Academic journal article Notes

O Samba

Academic journal article Notes

O Samba

Article excerpt

O Samba. DVD. Directed by Georges Gachot. Berlin: EuroArts Music International, 2014. 59878. $19.99.

In the 1990s, Georges Gachot began to turn away from made-for-television portraits of European composers and musicians, initially with Bach at the Pagoda (1997), the first in a five-film series on Swiss cellist and pediatrician Beat Richner who moved to Cambodia in 1992 to build a network of children's hospitals; and next to South America, most recently with O Samba, the last of a trilogy of intimate and artful Brazilian music films. With the Richner series, Gachot established a profoundly musical filmic language, borrowing from standard documentary style, yet with an eye and ear for subtleties of sound design, editing, and dialog that musicians will find interesting. This language deepens in the Brazilian series, unified by recurring visual themes- frequent shots of Rio's mass transit system, for example, provides a sense of perpetual motion to the series-as well as frequent alternation of tight closeups and long shots in addition to seemingly haphazard cinematographic choices that lend a sense of authenticity to the production.

O Samba (literally "The Samba") centers on the popular samba school (escola de samba) Unidos de Vila Isabel whose unconventional, earthy style earned the group its first win in Rio's Carnaval competition in 1988, establishing Vila Isabel as a unique and visionary force in Brazilian Carnaval culture. A central point of the film is that samba is not simply music and dance, but a way of life. We learn this through a host of characters, most importantly one of Vila Isabel's most iconic figures, Martinho José Ferreira, better known as Martinho da Vila.

As Gachot makes clear in the film, most non-Brazilians understand samba primarily in terms of the boisterous and catchy sound of the music, this in the ostentatious context of Carnaval. …

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