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Live Reviews

Photo by Renata Baluk

5th Cine Fest Petrobras Joao Suplicy + Afro Reggae + Movie Screening: Zuzu Angel
August 5, 2007

By Ernest Barteldes
Central Park SummerStage
New York New York

Multiple genres

A sea of green and yellow shirts greeted previously unannounced Sao Paulo singer-songwriter João Suplicy as he took the stage accompanied simply by his own guitar and acoustic bass as he began a bossa nova-inspired set of songs that included some original numbers as well as covers of Jorge Benjor's “Mas Que Nada” and The Beatles' “Something” done as very personal arrangements. On the latter, he included a snippet of the Caetano Veloso/Benjor collaboration “Ive Brussel” in the middle section, which seemed to connect with audience members who were there for Afro Reggae.

The intimate set, which strangely fit the general feel of the evening, won the crowd over as Suplicy went along, mixing familiar songs with more obscure numbers. One of the highlights was his arrangement to Buena Vista Social Club's “Hasta Siempre Comandante Che Guevara,” which he sang with special poignancy.

He got the crowd singing along with him during his rendition of Dorival Caymmi's “Samba da Minha Terra,” a song popularized by Joao Gilberto in the 1960s (included on the iconic 1964 Getz/Gilberto album) that has been remade by various Brazilians ever since.

He ended with a remake of the Elvis Presley breakout hit “Heartbreak Hotel” rearranged as a jazz-inflected tune that was miles away from Memphis.

After just a few minutes of prep time, Rio-based Afro Reggae (who is featured on our August/September issue) took the stage and kicked off with their version of Raul Seixas/Paulo Coelho’s “Mosca Na Sopa” (Fly in Your Soup). While the original by Seixas was a blend of rock and baião, their version was more hip-hop influenced, with plenty of space for the drummers to show their chops.

One of the most appreciated numbers was the radio-friendly “Quero Só Você” (I Only Want You), a straight reggae tune with a naïve but catchy romantic lyric. Another great moment was their cover of Caetano Veloso's “Haiti,” which featured a personal arrangement that was still recognizable to the audience.

“We should always be proud of being Brazilian,” said Anderson Sá to roaring applause as he introduced their version of John Lennon's “Imagine,” which they recorded for a 2003 Amnesty International charity CD. That was followed with a cover of “Vapor Barato,” a Tropicalia-era song written by Jards Macalé and the recently departed Wally Salomão, to whose memory the song was dedicated.

One of the best moments of their set was the original “Coisa de Negão” (Black Guy's Thing), a tune featured on their new US release, Favela Uprising. The song's ‘70s-inspired funky beat got the audience on their feet, and the band took advantage of that by doing a call-and-response play between percussionists and fans that happened before their closing number, a cover of Gilberto Gil's reggae-based hit “Vamos Fugir” (Let's Run Away).

Minutes after the group left the stage, everyone settled down for the screening of Sergio Rezende's Zuzu Angel, which tells the true story of the fashion designer who took on the Brazilian military dictatorship as she searched for the assassins of her student activist son Stuart. Her quest ended as Zuzu herself found herself murdered by the military in a staged car accident. Her courage against all odds would later inspire Chico Buarque de Hollanda to write the poignant song “Angelica,” which is played during the film's end credits.