What do you get when a huge, fun-loving, and deeply religious nation is surrounded by neighbors who speak a different language? Great art, says Mary Luft, a local events producer and director of the Florida/Brazil festival who is working to bring more attention to a culture she believes is special.
It may sound like the latest in tropical lingerie, but FLA/BRA is actually a sprawling, two-month-long multimedia event that spotlights local artists alongside those from the South American giant. Under way since last month, the festival peaks this weekend with music, poetry, and video presentations at the Ambrosino Gallery.
One highlight of Friday's lineup: "Poetry Is Risk," by Brazilian poet Augusto de Campos. He is one of the pioneers of concrete poetry, a worldwide movement that combines spoken word, video, and music. On Saturday local artist and MDCC professor Marilyn Gottlieb-Roberts performs "Vulture Moon," an installation commemorating Miami's annual return of the vultures, and featuring the birds' shadows projected inside a fifteen-foot illuminated globe. "The vultures represent the natural world that human endeavor is embedded in," she says. The Buzzard Ball, a dance party, will take place that night as well.
Luft discovered Brazilian art while putting together New Music America, a national event that brought 150 artists to Miami in 1988. "We traveled to South America, looking for new work in music, but what happens is you see all the other art forms as well," Luft says. "Brazil emerged as the most dynamically creative country in dance, music, and film."
Last year FLA/BRA drew about 10,000 visitors, and it continues to grow. New to the festival this year is theater: Elias Andreato will perform his Oscar Wilde, based on Wilde's writings while he was in prison. The performance runs November 4 through 8 at Miami Beach's Area Stage.
Other festival highlights include the films Brazilian Football Revised/PROS and Oyster in the Wind, presented at the Alliance Cinema, and dance concerts at the Colony Theater.
South Florida and Brazil have no shortage of economic ties. "[The festival] has grown out of the fact that Brazil is now the biggest trading partner of South Florida," says festival coordinator William Keddell. There are approximately 150,000 Brazilians living in South Florida, and Brazilian tourists are the second-biggest spenders here.
And for those who think Brazil is all soccer and samba, Keddell says the festival is meant to be an eye opener: "It's actually the most sophisticated country in Latin America, without insulting anybody."
FLA/BRA performances take place Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24, at Ambrosino Gallery, 3095 SW 39th Ave. Admission is free. Tickets to the Buzzard Ball cost $10. For more details see "Calendar Events," page 42, or call 305-324-4337.