Maria Bethania Music is Perfume

Director: Georges Gachot

2006| 85 mins Switzerland

‘Samba is sadness dancing,’ says iconic Brazilian singer Maria Bethânia, a woman who extols the heart and soul of her nation through song. In a world where pop chanteuses like Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson are more celebrated for their navels than their music, Maria Bethânia is from a very different world, a world of loss, heartbreak, slavery, and religion. Director Georges Gachot intercuts concert footage, interviews with the singer’s family, friends and peers to create a warm and personal portrait of a woman and her impeccable art. With an unhurried pace, as easy and leisurely as a ballad, the documentary captures Bethânia in the studio and on stage. Often it is the impromptu renditions that are the most glorious, as when three of Brazil’s most celebrated singers (Nana Caymmi, Miucha and Bethânia) give a samba siren’s call in the dressing room after a concert. In an age of throwaway culture and mechanized pop melodies, Gachot’s film is a reminder of how the power of music can give voice and identity to an entire nation.

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