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Last Conversations (Últimas Conversas)
by Marinell Haegelin

Eduardo Coutinho, Brazil

The renowned Brazilian documentarian “swan song” is as forceful as the legacy he leaves behind. Eduardo Coutinho tells the camera, on day four of five filming, about having faith, curiosity, and differing degrees of honesty between children/teenagers. As we listen to the handful of teenagers chosen for the documentary—only two males—their common denominator is writing: stories, poetry, songs. Answering Coutinho’s simple questions frankly, some detail are: At least two were bullied at school, ostracized for being ugly, black, and grew up in favelas (slums). Different interviewees switched from Catholicism to atheism or existentialism; had therapy; dropped out of school; was disrespected by mom’s boyfriend; think life’s a jungle, or a mystery; have goals for the future, including geologist, Air Force pilot, involving medicine. “My journey is still going.”

Uniquely constructed, Jordana Berg concisely edits Coutinho’s beginning summation as his ending. These Brazilian teenagers are more aware of life’s realities than those in the West. They overcome adversities, while dealing with where they are and want to go in life. Cementing his earlier point, Coutinho ends with Luiza, a six-year-old. Luiza knows she’s always existed, albeit as a ball before being born, has three horses – mare, foal and stallion, and knows “God is the man who died,” then recites prayers. “That’s lovely, we’ll end with that,” Coutinho decides. But, when she pops back for a bow, he admits teens are a pain – they should have stuck with kids. Call it the “Luiza effect,” and a lovely ending.