These Are the Must-See Movies at Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival

Lead Photo: 'A Gloria e a Graça' still courtesy of LABRFF
'A Gloria e a Graça' still courtesy of LABRFF
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Now in its tenth year, the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival (LABRFF) has firmly established itself as the most prestigious showcase of cinema from that South American country outside of its shores. As founders Meire Fernandes and Nazareno Paulo put it, “We believe that we can make a difference by showcasing the most inspirational stories about our country, its diversity, and culture – and as long as we continue to enjoy the peculiar sensation of gathering with a bunch of strangers in a darkened theater, film will always matter.”

Opening the fest this year is A Gloria e a Graça (Gloria and Grace), a family drama about reconciliation. When Graça learns she has a brain aneurism that could take her out any day she has to find someone to take care of her children in case she dies. She sets out to reconnect with her estranged brother only to find out he’s since become Gloria, a striking woman, though she objects to such description. “Striking is Carmen Miranda with fruit salad on her head,” she deadpans, “I’m beautiful.” Shot in the kind of sunny colors that echo the empathy and warmth Flávio Ramos Tambellini feels for its characters, the touching film is a reminder that family truly is king. Or queen, as the case may be.

Those looking for a more City of God-like take on contemporary Brazil may want to check out Wagner Depintor’s The FatesBubbling with the editing frenzy and helter skelter visuals that made that 2002 film about life in the streets a worldwide sensation, Depintor’s flick follows the story of an American tourist in Brazil who ends up falling in love with a drug dealer from the favelas.

Closing the festival is Pitanga, the kind of project tailor-made for Brazilian cinephiles. The documentary tells the story of Antonio Pitanga, one of the most recognizable actors to be part of the Cinema Novo movement – appearing in films like Barravento and The Age of the Earth. More poignantly, the vibrant doc was co-directed by Pitanga’s daughter, whose affection for her father’s work comes through in this filmic portrait of an engaged actor looking back on his artistic legacy. Mixing candid interviews with Pitanga and his contemporaries with pivotal scenes from his filmography, this is as personal as a cinema history lesson can be.

Elsewhere, the festival will be screening movies about reigniting marital relationships (Couples Counseling), a drama about a blind man who may get a chance to see anew (Your World Isn’t For My Eyes), and even a character study of a teenager who likes to call strange women and masturbate (The Other End). And that’s without talking about the various shorts and other docs being shown during this four-day affair. Be sure to check out the full lineup lest you miss out on your next favorite film from Brazil.

The Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival runs November 5 – 8, 2017.