Shot over two years from 2014 to 2016, Praia unfolds a portrait of Brazilian life that captures the vibrancy and idiosyncratic eclecticism that draw tourists and locals to the country’s beaches. Filmmaker Guilherme B. Hoffmann takes an observational approach, creating a film that is by turns comic, sweet, and serious as he introduces us to a motley collection of characters on Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana Beach. Hoffmann has an uncanny ability to gain the confidence of his subjects — showing us remarkably unguarded moments. From the tentative caresses of young lovers, to squabbles between siblings on a family outing, from the world-weary pontifications of street vendors barely making a living, to the clueless questions of tourists, Praia offers up a cross-section of society without comment.
Although this is not a film about Brazilian politics, two years’ worth of tumult looms in the background as beachgoers reflect on corruption scandals, the fallout from Olympic and World Cup overruns, and the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma — even Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup is worked into an elaborate conspiracy theory about foreign control over the country. While the film illuminates this quintessentially Brazilian place, it also reflects on the universal power of public space in a pluralistic society. The film makes an eloquent case for democratic spaces like the beach (and maybe festivals like DOXA) that allow people of all classes and backgrounds to encounter one another. -JC