While it was still a pain in my backside, being stuck in the house during Hurricane Sandy did provide me with an opportunity to catch up on some long-overdue DVD viewing. First up was the International Emmy-nominated TV series from Brazil, Filhos do Carnaval (Hijos del Carnaval), an HBO Latin America Originals production.
The 2006 series' only two seasons, co-produced by O2 Filmes, were released as a Region-1 DVD set in 2011.
Filhos Do Carnaval, or Sons of Carnaval, focuses primarily on the relationship between Brazilian businessman/gangster Anésio Gebara (played by the late Jece Valadao) and his four sons: his beloved first-born, Anesinho; and his three younger sons– Nilo, Brown, and Claudhino–, all born in the same week to different mothers. However, Anésio only claims Anesinho and Claudhino (who are white) as his children, while his two black sons struggle for their father's acceptance.
Having completed both seasons, I can say that I truly enjoyed this series. In addition to the father/sons angle, Filhos Do Carnaval is very much a solid crime drama that revolves around a family gambling operation, several romantic side-stories, and enough secrets to keep even the pickiest viewer curious.
The look and feel of Filhos Do Carnaval is gritty and dark at times– which I think is a positive. There's nothing glamorous about the Brazil depicted in this show. Throughout the series, I felt like I could sense the danger, feel the weather, and empathize with the characters' pain like no other show since another HBO production, The Wire.
The thing I appreciated most about Filhos Do Carnaval was its approach at addressing the emotional needs of Gebara's black children. Despite their sometimes obvious disdain for their father, this show is very much about how, even as adults, Nilo and Brown's yearning to connect to a family so near to them (yet still so far away) remains strong. It wasn't so much about them wishing to be included in the lives of their white relatives, as it was them hoping their white family would want to be a part of their black lives.
Another interesting aspect of the series is the significance of the jogo do bicho, or animal lottery (an illegal gambling scheme in Brazil), to its storyline. I had to do a little bit of Googling on the jogo do bicho to get a better understanding if its importance as I watched.
And the cast . . . I can't say enough about the cast. Rodrigo dos Santos, Thogun, and Enrique Diaz star as brothers Brown, Nilo, and Claudhino, respectively; and are perfectly cast, in my opinion. Felipe Carmago, Shirley Cruz, and Roberta Rodrigues, along with many others, also give superb performances. Fans of City of God and City of Men should recognize some familiar faces in this series.
Filhos Do Carnaval originally aired in the U.S. as Hijos Del Carnaval on HBO Latino, but can be purchased on DVD HERE.