“Seester for saille, only 5 peso”: Jarv’s best of South America and Africa

Hola,

Today we do South America and Africa in my epic quest to find the best films of the decade. This is a short list (only 5 titles- I like round numbers), because if I’ve even heard of them, let alone seen them, then they’re automatically good, and I hadn’t seen as many as I thought- only about 15- I could have put 10 in, but I don’t think the bottom 3 warrant making a best of list, so there are a few near misses that I’m not mentioning. These are actually the best ones- and I’ve included the only one I outright hate as the Dishonourable Mention. I’ve got a couple more Brazilian Films to watch so I may come back and add to it, so we’ll see. Not to mention that several of them that I thought were 21st Century were actually late 90’s.

Anyhow on with the list.

5) Linha De Passe (2008-Brazil)

I find it difficult to write about this film. I mean, I know objectively it is a good film (I don’t think Sallas has ever made a bad one), but it was billed in this country as a sequel to the simply magnificent Central Station. It isn’t. It doesn’t even cover the same material.

Anyhow, LDP covers the tribulations of a favella dwelling Sao Paulo family. The heavily pregnant mother is a maid for a rich woman, the eldest son dreams of being a footballer, but he’s too old, the second son is a sort of priest in his spare time while holding down a shitty job in a petrol station, the second youngest is an out-and-out scumbag while the youngest is merely a kid. It is a good film, with moments of genuine brilliance (the motorcycle scenes), but at the end of the day it is an unremittingly bleak film and I can’t help but think it’s a tad overrated.

In all honesty, if you feel in the mood to watch a violence free film about poverty in Brazil, then watch Central Station. This is a good film, but that one is a great film.

4) The Devil’s Backbone (2001- Mexico)

Now we’re talking. Before Del Toro made his way to Hollywood to make Comic book films, he was a horror director of some note. This, his third effort, is a genuinely frightening ghost story set in a Spanish orphanage.

It’s a taut little film, but what elevates it head and shoulders above the crowd is the performance of the kids. Creepy, compelling stuff. To be honest, like with all Del Toro’s stuff, I found the non-supernatural elements of the film to be far more interesting than the ghost story. He captures life for the orphans in fascist Spain in a gripping and compelling fashion. A really, really good film.

3) Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001- Mexico)

I said this about Shaun of The Dead, but I think the same applies to this film- everyone forgets how fresh it was on release. Cuaron’s pre Harry Potter film is surprisingly complex, even if you can see the ending coming a mile away.

A cross between a coming of age story and a road movie, YTMT relies heavily on the central performances of the young leads, and luckily for them one of them is Bernal. It’s not a melodrama, as such, but it is a diverting time, and I stick it on every now and again at home if I can’t think of what else to watch.

It was unfairly labeled as soft porn in this country on release, but if you’re looking for wank material then this isn’t it.

You do have to wonder about the 28 year old woman that’s molesting them though.

2)Tsotsi (2005- South Africa)

This makes my best of the decade list, so I’m going to be brief with this as well. It was billed as the South African version of City of God. It isn’t- that’s absolute horseshit.

What it is, is a redemption story of a young township dwelling thug as he has to come to terms with the fact that he’s accidentally kidnapped a baby. It has none of the kinetic energy of City of God, and is not really comparable. Rather, I think this is a touching story, that’s well filmed and although it’s clearly going to end badly for our thug hero, you kind of hope that it won’t.

Stirring, Oscar winning stuff and well worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time.

1)City of God (2003- Brazil)

As is to be expected, this Brazilian masterpiece (based on a true story) also ranks in my top 10 of the decade.

City of God is a kaleidoscope of mayhem and violence charting a young slum dweller, Rocket, as he grows up during the rise and fall of one of Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious gangsters. A fucking monster of a film- and one that is endlessly entertaining, truly gripping and stylistically superb.

Apparently Meirelles next film, Blindness, is a steaming stack of shit, but that doesn’t matter- this is enough of a legacy for anyone.

Dishonourable Mention:

Maria full of Grace (2003-Columbia)

Load of fucking hand wringing nonsense about drugs mules. I’ll give you a clue- fuckheads- this kind of blatantly manipulative shit only works if you give a fuck about any of the characters in the film.

Needless to say, I thought she was an obnoxious cow, and as such I did not even summon up the slightest bit of interest at her plight.

Fuck this noise. It’s also as boring as fuck, but that is a direct consequence of crushing itself to death by being “worthy”. It does, to be fair, ask questions, but half the problem is that it doesn’t even bother trying to answer them.

Rubbish. Pah.

As usual, I’ve more than likely forgotten some, and I will be returning to update this list later (I’m thinking about a few more, that I desperately need to rewatch before putting them in or out)

Ciao

Jarv

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

51 responses to ““Seester for saille, only 5 peso”: Jarv’s best of South America and Africa”

  1. koutchboom says :

    You missed Mirageman, get back to me when you see that.

  2. koutchboom says :

    Also did you see City of Men?

    • Jarv says :

      Yes- and the first series is fucking great. Second series? not so much.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah there is the series, isn’t their just a film? Or is that part of the series? I’ve heard different stuff, like it’s got nothing to do with City of God, or is about some of the characters from City of God.

  3. Jarv says :

    No- it’s a series, and all it has in common with city of god is that it’s set in the slums.

    Nothing in common at all.

    • Droid says :

      I thought City of Men was a film sequel.

      • Jarv says :

        That is the end of the series- it’s feature length, and they’re selling it as a film- but I don’t consider it to be one.

        City of Men follows Acerola and Laranjinha around Rio- it grows up with them. It certainly is not a sequel to City of God. That’s crass marketing drivel.

        Not one character from CoM was in CoG. Series 1 was about 6 half an hour episodes, and series 2 was slightly more.

        That’s why I don’t think of it as a film, and certainly not as a sequel.

  4. Droid says :

    This, his sophomore effort, is a genuinely frightening ghost story set in a Spanish orphanage.

    Isn’t TDB his third flick after Cronos and Mimic? Don’t even try to tell me you forgot about the fucking genius of Mimic ya bastard!

  5. Droid says :

    Good list and I’ve seen 3 out of 6. Need to see Tsotsi.

    Question… Much like the Pans Labyrinth qusetion… Would you consider District 9 a South African flick seeing as it’s made by a saffa, starring saffas and set there as well?

  6. just pillow talk says :

    Well, I’ve only seen City of God and The Devil’s Backbone, both great flicks. I think I prefer the Orphanage over Devil’s, but I’ve only seen each one once.

  7. Jarv says :

    The Orphanage was one I considered as was Amores Perros. I am going to come back to this one.

  8. Jarv says :

    It’s a good film. I was going to have it in at 6- the problem numbers were 9 and 10. I didn’t want to include something substandard.

  9. Jarv says :

    The other fuck up was that I thought Central Station was 2000. It isn’t.

    That was number 2 when I originally wrote this list up- only to discover that CS was 1999 here.

    Arse.

  10. koutchboom says :

    Salles did Dark Water? Does that count as bad? Never saw it. He did The Motorcycle Diaries as well, no love for that?

  11. Jarv says :

    Dark water was mediocre to shit- a disgraceful remake. It’s competent, but what was effective as a j-horror didn’t translate to the US.

    Motorcycle Diaries is another that I considered.

  12. Continentalop says :

    You know what was on my list? The Crimes of Father Amaro (Mexico). Sure it was a manipulative, melodramatic soap opera, but it was a very good and effective manipulative, melodramatic soap opera. I’m talking Golden Age Bette Davis/Joan Crawford style. I enjoyed it.

    • Jarv says :

      I haven’t seen it, but I’ve added it to my to watch list.

      As always with my lists- if I think of something better, then I’ll go back and redo them

  13. Tom_Bando says :

    Jarv would you consider something filmed in Almada to be eligible for this list-?

  14. xiphos0311 says :

    Maria full of grace is horrible garbage.

    City of God, Devil’s Backbone, Yo Mama and Tsotsi are all solid.

    Never saw Linha de Passe

  15. Tom_Bando says :

    I’m waitin’ for that Uruguayan Giant Robot flick myself….

  16. Tom_Bando says :

    City of God by the way is great. I seem to remember getting into a shit-throwing contest w/ Drew about it, he was SO sure that it was ‘just good’ or whatever. While humping some POS from that year that was nowheres near as good. Piss on him.

  17. Jarv says :

    Fuck him. City of God is best of the decade in my opinion.

  18. M. Blitz says :

    City of God is awesome.

    “Yo Mama,” as Xi called it, I’d say is a TOUCH overrated……No Amores Perros?

  19. Bartleby says :

    Jarv, seen Sin Nombre yet? If not, do so. Excellent film.

    Like your list. Would have liked to see more films listed, but whats there is good.

    Throw Mama from the Tambien is overrated. It’s still good, but I think that’s too high a place for it. I also thought Central Station was 2000. Will have to change my foreign films list then.

    • koutchboom says :

      Sin Nombre is ok, but like I’ve said before, 2 films 2 late. Though City of God/Slumdog/Sin Nombre makes for a good trilogy. Also seeing that 10 year old get his ass kicked a bunch is funny.

  20. M. Blitz says :

    Amusingly, they screened Y Tu Mama at a church in philly. It was kinda weird to watch that movie in a church…..

  21. Jarv says :

    This is one I’m changing. Amores would have come in at 6, with Sin Nombre at 7. The problem was 8-10.

    I could make a case for the orphanage at 8 but 9 and 10 were always going to be substandard, and I like round numbers so I limited it to 5 films that I actually enjoy.

  22. ThereWolf says :

    I’ve only seen City Of God. Really good film. A colleague at work has only just seen it – he isn’t keen on subtitles – and he thought it was great. It’s taken awhile to get him onto subtitled films but he’s finally thawing.

    Keep meaning to catch Devil’s Backbone…

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