Portuguese language film reviews

Cidade de Deus (2002)
City of God

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

Cidade de Deus (City of God) is set in a slum in Rio de Janeiro where the lives of many characters sometimes intersect each other through drugs and gun warfare. It is a notoriously violent slum where even the police rarely go and the residents are lucky if they live beyond their childhood. Busca Pé (Rocket) is the narrator of the story, but he is also an example of hope for the other kids who live in the slums. He is too scared to be a hoodlum but also too clever to work in menial jobs. His interest in photography is what draws him back into the slums and records the violence and reality of life there, through the eye of the lens.

This is an entertaining yet powerful film showing real life in the favelas (shanty towns) in Rio de Janeiro. It’s particularly shocking and hard to watch in places and even more disturbing to know that it is based on a true story. It shows clearly what life is like for the people and kids who have to live surrounded by drugs, guns and fear.

This film won several awards including a Bafta, a British Independent Film Award and nominations at both the 2004 Oscars and the 2003 Golden Globe Awards. It shows clearly what life is like in the shanty towns overshot with the music of samba, bossa nova and seventies funk.

The language is particularly difficult to understand even if you understand Portuguese as most of it is in ‘favela’ slang and Brazilian colloquialisms. It’s compelling stuff and definitely worth watching. In Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles. Rated 18 in the UK.

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Central do Brasil (1998)
Central Station

An independent  language advantage film review by Andrea Martins

This is a very moving story by director Walter Salles. Fernanda Montenegro (1998 Academy Award nominated Best Actress) plays a lonely and troubled older woman who spends her days writing letters for illiterate customers at Rio de Janeiro’s Central Train Station. One of her customers is a mother with a young son, Josue. Both their lives change forever when one day Josue’s mother is killed and Dora (Montenegro) reluctantly befriends the boy.

She agrees to help Josue find the father he’s never known and on their journey across Brazil, they learn a lot more about each other. For Dora, the journey is also a personal one as she finds that she has compassion for the boy and through this finds self-esteem and courage, something that she never thought would happen to her.

This is one of those heart-rending but at the same time poignant films that reminds you of how strong the human spirit can be under adverse situations. The scenery is stunning and the stark difference between life in the city and life in the countryside is shown to great effect.

This Brazilian language film won several awards and nominations ranging from the Best Foreign Language Film at the 1999 Golden Globe to a nomination for the Best Actress in a Leading Role for Fernanda Montenegro at the 1999 Oscars.

Unless you learnt Brazilian Portuguese as opposed to Continental Portuguese, the language might be difficult to understand. In Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles

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Russian language film reviews

Solaris (1972)

A  language advantage film review by Sarah Maddocks

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, Solaris is a Russian film in which a psychologist, Donatis Banionis (Chris Kelvin) is sent to a Russian space station on a mysterious planet Solaris, to investigate trouble with the scientists who work there. This film is a favourite and it is easy to see why. All but three scientists on the planet have either gone insane and killed themselves or killed each other. As Donatis investigates what has happened to the scientists, his wife appears on the planet, which is impossible as she has committed suicide.

Donatis tries everything in his power to get rid of his dead wife but she always manages to come back unharmed. Consequently he discovers it is in fact the planet which is creating these images and manipulating people’s memories as a way of communicating with them.

This film is fantastic, I loved every bit of it and the representation of the different relationships is superb especially between Donatis and his wife. I have yet to see the remake but if it is anywhere near as good as the original then it is a definite hit.

In Russian language with English subtitles.

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