I Hate Sao Paolo

First-time feature writer-director Dardo Toledo Barros' semiautobiographical film revolves around a go-go stock speculator who loses everything in a stock swindle but gains insight into the father who died when he was a child. Handsome Daniel Mendes Ferraz (Brazilian soap-opera star Claudio Fontana) appears to have everything — a beautiful wife (Regina...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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First-time feature writer-director Dardo Toledo Barros' semiautobiographical film revolves around a go-go stock speculator who loses everything in a stock swindle but gains insight into the father who died when he was a child. Handsome Daniel Mendes Ferraz (Brazilian soap-opera star Claudio Fontana) appears to have everything — a beautiful wife (Regina Remencius), a lovely little daughter (Daniela Santos), a luxurious home and a prestigious and lucrative job at Auro Bank. But beneath the glittering surface lies a quagmire of unhappiness: Daniel is haunted by nightmares of his father, who died suddenly of a heart attack, and is so overwhelmed by job-related stress that he has no time for his family. After duplicitous, coke-sniffing associate Victor (Jose Magnoli) lures Daniel into a rigged currency-speculation scheme that leaves him broke and unemployed, his life comes tumbling down around him; his wife throws him out and a downturn in the industry makes him virtually unemployable. Daniel winds up living in a modest apartment owned by a friend (Alfredo Penteado), too stunned to move forward. A chance encounter at a travel agency introduces him to Tomas (Wolney de Assis), an old friend of his father's. Though Tomas dislikes talking about the past — he and Daniel's father, Alvaro (Celso Frateschi), came of age during the oppressive military dictatorship that gripped Brazil from 1964 to 1986 — he reveals that in 1970 he and Alvaro began making a documentary about Sao Paolo's diverse immigrant population. They were arrested on suspicion of creating anti-Brazilian propaganda and the project was abandoned, but Tomas still has the footage. The idea of finishing his father's film galvanizes Daniel to reconsider the choices he's made and enter into a new relationship with Tomas' daughter, Monica (Melissa Panzutti), but the past still holds some shocking revelations. Barros intersperses Daniel's story with talking-head interviews featuring a broad cross-section of immigrants who settled in Sao Paolo, ostensibly shot for the film-within-a-film. Daniel dubs the resurrected project "I Hate Sao Paolo" (a play on the internationally recognized "I Love New York" campaign) because the reminiscences are often dark and always tinged with sadness and nostalgia. Ironically, these interludes — several of which showcase members of Barros' crew — are more engaging than Daniel's story which, however closely it hews to Barros' own experiences, falls into the formulaic rhythms of modern fables in which disaster turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

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