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Film

“Candeal is a metaphor of what the human race can achieve.”—Carlinhos Brown

The Miracle Of Candeal

By Eliseo Cardona
Published July 2005

A Brazilian Favela Plays Music and the World Listens

The images are very Brazilian: people dancing in open spaces, percussionists working the drums on hot evenings, a parade of trio eletrico (trucks carrying bands on their flatbeds), a celebration of life. The images also suggest an exquisite dream, like something that only takes place during carnival.
            Yet the scenes tell a true story, filled with the kind of music that serves both as a celebration and redemption, and gives no mercy to the body. It is a sound richly layered with samba patterns, arrasta-pe and frevo (both indigenous style from the region). El Milagro de Candeal (or The Miracle of Candeal), part documentary, part cinematic parable by Spanish director Fernando Trueba, narrates the story of a social transformation.

Trueba calls the story “a wonderful miracle,” and the film is his best after the famed Calle 54, a documentary on Latin jazz and its emergence as one of the most richly, complex sounds of the late 20th century. El Milagro de Candeal, which has been exhibited in major cities in Spain and Brazil, and has a DVD and Stateside release coming soon, has been receiving accolades from both audiences and critics.

“I fell in love with Candeal as soon I as set foot there,” said Trueba, speaking from his home in Madrid. “I knew of the hard work done by many people there. I knew of Carlinhos’ leadership and I know about the future of the place.”

Candeal Pequeno, as it’s known among Bahianos, is a marginal area in the heart of Salvador, the capital of the Brazilian northeastern state of Bahia. It is also the birthplace of singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Carlinhos Brown, who grew up in its streets listening to music and learning to become arguably the most respected percussionist of Brazil and beyond.

But a few years ago Candeal was notorious for its crime rate, its prostitution and its heavy drug trafficking. Today it serves as a model for other favelas (slums) in larger cities of the country, as the place is thriving socially and economically. Brown has carried most of the weight of the reconstruction by opening a music school (the now prestigious Pracatum), opening a health clinic and computer centers, and financing the construction of sewages and water plants. Candeal is also the home of a state-of-the-art recording studio, where musicians from all parts of Brazil are flocking to record.

The story of how Brown turned the place upside down, stimulating a sense of pride to its community and taking young people down the path of education through music, is the central plot of Trueba’s film project.

But the film reveals a longer picture: the encounter of Cuba and Brazil, specifically H

Film Info

Very good ***

Unrated

Mostly Portuguese with some Spanish