Director Gabriel Mascaro has given audiences plenty of social issues to examine throughout his entire filmmaking career on everything from gentrification to income inequality. A retrospective of his work, Gabriel Mascaro: Ebbs and Flows, will be presented at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from April 15-21. The series is presented on the heels of his newest theatrical release Neon Bull, a narrative drama about young Brazilian rodeo worker who dreams of becoming a fashion designer amid the region’s booming contemporary clothing industry. From his self-produced documentaries to his turn to fiction filmmaking with Ventos de Agosto in 2014, here are Mascaro’s five films that will be screening during the retrospective series.
Gabriel Mascaro: Ebbs and Flows runs at April 15 – 21, 2016 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Um lugar ao sol
Using high-rise apartment buildings as a metaphor for the income inequality that is widespread in Brazil, the documentary paints a realistic portray about differences between the people who live in the lap of luxury and those who live in their shadows. Through interviews with wealthy penthouse owners on topics including power and privilege, these men and women talk about what it’s like living the good life while poverty and violence runs rampant in the streets below them. Do these rich socialites know their own country living so high above it? Or is disconnecting themselves from their own troubled nation the point?
Avenida Brasília Formosa
Gentrification is explored in this documentary about a small city on the Brazilian coastline called Recife where people living in the poor neighborhoods have been displaced by a new highway that has been built to run parallel to their homes. Some of the working-class townspeople whose jobs have been taken away are Pirambu, an elderly fisherman who has lost his home and livelihood because of the new development; Fabio, a tavern owner who no longer has a business and spends his time documenting things on his video camera; and Debora, a manicurist who dreams of joining the cast of Brazil’s version of the reality TV show Big Brother.
In what almost plays out like a nonfiction version of the critically-acclaimed 2015 Brazilian film The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta?), this documentary is, at its roots, a social experiment set up by director-writer Mascaro to show the inherent class division within the Brazilian home between families and the women who clean their house, make their meals and take care of their children on a daily basis. Arming seven teenagers with video cameras, Mascaro assigns them a simple task: record their family’s live-in maids and submit the footage to him after one week. The film won Best Documentary at the SESC Film Festival in Brazil in 2014.
Ventos de Agosto
Brazil’s tropical coastline provides the stunning backdrop to documentary director Mascaro’s first dramatic film, which unfurls as a series of revealing accounts in the lives of Shirley and her boyfriend Jeison. When the latter finds a human skull while dive-fishing, it sets in motion a meditative sashay through themes of life and death, most poetically summed up by an elderly man: “Those who die here don’t end up in heaven or hell. They end up in the sea.” It is just one moment that captures the relationship between people and their environment, with the inevitability of death returning us to the elements from which we emerge. A mesmerizing and beautiful portrait of our place in the greater order of things.
Boi neon follows Iremar (Juliano Cazarré), a handsome cowboy who dreams of becoming a fashion designer and spends his free time dreaming up ever more fabulous outfits to create. But don’t let that simple description fool you. Gabriel Mascaro’s character study, shot with a watchful eye that borrows its visual grammar from nonfiction filmmaking (aided by his work with nonprofessional actors), is a road trip film set in the northeast Brazilian countryside. But it is also an explosion of gender, class, and sexuality, flamboyantly portraying its lustful characters with quiet (and borderline queer) compassion and culminating with one of the most indelible sex scenes put on screen in recent memory.