Brasileirinho: A Mika Kaurismaki Film

This was the official website for Mika Kaurismaki's documentary film, Brasileirinho which pays tribute to choro, the overlooked but very important musical style which forms the basis for Brazilian bossa, samba, and more. Kaurismaki adopts a very simple style, intercutting interviews with his subjects with footage of their improvisation sessions and more formal concert footage. The infectious quality to the music is wahat maintains the film's momentum and which, hopefully, will ignite for the rest of the world, the love the Brazilians' have for choro.
Content is from the website's 2005 archived pages and other outside sources.

A Mika Kaurismaki film 
©2005 Switzerland - Finland - Brazil, 
90 minutes, 35 mmn


Choro, Chorinho, Chorão

Choro is Brazilian jazz, many people say. It could be true if Brazil's chorinho hadn't appeared before on the scene. After fading with the introduction of Bossa Nova in the '60s, the Brazilian music par excellence is getting a new lease of life. Small, but aggressive recording companies are guaranteeing a place in the world for the popular and sophisticated genre.
Bruce Gilman

World Sales: Loic Magneron, Wide Management Entreprise Sarl, 42bis, rue de Lourmel, 75015 Paris, France, Tel. +33 1 5395 0464, Fax +33 1 5395 0465,

MARCO FORSTER PRODUCTIONS, Route de Lausanne 31, 1096 Cully, Suisse
Phone +41 21 653 38 23 - GSM +41 79 409 03 01 -

STUDIO UNO Produções Artísticas Ltd., Rua Assunção, n.º 49 - Botafogo - CEP 22251-030 Rio de Janeiro, RJ-Brasil - phone +21 2552-7249 - Fax: +21 2552-7048 - e-mail:

Brasileirinho is a 90-min musical documentary film about Choro, the first genuinely Brazilian urban music. It was back in the late 19th century in Rio de Janeiro when Brazilian musicians started to blend European melodies, Afro-Brazilian rhythms and the melancholic interpretation of the Brazilian Indians' music to create Choro. Choro is credited as being the first musical expression of Brazil's melting pot and had a prominent place in the development of Brazil's cultural identity. Choro remained a major popular music style until the 1920s, leading directly into Samba and later to Bossa Nova. After a slight decline in popularity, Choro music has made a remarkable comeback over the past few decades.

The film remembers the history but shows, above all, a colorful picture of Choro's vitality today. The guiding line of the film is the combo "Trio Madeira Brasil" composed of three of Brazil's outstanding Choro musicians. During a "Roda de Choro", a traditional Brazilian kind of private jam session, the Trio brings up a concert project. During these sessions or at their homes, some of the most interesting Choro musicians play and remember key events in the history of this Brazilian urban music. A look into a Choro workshop with over 450 participants of all ages illustrates the off-hand genuine Brazilian way to play. "Playing" interviews with well-known Samba and Bossa Nova artists like Zezé Gonzaga, Elza Soares and Guinga illustrate the reciprocal inspiration with Samba and Bossa Nova music. A final show of the "Trio Madeira Brasil" with their guests in one of Rio's traditional music halls show once more the opulence of rhythms and melodies in Choro that has evolved over the past 130 years into a fascinating form of modern tropical sound.

Uploaded on Apr 29, 2009
Brasileirinho is a documentary about Choro, the first genuinely Brazilian urban music. It was back in the late 19th century in Rio de Janeiro when Brazilian musicians started to blend European melodies, Afro-Brazilian rhythms and the melancholic interpretation of the Brazilian Indians music to create Choro. Choro is credited as being the first musical expression of Brazils melting pot and had a prominent place in the development of Brazils cultural identity. Choro remained a major popular music style until the 1920s, leading directly into Samba and later to Bossa Nova. After a slight decline in popularity, Choro music has made a remarkable comeback over the past few decades. The film remembers the history but shows, above all, a colourful picture of Choros vitality today.


Production and Crew
Production: Marco Forster Productions (Switzerland), Marianna Films Oy (Finland), Studio Uno Produções Artísticas Ltda (Brazil), with SF DRS, TV YLE and ZDF in cooperation with ARTE, BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento 
Econômico e Social)
Director: Mika Kaurismäki
Script: Marco Forster, Mika Kaurismäki
Photography: Jacques Cheuiche
Musical Direction: Marcello Gonçalves
Editor: Karen Harley
Recording: Carlos de Andrade
Sound Design: Uwe Dresch
Producers: Marco Forster, Bruno Stroppiana, Mika Kaurismäki
Marcello Gonçalves, Zé Paulo Becker, Ronaldo Souza, Yamandú, Elza Soares, Teresa Cristina, Pedro Miranda, Paulo Moura, Guinga, Ademilde Fonseca, Zezé Gonzaga, Marcos Suzano, Joel Nascimento, Silvério Pontes, Zé da Velha, Carlinhos Leite, Hamilton de Holanda, Henrique Cazes, Daniel Spilmann, Umberto Araújo, Joatan Nascimento, Fred Dantas, Edson Santos, Maurício Carrilho, Luciana Rabello, etc.

Press Release
Berlin, 24th January 2005
Mika Kaurismäki with BRASILEIRINHO in the Forum of the 55th International Film Festival in Berlin Musical documentary brings the passion of the Choro to Berlin

In his musical documentary Brasileirinho, Mika Kaurismäki shows the history and the vitality of the Choro, the first genuinely Brazilian ‚urban music'. The Choro was created around 1870 when new music groups in Rio de Janeiro started playing European music with Afro-Brazilian rhythms just for fun. After being overshadowed by the Samba in the 1920s and later by the Bossa Nova, the Choro is now livelier than ever before in the bars and concert halls.

Brasileirinho focuses on the combo "Trio Madeira Brasil" with its outstanding musicians Marcello Gonçalves (guitar), Zé Paulo Becker (guitar) and Ronaldo Souza (mandolin). During a "Roda de Choro", the traditional Brazilian jam session, the trio launches a concert project. Mika Kaurismäki accompanies the musicians of the "Trio Madeira Brasil" and other Choro musicians during rehearsals, performances and at home. The musicians remember together the history of Choro, spontaneously sing and play songs, thereby giving this music such a passionate vitality.

"Choro is the Brazilian jazz", says star trombonist Zé de Velha. "This music is ageless", adds trumpeter Silvério Pontes. "In a Choro group, one is 70, another 15, and the third 40 ... This music is ... like a communion. For they all are taking part in this great thing that's already over 100 years old. That is fantastic."

Director Mika Kaurismäki: "In my previous music documentary "Moro no Brasil", I chose rather a social point of view, I showed music's role as kind of a social survival ritual of the people. In "Brasileirinho", my approach was slightly different. This time, I used music, Choro, to present how musical expression and performance reflect in everyday life and vice versa. …I tried to capture the 'soul' of Choro, the magic feeling and the unique emotional bond, the musical brotherhood, between all the involved - musicians and audience - of any successful Choro performance." 

The magic and passion of this music is shown in all of its opulence in the final show of the "Trio Madeira Brasil" in one of Rio's traditional music halls. This concert, which brings people together from different regions and social classes, finally brings the spectator under the spell of the Choro with its diverse melodies and rhythms.


Mika Kaurismäki film (writer and director)
Switzerland - Finland - Brazil 2005, 90 minutes





Press screening:



Cinemaxx 5





Public screenings:







CineStar 8







Marco Forster Productions (Switzerland), Marianna Films Oy (Finland), Studio Uno Produções Artísticas Ltda (Brazil), with SF DRS, TV YLE and ZDF in cooperation with ARTE, BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social)



Interview with the Director Mika Kaurismäki
by Aretta Vähälä from the Finnish Film Foundation, December 2004
Could you tell me what kind of music Chorinho is? Where and how was it born? Is it music of all Brazilians or is it practised in smaller circles only?

MK: First of all, I'd like to make a distinction between Choro and Chorinho. My film is about Choro, and Chorinho is just one aspect of Choro. Choro was born in the middle of the 19th century when the musicians in Rio started to mix European melodies and music styles like waltz and polka with Afro-Brazilian and native rhythms. In the beginning Choro was more "a way of playing" than a music style, then it developed and became the dominating music style in whole Brazil, until samba took over. Choro was forgotten but it never died, it stayed alive through the musicians that kept playing it in "Rodas de Choro", jam sessions, at homes and bars. People started calling this traditional Choro "Chorinho". Today, it has made a comeback. It keeps developing and it's called Choro again, it has become again more a way to play, it's quite flexible and broad, combining traditional Chorinho with elements of classic musical and even jazz. And my film is about Choro, not Chorinho.

The capital of Choro is definitely Rio de Janeiro, but Choro is played all over Brazil, other especially active Choro cities are places like the capital Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Salvador and Recife. Today, Choro is going strong; the younger generation has discovered Choro again.


Question. When and how did you get the idea for the film? Can you remember when you heard Choro for the first time?

MK: I had made another documentary about Brazilian music, "Moro no Brasil" before this one. It happened that I was in Lausanne, Switzerland, I think it was in May 2003 at the Swiss premiere of "Moro no Brasil" and, after the film, there was this Q&A session. One gentleman - obviously a Choro fan - asked me why I didn't have Choro in my film. I tried to explain that there is so much music in Brazil that it was impossible to include everything in one film. I said that I liked Choro very much, but "Moro no Brasil" was more about samba and that Choro deserved a film of its own. The gentleman said that he'd produce that film. And that was what actually happened; Marco Forster, who had never produced a film before, kept his word and we started to develop the film.
Of course, I had heard a lot of Choro over the years I had been living in Brazil and I even did some research on it when planning and preparing "Moro no Brasil". But funnily, the first time I ever heard Choro was in Finland when I was a little boy in the late 50's. It was "Tico-tico no Fubá", I still remember, when it played in the radio in the Sunday afternoons. Of course, I didn't know back then that this music was called Choro and obviously couldn't imagine that I would make a film about Choro one day. I couldn't even imagine that I would make films.

Question. What do you like about Choro? Do you play some instrument yourself? Perhaps you even play Choro?

MK: The fascinating thing about Choro is its flexibility, how it changes and develops depending on the ensemble and musicians playing it. It fits any occasion; it can be played alone or by a big band, in a concert, in a jam session, it can be listened or danced to, it's very social music. I like its playfulness and I'm fascinated by the virtuosity of the Choro musicians. Choro is definitely much easier to listen to than to play. I don't play anything myself, except occasionally some drums after a few (too many) drinks, but I wouldn't definitely ever dare to play Choro, I wouldn't like to be embarrassed.

Question. How did you find the musicians for the film?

MK: The screenplay, or better, the concept was developed together with Marco Forster and in collaboration with the musical supervisor Marcello Gonçalves. We tried to make a representative selection of musicians and different aspects of Choro, trying to show its versatility. I knew many of the musicians before, like Paulo Moura, Yamandu, Trio Madeira Brasil, Zé da Velha, Silverio Pontes, Marcos Suzano, Beto Gazes, Jovi etc.; in fact, many of them also play samba and other Brazilian music, many of them also performed in my music club that I had in Rio some years ago. Marcello suggested some musicians with whom I was less familiar and Marco brought in some musicians from Bahia. The selection is always hard to do because you know that there are always many other musicians that you'd like to have onboard, but, due the limitations of the 90 minutes of one film, it's impossible.

Question. Who produced the film? How did you find each other? How was it to work together?

MK: "Brasilerinho" is a Finnish-Swiss-Brazilian co-production. I already told you how I met Marco Forster in the screening of "Moro no Brasil" in Switzerland. The third partner is Bruno Stroppiana, an (Italian) producer who has been living in Rio de Janeiro for a long time. I had worked with Bruno many times before, starting from "Helsinki Napoli All Night Long" which his company distributed in Brazil - in fact, it was the reason I went to Brazil for the first time in 1988 - after that, he was involved in the production of the "Amazon", "Tigrero - The Film That Was Never Made" and "Sambolico". I introduced Bruno to Marco and the chemistry worked; the co-production and collaboration between the three of us was a delight compared to some other experiences I've had in this business and in spite of all the usual problems and difficulties one encounters when producing a film. Marco was the delegate producer, having the overall control of the venture, and Bruno was in charge of the production in Rio, whereas I tried to be helpful in different areas where Marco still didn't have the experience, like introducing investors and other professionals. We all were responsible for the financing of the film.

Question. How did the shooting of the film go? Where did you shoot it? How was it to plan the film, e.g., to decide who to interview, which musicians to choose and where to shoot?

MK: The shooting period was pretty fast, three weeks and we shot everything in Rio. We tried to prepare everything as well as possible because we knew that the shooting schedule would be very tight and most of the scenes would be unique, impossible to be re-produced and re-shot within our budget frame. I was lucky to work with people that I've worked with before, especially with my director of photography Jacques Cheuiche; it made everything much easier.

The film is, in fact, in spite of being a "documentary", mostly staged, most of the situations and scenes, for example, the main concert, the Choro ferry, etc. were produced for the film. But even if they were staged, they were at the same time 'documentary', e.g., the main concert was a public event and the audience was a normal paying audience. And the interviews, of course, are 'documentary', real, not pre-written.

My idea was to try to tell about Choro through the people who play Choro, who live from and for it. I gave emphasis to some of the main instruments in Choro, like 7-string guitar, mandolin, brass, tambourine, cavaquinho etc., but also wanted to show that Choro is not only instrumental but can be sung and danced, too. This very much influenced the choice of people and the storyline. I started from a few individuals, instruments, trying to demonstrate how Choro works within different ensembles and situations. Towards the end of the film, the ensembles become bigger and the musical brotherhood grows involving the audience in the film and, hopefully, the audience watching the film, too.

I wanted the locations in the film to be realistic, true to the people and Choro. So, I shot in people's homes, bars and spots that are important for Choro today and in the past.

We shot the film mostly with two cameras, except the main concert where we used four cameras. What made the shooting somewhat complicated was the recording of the sound. As we wanted the best possible sound, we recorded all the music with a 24-track system, which means we had a moving sound studio with us most of the time. It cost time and nerves, but it definitely paid off in the end.

Question. How was it to edit the film? I remember you telling me that you shot a lot of material this time as well?

MK: Yes, we shot quite a lot of material, 60 hours or so, but I was lucky to have the same editor as in "Moro no Brasil", Karen Harley, with whom, I think, we make a good team. She can administrate the material very well and get the essence out of it. What helped here was that the structure was quite clear from the beginning, but, of course, it's always hard to make the selection, you always have to leave so many things out of the film, even scenes that you like. But that's the way it is, you have to be both tender and brutal with your material.

Question. Were there any surprises during the making of this film? Did you learn something new? Was the making of this film somehow different from the films you have made before?

MK: Every film is full of surprises no matter how well you think you are prepared. Making a "documentary" requires patience; as a filmmaker, you're an observer, not the center of attention, and what I like in documentaries is that you, as a filmmaker and a human being, learn from the people and situations you observe. In this film I learnt a lot, not only about Choro but music in general and the way of Brazilian life. And about life in general, which, I suppose, is the reason I make films anyway.

The shooting itself wasn't too complicated, and it was short, too, compared to a normal feature film or compared to "Moro no Brasil" which took me a couple of years to make. I'd say that this film was born under the lucky stars, it went mostly smoothly from the beginning until the end, which, I guess, is quite different from some of my other films. One thing I found very interesting is the popularity of American media icons, especially Batman characters - I discovered that the band members had a favorite colorful Batman T shirt store where they bought a good number of Batman T shirts they wore during their sets along with the Batman hoodies worn during cooler outdoor gigs. Out of curiosity, I asked where they got them and was really surprised to discover they ordered them online from - the same place my brother bought my birthday present last year. The world is a small place sometimes!

Question. Do you already know where you will make your next film and what will it be about?

MK: I have a couple of things in development, I want to keep making both fiction and documentaries. And I want to make two more music films, one about jazz and another about the Finnish tango, which is a project that has been in my mind for a long time. But, at the same time, I'm developing a couple of fiction films, too, and if everything goes well, I might make a small Finnish film next year, shot in Finland in Finnish language, which is something that I haven't done since 1991.

Question. How do you feel now that "Brasilerinho" will be shown in the Berlinale? What does it mean for you and your film?

MK: I always thought that the Forum of the Berlinale would be the perfect place to have the world premiere of "Brasilerinho", and I'm extremely happy that the film was invited. I believe it will have the best possible start for its international career there. I have a long and nice history with Forum, I think it's still the most interesting section of the Berlinale, especially for a documentary, even if I don't know if my film is a pure documentary.



Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki’s film is a love letter to choro, Brazil’s original urban music born out of a mixture of European dances and Afro-Brazilian rhythms in the late 1870s. Played on mandolin, tambourine, guitar, clarinet and trombone, Choro sounds something like a jazzy, folksy flamenco and was hugely popular in the first half of the twentieth century before being displaced by bossa nova in the ’60s. However, much like flamenco in Spain or fado in Portugal, it enjoyed a politically motivated government-sponsored resurgence in the late ’70s and continues to thrive today.

Kaurismäki, who settled in Brazil in the early ’90s, obviously loves the music and the musicians who play it and he sets out to do for choro what Wim Wenders’s ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ did for Cuban son. But the film lacks a strong enough narrative thread to really engage us. What story there is involves the Trio Madeira Brasil as they prepare for a celebratory concert on April 23 (National Choro Day) and through them we get to meet the likes of virtuoso guitarist Yamandú and pandeiro player (a tuned tambourine) Jorginho do Pandeiro. But, while they’re charming enough, the film never gets to grips with choro’s history or how it fits into contemporary Brazilian culture. Slavery (not abolished in Brazil until 1888) is briefly and uncomfortably touched upon towards the end of the film but the music’s European and middle-class heritage is never properly explored and musicians (including the great Elza Soares) come and go without us getting to know who they are. The music, though, is unfailingly wonderful. Kerstan Mackness