Archives / 1998 Sundance Film Festival

Central Station

Director: Walter Salles

Screenwriters: Marcos Bernstein, Joao Emanuel Carneiro

Institute History

Description

In this breakthrough triumph of form and emotion, Walter Salles has freed himself from the constraints of Cinema Nôvo and neorealism and in one bravura step rises to the ranks of Latin America’s most distinguished auteurs. A film of acute tenderness and eloquence, Central Station grounds its critique of Brazil’s sociopolitical mores in an achingly eloquent meditation on the renewal of identity and family in a society ruptured by cynicism and self-interest.

In the stifling halls of Rio’s Central Station, a former schoolteacher supports herself by writing and mailing letters for illiterate passersby. Hardened by loneliness, adversity, and the station’s daily stream of desperate faces, Dora has become stoically indifferent to the weight of her charge, choosing arbitrarily to send some letters and discard others. When one of Dora’s clients is killed outside the station, she resolves to take in the woman’s orphaned son, Josué. Swayed by a curiously maternal compassion, Dora resists her initial impulse to make a quick profit off the child and commits to returning Josué to his father in Brazil’s remote northeast. As buses and trucks carry the motley pair through increasingly unfamiliar terrain, they defy their initial aversions, journeying closer together and deeper inside themselves. Astonishingly at ease in his craft, Salles wrests flawlessly layered performances from his actors, from newcomer Vinícius de Oliveira (Josué) to the venerable Fernanda Montenegro (Dora). Rich with moral ambiguity, iconographic complexity, and cinematic lyricism, Central Station is a gorgeously understated epic of the everyday, a film destined to capture our hearts and fortify our spirits.

Walter Salles, Director
Walter Salles’s work revolves around the theme of exile and the search for identity. His feature film Foreign Land, codirected by Daniela Thomas, has won seven international prizes and holds and emblematic place in the renaissance of Brazilian cinema. In 1996 his documentary Socorro nobre (Life Somewhere Else) won the Fipa d’Or at the Festival International des Programmes Audio-Visuels. Salles received the Cinema 100/Sundance International Award for Central Station.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

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