Cinema in Brazil and tips for learning language with movies

Brazilian commercial movie production really only started in the 1940s. Before that it was sporadic labor of love, not always well received or profitable.

The Portuguese-born, Brazilian actress, dancer and singer, Carmen Miranda, helped put Brazilian movies on the radar both for national and international audiences. She also acted in many American movies including, Copacabana, co-staring Groucho Marx. Her tutti-frutti hat and dance movements gained her global recognition.

In the 50s, thanks to government-backed financing, the Brazilian film industry took off, albeit, producing what Brazilians call chanchadas: B comedies with racy undertones.

As a reaction to these glitzy, American-mimicking movies, produced in large studios in Sao Paulo, a movement called Cinema Novo, New Cinema, was established. This cinematic school borrowed largely from other international film movements such as Italian Neorealism and the French Nouvelle Vague. Headed by Glauber Rocha, a politically minded intellectual born in Bahia, it produced some of the best movies ever made in Brazil. Rocha’s assertion that to make good movies all a director needed was uma camera na mão e uma ideia na cabeça, a camera in the hand and an idea in the mind, inspired a generation of young artists to create movies that would unveil to the world the realities of a poverty-stricken Brazil. Some of Glauber Rocha’s most famous movies include Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol, God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun, and Terra em Transe, Entranced Earth.

In 1964 there was a military coup in Brazil that overthrew the socialist democratically elected president. The new regime did not care for leftist moviemakers, clamoring for social justice, so the repression that followed eradicated Cinema Novo.

With the end of the military dictatorship in 1987, Brazil saw a new era of film production—one that revealed a more authentic and nuanced view of Brazil, embracing all aspects of this art, from comedies to musicals to drama, including the 1976 comedy, Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, directed by Caca Diegues, the 1981 drama Pixote, directed by Hector Babenco and the 1998, Central do Brasil, Central Station, directed by Walter Salles. More recently, with movies like the 2007 Esquadra de Elite, Elite Squad, directed by Jose Padilha, based on anti-drug police raids in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian movies became better known and increasingly more violent.

Try watching one of the movies above to practice the language. Follow these tips to make your experience both fun and instructive:

1st – watch the movie in the original language with English subtitles. Relax and enjoy the movie.

2nd – choose a 3 to 5 minute part of the movie you though was interesting and that had normal dialogue. Go back and watch it again without the subtitles. Watch it more than once, alternating between using and not the subtitles.


Divirta-se e não esqueça da pipoca! Have fun and don’t forget the popcorn!