Since Carlos Diegues’ 1979 Cinema Novo masterpiece Bye Bye Brasil, the traveling circus has held a special place in Brazil’s cinematic imagination. Something about the errant gypsy lifestyle and colorful cast of carnies seems to open up all sorts of symbolic possibilities. Plus circuses generally look pretty cool. The latest worthy addition to the country’s bigtop filmography comes from director Lirio Ferreira who had previously directed the music documentary O Homem Que Engarrafava Nuvens (The Man Who Bottled Clouds) about Brazilian composer Humberto Texeira.
Entitled Sangue Azul, the film follows a circus performer named Pedro who arrives to a remote South Atlantic island with his troupe — an island which also happens to be the place of his birth. As the circus wows local residents with its stunts, Pedro confronts his mother and sister in an effort to reconcile with his past. Old family wounds resurface and Pedro begins to wonder what drove his mother to send him away from his home 20 years earlier. Along the way his introverted sister Raquel shares her love for the sea with Pedro, and things get a little incestuous as they both process feelings of guilt and rivalry.
All of this is set against the breathtaking backdrop of the white sand beaches and crystalline waters of Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha island. Visually, Ferreira takes full advantage of the region’s landscapes while creating atmospheric interiors of bigtop performances filled with movement, dynamism, and a light, playful touch. Sangue Azul had its international premiere as part of the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama sidebar after picking up multiple awards (including Best Fiction Film and Best Fiction Director) at the 2015 Festival do Rio.