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MoMA Presents its Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Brazilian Cinema: Premiere Brazil
From Beyond Ipanema: Brazilian Waves in Global Music. 2009. A film by Guto Barra and Béco Dranoff. Pictured: Devendra Banhart. © 2009 Beyond Ipanema.

NEW YORK, NY.- MoMA presents the seventh annual Premiere Brazil film exhibition, which introduces New York audiences to accomplished, original films by Brazilian filmmakers, from July 16 through August 3, 2009. This year’s edition includes 19 feature films and three shorts. Among the highlights are striking documentary films—including a retrospective of master documentarian Eduardo Coutinho—and inspiring films about Brazilian music and musicians, as well as fictional features by established and emerging directors. There are two world premieres among this year’s selection: Beyond Ipanema: Brazilian Waves in Global Music (2009), a film by Guto Barra and Béco Dranoff; and Moscou (Moscow) (2009), directed by Coutinho. Most of the films in Premiere Brazil will be introduced by their directors at the first screening. This year’s exhibition is accompanied by a series of live Brazilian music performances in the Museum’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden on Thursday nights in July, beginning July 2 and continuing each Thursday through July 30.

Premiere Brazil 2009 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.

The exhibition opens on July 16 with the U.S. premiere of acclaimed director Bruno Barreto’s Última Parada 174 (Last Stop 174) (2008), a tender and suspenseful story of human tragedy and loss. The film presents a fictionalized background story for an actual news event—the much-publicized June 2000 hijacking of a bus in Rio de Janeiro. The incident was brought to broad public attention with the 2002 documentary Bus 174, directed by José Padilha (screened in the 2003 New Directors/New Films festival, presented jointly by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and The Museum of Modern Art). In Last Stop 174, Barreto explores the possible roots of this desperate action with sensitivity and insight, propelling the film forward with his customary gift for visually compelling storytelling.

Other fictional features include Juventude (Youth) (2008), starring Domingos Oliveira, veteran of Brazilian cinema, theater, and TV, who is also the film’s writer, director, and composer. It is the story of three old friends taking stock of their lives, especially their experiences with love, in the 50 years since they met as actors in a high-school theater production. The promising feature debut of the young Matheus Souza, Apenas o Fim (That’s It) (2008), is set on the campus of Rio University and uses film students as most of the cast and crew. The film exhibits a sensibility much akin to the American independent film genre “mumblecore”—low-budget and with nonprofessional actors. In Feliz Natal (December) (2008), directed by popular telenovela star Selton Mello, a man travels from his calm and modest life in the countryside to the city to join relatives and friends at Christmastime.

For the first time Premiere Brazil includes a retrospective of eight seminal works by one director: Brazil’s master of documentary filmmaking, Eduardo Coutinho. Coutinho is highly regarded for his formally distinguished and innovative style. His influential works highlight the storytelling abilities of ordinary people in films of rare beauty and impact. The Coutinho retrospective begins with the director’s classic first film, the politically stunning Cabra Marcado para morrer (Twenty Years Later—A Man Labeled to Die) (1964/84), which was presented with the highest award at the very first Rio de Janeiro Film Festival in 1984, and was shown in New York in the New Directors/New Films festival that same year.

The world premiere of Coutinho’s Moscou (Moscow) (2009) on July 20 is in keeping with his favorite theme, the investigation of the fine line between fiction and reality. It is set during rehearsals by the Galpão Theater Company for Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, directed by Enrique Diaz. As he shoots scenes from the play, Coutinho shares the magic of an unfolding mystery, as reality becomes fiction, and vice-versa, through the magic of acting. The line between fiction and reality is also the theme of Coutinho’s acclaimed Jogo de cena (Playing) (2008), a beautifully realized film about women’s lives.

Other documentaries include Cinderelas, lobos e um príncipe encantado (Cinderellas, Wolves, and a Prince Charming) (2008), which examines the sociopolitical issue of sexual tourism, and the estimated 900,000 people who are trafficked across international borders every year for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Morrinho—Deus sabe de tudo mas não é X9 (Morrinho: God Knows Everything But Is Not a Snitch) (2008) follows a group of children in the favelas of Rio over an eight-year period, during which they build an expansive, small-scale model of their neighborhood, made of broken bricks and inhabited by hundreds of Lego figures. This incredible work of art was included at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007.

The annual classic-film component, a tradition of Premiere Brazil, is a rare screening of the 1937 Humberto Mauro film Descobrimento do Brasil (The Discovery of Brazil) (1937), featuring a beautiful score by one of Brazil’s most popular composers, Heitor Villa-Lobos (b. Brazil, 1887–1959). The film follows the perilous journey of the armada of Pedro Álvares Cabral from Tejo to the first landing in Brazil, and it is one of the earliest films of the Brazilian cinema. Music-filled documentaries set the upbeat tempo for Premiere Brazil, and this year a variety of films about music and musicians present a cast of characters including Brazil’s most beloved contemporary poets and performers. On July 17, MoMA presents the world premiere of Beyond Ipanema: Brazilian Waves in Global Music (2009), a documentary that follows Brazilian music’s global influence, specifically in the United States, Europe, and around the world. Featured artists include Devendra Banhart, David Byrne, M.I.A., Thievery Corporation, and Brazilian legends Gilberto Gil, Seu Jorge, Bebel Gilberto, Os Mutantes, Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso, and many more. With a diverse international soundtrack, Beyond Ipanema explores the Brazilian music experience beyond Brazil.

For a look at music within Brazil, Palavra (En)cantada (The Enchanted Word) (2008), includes performances and interviews with such singers, songwriters, and poets as Adriana Calcanhotto (who performs live in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden on Thursday, July 16), Arnaldo Antunes, Chico Buarque, Lirimha, Lenine, Maria Bethânia, Martinho da Vila, and Tom Zé. The film examines the way popular music is an unexpected vehicle for poetry and literature in Brazil, a country with a strong oral tradition.

Museum of Modern Art | Eduardo Coutinho | Guto Barra | Béco Dranoff | José Padilha | Domingos Oliveira | Humberto Mauro |

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