From the opening scene in Helsinki, Finland, the icy landscape makes room to the countryside of Pernambuco, in Águas Belas, just outside the Indian reservation of the Fulni-Ô. Such landscape contrast begins Mika Kaurismäki's movie Moro no Brasil. The movie is as eclectic as Brazilian music. Kaurismäki's journey mixes samba with forró and funk, Brazil's north and south, but it never loses its purpose to show a man's passion for Brazilian music. The movie does an excellent job in introducing new audiences to these various genres with testimonials and live performances from various artists.
Starting with the exploration of Brazil's musical roots in Pernambuco is a logical and most rewarding first stop. After all, it is here that we have frevo (with Antônio Nóbrega), maracatú (with Mestre Salustiano), forró (with Silvério Pessoa) and côco (with Zé Neguinho do Côco). It is no surprise that Moro no Brasil spends over 45 minutes in Pernambuco alone. Along the way, in Caruaru, the movie shows street musicians and a conversation with Silvério Pessoa (former member of the forró band Cascabulho) followed by his performance with Jacinto Silva. Forró, as Pessoa states, is "the identity of a people, as the blues is for New Orleans and jazz." It is music that emanates from people's lives and homes.
Another feature of Moro no Brasil is repente, one of the richest musical traditions in the northeast of Brazil. That musical form is characterized by fast exchanges between two street poets or musicians. They challenge each other improvising on a given theme. These singers, or cantadores, use historical themes, daily occurrences or even super-natural stories to sing their music.
Before arriving in Rio de Janeiro, a stop in Salvador, Bahia, focuses on candomblé, afoxé and other African influences in Brazilian music, culture and religion. Then after nearly 4,000 kilometers (about 2,500 miles) of traveling in Brazil, Kaurismäki arrives in Rio de Janeiro to talk with Walter Afaiate and other samba living legends. The meeting of the old and new values in samba is symbolized with the encounter between Walter Alfaiate and the Velha Guarda da Mangueira with Seu Jorge. And, of course, a visit to Rio de Janeiro is not complete without a visit to the first Samba School of Brazil: Mangueira. In this segment you are placed in the middle of a Mangueira rehearsal with its pounding lively percussion and infectious rhythm. Completing the full circle of percussion in Brazil, Ivo Meirelles then performs with Funk 'n Lata, showing that the samba beat also lives in the new funk movement in Brazil.
Closing the DVD, before the credits roll, the high-energy samba funk "Moro no Brasil" plays in the background as Kaurismäki's breathtaking images parade in front of our eyes. Musicians from all walks of life and diverse genres complete this musical odyssey introducing Brazilian music to the world. Moro no Brasil is a fine documentary that traces the roots of Brazilian music all over the country. The noticeable absence in this audio and visual ecstasy is choro. For that, you will need to check Kaurismäki's The Sound of Rio: Brasileirinho.
The DVD is in English and Portuguese (with English subtitles) and Dolby 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo tracks. It is also in 16:9 wide screen. Bonus features include an interview with director Mika Kaurismäki (approximately 4 minutes; English subtitles) and extras about Carnaval (approximately 7 minutes) and Capoeira (approximately 2 minutes). There is also a companion CD that features the music from the movie. The CD is sold separately.
You can visit Milan Records to learn more about and hear samples of Moro no Brasil.