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Making music in Rio

  • 10 July 2006

Brasileirinho: Brazil, 90 minutes,  Rating: PG Director: Mika Kaurismäki

Brasileirinho is Finnish director Kaurismäki's brief tribute to ‘choro’, a musical genre that drew influences from old European waltz and Afro-Brazilian rhythms and beats and was the basis for both samba and bossa nova. This concise documentary breezes through one aspect of Brazilian musical culture and will entertain and surely bring a smile to your face.

Kaurismaki opens the film with a shot of Rio de Janeiro at night, the city lights glimmering off the Guanabara Bay. The musicians symbolically arrive by boat, much the same way the waltz and Afro rhythms did centuries before. The camera then snakes through Rio at night, a city of music clubs and bars, where the locals are warming up for a night of dancing and music while the trio combo ‘Trio Madeira Brasil’ prepare nervously for their show to begin. The curtains open; the musicians start playing the beautiful, soulful choro.

Initially based around the combo ‘Trio Madeira Brasil’, the film begins its journey into the history and culture of choro. Kaurismaki introduces us one at a time to new musicians who discuss their introductions to choro and how the music has influenced their own careers. We sit with them on patios, in cafes, and elsewhere. The musicians, who range in age from 16 to 70, are amiable and passionate. They break out into spontaneous guitar solos or songs to emphasise each point they make. From different socio-economic backgrounds, they all come together for choro. One particular scene that stands above others is an impromptu jam session held on a bus by a group of teenagers who travel four hours one way into Rio each weekend to learn more about their craft and passion. They play, each improvising, yet flowing seamlessly with the other guitarists, trombonists, trumpeters and tambourine players on the bus, completely capturing the more jazz and emotive aspects of choro.

The film is not about the musicians, but the music. Kaurismäki set out to ‘capture the soul …the magic feeling and the unique emotional bond’ of choro. As the film progresses, and the emsemble grows, we rehearse with them and join in the applause at the end of the show. Although we are given only a short time with each musician, the reality and frankness of the film allows us to connect with each of them. You are left completely satisfied and even discreetly swinging your hips as