Contemporary World Cinema | 2015 | 100 minutes
Lázaro Ramos captured the film-world’s attention by way of 2002's Madame Satã, in which he played famed Brazilian convict-turned-drag performer João Francisco dos Santos. He's barely recognizable as the same actor in this reunion with Lower City director Sérgio Machado's The Violin Teacher, but he justifies that early hype. It's a more conventional film about a classical violinist who screws up his big audition and ends up teaching poverty-stricken teens, like the virtuosic Samuel (Kaique Jesus), in a São Paulo favela. The beats are familiar—man learns to love teaching, students learn to love man—but Ramos makes them count. (KATHY FENNESSY)
SIFF Says:The musical career of violinist Laerte (Lázaro Ramos, MADAME SATA) has not gone as planned. His once-in-a-lifetime audition with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra is a spectacular failure, and with bills piling up, an offer to teach a high school violin class in São Paulo Paulo’s notorious Heliopolis neighborhood cannot be turned down. Reluctant and defensive, Laerte anticipates trouble in this tough environment and finds it. Unruly, untrained, and unable to read music, his students carry the weight of the favela on their young shoulders, yet through it all a passion and purpose begins to emerge for teacher and students alike. With the program’s future resting on an upcoming concert and the pressures of gang violence and police brutality growing louder offstage, Laerte’s greatest performance might simply be in bringing a glimmer of hope into their lives, as well as his own. Acclaimed writer/director Sérgio Machado (LOWER CITY) gives the classic “inspirational teacher” narrative a fresh energy in this lively and affecting film. Neatly balancing a classic character arc with a tough grit, THE VIOLIN TEACHER is a crowd-pleaser with a conscience.
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