Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho is best known for ambitious narrative swings like Palme d’Or contenders “Bacurau” and “Aquarius.” But with his latest film, which exuberantly melds documentary and narrative filmmaking techniques, Mendonça Filho turns the camera back on his native country and toward his medium. “Pictures of Ghosts,” which represented Brazil in the race for the 2024 Best International Feature Film Academy Award, immortalizes the lost movie houses of Brazil, specifically in Recife (the capital of Brazil’s state of Pernambuco). Watch the trailer, an IndieWire exclusive, below.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Pictures of Ghosts” “is a multidimensional journey through time, sound, architecture and filmmaking, set in the urban landscape of Recife, Brazilian coastal capital of Pernambuco: a historical and human territory, examined through the great movie theatres that served as spaces of conviviality during the 20th century. Having hosted dreams and progress, these places have also embodied a major transformation on social practices. Combining archive documentary, mystery, film clips and personal memories, ‘Pictures of Ghosts’ is a map of a city through the lens of cinema.”
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From IndieWire’s review out of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival: “Once surrounded by screens of all sizes, the city’s cinephiles can no longer depend on multiplexes for getting their fix. By attempting to revive dead cinemas like Trianon, Art Palácio, and Moderno, ‘Pictures of Ghosts’ smartly traces a line from the old days to now — identifying the death of movie palaces as a symptom of a larger disease. It’s a tragic notion the director furthers near the end of his film with a montage of drugstores, nodding to a local joke about Recife having one on every corner. Once upon a time, you could say the same about movie theaters… But this nostalgic and melancholy trip is also a celebration. Scored with the energetic tunes of Tom Zé, Sidney Magal, and other Brazilian artists, ‘Pictures of Ghosts’ is just as enamored with the streets and people surrounding those cinemas as it is with the rooms themselves. Effortlessly flowing through Recife’s 20th century, Filho’s direction gains a joyful rhythm, full of hope and wonder. Its title may recall images of the deceased, but it also brings to mind an enduring spirit — something ephemeral, but never fully gone. Though it has mutated and struggled, Filho’s Recife still stands tall.”
The film first debuted at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.
“Pictures of Ghosts opens at New York’s Film at Lincoln Center on January 26, with a national rollout to follow. Grasshopper Film distributes the movie.
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