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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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Very Be Careful

Over the course of seven flabbergasting albums, this Los Angeles quintet (led by charismatic singer-accordionist Ricardo Guzman) has transformed Colombia and Venezuela’s mesmerizing funky cumbia, vallenato, parranda grooves into a bongo-furious urban sufferah’s sound that grabs your ass and doesn’t let go. Catch them here and/or track down the Greenpoint rooftop they’ll command on the Fourth.

Sat., July 5, 10:30 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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WORLDWIDE TING

Tropical bass monthly Que Bajo!? is going to be popping regardless of guest, but it sure doesn’t hurt that their first party of the new year flew in Lady Leshurr from the U.K. and this, their second, brings Kumbia Queers up from Buenos Aires. Though the group’s name is somewhat self-explanatory, their one-sheet offers a little more history, explaining that they are what happens when “six crazy punk and roller girls decide to self exploit the cumbia queer side of their personality by means of what they called tropipunk.” As usual, residents Geko Jones and Uproot Andy will be 
holding it down for the rest of the night.

Thu., March 6, 10:30 p.m., 2014

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Lion Ark Opts to Pull Animal Lovers’ Heartstrings Over Storytelling

Finding balance between the rescue of abused circus lions and the fascinating cause and effect of a ban that led to the rescue of said lions proves too much for the creators of Lion Ark.

For two years, investigators working undercover for Animal Defenders International (ADI) documented the atrocious living conditions and treatment of circus animals in Bolivia. This investigation led to a ban on animal circuses. Many circuses complied, but a handful defied the ban, forcing ADI to track and rescue the animals, primarily lions.

Tim Phillips’s Lion Ark details ADI’s attempt to save and transport 25 lions from Bolivian circuses to a wild life habitat in the US. The film emphasizes the rescue, but neglects the fascinating story that came before: the two years of undercover investigation that preceded the ban, or how the ban spread to other South American countries.

The scales are instead tipped in favor of pulling animal lovers’ heartstrings by showing 25 lions sitting in horrible cages, then being transported in less horrible cages, nursed back to health, and at last released in a refuge. Heartwarming as that is for any animal lover, what was presented as the point of the movie was blurred.

 

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Grupo Chonta

Colombia boasts one of the world’s deeper marimba traditions in the currulao music of its southern Pacific coast. Hailing from Guapi, Diego Obregón rocks the Afro-Colombian marimba (a descendent of the West African balafon), which is usually accompanied by three (or more) percussionists playing the cununo drum and guasa shakers, though he was fronting a jazz group at a recent gig here. Either way, it’s polyrhythmic trance music with liberationist tendencies.

Mon., Aug. 19, 9:30 p.m., 2013

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In Postales, the Effects of U.S. Imperialism Are Shown Through Two Familes

In Postales, the effects of U.S. imperialism on Latin America play out through the microcosm of one white North American family’s interactions with a poor native family eking out a living in hardscrabble Peru. While the pairing of the different members of the two clans can tend toward the schematic, writer-director Josh Hyde allows the various interactions to play out in generally surprising ways. Essentially, the younger the people involved, the less likely the relationship is to be defined by mutual exploitation. While the white father is in Peru to arrange the sale of a piece of land out from under the central native family, his two daughters strike up rather different relationships with the Peruvian clan’s two boys. The older girl begins a romance with the older boy, but not one immune from his constant need to hustle for money. Only in the budding friendship between the 12-year-old American girl, Mary (Nadia Alexander), and the younger Peruvian boy, Pablo (Guimel Soria Martinez), a sensitive kid forced to peddle postcards in the city square, are the claims of imperialism temporarily suspended. Wandering off the beaten path, Mary gets a chance to witness the non-tourist reality of the country, a strategy that neatly mirrors Hyde’s own outsider’s sensitivity to the textures of Peruvian life.

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Viola Brims With The Simple and Sumptuous

“Don’t you find it rather boring,” an actress asks near the beginning of Matías Piñeiro’s Viola, “to have everything so under control?” Piñeiro, whose quietly radical films betray the restlessness of their creator, might well have written this question as a tacit critique of his contemporaries, admonishing the too-common tendency of modern arthouse filmmakers to formalize their style into rigorous oblivion. Viola, while thoughtful and intelligent, places simple pleasures over needlessly complicated ones, emphasizing the beauty of its players and the sumptuous photography that captures them. Its ideas are dense and somewhat heady—Piñeiro gracefully layers a melange of Spanish-translated Shakespearean dialogue atop snatches of original conversation without clarifying his citations, blending characters and performances so that the texts intermingle—but their articulation is so elegant, worked into the fabric of the film so organically, that its richness never seems strained. Viola‘s hour-long running time contains little in the way of plot or action, and its only major event concerns the duplicitous efforts of a young woman to seduce her colleague in order to prove a point about romance and attraction, confined to a single sequence. And yet the world the film describes is so vividly realized that it seems to spill over the edges of the frame, as if the lives of its characters will continue after the credits roll. Piñeiro’s Buenos Aires is a kind of bohemian paradise, a thriving community of artists, actors, and musicians living a life of perpetual art and leisure; his portrait of the city is as fond as it is fantastic. This sense of life as a series of intimate encounters and lively conversations recalls Éric Rohmer, a likely influence on Piñeiro’s sensibility—and it isn’t difficult to imagine their films intermingling.

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Claudia Acune

Steeped in the bossa tradition and the folkloric culture of her native Santiago, Chile, Claudia Acuna ushers in the change of season with her Latin flair and honeyed alto hues. Before becoming one of the elite voices in jazz, the singer, songwriter, and arranger cut her teeth in the late ’90s as part of the cosmopolitan scene that crystallized around now-legendary jam sessions at Zinc Bar and Smalls. While paying her dues, she worked the coat check at the Blue Note before returning to the venue as headliner.

Sat., June 1, 5 p.m., 2013