University of Liverpool’s HOP-funded ‘Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing’ project travels to Brazil – with a little help from Carmen Miranda

Image: Caption: Lisa Shaw, dressed as Brazilian film star Carmen Miranda, and the participants in the ‘Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing’ film club in Brazil.

In August and September 2018, Dr. Lisa Shaw, Reader in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool, organised a film club at the Lar Sao Joao de Deus nursing home in the town of Itaipava in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Lisa is the author of several books on Brazilian cinema, samba music and the Brazilian film star Carmen Miranda, and she wanted to find a good use for her large collection of musical comedy films made in Brazil in the 1950s, and known locally as ‘chanchadas’.

In the Brazilian nursing home, Lisa held weekly screenings of short clips from a wide range of Brazilian films from the 1950s, featuring musical and dance numbers, well-known stars, comedy sketches and location shots. After each clip she invited the audience members, who included residents of the home, some living with dementia, and older people from the local community, to share any memories the film clips had evoked, and to reminisce with each other.

They frequently burst into song (and even dance!), and laughed at the antics of the comedy stars on screen, enjoying the memories of their childhood and youth that the music and images triggered. Many women recalled trying to copy the hairstyles and clothes worn by their favourite leading ladies, or listening to the same songs on the radio or on gramophone records in evening get-togethers with their parents and siblings.

Father Guilherme, the priest at the nursing home and a young man in his late 20s, had never seen these films before, but soon joined in the weekly sessions and was chatting to the audience about their memories.

He summed up the wellbeing benefits of the film club as follows: ‘It gives value to the lives of these older people. It acknowledges that they all have their own history, their own story to tell. After this experience, they now realise that their story, what they experienced in the past, is still important to us, the staff at the home, today. That has made a great difference. I have found this very useful to create closer links with them.’

To find out more about the Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing project please contact Dr Lisa Shaw – call 07790 365788 or email Lisa.shaw@liv.ac.uk.

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