Samba & Jazz
Educational/Institutional DVD: $298
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A film by Jefferson Mello. Brazil and United States, 2015, 87 mins. In Brazilian Portuguese (with English subtitles) and English.
For classroom use in: American Studies, Anthropology, Art, Cultural Anthropology, Dance, Latin America, Music, Sociology, South America, and Urban Studies.
About the film
“Samba and jazz are brothers in blackness. They’re deeply related. They mix together in a way that no other styles do,” insists Alcione, the celebrated Brazilian sambista in the documentary SAMBA & JAZZ. She could also be talking about the cities of Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans, which gave birth to and incubated those trailblazing musical genres in their formative years. Directed by Brazilian photographer and jazz devotee Jefferson Mello, author of “The Paths of Jazz,” this documentary connects the dots between the flourishing of two distinct yet intertwined genres of music on separate continents—samba in the favelas of Rio and jazz on the rollicking streets of New Orleans—while tracing their roots back to Africa.
Told through intimate interviews with key characters, lyrically evocative visuals, and lively street scenes of people dancing and swaying to the brassy, rhythmic tunes, SAMBA & JAZZ chronicles the history and influence of the musical forms in each city—including their traditions, rituals and familiar gathering places, from Central City and Congo Square in the Big Easy to the Gamboa and Madureira neighborhoods in Rio.
Suffused with the vivaciously percussive sounds of samba and the joyfully anarchic improvisations of jazz, the film explores how these musical genres foster connection among people and bind their communities together. Jazz artists in New Orleans, including saxophonist Donald Harrison and trumpeter Greg Stafford, talk about the vital importance of neighborhood pleasure clubs and second line parades and illuminate the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina and the changing face of their city. Sambistas in Rio, like Pretinho da Serrinha and Mestre Atila Gomes, discuss the samba party train, the creation of extravagant parade floats for Carnival, and the influence of venerable samba schools like Imperio Serrano to educate and improve the lives of the next generation and provide a connective tissue for the community. With intimately observed detail, Mello’s probing camera captures the passion, pulse and free-spirit of both samba and jazz and explores how the identity and culture of these unique places are inseparable from the music that shaped them.
About the Filmmaker
Jefferson Mello has been a fashion, advertising, and music photographer for over twenty years. He has directed advertising films and fashion catalogs. Mello wrote The Ways of Jazz, a book for which he spent six years traveling the world—New Orleans, Tokyo, Paris, London, Havana, Sao Paulo, and more—seeking stories about jazz. Mello’s book ultimately became the source of inspiration for his documentary SAMBA & JAZZ. He spoke to Laura Blum, JCC Greenwich, and described the motivation:
“In 1996 I went to New Orleans to start a photographic work about the world of jazz, and I met Gregg Stafford. He took me to see a jazz parade. I was impressed with the amount of visual information on display, and I realized the similarity between jazz and samba. There I got the idea the screenplay. But I was busy photographing for The Ways of Jazz.”
In the Press
“A host of musicians speak with passion and intelligence about the vital role samba and jazz play in their communities. Brazilian photographer and jazz aficionado Jefferson Mello connects the New World’s two most lasting musical genres via their African roots in the enjoyable, upbeat SAMBA & JAZZ. Shuttling between New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, the novice helmer interviews a host of musicians who speak with passion and intelligence about the vital role music plays in their communities. Black-and-white and color switch off (not always for discernible reasons) in this ebullient celebration with serious grace notes, including the effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans’ traditions.”—Variety
“Authentic artistic expression.”—Boston International Film Festival
“Combining polished black-and-white interviews with candid, colorful footage of musical performances taken to the streets, SAMBA & JAZZ shows—although far apart geographically—how the two musical genres not only have similar beats and African roots, but how they’ve also enabled the oppressed to have a space where they can be free.”—Remezcla
Selected Festivals and Awards
Official Selection, Boston International Film Festival
Official Selection, New York Film Festival
Official Selection, Richmond International Film Festival
Official Selection, Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival
Official Selection, San Diego Black Film Festival
Official Selection, Santa Cruz Film Festival
Official Selection, Victoria Film Festival
Best Documentary, Capital City Black Film Festival
Best Documentary Feature, Cinema on the Bayou Festival
Brazilian Film Festival of Miami (BRAFF)
Festival du Film Brésilien de Montréal
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
…and many more
Watch the trailer