25 Essential Films For An Introduction To New Brazilian Cinema

18. Nosso Lar aka Astral City: A Spiritual Journey (2010)

Nosso Lar

Brazil is a deeply religious country, which holds multiple demonstrations of faith: the Catholic Church, the African-Brazilian cults, evangelical denominations, etc. One of the fastest growing religions is Spiritualism, whose central figure was the medium Chico Xavier.

One of his most important books was Nosso Lar (Our Home), brought to the screen in 2010, and it shows the spirit of the doctor André Luiz through the various stages of enlightenment after death. A huge box office success at home, made it clear that there was an eager audience for spiritualized and uplifting films.


19. Tropa de elite 2: o inimigo agora é outro aka Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010)

Tropa de elite 2 o inimigo agora é outro

The success of the first film spawned a sequel, but far from being an inferior one, Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within goes even further than its older brother.

In the first film Captain Nascimento, once a manly and powerful hero, destroyer of kingpins, is now emasculated: his success as crime fighter took him to the police bureaucracy and then into politics, and he discovers that in such new occupations his ethics are powerless and unable unable to deal against corruption and shady dealings. Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within is one of the best films to understand the current Brazilian policy.


20. O Palhaço aka The Clown (2011)

O Palhaço

The Clown tells the story of Benjamin (Selton Mello), a clown in a small traveling circus ran by his father Valdemar (Paulo José) in the 1970’s. Benjamin dreams of life outside the circus, with the amenities that a normal house could bring (one of his dreams of consumption is a simple electric fan).

Hence, he decides to live as an ordinary employee, a decision that affects everyone around him, particularly his father, but also himself. Later, he realizes that being a clown and that making people laugh spontaneously is the only thing he can do. The Clown is a sensitive dramedy, directed by its main actor, Selton Mello, one of the most important artists of the current Brazilian cinema.


21. O Som ao Redor aka Neighboring Sounds (2012)

O Som ao Redor

Another movie coming out of Rio/São Paulo: Neighboring Sounds was produced entirely around in Recife, capital of Pernambuco state, and directed by Kléber Mendonça Filho, a local film critic.

It shows the daily life within few streets of a middle class neighborhood, and the feelings that underlie its inhabitants: the fear (Recife is one of the most violent cities in the country), the claustrophobia of small grating apartments, the uncomfortable proximity of neighbors, the despotism of the old power brokers, and sexual tension. It is a film about the city, how it swallows its citizens.


22. Flores Raras aka The Art of Losing (2013)

Flores Raras

One of the most important axes of recent years has been the films with homosexual themes, and The Art of Losing is one of the best in such genre.

This film tells the true story of romance between the American poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) and the Brazilian architect Lota of Macedo (Glória Pires): the arrival of the poet to Rio de Janeiro and the overwhelming passion that brought the two women together, their common life in the house amid the forests of Rio de Janeiro, and the progressive estrangement between them, ultimately leading to their separation. A delicate film directed by Bruno Barreto, almost entirely English spoken, it is a rare case in Brazilian cinema.


23. Tatuagem aka Tattoo (2013)


Another film coming from the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, Tattoo deals with two important themes for the new cinema: sexual orientation and the military dictatorship. In 1978, political repression was tough, and leftist groups were disjointed; another form of resistance was the so-called “desbunde”, or ‘knockout’, the rejection of bourgeois social patterns and militarized morale.

In this context, an alternative theater group performs shows with full nudity and nonsense. The leader of this troupe, Clécio (Irandhir Santos) starts a romance with a young soldier, Fininho (Jesuíta Barbosa), adding another element of defiance to the instituted military order. An exciting and passionate movie, whose main theme is freedom.


24. Praia do Futuro aka Future Beach (2014)

Praia do Futuro

This film explores boldly the theme of homosexuality: Wagner Moura, the same actor who played the mighty Captain Nascimento in the Tropa de Elite films, plays another tough, macho military man (a lifeguard), who falls for a German tourist. Together, the men live an intense romance, marked by vibrant sex scenes, lots of nudity and homoeroticism.

The film raised furor among Brazilian audiences, many spectators left the movie theaters when they saw the sex scenes. Male homosexuality had never been shown so objectively.


25. Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho aka The Way He Looks (2014)

Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho

In the same year of Praia do Futuro, came another film that explores the same theme, but with completely different results: The Way He Looks tells the story of a blind teenager, Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), her best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim) and Gabriel (Fabio Audi), a newcomer boy who gets close to the pair.

Leonardo falls for Gabriel but does not know how to declare himself, does not know how to talk about his sexuality with Giovana and can no longer withstand the overprotection of his parents who believe that because he is blind he cannot lead a normal life. It’s a brilliant film, a national box office success, and Brazilian submission for Foreign Film Academy Award 2015.

Author Bio: José Maria Neto lives in Recife, Pernambuco. He is a professor of Ancient History at Pernambuco State University, author of books and a cinephile.