There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus is big on myths and even grander in spectacle. Taking Eurydice and Orpheus out of ancient Greece and placing them in Rio de Janeiro earned the director both praise and criticism. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1959 and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1959, and it’s since been accepted into the canon by most film critics. But Camus’ oversimplification of black Brazilians and life in Rio’s favelas has drawn major scrutiny. Even President Barack Obama, whose mother counted the film among her favorites, chastised it in Dreams from My Father for its “depiction of the childlike blacks.” The film revolves around the poetic Orfeu, a guitarist and taxi driver in Camus’ hedonistic, spinning Rio. The film’s vibrant colors, rich score, and Carnaval backdrop make it an intriguing watch, especially at this topical time, but if Black Orpheus’ cinematography doesn’t appeal to you, it might be worth checking out to understand why POTUS has a few issues with one of Camus’ greatest accomplishments. The film shows at 7 p.m. at the Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater at American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. nga.gov.