SXSW Film Review: Dominguinhos

Brazilian music doc’s charm lies in its archival footage

Brazilian accordion virtuoso Dominguinhos grew up in the Pernambucan sertão, a land of cacti, bandits on horseback, and periodic catastrophic droughts. We in Texas know that such unforgiving landscapes can give rise to transcendent folk music styles. The same, apparently, is true in Brazil.

This documentary, in Portuguese with subtitles, tracks Dominguinhos’ rise to national celebrity from his origins as the son of “Indian-born” manioc farmers. “My mother had 16 kids,” Dominguinhos tells an interviewer. “Many died, died even because of stomachaches. My father would make the coffins himself.”

His story is also the story of the modernization of Brazil. With dazzling archival footage, directors Joaquim Castro, Eduardo Nazarian, and Mariana Aydar take us from the frozen-in-time backlands of the Northeast to bustling 1960s and 70s Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. There, Dominguinhos forms collaborations with jazz and pop legends like Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa. Throughout, however, the accordionist stays rooted in baião, the native rhythmic style of the Northeast. “Whenever I start playing something,” he confesses as an old man, fingering his instrument, “I always end up playing baião.”


24 Beats Per Second
Friday, March 20, 7pm, Alamo Ritz

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SXSW Film, SXSW, Dominguinhos, SXSW Film 2015, Joaquim Castro, Eduardo Nazarian, Mariana Aydar

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