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Review: 'Bel Borba Aqui' provides a grab-eye view of the artist

Co-directors Burt Sun and André Costantini follow Brazilian artist Bel Borba through his creative process.

November 15, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • The artist Bel Borba in "Bel Borba Aqui."
The artist Bel Borba in "Bel Borba Aqui." (Abramorama )

"Bel Borba Aqui" is a sunny vacation of a film, a documentary that's as jaunty and improvisational as its colorful subject, prolific Brazilian artist Bel Borba.

Co-directors Burt Sun and André Costantini eschew the usual personal history, observer commentary and specific narrative structure for a grab-bag look at a man whose hometown of Salvador de Bahia is his canvas.

For 35 years, Bel Borba has transformed Salvador's urban landscape with his eclectic explosion of average-sized to grand scale art, including sculptures, paintings, murals and mosaics.

Whether decorating a wall, a sailboat sail or an airplane, every surface is fair game to this tireless craftsman, who works in an anything-goes array of mediums: tiles, steel, sea sand, mud, wood and even plastic soda bottles (his giant, Coca-Cola commissioned Christmas tree sculpture is a knockout).

The filmmakers follow the chatty, charismatic Bel Borba as he produces one art project after another, each more captivating than the next. Unlike many such artist profiles, Bel Borba's creative process — both physical and emotional — is made clear. We even get to see him cooking dinner with artistic panache.

What the film lacks in biographical depth, it makes up for with stirring visuals (including effective bits of split screen, time-lapse photography and animation), a vibrant score and an infectious, in-the-moment spirit.

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"Bel Borba Aqui." No MPAA rating; in English and Portuguese, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.

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