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TERRA ESTRANGEIRA (1995, BRA) Movie review, plot, trailer, rating

After establishing himself as a talented documentary filmmaker and television director in the 1980s, the eminent Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles (Central Station, Linha de Passe, Motorcycle Diaries) also threw himself into film. The first feature film that Salles drew attention to and hinted at what was to follow in the next fifteen years (from “On the Road” in 2012, shot in American production, we are waiting for something new from him) was this somewhat old-fashioned crime drama shot in Noir style. Selles’ co-director was Daniela Thomas, a mostly theater director who later worked with him on some other films, and the plot of “Foreign Land” or “Terra Estrangeira” in the original in the early 1990s under President Fernando Collor when Brazil invaded more one in a series of economic crises.

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The plot of this film, shot in black and white with a hand-held camera, takes place in Sao Paulo and Lisbon, where the main protagonist of the film, a young man Paco (Fernando Alves Pinto), who hopes to become an actor, will travel. The timing of the action is particularly important because his mother, originally from Spain, will suffer a heart attack when she hears that the government is freezing money in the savings accounts of all citizens due to hyperinflation. Paco will not be able to get money on the account of his late mother, whose last wish was to visit his native San Sebastian, and he will find an opportunity to get out of complete penury when he meets the suspicious antiques square Igor (Luis Melo) who will hire him to work in Lisbon.

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By then, we will have already met the other main protagonist, Brazilian waitress Alex (Fernanda Torres) who lives in Lisbon with a musician who is addicted to heroin. She, too, is penniless, and the paths of Paco and Alex will merge into an almost classic Noir plot. When Paco realizes he’s drawn into a life-threatening job, it’ll be too late, and by the end this stylized and somewhat loosely structured neo-noir will turn into a road movie as Paco and Alex head to San Sebastian together. They will be followed by some extremely dangerous guys, and while “Foreign Land” went quite unnoticed, with the next film or brilliant “Central Station” Salles turned into one of the leading Brazilian and South American filmmakers. Rating 7.5 / 10.

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