Last Updated: August 7, 2007By Tags:

(BY ALI NADERZAD) On Sunday the Brazilian film festival (rechristened Cinefest Petrobras Brazil for this year’s edition) launched here in New York with a a screening of Sergio Rezende’s Zuzu Angel, the biopic about the famed namesake fashion designer. Petrobras, the semi-public Brazilian oil conglomerate backing Cinefest Brazil, has been the primary corporate sponsor of the arts in Brazil and seems to be involved in most film productions in recent years as well as the Brazilian film festivals held overseas.

Pretty much around the same time the Brazilian film festival launched here in New York in 2002 Brazilian cinema enjoyed newfound cachet with the release of City of God, which brought into the spotlight the illicit stimulations of a Brazilian shantytown. City of God received four academy award nominations. This year’s program includes social existentialism-type documentaries (For a Better Day examines class differences in city schools; Twilight of Gods allows us a bittersweet look into the lives of indigenous people and the sad realities of their looming extinction), portraits of the artist (Cartola is a documentary about the namesake samba composer, one of Brazil’s most important ones) and a soap-styled drama called Urban snapshots, about how five lives can become intertwined in unpredictable (and at times hilarious) ways. A special homage to Roberto Farias was made with the screening of Assault on the Money Train, his 1962 drama based on real life events.

A generation of younger filmmakers seem to find their expression through the documentary lens, as evidenced by this year’s selection. Brazil‘s landscape, after all, is rife with the tug-of-war of multiculturalism that can arise when different indigenous populations coexist on one land and therefore populous with great subject matter. Topics and examinations of social injustices and inequalities abound: conditions in a jail, teenage pregnancies and what happens when a street youth from the surrounding favelas holds hostages at gunpoint on a bus after venturing in Rio’s Jardim Botanico neighborhood (Bus 174). Robert Berliner’s Three Blind Sisters (2002) which screened here two years ago should also come to mind. For the complete film listing log on to Cinefest Petrobras.

© 2007 Ali Naderzad