This summer, as part of our Festival of Brasil, we collaborated with the Brazilian Embassy's Cineclub Brazil to screen two films in our Pavilion. The first is The Second Mother and the second is City of God.
Here, we chat to the Brazilian Embassy about why they picked these two films to represent Brazilian cinema.
The Second Mother
Why did you pick these two films for showing as part of the Brazil Summer Season at the Horniman?
The two titles showing this summer at the Horniman give a good notion of Brazilian contemporary cinema and its international recognition.
Brazilian cinema has had a crucial role in questioning the country’s social issues. Both City of God and The Second Mother illustrate contemporary Brazil, they also depict completely different environments, themes, social classes, locations and historical political moments in the country.
City of God is a violent, fast-paced film that narrates the story of a group of favela-dwellers in Rio, going from the 60’s to the 80’s. We see how the characters’ lives have been affected as consequences of their actions. The film provoked a debate of modern urban problems like violence, social discrepancy, and drug dealing. It showed a completely new side of the city of Rio de Janeiro that is usually described by its natural beauty and tourist attractions - Sugar loaf, Copacabana Beach and its Carnival.
Internationally, City of God was also embraced with enthusiasm by critics and the general public. In 2003, it was released in the UK, achieving the third highest box-office receipts among foreign productions in England. The title received nominations for best foreign film in both the American Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
The Second Mother is a touching tale about the relationship of a north-eastern nanny and a wealthy family in Sao Paulo. It explores the conflicts and social issues of modern life in a metropolitan city in Brazil (migration, working class conditions and regionalism) touched by references to fairy tales.
The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Special Jury Prize. It received critical praise in and outside Brazil and was selected as the Brazilian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. It won the Woman Film Critics Circle Awards in 2015. Director Anna Muylaert won the Panomara Prize at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival.
City of God
Why is Cinema important to Brazilian culture?
Films provide a window to different cultures, whether you have an interest in a specific country, in learning a language, or are just curious.
Regardless of the stories or styles of filmmaking, the medium contains a great deal of information about people and places. Someone across the Atlantic who might not have yet visited Brazil can easily learn something about the country and its culture by watching Brazilian films.
The Brazilian domestic audience has also increased lately, following box-office hits from national titles.
For instance, the response to City of God immediately after its release was unprecedented in Brazilian cinema. More than 130,000 people saw the movie on its first weekend, and it quickly became the fifth biggest box-office hit ever in national cinema.
Such figures are quite impressive if one considers that cinema is far from being a popular entertainment in Brazil, a country that is engulfed by the culture of the ‘telenovelas’. Traditionally, the high price of a ticket made cinema a recreation for the middle and upper classes in Brazil.
What would you like viewers to take away from these films?
Each film takes the audience on completely different emotional journeys. However, the fast-paced City of God, it’s quick-editing, and thriller-action elements such as violence overdose, police chasing and gun-shootings are similar to successful commercial blockbusters.
The Second Mother is an emotional journey that engages the audience with the hope for a happy, fairy-tale ending. There are universal themes in this: the criticism of judging others by their appearances or social class and ignoring their capacities; wishes that come true as long as you work hard for them.
We hope the The Second Mother and City of God will provide a little taste of Brazil – a country that was originally formed by a mix of cultures, social issues, regionalisms and beliefs – as well as being entertaining.
Watch The Second Mother on 13 July and City of God on 10 August as part of our Festival of Brasil.