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Caetano Veloso

Brazil’s premiere trad-experimentalist is still rocking out at age 72. Released earlier this year, Abraçaço (Big Hug) is the final installment in a trilogy of albums the Tropicalia legend recorded with the young rock trio with whom he’ll perform. Veloso sings about sex, politics, and history in raw, stripped-down arrangements. But old-school Brazil still gets its due in songs like “A Bossa Nova é Foda,” i.e., “Bossa Nova is the shit.”

Thu., Sept. 25, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 26, 8 p.m., 2014

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Auto Industry Doc Pump Emphasizes Our Oil Consumption is Unsustainable

A car’s high beams trace slow-motion lightning across the highway. An auto worker in suspenders strides the factory floor. These seductive images of the American automotive industry act as dreamy parentheses to Josh and Rebecca Tickell’s compelling and cogent documentary Pump, which examines why Americans are so lacking in options at the gas station, what that means about the future of transportation and environmental health, and why the oil-driven American Dream must die — why it is dying.

The core of Pump‘s argument comes from interviews with writers, activists, politicians, and current and former oil and auto industry executives, all of whom emphasize that the rate at which Americans consume oil is unsustainable, and that, ultimately, oil reserves will be exhausted; the only option is to change our fuel sources.

The Tickells complicate and ultimately underscore this argument by placing American practice and policy in conversation with other countries’ fuel habits. While fast-industrializing China once had streets full of bicyclists, the country’s new prosperity has brought with it a status-driven car culture; Brazil responded to fuel crises in the 1970s and ’80s by mandating that the cheaper — and arguably more sustainable — ethanol be offered at pumps alongside gasoline.

It’s no accident, the Tickells argue, that ethanol hasn’t caught on in the U.S. By carefully tracing the history of the oil companies’ legislative and consumer power and influence, the directors explore America’s issue of substance dependence, and indict the companies that act as enablers. If you’re not convinced we’re addicted, ask yourself if you could quit at any time.

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BRAZILIAN BLOWOUT

The sarau is an event, a barely contained circle inside which musicians, artists, and writers display their creative talents. It would be easy to say that it is the Portuguese or Brazilian answer to the French salon, but in truth it is much wilder, almost gymnastic in nature, art as sporting event. See for yourself at the Bronx Museum’s sarau, where sounds from Midnight Magic, choreography from Felipe Gagnanni, and video from event organizer Nicolau Vergueiro, are central. You pay exactly zero dollars for an open bar, access to local cultural fare gathered by Vergueiro, and, since it comes right in the middle of the World Cup, a chance to celebrate Brazil’s cultural contributions safely away from bleating vuvuzelas. Still, there will be noise.

Fri., June 20, 6:30 p.m., 2014

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MATCH POINT

In our experience, there are three kinds of soccer fans when it comes to the World Cup: The deeply devoted, who want to watch every match no matter how obscure the team or how high the odds against their advance to the finals; the Team USA fans, who want our nation to go all the way but also want to party during the matches; and those who want to party, game or no. Finding a game any day, any time, from now through July won’t be very hard. We recommend Spike Hill, one of our favorite Williamsburg spots for music and food (try the Spike Burger), which broadcasts every game. And, as Brazil moves up — the team has won the most titles in World Cup history — wander over to Little Brazil along West 46th Street.

Thu., June 12, noon; Fri., June 13, noon, 2014

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Elena Is a Pained and Gorgeous Doc

A pained and gorgeous summoning, Petra Costa’s haunted doc Elena dances with death, memory, and family, seducing viewers and then breaking their hearts.

That you know what’s coming doesn’t offer much relief. Costa’s older sister, Elena, an actress and dancer seen in movingly decayed home video clips, lit out for New York from Brazil while Costa was still a child.

In the States, Elena, already a seasoned stage performer back home, fruitlessly tries to break into film. We see the recording of one promising audition: As in the footage of Elena’s dancing in Sao Paulo theaters — flamenco, butoh, and one lulu of a routine where she’s pursued offstage by rolling cable spools — the star that never quite was seems impossibly radiant, someone we can only look at in glimpses.

Glimpses dominate Costa’s absorbing film. Costa was only seven years old when Elena killed herself in New York. Her dreamy narration is addressed to her sister, a gentle interrogation: “You stay home, all day long at home. Doing what? Talking to whom?” Costa assembles scraps of Elena’s life — video of birthdays, years-later footage of the New York she lost herself in, an interview with a man who knew her, her suicide note.

The portrait is unbearably intimate, even with the guesswork. Eventually, tragically, the story turns to the survivors: the mother, still grieving, and Costa, learning to live without her sister’s example.

In her final letter, Elena wrote of her moments onstage, how afterward she felt disappointed, unsatisfied, even diminished: “Moments later, I no longer had their light.” This mesmerizing portrait, flickering on a screen, immortalizes her even as it’s anguished. She’s light, forever.

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SOUL OF BRAZIL

Forró is Brazil’s second most popular dance music, after samba, and Tropicália icon and former minister of culture (2003-08) Gilberto Gil has been celebrating its funky rhythmic persuasions for the past couple of years with tours focusing on Fá ne Festa (Faith in the Party), a sprightly album focusing on the northeast region’s rhythmic persuasions. Gil’s six-piece group–featuring dazzling players Sergio Chiavazzoli (guitar) and Nicolas Krassik (violin)–reflects the electrification of forró’s original instrumentation: accordion, triangle, and zabumba drum. Gil may be eschewing his numerous hits this time around, with only a couple of forró-retooled exceptions such as “Express 2222,” but expect strident requests to emanate from Stern Auditorium’s peanut galleries nevertheless. What you really want to hear is Gil’s take on forró’s pioneering accordionist-composer, Luiz Gonzaga.

Thu., Nov. 8, 8 p.m., 2012

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CEREMONY

Thirty-one years after the release of their debut, post–Joy Division Movement, and six years after a brief reunion tour that took them around Brazil, Argentina, and the U.K., New Order are back and heading to New York, set to descend upon a city whose music scene remains influenced by the artists they once influenced 
(we see you, James Murphy and DFA 
Records). Hope for a set list that favors old hits (“Temptation,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and the like) over cuts from the more recent Waiting for the Sirens’ Call, 
and pour one out for Peter Hook, the bassist who decided not to make the trip.

Thu., Oct. 18, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 19, 8 p.m., 2012

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Bel Borba Aqui

The demolished buildings of Salvador, Brazil, are substrates for public art to one native son. Bel Borba, a mixed-media artist with a huge personality, just rents a cherry picker and paints the exteriors with humble tools, primarily paint rollers with long extension handles. He walks the streets of Salvador looking for blank walls, covering them with tiled murals and recruiting neighborhood children as assistants. His subjects are people, fish, birds of prey, flowers; childlike evocations of the world he inhabits. Now he’s famous, and the production of the documentary Bel Borba Aqui, practically a montage of color, music, and Borba’s constant laughter, coincides with his local acclaim. At a scrap yard, he climbs through the dismantled iron skeletons of old bridge trusses, chalking the lines for the welders’ acetylene cutting torches. The resulting 10-foot structures are invested with his visual style, right
angles rendered into liberated, organic configurations. Then the sculptures are lowered from a boat into the ocean for several weeks, so that directors Burt Sun and Andre Costantini, along with the exuberant Señor Borba, can show people how repulsive barnacles are. Hauled back out of the sea via crane and displayed on a pier, the pieces look like thrones from drowned kingdoms, heavily encrusted with sessile crustacea, interesting from a distance, and super-gross in the lingering shots the directors capture against the sunset. Apparently, barnacles can live for quite a while out of the ocean; their legs poke in and out of their calcite shells, and the sculptures are, for a time, twitchily alive.

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Neighboring Sounds

A single, affluent block in the oceanfront city of Recife, Brazil, and its residents are the subject of Neighboring Sounds, writer-director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s arresting, energetically oblique debut. A Recife native, Filho has taken what he knows about lives lived in the shadow of fading sugar dynasties and translated it into a film that marries classical gloss and omnibus scope with an invigorated, keenly sensory approach. Security is of premium concern on this block: Housewife Bia (Maeve Jinkings) is driven to an existential torment by a neighbor dog’s ceaseless barking; courtly playboy João (Gustavo Jahn) is mortified when his new girlfriend’s (Irma Brown) car is burgled outside his home; and a pop-up home-security outfit led by a working-class hustler (Irandhir Santos) sets up an overnight watch to keep a paranoid community “safe.” A host of characters (including a former sugar baron played by W.J. Solha) is more layered than interwoven, each one revealed only in sidelong fragments. A tightening of the two-hour-plus running time might have enhanced the balance between Filho’s epic, evocative style and his smaller story about a certain mode of modern life, its lonely confrontations, and the stubborn legacies of the past.

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Os Mutantes+M.A.K.U. Soundsystem

In 2006, following a three-decade hiatus, the house band of Brazil’s Tropicália movement returned to studio and stage sounding nearly as freaky as ever. Sole original Mutante Sérgio Dias leads the reformed edition, which seems to celebrate a world going to hell with romance and wit. Queens-based MAKU Soundsystem mixes Afro-Colombian styles like champeta and porro brass band music with post-punk jazz reminiscent of horn-heavy ’80s British groups like Pigbag.

Sat., July 28, 5 p.m., 2012