To most U.S. moviegoers, Brazilian cinema is a blind spot even for many people who consider themselves cinephiles. Beyond the unexpected mainstream success of 2002's City of God, and more recently Jose Padilha's torn-from-headlines Elite Squad thrillers, local audiences have had limited exposure to Brazilian movies outside infrequent screenings from the 1960s Cinema Novo movement, the occasional Bruno Barreto joint or even Jose Mojica Marins' singularly bizarre "Coffin Joe" horror movies.
That makes this week's salute to native Brazilian filmmaker Beto Brant at Vanderbilt's Sarratt Cinema all but unprecedented. Already in the U.S. for an appearance at the Miami Film Festival, Brant will host screenings of three of his films starting tonight at Sarratt through Wednesday as part of the "International Lens" series. Vanderbilt associate professor of Luso-Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian literature Emanuelle Oliveira describes the visiting auteur as "one of the most famous directors of a new generation of filmmakers that started working in the mid-1990s" — a tyro who honed his skills making music videos, then used familiar genre elements and thriller plots to explore current affairs.
"His movies deal with different social and political issues," Oliveira says, citing the Best Latin American Feature prize awarded to his hitman thriller The Trespasser at Sundance 2002 as proof of the acclaim Brant has won at home and abroad. First in the series is Brant's latest film, I’d Receive the Worst News From Your Beautiful Lips (co-directed with longtime collaborator Renato Ciasca), a steamy erotic drama set against the controversy over deforestation in the state of Pará’s regional portion of the Amazon forest.
We'll have more on Brant and the rest of the series tomorrow. Tonight's screening is at 7 p.m. in Vanderbilt's Sarratt Cinema, free and open to the public. A Q&A with director Brant follows the film.