Rio’s Carnaval Goes Full Tilt

For those who missed this year’s Carnaval in Rio or who just plain miss Rio, the 5-minute film, “The City of Samba,” will either matar as saudades (“kill your longings”) or inflame your Rio yearnings all the more.

The film is the brainchild of Jarbas Agnelli, a talented illustrator, art director and musician, who is a founder of AD Studios, a São Paulo production studio where Agnelli and his colleagues work with techniques such as 3-D, animation, stop action, motion graphics to create some of the most cutting-edge and cool commercials in Brazil, and the world.

In addition to advertising, Agnelli and AD also make short video clips and experiments, of which “The City of Samba” is only the latest.

In addition to advertising, Agnelli and AD (which is also the name of his electronic music band), also make short video clips and experiments, of which “The City of Samba” is only the latest. (Check out his recent short, “Birds on the Wires,” which beat out 23,000 competitors from 91 countries to become a finalist at the YouTube Play Guggenheim Festival. The video was inspired by Agnelli’s coming across a newspaper photo of birds perched on a five parallel electrical wires, which reminded him of a five-lined musical staff. Imagining the birds were notes, he went to his piano and played out the resulting melody; the result is a flight of lyricism.)

“The City of Samba” depicts a night in the life of Rio’s Sambodrome, conjuring up in vivid detail the colorful and kaleidoscopic spectacle of watching a samba school parade its way down the runway. Although everything appears to be part of a computer-generated maquette, in reality, the images are real ones – 167,978 high-resolution photos, to be exact – that were shot during last year’s Carnaval. Customized lenses were used to create a tilt-shift effect that makes everything look like a scale model populated by animated dolls (the film’s co-author, Keith Loubit, is an Australian photographer/filmmaker who is considered the world’s tilt shift expert).

Where “The City of Samba” breaks with Carnaval tradition is in terms of its score. Instead of the expected pounding drums and feverish strains of samba, Agnelli composed a Philip Glass-worthy orchestral piece featuring a string quartet. What it lacks in swing, it more than makes up for in sweeping grandness, capturing the Cidade Maravilhosa at its most marvelous.


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