PICTURES OF GHOSTS – Review by Diane Carson

Universally, rural, suburban, and urban locations have experienced dramatic, often unwelcome changes altering established businesses and individuals’ homes. Because of a deeply felt nostalgic regret over such transformation of beloved spaces, Brazilian writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s documentary Pictures of Ghosts stirs longing for possibly simpler but certainly different times, specifically for Filho’s hometown cinemas in Recife, northeastern Brazil.

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PICTURES OF GHOSTS – Review by Jennifer Green

A love letter to the Brazilian city of Recife as well as to cinemas and urban centers of a bygone era, Pictures of Ghosts is an intelligent documentary with relatively limited audience appeal. Brazil’s sensible nominee to the International Feature Film Oscar, it premiered in Special Screenings at Cannes and offers an evocative exploration of the nation’s own cinema history and golden age of movie theaters.

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TOLL (TIFF 2023) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Good things have their price, one character says in the nuanced Brazilian drama Toll —but all things do, really. Some involve fees we’re not willing to pay while others have trade-offs, rationales, and costs that go beyond money. Suellen seems to know this, but the choices she makes for what she thinks is an honorable cause exact a price higher than she imagined. Toll builds to an affecting and ironic denouement, with performances that linger. Some choices carry an unforeseen toll, and the bill always comes due.

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Carolina Markowicz on TOLL (TIFF 2023) – Jennifer Green interviews

Brazilian director Carolina Markowicz’s debut feature film, Charcoal, earned rave reviews last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, then made its European debut at Spain’s San Sebastián International Film Festival. Now she’s poised to repeat the hat trick with her follow-up film, Toll. Only this time, TIFF is celebrating Markowicz with its Emerging Talent Award, and Toll was selected as the closing night film for San Sebastián’s Latin Horizons section. Markowicz has been drawing worldwide attention since her 2018 short film The Orphan debuted at Cannes, where it took The Queer Palm. It went on to play in over 200 festivals, winning more than 50 awards.

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DRY GROUND BURNING – Review by Jennifer Green

Brazilian cinema has never shied away from addressing its country’s social ills head-on, and Dry Ground Burning adds to the archives. The film is a fascinating exercise in combining documentary and fiction. Not knowing what’s real and what’s reenacted or scripted can feel disorienting for a viewer, but If you stay with it, you’ll find this evocative portrait of a very dark time and place to be a haunting and worthwhile experience.

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THE BOOK OF DELIGHTS – Review by Leslie Combemale

The Book of Delights is based on a 1969 novel by renowned Ukrainian-born Brazilian author Clarice Lispector. It centers on the grief of elementary school teacher Lóri, and her sensual and complex relationship with a philosophy professor. Writer/co-screenwriter Marcela Lordy guides lead actor Simone Spoladore to a truly magnetic performance. Spoladore goes from the darkest place to the most joyful in the span of the film, bringing the audience with her.

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MEDUSA – Review by Marina Antunes

A group of young women wearing white masks, roam the streets of Rio tracking down other women they feel are “sinful,” and assaulting them until they renounce, on camera and live-streamed onto social media, their evil ways and embrace Jesus. In her second feature film Medusa, writer/director Anita Rocha da Silveira marries the rise of religious vigor with observations on obsession, the perils of social media, peer pressure and, perhaps most troubling (always) how young women interact in groups.

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THE PINK CLOUD – Review by Leslie Combemale

At this point in the pandemic, most of us have become acutely aware of the relative saving graces and limitations of technology as a tool for communication and authentic interaction. We’ve learned isolation can birth intense loneliness and depression. There is no substitute for human physical interaction, and there likely never will be. This truth wound up particularly if unintentionally hitting home in the new Brazilian sci-fi character drama The Pink Cloud. That The Pink Cloud reflects this moment in history makes it heartbreaking and fascinating cinema.

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MEDUSA (TIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Medusa is wild, glamorous, and marked with a dark, slick fury. But it’s not all surface sheen; Anita Rocha da Silveira is clearly no one’s fool and has little interest in subtlety in her take-down of the hypocrisy and violence of the religious right. While set in contemporary Brazil, there’s a universality to the film’s tale of young women caught in the contradictory frenzy of the unrelenting gaze of others – male and female – which, of course, contains a power that the film’s very name underscores with its ancient, mythic potency.

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YAKUZA PRINCESS (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Rachel West

Directed by Vicente Amorim and based on the graphic novel Samurai Shirô by Danilo Beyrouth, Yakuza Princess is set in São Paulo, Brazil, home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. Hyper-violent Yakuza Princess offers little intrigue to audiences with a tired script and a emotionless performance by Japanese singer-songwriter Masumi in her film debut.

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