Ricardo Targino on ‘Lyrics’ (Almost Samba): Brazil, the New Global Aesthetic

Brazilian helmer talks about ‘music fable’ ‘Lyrics,’ which, world premiered at the Rio Festival, now screens in Stockholm


Ricardo Targino, a Brazilian multi-prized shorts helmer, world premiered his freshman feature, “Lyrics (Almost Samba),” an upbeat tale about life in the Brazilian interior, at last year’s Rio Festival. It now screens in a five-title strong Brazilian film line-up at the 25th Stockholm Festival.  The film, which he calls a “musical fable,” follows the story of a pregnant radio samba singer who is torn between two men, each of whom believes they are the father of her unborn child. It is produced by Vania Catani’s Bananeira Filmes (”The Clown,” “El ardor”), a hub of new Brazilian talent.  Targino spoke to Variety, as “Lyrics” world premiered, about his vision for the film and his hopes for the future of the Brazilian film industry.

What compelled you to make this film?

I live in Brazil and I was born from the poor people of this country. My mother was always a public school teacher and my father was a cab driver. I’ve seen and I still see the violence that stains Brazil with blood every day. The women are the most typical victims of such violence, not only [in the domestic space], but also institutionally, in the Brazilian outskirts and favelas (slums), at the hand of the Military Police.

“Lyrics” is a song of hope for the life and the happiness of the millions of anonymous women who suffer violence from men despite being the power that drives life. They are the ones who must get their families back on track when sorrow sinks in. They are the warriors of my people. “Lyrics” is an ode to femininity.

Who is your target audience, Brazilian viewers or a larger global audience?

I see the world deeply interested in Brazil. “Lyrics” tells a story about affection and the new possibilities of family models that could happen anywhere, with universal themes of life and death, love and jealousy. This story is told through elements that are typical of Brazilian popular culture, but it is not a “favela-movie”, like the ones that attracted the world’s attention to Brazilian cinema like “City of God” and “Elite Squad”.

In my opinion, Brazil is on its way to [defining] the new global aesthetic, for it is a multiethnic and multicultural society, with miscegenation like no other. Globalization tends to make the whole world like Brazil, [giving way to] a remix of ethnicities, cultures and faiths, and the co-existence of different identities.

Tell me a little bit about the music direction for “Lyrics.”

We’re an extremely musical people. Singing and music have always worked to invent possible happiness in the face of a harsh reality, and that is why my debut is a musical fable. I love musicals and it touches me thinking that they were a key part of what kept the world dreaming while the bombs were falling in the ‘30s and ‘40s. I tried to make a musical that at the same time didn’t reproduce the conventional models, but that had in the music the very soul of the film’s universe.

To write the score I invited Pupillo Menezes, the drummer in Naçao Zumbi and a key producer of the new generation of Brazilian musicians. With his huge talent, Pupillo allowed the film to have contemporary music while also providing very important remakes of popular songs. One of the composers who I admire most, Arnaldo Antunes, gave us a beautiful original song called “Coraçao Lençol” that made my eyes wet.

What types of projects are getting the most interest in Brazil right now?

I believe that Brazilian cinema [endures] a false paradox between authorial artistic cinema and commercial blockbusters. As a filmmaker, I’m interested not in the audience or in the criticism, but in the people. I believe that everything has changed deeply in Brazil after June 2013’s [Brazilian Spring.] I think the Internet represents a fundamental tool to universalize knowledge and also to allow wider access to culture and information. For this reason, I’m optimistic and I believe distributors and exhibitors must pay attention to the [changing] dynamics of our contemporary world.

There are things that have become part of the history of Brazilian cinema forever and which to this date remain ignored. Our emotions are running high for something new.

How does the Brazilian film industry differ from (or perhaps relate to) those of other South American countries?

It is expensive to produce in Brazil, much more than in neighboring countries. Also, much like other countries in the continent, it is difficult to get through the block of Hollywood’s great capital in the country’s movie theaters.

The great Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel has recently said that the problem with industrial cinema is that it has been [become] rather restricted. I like to be an exception to this rule. I like the idea that there is a new cinema arising in the slums and outskirts of Brazil and Latin America and I also like to think the best choice for us as a people is to invent new spaces of existence for that which our films express, even beyond the walls of the dark theaters of the commercial circuit. Faced by financial and market crises, we have to affirm whatever is human. There’s a lot of humanity in Latin American cinema and this brings us closer together.

In other markets, film is yielding to TV. Do you see that happening in Brazil?

TV is the newspaper of those who can’t read, the teacher for those who don’t go to school and free entertainment for the poor. It deserves our closer attention. The more exchange we have between the young cinema creation and the old TV structure, the better it will be for all of us.

I’ve witnessed the beginning of such dialog. It is necessary to deepen it, bravely and with the ambition of conciliating the production dynamics and the huge demand for a broader access to education, culture, knowledge and humanity.