Friday, 12 April 2013


The new Marisa Monte CD
From film festivals to photography exhibitions, Brazilian culture will be in the spotlight in Europe over the next weeks, with a wealth of activities taking place in France and other countries.

The glare of attention is hard to miss as a top Parisian department store devotes space to Brazilian designers and as newspapers focus on the latest cultural trends to emerge from the South American nation.

“Some of this comes from a spontaneous interest in what’s going on in Brazil, and some comes from the press, from companies or from initiatives created in Brazil by the government or by individuals,” says Mariana Moscardo, the cultural attaché at the Embassy of Brazil in Paris.

“There is a lot of interest in Brazilian culture and in the artists who do tours in Europe, so it’s a mixture of interest and curiosity,” she told SWAN. “We do have long and sometimes complicated ties with Europe, but it’s a positive thing and we’re happy with what’s happening.”

Moscardo added that many of the cultural initiatives are backed by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture under Marta Suplicy, a popular politician who has met with some of her counterparts in Europe to forge closer ties.  The official support is in contrast to certain times in the past when artists were seen as mostly trouble.

Among the leading current arts events is the 15th Brazilian Film Festival in Paris which runs from April 16 to 23 and takes film fans on a cinematic journey to South America. The annual fair will screen 27 films this year and host several well-known personalities such as musician and former culture minister Gilberto Gil.

Katia Adler, director of the festival.
Things will kick off with “Gonzaga - De pai para filho”, a film by Breno Silveira that had about two million viewers in Brazil. The festival will also honour Carlos Diegues, an internationally renowned director in his own right and one of the co-founders of Cinema Novo, the film movement of the 1960s and 70s that placed emphasis on social equality and individualism.

Three movies for children will be featured as well, and the event will end with the unedited documentary “Viramundo - a musical voyage with Gilberto Gil”, in the presence of both Gil and the film’s director Pierre-Yves Borgeaud.

“I hope distributors will discover some of these films and choose to market them more widely,” said the event’s founder and director Katia Adler. “The aim is to help the films find a commercial footing through the festival.”

A resident of Rio de Janeiro who studied film in France and worked in television, Adler said she launched the festival as a way to not only counter common stereotypes about her country but also to promote worthy films made by Brazilian directors.

“When I was working in television in the late Eighties and there was something about Brazil, it was always negative, focusing on street children, drugs or poverty,” she recalls. “In 1998, I decided to start distributing Brazilian films in France as a way to show a different picture and to help filmmakers at a time when culture was being pushed to the sidelines under the then government.”

Her initiative developed into the film festival, eventually gaining funding from the French ministry of culture and other bodies. Although much of this funding is drying up because of the global financial crisis, Adler says the Embassy of Brazil continues to provide significant support. She says she plans to continue putting on the festival because many people look forward to attending it.

“It’s become an important festival in France because it’s nearly the only opportunity to see the latest films from Brazil on this scale,” she told SWAN in an interview. “Not enough Brazilian films are distributed internationally.”

Scene from a film by Sergio Andrade.
Many cinema-goers will have seen Cidade de Deus (City of God), the 2002 crime drama that was a global hit, but numerous other movies never make it beyond South America, especially if the story is not one that the public can easily buy into: Brazil as dangerous, exotic, colourful and exciting. Adler also organizes film festivals in Toronto and Montreal, Canada, for the reason of showing a wide spectrum of stories.

The Paris event this year will further include an exhibition of photographs by Marc Ferrez, who was considered the greatest Brazilian photographer of his time. Depicting Rio at the end of the 19th century, the show is just one of several exhibitions in Europe in which Brazil is the “star” this year.

The architect Oscar Niemeyer will be the subject of a separate exposition at the Parisian headquarters of the French communist party – a building he designed. This display will look at 50 years of Brasilia, the town that Niemeyer helped to develop from the ground up in 1956 and which now serves as Brazil’s federal capital.

Brazilian music, among the country’s most popular exports, isn’t being forgotten either. Europe provided asylum for a generation of artists during Brazil’s 21-year military regime that ended in 1985, and musicians such as Gil and Caetano Veloso can still count on a solid fan base. Younger singers, including Marisa Monte, Seu Jorge, Vanessa da Mata and Ceu,  now perform regularly to packed halls. Monte will give a concert in Paris on April 18th as part of her European tour. 

For those who are more interested in the culinary arts or consumer items, the landmark Parisian department store Le Bon Marché  and its gourmet supermarket La Grande Epicerie have decided to invite Brazil through their gilded doors as “guest of honour” until June 22. Shoppers can go Brazilian by trying on garments designed by Adriana Degreas or having a bite of feijoada - the typical stew of beans and pork that's best washed down with a strong caipirinha.