The ultimate percussionists’ film, “The Miracle of Candeal” is a colorful, good-humored trip filled with foot-stomping rhythm and astonishing people. Pic was filmed in the unique Brazilian favela (shantytown) of Candeal, where the young residents gave up their guns for musical instruments under the influence of rocker Carlinhos Brown. Spanish helmer Fernando Trueba (“Belle Epoque”) captures the community’s uplifting spirit in an entertaining concert-film format that will tap fans of “Buena Vista Social Club.” Album and photo book tie-ins broaden the market of this well-designed effort.
Trueba structures the film around masterful 85-year-old Cuban-born pianist Bebo Valdes, who after spending 43 years in exile in Sweden, makes his first trip to Salvador da Bahia, called “the most African city outside Africa.” He stumbles onto musician Mateus leading a church choir, and Mateus takes him to Candeal and introduces him to Brown.
Brown shows Valdes improvements that have been made to the slum, which used to be without water, plumbing or electricity. Residents construct and gaily paint a central square by themselves, showing how the community has organized itself.
Today, there are schools of music and a state-of-the-art recording studio used by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. There is a Bob Marley Street and impressive percussion bands composed of young kids and teenagers. Amazingly, the violence endemic in the favelas is practically nil.
Veloso, Gil and Marisa Montes each contribute a musical cameo to the film. But the real excitement comes from listening to the local talent like the Camarote Andante Band and Hip Hop Roots, with whom Valdes delightfully plays. Brown, who performs several complete numbers, is shown teaching small kids to play percussion on bottles and cans. Trueba finds a built-in climax in the exciting rhythm of Carnival.