88 min.,2006, dir. Karim Ainouz| Reviewer Ed Farolan

Brazilian films have been associated with urban violence (City of God, for example) but in this film, we see no trace of violence. In fact, there is a lot of love, saudade and gutsy sex. Hermila (Hermila Guedes) gives a steamy performance with graphic love-making scenes. Aïnouz with veteran cinematographer Walter Carvalho takes closeups of her body: her strong face, her eyes, mouth, teeth, hair, legs, hips and breasts. The only thing that bothered me, though, was that she kept on chewing gum.

When her husband abandons her, Hermila returns from the big city of Sao Paolo with her infant to her hometown, Iguato, in Northeastern Brazil. She waits for her husband, Mateus, at her grandmother's house, but he doesn't follow. She soon realizes he is never going to show up or send her money to help her raise their son. She decides to leave Iguatu once again to a Southern city "as far as possible from Iguatu". She doesn't have enough money, so, like Sophia Loren in Vittorio de Sica's Boccaccio 70, she sells raffle tickets and the winner spends the night with her in a motel.

The ending is the best part of the film. Her die-hard former boyfriend, Joao (Joao Miguel), a moto-taxi driver, overtakes the bus to try to get her back. And in the last few seconds, as we see the motorbike returning to Iguato, we wait in suspense if Hermila is sitting at the back, returning home with him.


115 min., 2008, dir. Mauro Lima| Reviewer Ed Farolan

This is a film adaptation of the true story of João Guilherme Estrella, an upper-middle-class young man who turned into a dope addict and a top cocaine dealer in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1990s. The film narrates his glory days as a dealer and high society party playboy to his later detention, trial, imprisonment and confinement in a state institution for mentally disturbed criminals.

The film is centered around actor Selton Mello who plays the part of Estrella in a funny, non-chalant way, similar to his character in Walter Lima's Out of Tune. Even his chubby physique, according to some critics, is that of the real Estrella. His wife, the beautiful and talented Cleo Pires, was tops, except for one scene where she kept on chewing gum.

The film was a bit long and needed to be edited, as there were some scenes that were slow and dragged a bit. But overall, it's interesting to get an insight of Brazil's middle class instead of the typical poor developing country type of films shown about Latin America.

There's a final credit that states that João Guilherme Estrella is now drug-free and works as music producer, singer and composer, but despite the film's big box-office results, Estrella's debut album as singer and composer received dismal reviews and sales were down.

© 2008 Ed Farolan