In the words of Will.i.am, Brazilian music legend Sérgio Mendes is a “translator.” Mendes, who burst onto the U.S. charts with the 1966 bossa nova hit “Mas que nada,” has inspired musical artists for generations since. His life story and legacy are being presented in the new documentary Sérgio Mendes: In the Key of Joy.
Mendes starts off the trailer for the John Scheinfeld-directed documentary by sharing that his favorite word is “serendipity” because it sums up his life. Premiering at the upcoming Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the doc will examine key musical moments in Mendes’ life starting with his highly influential Brasil ’66 album. Images of a brightly colored Brazil are interspersed with archival footage of Mendes performing the song that made him famous. Talking heads praise him as footage of him appearing next to Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Marvin Gaye illustrate how quickly famous personages gravitated toward him.
Much of the trailer focuses specifically on “Mas que nada,” showing how it’s been translated over the years through remixes Mendes has created, working with the likes of Will.i.am and John Legend. Such reinvention was what allowed him to go on and create music for Erykah Badu, Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder, among others. As you hear at the end of the trailer, everything Mendes does is for “the love of the art.”
Even if you don’t know much about Mendes — like how he grew up the son of a physician in Brazil and eventually attracted the attention of bandleader Herb Alpert who helped him cross over — the trailer invites you into his world with his recognizable tunes. Given that much of Mendes’ work was lost in the Universal Studios fire in 2008, now is a great time to remember what an amazing powerhouse Mendes was and still is.
Sérgio Mendes: In the Key of Joy premieres January 18, 2020, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.