There are quite a lot of samba documentaries out there, several of which focus entirely on one particular singer or another, but the best ones, in my mind, are those that look at the genre as a whole – Mistério do Samba being one of them. Below, I will post some of the perhaps lesser known films (all of them in Portuguese only).
If anyone starts to get confused and require a timeline of how all these people, styles and influences come together, click “Iniciar” on this interactive infographic and play around.
Probably the best samba documentary out there, the 2010 film “As batidas do Samba” interviews many of the ‘second wave’ samba greats, who worked with the first wave singers and composers. It focuses quite a bit on the history of the genre and instrumentation.
Simply titled “Samba”, this film from the year 2000 centers on Mangueira yet it isn’t as historically-focused as the film above. Still very much worth watching.
One of the documentaries I have yet to see is known as “Cariocas les musiciens de la ville” or simply “A Verdadeira História do Samba”, from 1987, said to be a sort of amalgamation of film scenes and interviews, covering some important musicians while forgetting others completely (so says the site Nasci do Semba).
Recorded in 1978, “Os avós do samba” tells the story of five living (at the time) grandfathers of samba: Carlos Cachaça, Nelson Cavaquinho, Adoniran Barbosa, Cartola and Mano Décio da Viola, centered around a memorial mass for Tia Ciata, one of the most important figures in samba history. The original is 40 minutes long but it’s not available in its entirety online.
One I couldn’t find online but which seems pretty interesting is “O Samba que Mora em Mim” which also focuses on Mangueira, its history and relationship with samba.
Yet another one is Memória em Verde e Rosa, focusing on (as you might have guessed) Mangueira, and it’s older sambistas like Tantinho.
The latest addition to the list is 2017’s O Próximo Samba, for which there is only a trailer at the moment. The focus is again on Mangueira. Press CC for subtitles.