These Are the Must-See Movies at the 2019 Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival

Lead Photo: Courtesy of Seattle International Film Festival
Courtesy of Seattle International Film Festival
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Brazilian cinema has long laid claim to some of the most exciting filmmakers to grace the global stage. And over its past 10 editions, the Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival (HBRFest) has made sure Angelenos get a good look at the work coming out of Brazil. This year for its 11th edition, HBRFest boasts not only one of the buzziest films to come out of Cannes and the South American country’s submission for Best International Film Oscar but also an explosive political biopic directed by one of the best known actors working today.

Opening the fest is Karim Aïnouz’s The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão, a decades-spanning look at two sisters in Rio de Janeiro. The year is 1950 and Eurídice, 18, and Guida, 20, are inseparable while living at home with their conservative parents. Although immersed in a traditional life, each one nourishes a dream: Eurídice of becoming a renowned pianist, Guida of finding true love. As fate would have it, though, a stroke of fate creates a rift that leads them away from one another. Intimate and epic in equal measure, Aïnouz’s touching melodrama is a beauty with two fearless central performances, which explains why it currently stands to be nominated for an Oscar.

When Sônia Braga teamed up with director Kleber Mendonça Filho for Aquariusthe result was not only a vibrant drama that featured the iconic actress’ best performance in years but a powerful protest at the red carpet during the Cannes Film Festival that made clear where their activist zeal lay. It’s no surprise to find the two collaborating again (with co-director Juliano Dornelles) for yet another on-screen indictment of capitalist and imperialist forces. Bacurauwhich plays like a Twilight Zone/Black Mirror riff on contemporary Brazilian politics filtered through a spaghetti Western, is set in the titular town where the death of its matriarch and its disappearance from any GPS mapping system lead the way to a violent hunt that’s as bloody as it is entertaining.

But perhaps the biggest name gracing HBRFest’s lineup this year is Wagner Moura. Best known as Pablo Escobar in Netflix’s Narcos and as the dashing leading man in Elite Squad, the actor turned his eyes to directing and the result is MarighellaAlready a controversial film in his native country (for issues relating to its casting as well as its subject matter), this biopic is about a Brazilian politician, writer and guerrilla fighter who was accused of engaging in “terrorist acts” against the Brazilian military dictatorship and persecuted accordingly. Moura’s film stars Seu Jorge as Carlos Marighella in this political thriller that clearly aims to draw parallels with current-day Brazil.

Elsewhere, HBRFest will also showcasing Daniel Rezende’s family adventure film Turma da Monica about a lost puppy, Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim’s documentary The Great Hack about the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Marcelo Gomes’ documentary Waiting for the Carnaval about a northeastern town that produce jeans all year to sell at Carnival, Paxton Winters’ family drama Pacified about an estranged father and daughter reconnecting, as well as a selection of shorts that together paint a picture of the vibrant Brazilian film industry.

The Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival (HBRFest) runs November 15 – 19, 2019.