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Unique Discoveries at the 2019 SXSW Festival


By Roger Costa


“We live in permanent connection to these waters; it’s a continuously moving process of creation”, declares one of the musicians interviewed in this fascinating, electrifying and enchanting documentary. In the opening scene, a religious caravan sails the Amazon River, carrying their saints along with jubilus songs and praises, as the narrator presents its intentions: how many songs will fit in this river? Coming from musical experiences with eclectic artists, Director Bruno Murtinho answers the question throughout mesmerizing encounters with several musicians living and working on the margins of the largest and most mystical river in the world. In each meeting and testimony depicted here, Murtinho deeply captures the essence, faith, strength and eagerness of humble people giving it all for their musical tendencies, revealing their unique talent, commitment, sacrifice and joy. It’s also a mosaic for the country itself, its many colors, shapes, sounds, rhythms and religions. The collection of testimonies are remarkably passionate confessions of love for music and their admiration and devotion to the river. Among the highlights and impressive interviews, an aging musician who cultivates mystical relationships with spiritual creatures; a composer studying the sounds of birds along with his son; an adventurer who explored the world, living on the margins of other rivers and returned home to continue his musical career; a group of men who claim their lives revolve and depend totally on music and the thrills of being on stage; the emotional story of a man on the edge of suicide, and the courageous, sensual work of a street performer. Beautifully shot and captivating, Murtinho crafted a vigorous, utterly entertaining portrait of musical devotion and its inspiring connection to nature. Bravo! (Urca Filmes. Screens March 8, 10 and 13.)


Walking through the devastation caused by an earthquake in Ecuador, a prostitute struggles to reconnect with her daughter while running away from the sex-trafficking operation she once belonged to. Carrying on her own body, bruises and evidences of her tumultuous practical life, these marks reveal her biggest obstacles: vulnerability, weakness and chemical dependence. Each body part shown represents the ruins, both financial and natural, as well as her quest to settle debts, overcome the failures and set herself free. She is constantly calling her mother, living in a distant village, whom is now taking care of her estranged daughter. The lack of communication consumes her strength and hope, as she’s unable to reach the little one. After assisting to her clients, satisfying their most obscure and secretive desires, she is brutally attacked by a pimp, and finds console in the arms of a married doctor, who is completely attached to her curves and enigmatic beauty. Though, the doctor is willing to risk everything for her, she refuses such lovable help, as she’s unable to attain to any affectionate connection other than money-business related. Determined but unsure, she will manage to put herself in the line of fire, in order to escape from the past and from the consequences of her choices, defying her own oppressors. First-time writer-director Gabriela Calvache crafted a seductive, heartbreaking and scandalous portrait of the horrors of sex-trafficking in South America. She demonstrates incredible coordination with the controversial material, urgently addressing the issue with extreme accuracy. The same happens with the acting guidance, Calvache extracts vivid, raw and convincing performances from the entire cast, especially Colombian actress Noëlle Schönwald, who plays the heroic, anguished woman of the night, Cristian Mercado in the role of the unease doctor trying to help her out, and the little girl who plays the latest abducted victim. The film’s success also relies on the talent of the female professionals working behind the cameras: the fantastic editing by  Andrea Chignoli and Amaia Merino interconnecting various situations with intriguing, suspenseful coincidental elements, and the colors and angles captured by Gris Jordana’s cinematography, subtly expressing the earthquake aftermath as a mirror to the protagonist’s anxiety and expectations. A showcase for female power and determination, the film reveals the originality of a new cinematic force on her mesmerizing debut. (Cineática Films. Screens March 9, 11 and 14.)


A devoted mother and housewife, as well as a naive young woman, Alice has no idea of what’s in store for her. Without any explanation, her husband disappears all of a sudden, swiping all money and credits from her bank accounts. Things become worse when she learns he hasn’t paid any of their mortgage debts, and she’s given only a few weeks to come up with the money, or leave the apartment. Fighting for her property and determined to keep her child safe, Alice will turn Paris upside down looking for answers and for a quick solution. Following an escort-ad found among the vanishing man’s things, she recklessly visits one of these agencies, and is instantly tempted to humiliate herself to the risks of prostitution, in order to save her cause. Completely unaware of the business and procedures, she’ll try her best to fake and profit, developing a double identity with a little help from a “veteran” who becomes her tutor and closest friend. Making her feature debut, director Josephine Mackerras reveals herself as a powerful and distinguished filmmaker. First, the amusing screenplay paves the way introducing Alice’s fragile personality, and the shocks caused by the unexpected; gradually, it absorbs the transformations in Alice’s character and life-style with timely and immediate tenderness. In both ambience, Mackerras delivers balanced, effective results blending drama, social issues and soft, smart humor, all based on the female journey of seeking freedom and overcoming obstacles imposed by sexism. Actress Emilie Piponnier is a revelation in the role of Alice, a lovable figure, stealing every scene and conquering audiences’ hearts in a star-making breakthrough performance. Impressive, highly emotional and bitterly funny, it’s a triumphant first-time achievement. (Visit Films. Screens March 10, 11 and 14.)

Léa Campos: Consciência Acima de Tudo

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