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With: Mariza, Camané, Carlos do Carmo, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Lila Downs
Written by: Carlos Saura
Directed by: Carlos Saura
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Portuguese with English subtitles
Running Time: 93
Date: 09/06/2007

Fados (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ballad of a Ballad

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This shouldn't have worked; veteran Spanish director Carlos Saura (Cría cuervos, Tango) assembles a collection of fado singers and films them singing in front of colored backdrops. Sometimes the backdrops become more elaborate (such as a nightclub) and sometimes dancers accompany the music. But somehow Saura taps into the emotional power of these famous Portuguese ballads (currently undergoing a revival) and splashes it across the screen. It's hard not to be moved by the earnest, earthy performances. Saura occasionally gets tricky, as when a hip-hop performer puts a new spin on one song, but even that sounds great. I was familiar with the fado style, but had never heard of any of the performers here, and I still loved this. Saura briefly explains the history of fado in the opening credits, but from there, he shuts up and lets the music speak for itself. [Note: Reviewed at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Fados received a limited San Francisco release, June 5, 2009.]

DVD Details: The 2009 DVD from Zeitgeist Films comes with a lovely little 26-minute making-of featurette, trailers and a photo gallery. Best of all, there are liner notes and chapter listings helping to identify all the performers and songs. I'm honored, also to have been quoted on the back of the DVD box.

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