man always pays his debts” Composed by Renato Russo in 1979 and finally released in 1987 on his band Legião Urbana’s album Que País É Este, “Faroeste Caboclo” became a folk song hit in Brazil. It was Russo’s family —Renato died in 1996 due to complications from AIDS—who began the process of finding the right talent to adapt its nine-minute story of João de Santo Cristo for the big screen ten years after his death. A few delays later—including an attempt to stall production due to outside copyright…

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REVIEW: Mistérios de Lisboa [Mysteries of Lisbon] [2010]

“Between the sanctity of our affection and the demon of social convention” Finally making its way into American theatres on the cusp of its director’s passing, Mistérios de Lisboa [Mysteries of Lisbon] gives us an epic look into the bourgeois dramatics of Portugal’s capital city. The press notes for the film contain a pretty accurate and concise three-word description by Raúl Ruiz—“birth, betrayal, redemption”. That triplet sums up Camilo Castelo Branco’s 1854 novel and the adapted screenplay from Carlos Saboga to perfection, each word a huge piece to the tale…

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