Reporting from the 2022 Telluride Film Festival.
Today it’s probably more synonymous with elevator music and the dentist’s office, but in the late-1950s and early-1960s, Bossa Nova took the musical world by storm. Born out of Brazil’s samba and featuring mellow tones and beautiful melodies, Bossa Nova became so popular that everyone from Elvis to Billie Eilish has tried their hand at that infectious Bossa Nova beat.
But back in the heyday, a few names stood tall: João Gilberto, Vinicius de Moraes, Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque, and Stan Getz. Left off that list, the woman they all had in common: singer/composer Heloísa Maria Buarque de Hollanda, better known as Miúcha.
Composed of Miúcha’s extensive archive of audio recordings, interviews, letters, diaries, photographs, footage, and watercolors, directors Liliane Mutti and Daniel Zarvos (Miúcha’s cousin) recreate the Bossa Nova story—this time through the female perspective—in Miúcha, the Voice of Bossa Nova. Many Bossa Nova songs are about women, but few are through their eyes. Here Miúcha takes us through her hesitancy to marry—almost calling it off the day of—a difficult childbirth, standing in the shadow of men, and finding pleasure in her own voice. In one scene, Miúcha crashes an interview her then-husband Gilberto is giving to a Brazilian reporter. Gilberto and Miúcha’s body language tells you everything you need to know about their marriage. Little wonder Miúcha would later say the success of their relationship was divorce.
It’s a telling scene, as is the one where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre visit Brazil. Not only is the news crew more interested in Sartre than de Beauvoir (practically framing her off camera), but de Beauvoir also says she hopes her book, The Second Sex, will soon become obsolete. That never came to pass. The absence of voices like Miúcha from the greater story is certainly part of the reason. Miúcha, The Voice of Bossa Nova looks to remedy that in the smooth and cool way only a Bossa Nova song can.
Miúcha, the Voice of Bossa Nova is currently playing the festival circuit. Next stop: the Toronto International Film Festival, with screenings on September 13 and 14.