25 Essential Films For An Introduction To New Brazilian Cinema

9. Abril Despedaçado aka Shredded April (2001)

Abril Despedaçado

The success of Central do Brasil enabled director Walter Salles to set a new project based on the book by Albanian writer Ismail Kadare. It took place not on the fields of Albania, but at the hinterlands of Northeast, a key scenario for the Brazilian cinema, a primitive land where family feuds still require blood.

A son of a family is shot, and it is up to his younger brother to avenge him as soon as the mourning period has passed, which in turn will feed the bloodiest revenge. The film chronicles the wait for the end of mourning, in which the soon-to-be killer, Tonho (played by Rodrigo Santoro) dreams of a world different of that in which he lives.


10. Lavoura Arcaica aka To the Left of The Father (2001)

Lavoura Arcaica

One of the most complex films of Retomada, To the left of the Father deals with the darkest areas of the human being: passion, incest, hatred, tyranny.

The son of a traditional country family returns home he had left a few years ago; in fact he is forced to return due to financial difficulties, and once back home he has to deal with the feelings that originally made him run away: hatred of the tyrannical authority of his father and the almost uncontrollable sexual desire for his sister. A dense film, once dubbed “baroque translated into film”.


11. Amarelo Manga aka Mango Yellow (2002)

Amarelo Manga

In the New Brazilian Cinema there is a taste for raw aesthetic, the shock of reality, possibly echoing the years of Cinema Novo. This characteristic is particularly noticeable in movies from the State of Pernambuco, which specialized in unadorned portrays of the lives of poor and marginalized citizens.

Yellow Mango, directed by Cláudio Assis, is a collection of short stories, located between the bar and a hotel of an impoverished neighborhood. Through such places circulate an exotic array of characters and situations, such as the love muddle that envolves Dunga (Matheus Nechtergaele), a fagot who has a crush on the butcher Wellington (Chico Diaz), a macho heterosexual who not only has a wife, the evangelical Kika (Dira Paes), but also a mistress, Dayse (Magdale Alves). The competition does not scare Dunga, who stabs a knife on the table and promises to himself: what fag wants, fag gets.


12. Cidade de Deus aka City of God (2002)

City of God

The film which definitely marked the adulthood of the new Brazilian cinema. City of God tells the story of a favela (slum) and its inhabitants, from their beginnings as a modest housing development to the 1990s, transformed a huge slum city dominated by drug trafficking.

A film masterfully directed by Fernando Meirelles, with agile and cunning script by Braulio Mantovani, photography and editing by César Charlone and Daniel Rezende – all Oscar nominees in their respective categories. One of the most important films of the first decade of the 21st century.


13. O Homem que Copiava aka The Man Who Copied (2003)

O Homem que Copiava

One of the states that produce the best cinema in Brazil is the Rio Grande do Sul, and it is precisely from there that came The Man Who Copied, a romantic comedy about a man who falls for a girl, stalks her, and discovers that she works at a Xerox store.

Well directed (Jorge Furtado) and interpreted by one of the most charismatic Brazilian actors (Lázaro Ramos), The Man Who Copied became an unexpected box office success and solidified film production in Rio Grande do Sul.


14. Casa de Areia aka House of Sand (2005)

Casa de Areia

A female duet interpretations: mother and daughter in real life play mothers and daughters throughout decades. In 1910 two women, the old Dona Maria (Fernanda Montenegro) and his pregnant daughter Áurea (Fernanda Torres) are taken to the dunes of the distant state of Maranhão.

The years pass, the old Maria dies, Áurea becomes older (Montenegro) and her daughter, Maria (Torres), is now a full grown woman. The dunes are a metaphor for the lives of these women, for the most they try to escape them, more they end up in the same place.


15. O ano em que meus pais saíram de férias aka The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (2006)

Still de Goleiro filme de Cao Hamburger

Another film set during the Brazilian Military Dictatorship (1964-1985): in 1970, during the World Cup, a couple of communist militants need to escape from the repression, and leave their ten years old son Mauro at his grandfather’s, unaware that he had died. The boy is then taken care of by a neighbor of the deceased, Shlomo (Germano Haiut). The building is mostly occupied by Jews, and the boy’s mother is herself Jewish, but did not raise the child as such.

Without parents, Mauro discovers the surroundings, makes new friends, meets his first love and begins to understand the reasons why their parents had to abandon him. Brazilian submission for Foreign Film Academy Award, although it was among the nine pre-selected, it didn’t grab a nomination – a shame because this sensitive movie deserved not only to be among the top five as even win the prize.


16. Tropa de Elite aka Elite Squad (2007)

Tropa de Elite

The favela film has become a sub-genre in contemporary Brazilian production, showing the violent daily life of poor communities in Rio de Janeiro. Elite Squad presents this everyday from the perspective of the elite squad of police, BOPE (Special Police Operation Battalion), and their struggle against the drug kingpins.

Directed by José Padilha, it became an almost instant success, bringing thousands of Brazilians to cinemas and made Captain Nascimento (played by Wagner Moura) a national hero. In addition, he won the Golden Bear in Berlin and had a solid international career.


17. Linha de Passe aka Line of Passage (2008)

Linha de Passe

Twelve years after their first collaboration, Walter Salles and Daniela Thomaz got together for a second co-direction: Linha de Passe. The setting is now the outskirts of São Paulo, where Cleuza (Sandra Corveloni), pregnant, and her four sons, each from a different father and several desires in life, live.

The look over these characters is arid without any embellishment. We follow their day-to-day life, its conflicts and contradictions, almost like a documentary, which shows how much Thomaz regards the actors’ preparation; not by chance, Sandra Corveloni was recognized in Cannes with the best actress award.