In films such as Noticias de Uma Guerra Particular, Joao Moreira Salles has demonstrated a keen interest in examining the dark underbelly of Brazilian society. But in this, his most recent documentary, he turns his eye to an aspect of his country that merits celebration. Nelson Freire is probably one of the best-kept secrets in the world of the piano. The international press has acclaimed him as one of the greatest pianists of our time, comparing him to legendary greats such as Sergei Rachmaninov, Alfred Cortot, Josef Hofmann, Arthur Rubinstein, and Glenn Gould. Despite many accolades and commendations, however, Freire has avoided the spotlight, focusing on developing himself musically. Salles explains that in doing the documentary he wished to explore the idea of pudor or the tremendous modesty that Freire manifests toward exhibiting himself as a celebrity. The film eschews the usual interviews with friends and witnesses in favor of a direct cinema approach that lets Freire's modesty and candor shine through, eloquently and cinematically. Highlights include discussions of the revered pianists Guiomar Novaes and Martha Argerich, Freire's love for American jazz and Hollywood cinema of the 1940s, and an incredible letter that his father wrote him when Freire was eight. This is a moving portrait of the soul of a unique Brazilian musician. Watching it, one understands what it is to be -- no, one feels oneself becoming -- more fully human.
Joao Moreira Salles, a Brazilian documentary filmmaker, began his career in 1985 with the script for the series Japan, a Voyage through Time. In 1987, he directed China, The Empire of the Center, and also wrote the script for Krajcberg. Salles directed the series América (1989) and the documentary Poetry is Just One or Two Lines and Behind It a Huge Landscape (1989), about poet Ana Cristina César. He also directed Jorge Amado, which covers race issues in Brazil, and the 1998 series, Futebol, for GNT (Globo Network Television). In 1999, he codirected, with Kátia Lund, News From a Personal War, exposing the state of urban violence in Brazil. In partnership with journalist Marcos Sá Correa, Salles directed The Valley (2000), revealing the devastation of the Paraíba River Valley, and Santa Cruz (2000), which depicts the growth of an Evangelical church in a working-class suburb of Rio de Janeiro.