10 Brazilian Films to Practice your Portuguese

A lot of my students are surprised to find out that there are other good Brazilian films apart from City of God and Elite Squad. Brazilian cinema has grown a lot in recent years and there are many excellent films that have not experienced the same success as the ones mentioned above. Most of the films that I recommend are set in Rio or São Paulo, so the characters speak a more “standard Brazilian Portuguese”. I occasionally use films that are set in other states but only when the purpose is to illustrate the various regional accents students might come across when they are in Brazil. I also recommend my students to watch the films first with English subtitles and then with Portuguese subtitles to focus on the language.

1. A Dona da História  (The Owner of the Story)
A 50-year-old woman who analyses her past. She pictures herself when she was 20 years old and she re-creates the story of her life through a game of several possibilities. What if she wouldn’t have gone to that party? What if… instead of meeting the man of her life, with whom she married and had kids, she called a girlfriend and they went to the theatre? What would be her destiny? What would have happened? In the plot the present talks to the past. A young woman projects her future in a fascinating game between memories and desires.

2. Do Começo ao Fim (From Beginning to End)
Two brothers develop a very close relationship as they are growing up in an idyllic and happy family. When they are young adults their relationship becomes very intimate, romantic, and sexual.

3. Outro Lado da Rua (The Other Side of the Street)
Fernanda Montenegro plays a retired woman who keeps track of everybody in her neighbourhood, until she thinks she sees an ex-cop (Raul Cortez) commit murder and so she becomes a police informant.

4. A Partilha (The Inheritance)
In modern Rio de Janeiro, four very different sisters get together for the first time in years, following their mother’s death. Among other items in their agenda is splitting (the title- “A Partilha”) their mother’s inheritance.

5. Cazuza: O Tempo não Pára (Cazuza: Time Doesn’t Stop)
The life and times of Cazuza, Brazilian singer/poet, from his start with the rock group “Barão Vermelho”, to his death from Aids, in 1990, showing his career, love affairs, and involvement with drugs.


6. Vinicius (Vinicius)
Documentary on Brazilian poet, playwright, critic, diplomat, composer, singer and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980), internationally famous lyricist of Bossa Nova hits like “Garota de Ipanema” and “Insensatez” and writer of the play which originated the film “Black Orpheus” (1959). Archive images combine with up to date interviews with members of his family, friends, partners (Chico Buarque, Edu Lobo, Carlos Lyra) and also musical numbers with famous Brazilian singers.


7.  O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation)
In 1970, near the World Cup, Daniel Stern and his wife Miriam leaves Belo Horizonte in a hurry and scared with their ten years old son Mauro in their Volkswagen. While travelling to São Paulo, the couple explains Mauro that they will travel on vacation and will leave Mauro with his grandfather Mótel. Daniel promises to return before the first game of the Brazilian National Soccer Team in the Cup. The boy is left in Bom Retiro, a Jewish and Italian neighbourhood, and waits for Mótel in front of his apartment. When the next door neighbour Shlomo arrives, he tells the boy that Mótel had just had a heart attack and died. Alone and without knowing where his parents are, the boy is lodged by Shlomo and the Jewish community. Through the young neighbour Hanna, Mauro makes new friends, cheers for the Brazilian team and sees the movement of the police the military on the streets while waiting for his parents.

8. Bossa Nova
Rio lawyer Pedro Paulo is recently separated from his travel agent wife Tania. His office has taken on an energetic new intern, Sharon. Pedro Paulo is working on a divorce case – his own father’s… Mary Ann is an English language teacher living in Rio. Her friend Nadine has been having an Internet romance with Gary, a SoHo artist. Nadine decides to visit Gary in New York; she books her flight through Tania… Soccer star Acacio is going to play for a team in England. He has been taking private lessons with Mary Ann. Is he reading too much into the word “private”? Pedro Paulo catches a glimpse of Mary Ann and decides he should study English again… Acacio needs some legal help with his new contract. He goes to Pedro Paulo’s office, but the only one in is Sharon…

9. Central do Brasil (Central Station)
An emotive journey of a former school teacher, who write letters for illiterate people, and a young boy, whose mother has just died, in search of the father he never knew.

10. Se eu fosse você (If I Were You)
The publicist Claudio and the housewife and choral teacher Helena have been married for many years, but they do not understand and respect the feelings and viewpoint of the partner. Claudio sees Helena as a shopper and “little teacher of a choral” and Helena sees Claudio as an insensitive and rough man. On the night before the fiftieth anniversary of Claudio, Mars, Earth and Jupiter are aligned and Claudio and Helena argue with each other at home and they speak at the same time “If I were you”. On the next morning, when they wake-up, they have switched bodies and they have to face the difficulties of the other in the agency, in the school and with their friends and acquaintances.

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