Originally published as part of a weekly quarantine column at Cinema Tropical in April 2020.
On Friday, March 13, my split existence between New York and Rio de Janeiro came together in uncanny synchronicity, as both cities went on lockdown because of the Covid-19. While the New York film world has been coming up every day with creative provisional infrastructure changes to keep its vibrant arthouse and repertory circuit alive during the crisis, Brazilian filmmakers and even a few distributors improvised a more direct solution, making the once-password protected links of many of their films available in a joint effort to keep people home.
While half of me regretted the cancellation of programs motivated by Kino Lorber’s release of Kleber Mendonça Filho’s and Juliano Dornelles’ Bacurau in New York, as well as the just-opened new Jonathas de Andrade exhibit at Alexander and Bonin, the other half welcomed the opportunity to catch up with the massive Brazilian production, revisit old time favorites, and share some of the most interesting discoveries.
Considering that the abrupt shift in my routine has also taken its toll in my attention span, I have turned to the underappreciated art of short films, celebrating the 11th anniversary of Filmes de Plástico, a production company from Contagem, Minas Gerais, that has been sharing most of their films on their YouTube channel for the past few years, the majority of them with English subtitles.
We had the joy to host the U.S. premiere of Gabriel Martins’ and Maurilio Martins’ In the Heart of the World (No Coração do Mundo, 2019) last December at Veredas – A Generation of Brazilian Filmmakers, following the very successful run of André Novais Oliveira’s beautiful Long Way Home (Temporada, 2018) at New Directors/New Films. But what makes Filmes de Plástico a special case in Brazilian cinema is not only that they put out outstanding films, but that, together, they create a larger artistic ecosystem, as the different sensibilities of their three founding directors and of producer Thiago Macêdo Correia rub shoulders in the cross streets of their distinct versions of Contagem.
While I have interviewed André Novais Oliveira and written about the shorts Contagem (2010) and Nothing (Nada, 2017) in the past, the film that has accompanied me in this quarantine is Gabriel Martins’ Amazing World Remix (Mundo Incrível Remix, 2014), an exhilarating essay film that combines boardwalk mysticism, homemade CGI, records of family trips, Das Racist, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a turtle in just about 24 minutes.