SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | April 1, 2010
Director: Guto Barra
When Carmen Miranda debuted on Broadway in 1939, the United States experienced their first unforgettable taste of Brazilian culture; ever since, The U.S. has been obsessed with Samba, Bossa Nova, Brazilian-Jazz, Tropicalia, Electrobossa and Favela Funk. The decades-spanning popularity of “The Girl from Ipanema” and Sergio Mendes – as well as the more recent rediscovery of Tropicália (specifically Os Mutantes) – has only added fuel to the obsession.
Director Guto Barra’s Beyond Ipanema revisits and explains the history of Brazilian music since the 1940s and its influence worldwide – especially in the United States. Barra juxtaposes talking head interviews with Brazilian luminaries (such as Gilberto Gil, Bebel Gilberto, Os Mutantes, Milton Nascimento, and Caetano Veloso) with contemporary musicians who have been influenced in one way or another by Brazilian music (such as Devendra Banhart, David Byrne, M.I.A., and Thievery Corporation); and a rich tapestry of archival footage is interspersed throughout. Told all too quickly in a brief 89 minutes, Beyond Ipanema plays like a Cliff Notes of Brazilian music made for an unfamiliar audience. For someone like me – a huge fan of Brazilian music, especially Tropicalia – Beyond Ipanema is a bit too basic and introductory. This is an extremely broad subject to be captured in just one documentary. And, to be honest, I was not really too excited about watching a bunch of talking heads reminisce about the past. The archival footage, on the other hand, made the film seem worthy of my time.
The soundtrack is phenomenal (my one recommendation would be to list the music credits on screen as each song is playing – I was confused at some points when the onscreen discussion was about a particular artist, but the music did not sound like theirs), featuring an enlightening and educational dose of the Brazilian classics and many modern Brazilian artists (such as Seu Jorge, Feeling Carioca and Brazilian Lounge, Apollo Nove, CSS, Coletivo Universal, Bonde Do Rolê, and Zuzuka Poderosa) as well. I am hoping that the soundtrack (preferably unabridged) will be released!