Film Reviews
 Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Film

Universally, rural, suburban, and urban locations have experienced dramatic, often unwelcome changes altering established businesses and individuals' homes. Because of a deeply felt nostalgic regret over such transformation of beloved spaces, Brazilian writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho's documentary "Pictures of Ghosts" stirs longing for possibly simpler but certainly different times, specifically for Filho's hometown cinemas in Recife, northeastern Brazil.

Introspective scrutiny connects Filho to the cinemas he frequented as a child and young adult. In heartfelt voiceover narration, he reminisces about his most cherished, still operating Cinema São Luiz saying, "The problem lies in the fact that you spent years of your life going to this cinema, so the relationship gets emotional and confusing." Ironically, Cinema São Luiz occupies the site of an 1838 Anglican church. For all film lovers, another film palace may substitute for this revered São Luiz cinema at which fifty million people shared experiences over seventy years of Hollywood and Brazilian films.
Filho casts his net wider, itemizing in early scenes the destruction and conversion of the urban landscape in Recife, Brazil's fourth largest city, coastal capitol of Pernambuco. One cinema has been transformed into an unattractive mini-mall, a Marist school similarly overhauled. Filho builds this subjective memorial calmly and methodically, with, as press notes state, Recife's city center the main character: bridges, high rises, hotels, and evangelical churches. Honoring the past, approximately sixty percent of this thoughtful homage consists of archival footage from personal and professional sources: home movies, newsreels, photographs, archives, and Filho's own films. Filho's tribute to the bygone era dominates, including his deep love for projectionist Mister Alexandre Moura, now deceased.

Divided into three parts, Filho moves from his family's apartment where he began his movie career to Recife's earlier cinemas (in the 1930s, one bolstering Nazi propaganda), ending with "Churches and Holy Ghosts" in which he traces cinephilia's catholic imagery. He riffs humorously on the coincidental relationship between film titles and social events. Throughout, Filho expresses a poignant nostalgia, suffused with love, sadness, regret, and, above all, gratitude for the community cinema had and still does unite.

Though it did not make the final five, Brazil nominated "Pictures of Ghost" as its entry for a Best International Feature Film Oscar. In Portuguese with English subtitles, ”Pictures of Ghosts" screens at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium Friday, March 15 through Sunday, March 17, at 7:30 each of those evenings. For more information, you may visit the film series website.

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