A vast, colorful fable covering decades of key Brazilian history, “Cafundo” examines the parallel worlds of black and white countrymen, while mixing Christianity with African spirits. There’s not much emotion to go with the message-making, although the tale does reward patience with a fairly satisfying finish, and pic’s raw sensuality could help get an overseas toe-hold.
Joao de Camargo (Lazaro Ramos), a former slave and farmer, becomes a prophet who threatens the post-slavery status quo in Brazil. Cirino (Leandro Firmino, good) is his troublemaking best pal, and flame-tressed Rosario (Leona Cavalli, a TV and singing star in Brazil) keeps reappearing in Camargo’s life, to disastrous effect. Ramos conveys a winning dignity in the lead and Cavalli provides considerable heat as the white temptress, but overall stiff acting and tableaux-like scenes grow wearying — even if many images (blown up from 16mm) are quite dazzling. Script suffers from overreach, as “Cafundo” tries to show virtually every phase of the real-life of de Camargo, an influential figure in Brazilian folklore. Pic won five top awards at country’s Gramado fest.