Brazilian bacchanalia vs. joyless European Marxism
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 03/20/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The key to understanding this tendentious hour-long documentary film is in its subtitle, and the dogmatic assertion that samba is a "black" music that has somehow been appropriated and exploited by Brazil's "white" population. Although the film has some good material, including sit-down interviews with Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque and Leci Brandao, the thrill of seeing them all in action is severely undercut by the grinding, joyless narration, as French director Jeremy Marre intones gravely about how samba is the music of the poor and exploited black underclass, etc. etc. etc. He cuts away from scenes of street parties and MPB concerts to military parades held by the dictatorship that was still in power when the film was made (albeit in its waning days; the military relinquished control of the country in 1985) and makes the seemingly contradictory assertions that Brazil's vast Carnival celebrations are merely a bread-and-circuses sop, a pointless bacchanal designed to placate the nation's poor, and, simultaneously, that samba has been stolen from the masses, and that they can no longer hear their own music. Second-string MPB star Luiz Melodia is shown singing a sexually suggestive song with a female co-star, as Marre instructs us that his music has been ruined by the influence of non-Brazilian pop, and that his songs "have no meaning." There are elements of truth to Marre's argument, but on the whole, he seems to be pounding static, lifeless square pegs into round, rhythmic holes. Marre's dogmatic political presentation betrays a startling ignorance (or willful disregard for) the dense complexities of Brazil's interracial, multilayered, ceaselessly fluid and profoundly syncretic centuries-long cultural heritage. Samba, which came into existence towards the end of the 19th Century, was one in a long line of admixtures of African, Amazonian and European influences -- it didn't come fully formed fresh off the boat from West Africa, as the film seems to suggest. And historically, it is a national music, not only enjoyed by all, but actually one of the key elements uniting this far-flung country. This same point is made constantly by the film's own footage: every time Marre sets out to show us some "exploitative" situation in which a poor samba artist is forced to play their music for a "white" audience, the crowd we see is invariably and emblematically of mixed race, and they generally seem to be having a pretty good time together. Try as he might to stack the deck, the director keeps running up against the contradictory nuances of Brazil's confoundingly multi-textured society. This film is worth checking out for a glimpse at the samba culture, but its message has to be taken with a grain of salt."
Music Was Outstanding; Director Paints False Image of Brasil
M. Lee | Santa Monica, CA | 02/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I completely agree with Amazon reviewer "Joe Sixpack" who stated that this DVD creates a bit of a false image about Brazilians and samba. The only reason why I gave this DVD a 4 star rating is because the actual musical performances were well worth seeing! Many of the artists performed in intimate settings and were interviewed before and after playing and told stories about their lives (ex: Gilberto Gil). However I was very upset that this DVD portrayed Brasil as being a very racially segregated society when it is far more diverse and racially mixed than any other country on earth, includuing the United States, which is far less integrated. The majority of Brazilians are in fact of mixed race so it is completely false for the director to put these color barriers between people. If the director wanted to talk about the hardships and lack of justice that was in Brasil during the early 1980's, he should have targeted class segregation instead of racial segregation. If the director wants to do a film about racial segregation he should come to the United States and do a documentary about American blues or jazz music."
Excellent slice of Brazilian history and Modern life
Igor Polk | San Francisco | 07/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An excellent documentary. A diverce mosaic collecting a complex image of Brazilian society. Watched with the great interest. There is just enough of good music and dancing of all sorts. Interesting, that the more prominent the performers are, the less interesting their music and dancing is. I am dancing samba and I am interested in hystory of humanity. The film answered a lot of my questions not just about samba and Brazil, but about the course of our civilization development overall. Thank you, Igor Polk."
A. Brower | Brooklyn, NY United States | 02/02/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This IS an old film but it is a great documentary nonetheless. It's somewhat depressing in that it talks about and shows the inequities and censorship of that period in Brazil. But it has lots of good music.It has footage of some of the best Brazilian artists of that time and well worth seeing."