A curious phenomenon has taken place over the last few months: Brazilian cinema is slowly, steadily invading U.S. theaters. First there was The Moving Creatures back in September, followed by I Touched All Your Stuff, and Hard Labor, and now festival favorite Casa Grande will be making its way to Manhattan’s Cinema Village before becoming available for streaming later this month. As it turns out, this isn’t at all an accident: Brazilian-born film distribution impresario Rodrigo Brandão has recently made it his mission to bring U.S. audiences a slice of the astoundingly diverse and healthy film production going on in Brazil.
It’s about time. For years, Brazilian cinema has been the most productive industry in Latin America, and achieved the cinematic miracle of essentially paying for itself through national box office receipts. In other words, Brazilian films don’t actually need a U.S. audience to get by, but American filmgoers stand to learn quite a bit from the country’s very particular perspective on race, class, family, and film itself.
Directed by first-timer Fellipe Barbosa, Casa Grande takes on the first three of these themes in its sensitive and highly personal exploration of an adolescent’s newfound racial consciousness and class privilege, set against the backdrop of a family debt crisis that threatens the status of his wealthy household. All of this is executed in an attractive, straightforward style reminiscent of American indie fare, with strong performances from the dysfunctional father-son duo played by Thales Cavalcanti and veteran actor Marcello Novaes.