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Milan Records presents
Moro No Brasil (2002)

"We tell our history through our songs."
- Seltka, a Brazilian musician

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: June 20, 2006

Director: Mika Kaurismäki

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:33m:11s
Release Date: June 13, 2006
UPC: 731383617027
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BC+B- C+

DVD Review

The indigenous music of Brazil seems to be something of an aural wonderland, and it's given a respectful examination here by Finnish filmmaker Mika Kaurismäki. This isn't an exhaustive tour—given the size of the country and the scope of the music, it couldn't be—and seems occasionally a little naïve, if not patronizing. But the music is truly inspiring, and the film has a keen sense of the cultural influences and regional particularities responsible for some of these wonderful sounds.

The movie begins a continent away, with the director in Finland, discussing his love of Brazilian music—but even without the soundtrack, the pictures alone would give anyone sufficient reason to flee the brutal Helsinki winters, and Kaurismäki quickly begins our tour of his adopted country. He provides frequent voice-overs, filling us in on historical and cultural circumstances, and orienting us to geography, but as any good tour guide does, he's always looking to throw focus to the subject at hand. The bulk of the movie, then, consists of interviews with Brazilian musicians intercut with performances, and Kaurismäki's principal subject of interest is the near extinction of native culture. There are tales of the centuries of Portuguese imperialism and of the shrinking native population, many of whom look to their music as the principal vehicle of their cultural heritage. Of course they're not a hermetically sealed group, and know all about and are prone to the influence of what they uniformly refer to as "white culture," and given the influx of immigrants, voluntary or otherwise, from Africa, their music is a cross-cultural melding of Indian, African and Portuguese sounds.

There's no big money in this, goodness knows, so many of those extolled as masters by the film have to make rent by selling trinkets or performing menial tasks, as the majority of them seem to live in relatively rural portions of their country. At times you can't help but wonder if perhaps Kaurismäki isn't a little too intoxicated by their exoticism, and this can feel at moments uncomfortably like the patronizing celebration of the happy primitives, the kind of dilettantism you sometimes see in Paul Simon or David Byrne. But Kaurismäki's enthusiasm seems genuine, and he's clearly knowledgeable, even if he isn't always the most penetrating interviewer.

But that's sort of all right because his movie is essentially a road trip, and the relationship between Brazil and its indigenous music is frequently compared to the one between New Orleans and jazz, a crucial part of the heritage of the place, and vital to understanding it. If you're into the sound and are as captivated by the music as is Kaurismäki, it's a golden soundtrack opportunity.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The colors are pretty washed out throughout, and you'll notice a fair amount of scratching.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English and Portugueseyes
Dolby Digital
English and Portugueseyes

Audio Transfer Review: Even on the 5.1 track, it can sound a little tinny; the atmospherics of the performances are reasonably well reproduced, but the dynamic range is limited.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Three featurettes are all worth a look. Carnivale (07m:26s) is pretty much just raw footage from the festival, with joyous shots of fireworks and the fantastic costumes on display in a parade. Capoeira (02m:05s) is a brief demonstration of the Brazilian martial art, and in an interview (04m:22s), the director discusses his affinity for Brazilian culture and the genesis of the project—this film was brought to you by the producers of Buena Vista Social Club, who were clearly looking for more of the same.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

A ragtag Brazilian road trip, and a genial primer for that country's indigenous music.


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