Lusophone Film Fest


The Lusophone Film Fest showcases the contemporary cinema of the Portuguese-speaking world. It is the second event of its kind in Ann Arbor and at the University of Michigan. The primary objectives of this event are to provide high visibility to the Portuguese language and its cultures at the University of Michigan and throughout the region, while contributing to program-building efforts currently underway in Portuguese.

Sponsored By:
Brazil Initiative / Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies • LSA • International Institute
African Studies Center • Department of Afro-American and African Studies • Institute for the Humanities • Department of Romance Languages and Literatures • Sheldon Cohn Fund / Department of Screen Arts and Cultures • Center for European Studies •
Rackham Graduate School


Screening location depends on film:

233 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI

603 East Liberty Street, Ann Arbor, MI

525 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI


September 24 • 7:00PM • State Theater

The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta?)

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Directed by Anna Muylaert (Brazil, 2015) 111min
Introduction by Professor Sueann Caulfield (University of Michigan)

Val is a housekeeper working for a rich family in São Paulo. She has been washing, cooking and cleaning for what seems like an eternity. She is also a caring confidante of 17-year-old Fabinho, whose mother never seems to have any time for him. Val left her own daughter Jéssica back at home far away in the Brazilian Northeast; the pair has not seen each other for over ten years. All of a sudden the girl announces her arrival. Now a self-confident young woman, she intends to study architecture in São Paulo and refuses to calmly accept the rules that exist between master and servant. Instead of sharing her mother’s humble room, she moves into the spacious guest bedroom. She helps herself to anything she fancies from the fridge and even frolics about in the pool with Fabinho and his friends. Bit by bit the once unshakable rules of the house begin to disintegrate, much against Val's will. And then, in the midst of an argument between mother and daughter, Jéssica’s well-kept secret comes to light... (Berlinale). Actors Regina Casé and Camila Márdila won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

September 26 • 2:00PM • State Theater

Casa Grande or the Ballad of Poor Jean

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Directed by Fellipe Barbosa (Brazil, 2014) 112min
Introduction by Professor Reighan Gillam (University of Michigan)

Winner of the Audience Award at last year's Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, Fellipe Barbosa’s semi autobiographical feature film debut centers around 17-year-old Jean whose privileged life comes crashing down when his parents declare bankruptcy. Used to being driven around by a chauffeur, he must now take the bus to school like everyone else. He meets Luzia — who is half Japanese and half black — on the bus and slowly falls in love with her, despite his father's objections (Chicago Latino Film Festival). A gripping film focusing on complex class and racial dynamics in contemporary Brazil.

October 8 • 7:00PM • State Theater

Njinga: Queen of Angola
(Njinga: Rainha de Angola)

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Directed by Sérgio Graciano (Angola/Portugal, 2013) 109min
Introduction by Professor Anne Pitcher (University of Michigan)

One of the most ambitious recent film productions from sub-Saharan Africa and the grandest in the history of Angolan cinema, “Njinga” is an epic tale set in 17th-century Angola, at a time when the trans-Atlantic slave trade grew significantly. This visually stunning film follows the story of Njinga, leading her kingdom in a 40-year struggle involving the Portuguese, the Dutch, and rival as well as allied African kingdoms, for freedom and independence. Njinga stands today as a revered symbol of African resistance and is considered by UNESCO to be one of the 25 most important female figures in Africa.

October 15 • 7:00PM • UMMA Helmut Stern Auditorium

What Now? Remind Me (E agora, lembra-me)

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Directed by Joaquim Pinto & Nuno Leonel (Portugal, 2013) 164min
Introduction by Professor David Caron (University of Michigan)

Joaquim Pinto has been HIV positive for almost twenty years and recently participated in experimental testing on new antiviral drugs that are not yet approved. “What Now? Remind Me” focuses on this heavy experience but presents it only as a part of Pinto's life, which by no means can be defined by the conditions of his body. There is something else there: true love between Joaquim and his husband (and co-author) Nuno, absolute devotion displayed by their friends and - especially - dogs, Joaquim's memories about the past that are indestructible despite the fact that it is difficult for him to remember things that just happened.

Actually, this film is another experiment that Pinto courageously undertook with himself. An experiment to prove that any life is indefinable and indefinite, even if depicted in all its physiological details and impartially filmed under the microscope. (International Film Festival Rotterdam). Considered one of the best films in 2013 by critics of Cahiers du Cinéma and Portuguese daily, Público. FIPRESCI Award, Special Jury Prize at Locarno IFF.

October 24 • 12:00PM • Michigan Theater


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Directed by Petra Costa, (Brazil, 2012) 80min
Introduction by Professor Tori Langland (University of Michigan)

Elena, a young Brazilian woman, travels to New York with dreams of becoming an actress. She leaves behind a childhood spent in hiding during the military dictatorship, and she leaves behind Petra, her seven-year old sister. Two decades later, Petra goes to New York to pursue acting... and in search of Elena. But the film (and the filmmaker) cannot escape the similarities between Petra and Elena’s stories, and as they overlap, they begin to blur.

In the spirit of “Tarnation”, “Elena” obliterates the line between documentary, diary, and fever dream, and is at once captivating and devastating. From executive producers Tim Robbins and Fernando Meirelles, “Elena” is one of the most successful documentaries of all time in Brazil. Intimate in style, “Elena” delves into the abyss of one family's drama, revealing at once the inspiration that can be born from tragedy.

October 24 • 2:00PM • Michigan Theater


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Directed by Gregório Graziosi (Brazil, 2014) 80min
Introduction by Silvina Yi (University of Michigan)

João Carlos Ribeiro de Almeida Neto (Irandhir Santos) is beginning to feel the weight of his sizeable name as he embarks on a major architectural project. Awaiting the birth of his first son, the young architect is going through a time of intense change — which is exacerbated by the discovery of some unexpected skeletons in his ancestral past. During the project's excavation, a clandestine cemetery is unearthed on a plot belonging to his family, leaving João grappling with some difficult questions about the means by which his inherited wealth and standing were accrued.

Gorgeously shot in black and white, “Obra” atmospherically depicts the seemingly endless metropolis of São Paulo. Precise, austere camerawork portrays the haphazard cityscape in which the view from one building is often the wall of another. (Diana Sanchez, TIFF)

November 5 • 7:00PM • State Theater

Sacred Bush (Kadjike)

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Directed by Sana Na N’Hada (Guinea-Bissau, 2013) 115min
Introduction by Professor Fernando Arenas (University of Michigan)

“Kadjike” is set on the pristine shores of the Bijagós Archipelago, off the coast of W. Africa, and follows the lives and rituals of the islanders as they face up to the threat of drug traffickers in their midst. In the last decade Guinea-Bissau became a transit hub for cocaine trading between Latin America and Europe. “Kadjike” is a coming of age drama and a meditation on the schism between traditional Guinean customs and the rising tide of modernity — a constant theme throughout N’Hada’s cinematic career.

On the eve of his initiation into adulthood Ankina is torn between his responsibilities to his people and his love for a girl with whom customs forbid a relation. Drug traffickers promising a better life in the city lure his boyhood friend Toh away from the island. Facing important decisions at the crossroads of their young lives, both boys must find a way out of their predicaments – a way back to their people. The poignancy of this film lies in the juxtaposition between the natural beauty of the archipelago and the imminent dangers that lurk in the shadows of this fragile world. (Adapted from text by Anna Laerke Koefoed, Afritorial)

November 12 • 7:30PM • Michigan Theater

White Out, Black In (Branco Sai, Preto Fica)

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Directed by Adirley Queirós (Brazil, 2014) 93min
Introduction by Professor Paulina Alberto (University of Michigan)
Featuring Director Adirley Queirós

An acclaimed documentary combining elements of reality and science fiction that zeroes in on the complex realities of race in Brazil. The film —centering on the working-class suburb of Ceilândia, outside the capital city of Brasília—, portrays a generation of black men that is metaphorically and literally amputated. On March 5, 1986, in a run-down disco on the outskirts of Brasília, a group of cops used a drug raid as an excuse to severely beat everyone present in the dive; all of those beaten were black. The policemen were heard shouting: 'White out, black in.' Marquim and Sartana, two victims of the event, remember that terrible day; the former lost a leg and the latter remains paralyzed. However, remembrance is not all they want.

Partially following the wishes of his protagonists, Adirley Queirós chooses to register the mysterious everyday life of these characters in the present instead of recreating their past while allowing them to stage a fantasy to exorcize this bygone event. (Adapted from International Film Festival Rotterdam)

November 14 • 12:00PM • State Theater

Horse Money (Cavalo Dinheiro)

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Directed by Pedro Costa (Portugal/Cape Verde, 2014) 104min
Introduction by Professor Fernando Arenas and Anna Mester (University of Michigan)

In “Horse Money”, Ventura — the sad-eyed Cape Verdean lead of “Colossal Youth” — is lost in startlingly abstracted and stunningly rendered indeterminacy as revolution takes place in the streets. A product of the failed promises of Portugal's 1974 Carnation Revolution — where the fight for democracy after decades of dictatorship neglected the African immigrant population of his generation — Ventura is increasingly held captive by his madness and the "nervous disease" that causes his constant trembling, the results of a lifetime's worth of back-breaking manual labor and extreme poverty. Recuperating in a mysterious, vaulted infirmary with a network of subterranean passages, Ventura wanders in and out of the various rooms — which, through ambiguous and startling slippages of time and place, lead him to hidden or suppressed areas of his mind.

Invoking the photography of Jacob Riis (1849 – 1914), the famous Danish-American photographer, journalist, and advocate for poverty reform, Costa's new film is both a powerful indictment of social and racial injustice in Portugal and a new pinnacle of the filmmaker's art. Unfolding like a hushed, chiaroscuro fever dream, “Horse Money” pushes Costa's astonishing visual style and formal rigor to new heights with its Caravaggesque tableaux composed of high-contrast light and shadow, and others recalling Rembrandt with their velvety textures and ashen, sepia hues. Not only blurring fact and fiction but actively conflating history and contemporaneity, memory, and desire, trauma and survival, “Horse Money” is yet another masterpiece from one of the world's greatest film artists. (Andrea Picard, TIFF)

November 14 • 2:15PM • State Theater


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Directed by Inês Oliveira (Portugal/Guinea-Bissau, 2013) 80min
Introduction by Professor Frieda Ekotto (University of Michigan)

In Lisbon, two women from different worlds — a privileged architectural illustrator and a cheerful housekeeper from the city’s immigrant community from Guinea-Bissau, West Africa — join together to save a young Guinean girl from ritual genital mutilation, in this sensitive and intimate second feature from immensely talented Portuguese director Inês Oliveira (TIFF). Bobô offers a refreshing take on African immigration in contemporary Europe that provides an alternative view vis-à-vis the well-known stories of racism, marginalization, and social tensions that have largely prevailed.

December 3 • 7:00PM • State Theater

Tattoo (Tatuagem)

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Directed by Hilton Lacerda (Brazil, 2013) 110min
Introduction by Professor Larry LaFountain (University of Michigan)

The Brazilian military dictatorship lasted more than 20 years, from 1964 to 1985, and withstood several waves of youthful rebellion, usually by cracking down on cultural movements that threatened to get out of hand (in 1969, for example, singer-songwriters Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso were imprisoned and subsequently sent into exile). By the mid 1970s it was possible for an anarchist theatre group to emerge in suburban Recife and put on subversive, queer, avant-garde cabaret shows, just so long as it stayed underground and criticism of the military remained implicit.

Clécio (Irandhir Santos) is director of just such a group: The Star-Spangled Floor. But, when mild mannered soldier Fininha (Jesuíta Barbosa) is drawn into the uninhibited world of the cabaret, and gradually acknowledges his attraction to Clécio, it becomes harder and harder to keep these parallel and mutually uncomprehending spheres apart.

Hilton Lacerda’s debut is both a colorful time capsule and a potent drama that has earned comparisons to the work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Adapted from Palm Springs International Film Festival).