Monday, July 11, 2011

Brazil's "Chico Xavier"

Chico Xavier
a film by Daniel Filho
(Brazil, 2010; 125 min.)

from Chico Xavier
Photo courtesy of Lereby Produções

Daniel Filho's film--making its U.S. premiere this week at the Museum of Modern Art's Premiere Brazil! festival--traces the life and work of Spiritist medium Chico Xavier (1910-2002). From childhood, Xavier ("Chico" is the diminutive for Francisco) just knew things about people, and his touch could center and calm them. The youngster's abilities unnerved his abusive godmother and ran counter to the teachings of the Catholic Church. But Chico drew widespread support as he grew into a gentle, unassuming young man who dedicated his life to serving the needs of the people, refusing to profit from what he says he had been given by the spirit world. Bringing individual messages and numerous books by way of automatic writing, he toiled--through personal suffering and sacrifice, through family dissension and turmoil--to offer comfort to others. Xavier became an important figure in Brazilian culture where Spiritism--introduced by the writings of the Frenchman Allan Kardec--accounts for a wide swath of spiritual practice, even among people who are, ostensibly, Roman Catholic.

How will non-Brazilian film-goers--especially skeptics or those with little interest in metaphysical practices--take to Filho's moody and languid narrative? The film has a muted, even dark, palette and can often be lulling over its two hours. But it benefits greatly from the presence of sweet-faced Ângelo Antônio who plays Xavier in his young adulthood (1931-1959). Antônio first appears on screen, and we grab him like an anchor. Few things can throw this guy--the character or the actor playing him--off course.

Visit the Chico Xavier movie site.

MoMA screening schedule:

Friday, July 15 (5pm)
Thursday, July 21 (4:30pm)
Friday, July 22 (4pm)

For a complete program information and schedule of Premiere Brazil! screenings (July 14-27), click here.

The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Manhattan
(directions)

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