More Than a Soundtrack: Contemporary Brazilian Music Film

Brazilian music is known for its energy, colour, dynamism and humour – qualities we often find in its films, too. Here at Minghella Studios, Albert Elduque has been exploring the exciting interactions between music and movies in the birthplace of Tropicália.

Elza 1
Still from Elza. Credit: Jaguar Produções Artísticas. 

Brazil is a country with a very rich and complex musical tradition, and in the last twenty years more and more films about music have emerged, paying homage to beloved artists, engaging with the nation’s past, and reflectingon Brazilian identity. And when music and cinema interact, there are so many stories to explore, and questions to ask about the cultural context and meanings of popular songs.

Albert Elduque’s project is part of a much larger initiative, Towards an Intermedial History of Brazilian Cinema (aka IntermIdia), which is a collaboration between the University of Reading and the Federal University of São Carlos in Brazil. Last November, Stefan Solomon curated a weekend of screenings at Tate Modern exploring Tropicália, the short-lived but hugely influential Brazilian cultural movement, which spanned music and the visual arts. And from January to March, a Albert’s ten-week showcase, ‘The Contemporary Brazilian Music Film,’ gave students and communities in Reading the chance to experience and learn about other recent waves in Brazil.

Where the Owl Sleeps ok
Still from Where the Owl Sleeps. Credit: Paulo Castiglione.

In keeping with the spirit of IntermIdia, this wasn’t just a series of films. Each week, local musicians Steve Pierce and Ife Tolentino took to the stage at Reading’s favourite Brazilian restaurant, Pau-Brasil, and played a repertoire inspired by the films. Filmmakers Márcia Derraik and Sérgio Roizenblit were invited to present the documentaries Where the Owl Sleeps and The Miracle of Santa Luzia, and accordionist Luciano Maia offered a taste of regional music from Southern Brazil in a closing party in the Reading International Solidarity Centre.

Albert and the IntermIdia team wanted to celebrate the power that popular songs have for Brazilian people, to highlight the songwriters’ creative process, and to help us better understand the amazing political energy of the music film in Brazil. It was a season of great fun and colour and music, and a valuable lesson in cultural history.