05/31/2011 05:56 pm ET | Updated Jul 31, 2011

Third Annual Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival: Chantal Akerman, a Gorilla Woman and Bollywood


Apart from being a leader at the forefront of alternative energy and bringing to our shores the best possible way to enjoy a nice cut of meat, Brazil is also a country rich in traditions. Among them, one of its best known ones is a cinematic tradition dating back to the 1920s, which has, in more recent times, brought the world award-nominated gems like Central Station and City of Gods.

But we may not necessarily think of experimental cinema when we think of the land of bossa nova, Bahia and bikinis. Yet there is an abundance of wonderfully unusual indie, alternative work coming out of Brazil today and the best of it will be featured in the upcoming Third Annual Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival. The Indie Brazil 2011 will take place from June 1st through the 5th at the Egyptian Theatre and Mann Chinese 6 Theaters in Hollywood and promises to enlighten its audiences to some fresh new works from Brazil. All films will be Los Angeles premieres, culminating in Jury Awards bestowed on the best of the six features and eight shorts in competition.

Among the films in this year's edition of the festival there is Riscado (Craft) -- featuring 2010 Rio IFF Best Actress winner Karine Teles -- a story about a talented actress who just can't manage to catch a break. Told through the real-life talented portrayal of an actress playing an actress with subtlety and depth by Teles, Riscado promises, at the very least, to leave the viewer touched.

This year's festival also boasts the first time the trilogy Hearts on Fire by filmmakers Felipe Bragança and Marina Meliande will be shown in its entirety. The filmmakers wanted to create works with "a concept of images that could talk about life over nostalgic clichés, about lost freedom and dead utopias."

In A Fuga da Mulher Gorila (The Escape of the Gorilla Woman) -- described by the filmmakers as "a fake-musical about anger and freedom in the outskirts of Rio" -- two sisters and an actor become unlikely road companions, while in the mystical modern-day fairy tale of A Alegria (The Joy) Luiza finds the magic she needs in her own life. And last of the trilogy is the multi-episodic, diversely filmed Desassossego (Neverquiet) "based on a letter written by Felipe [Bragança] and the character Luiza after some lost letters of a real Brazilian teenager in the 90s." The letter was then sent to "14 filmmakers [who] answered it with 10 short film fragments, edited together as an experimental flux of cinema possibilities and recreation of our generational identity in Brazil today." If that weren't exciting enough, the end result film will be then sent "by post to 2000 people around the world."

While all titles, from Chantal Akerman De Cá (Chantal Akerman from Here) to Estrada Para Ythaca (Road to Ythaca), to Por El Camino (Beyond the Road) and closing night selection Rosa Morena sound amazing, I only managed to watch two films from the line-up: A Alegria and Bollywood Dream.

A Alegria has a mythical fable feel to it, and quite a few references to the principles of Candomblé, a form of spirituality widely practiced in parts of Brazil. This story of Luiza and her cousin João, confined by the constant idea that the world could end at any moment really hit close to home with the recent predictions -- now thankfully come and gone -- forecasting our global demise on May 21st.

But for very personal reasons, Bollywood Dream is the film that stayed with me the longest. Executive produced by one of India's great cinematographers, Santosh Sivan, Bollywood Dream by filmmaker Beatriz Seigner is the story of three friends with nothing to lose and everything to gain. When they arrive in India hoping to make it as background dancers in Bollywood, they end up on a side journey that will surprise the audience and warm the hearts of the romantics among us. The film also stumbles upon a whole new definition of the principle of success.

The common thread throughout these films is spirituality. Whether it's finding oneself through Catholicism, Hinduism or a newly discovered belief of our own, filmmakers from Brazil make it quite clear that there are always higher powers at play in our lives and that we should pay attention to the signals they send us, or suffer the consequences...

Thanks to sponsorship by LG Brasil, IndieBrazil 2011 is free to the public, except for the opening and closing night galas which are by invitation only.

Top image from Rosa Morena, courtesy of FiGa Films