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Central Station (1998, Fernanda Montenegro, Marília Pêra)

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In Brazil’s crowded main railway terminus an elderly woman stoops, surrounded by the hopeful. Dora (Fernanda Montenegro) writes letters on behalf of the illiterate, dispatching the results (or destroying them) as she sees fit.

The death of one of her clients in a road accident leaves a young boy, Josué (Vinicius de Oliviera) alone. Dora befriends him, but her motives are mercenary and she trades him to an older woman. Within hours she is remorseful, and kidnaps him back to embark on a search for his father, using an address taken from one of his mother’s letters.

En route, Dora tries to abandon him again, but the plan backfires when he finds her but leaves his rucksack (containing her money) behind. A god-fearing Samaritan helps them to the next town, and they eventually locate Jisus’s home, which has been sold to fund his alcoholism. Josué’s simple plan to continue the search provides salvation: Dora can write letters for the locals, giving them enough money to continue the search for his father. It works but not without complications…

Nineteen global award nominations is proof enough of Walter Salles’ remarkable achievement, which saw the Brazilian virtually re-launch the cinema of his native land. Working on the self-imposed mantra that, ‘if you don’t maintain the integrity of your desire, you’re bound for disaster,’ he imposed a Loach-like framework of improvisation which utilized his talents as a former documentarist.

During shooting, authenticity was everything: many of Dora’s letters are written for real commuters unaware of the film. The performance of de Oliveira is no less genuine, as the former airport shoe-shine boy beat 1,500 others to win the role, and stole the film. He was hired on a single condition: that he return to education afterwards thanks to a scholarship from the film company. He complied, and graduates in 2007.

production details
Brazil | 113 minutes | 1998

Director: Walter Salles
Script: Marcos Bernstein, João Emanuel Carneiro, Walter Salles,

cast
Fernanda Montenegro as Dora
Marília Pêra as Irene
Vinícius de Oliveira as Josué
Othon Bastos as César
Otávio Augusto as Pedrão
Matheus Nachtergaele as Isaías
Caio Junqueira as Moisés
Stela Freitas as Yolanda
Maria Menezes as Waitress
Sergio Kato as Dora’s Client
Soia Lira as Ana
Rita Assemany as Jessé’s Wife
Harildo Deda as Bené
Gildásio Leite as Man in the bus
Nanego Lira as Nordeste preacher
José Pereira da Silva as Dora’s Client
Everaldo Pontes as Dora’s Client
Inaldo Santana as Dora’s Client in Nordeste
Gideon Rosa as Jessé

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