'Dominguinhos': Film Review

Courtesy of SXSW
An evocative portrait made of artfully interwoven source materials.

The late, great Brazilian accordionist gets his due.

Though less famous Stateside than peers like Caetano Veloso and Gal Costa, the accordionist known as Dominguinhos was a fixture of Brazilian music for decades, contributing to the rise of the post-Bossa Nova MPB scene while specializing in traditional dance styles. In Dominguinhos, a trio of first-time directors — Mariana Aydar, Joaquim Castro, and Eduardo Nazarian — offers an impressionistic portrait in which autobiography entwines with atmospheric stock footage and plentiful performance video. A delight for any serious fan of Tropicália, it is not designed for viewers without a bit of knowledge; on video, it will be a valuable part of the music's history.

Beginning with what appears to be newly-shot 8mm footage from the outback of northeastern Brazil (where the subject was raised), the doc begins in dreamy fashion, segueing to the human-like wheeze of an accordion's slowly moving bellows. Soon we're hearing the musician's voiceover, and for most of the film this interview will remain off-camera, though we see Dominguinhos in several earlier interviews. In one from the 60s or 70s, for instance, he stands in front of a ferry in Brazil and recalls how he used to busk on the boat for commuters.

Dominguinhos was already a professional by that time, having had his talent spotted by Luiz Gonzaga, the "King of Baião," well before he was ten years old. Charming TV footage finds the two years later, trading dance moves in the first of many clips chronicling Dominguinhos's rise to fame — both in his own duos with female vocalists and as sideman for Costa, Gilberto Gil, and others. The filmmakers deftly work with source material of widely varying quality, making it all look of a piece; many viewers will wish for names and dates to keep this story straight, but at least in his fragmented narration the musician keeps a semblance of chronological order. Closing material finally puts the septuagenarian on screen, filmed both in his home and in a concert not long before his death in 2013.

Production company: Big Bonsai

Directors: Mariana Aydar, Joaquim Castro, Eduardo Nazarian

Producers: Felipe Briso, Deborah Osborn, Gilberto Topczewski

Editor: Joaquim Castro

No rating, 86 minutes

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