Pictures of Ghosts by Busra Copuroglu

At first glance, one would be tempted to call Kleber Mendonça Filho’s documentary Pictures of Ghosts the director’s love letter to his hometown Recife, Brazil’s fourth largest city and the home of the underappreciated Recife Carnaval. Midway through the film, one would be tempted to call it a love letter to cinema, but it would feel incomplete. The delicate potency of nostalgia might feel more appropriate, but one fears it would be too banal…

Bursa Headshot, short brunette hair, brown glasses, brown eyes, wearing a black sweater and has her hand under her chin

Organized around three chapters – “The Setubal Apartment,” “Cinemas of Downtown Recife,” “Churches and Holy Ghosts,”- Filho brings his home videos and personal archive together with the memories and archival footage of the city that made him the filmmaker that he is today. A montage of photos, home videos, interviews, and the mood-setting Brazilian music sustains our attention and shows us the gentrification of the neighbourhood in which Filho grew up, the closure of Recife’s cinemas that not only housed the collective memory of the city, and the short-lived period of Nazi control of the city’s cinema culture. Filho’s photographic journey finishes the tour in modern-day Recife where its cinemas are now replaced with Evangelical churches, and the streets are crowded with unaesthetic, bold-lettered signs of stores of the twenty-first century.

Not only does Pictures of Ghosts enthrall the cinephiles in the audience, but it also resonates with those who like to dwell in the memories of a place that once was, what it could have been (if not…), and what perhaps it still is, in spite of it all.

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