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Maluala - directed by Sergio Giral
Maluala - directed by Sergio Giral

Maria Bethânia is a living musical legend whose earthy interpretations of Brazilian film music have inspired generations of fans and musical colleagues all over the world. In this documentary by Georges Cachot, we see many famous faces from the music world alongside Bethânia.

'Samba is sadness dancing,' says Brazilian singer Maria Bethânia, a woman who extols the heart and soul of her nation through song. Maria Bethânia is from a very different world than today's pop singers. A world of arguably very adult passions and sorrows: loss, heartbreak, slavery, and religion. Director Georges Gachot intercuts concert footage and interviews with the singer's family, friends and peers to create a warm and personal portrait of a woman and her impeccable art. With an unhurried pace, as easy and leisurely as a ballad, the documentary captures Bethânia in the studio and on stage, providing an insider's look at how musicians discuss phrasing and interpretations. Often it is the impromptu renditions that are the most glorious, as when three of Brazil's most celebrated singers (Nana Caymmi, Miucha and Bethânia) give a samba siren's call in the dressing room after a concert. Much of the film simply allows the singer to speak candidly and honestly to the camera about her life and her art, both of which are inextricably intertwined. Most breathtaking is the music itself, which she eloquently describes like this: 'Music is like perfume, nothing else instantly affects you, changes you.' In an age of throwaway culture and mechanized pop melodies, Gachot's film is a reminder of how the power of music can give voice and identity to an entire nation.

A monumental figure in Brazilian music receives an in-depth profile in Maria Bethania: Music Is Perfume. Pic sticks to musical side of the best-known woman exponent of the 1970s movement known as tropicalia, and that works fine, as the gray-maned diva has plenty to say in that department. ~ Ken Eisner - Variety

Maria Bethania: Music Is Perfume is not a documentary as much as a meditation on the inner spark that fires a passionate career. ~ The Province (Filmfestival Vancouver)

Far more than a portrait of an individual, Georges Gachot's film is an ode to the universal language of music; Maria Bethania thus becomes part of the artistic project of this music-loving filmmaker. ~ Festival de Locarno

Director: Georges Gachot
From: Brazil/Switzerland
Year: 2005African Film
Language: Portuguese with English subtitles
Genre: Musical Documentary
Format: 35mm

Director's WEBSITE

DVD sale: $245
African Films