There is a moment when Moacir Dos Santos looks directly into the camera, channeling his best James Brown – black bobbed wig, gold “television” make-up streaked across his face, enormous sun glasses shading his aged eyes – and says “I look kind of crazy, but I know exactly what I´m doing.” This is a flawless summary of Moacir, the protagonist and title character of Tomás Lipgot´s third feature documentary, a charming story about overcoming great obstacles through the power of music.
Moacir Dos Santos is a Brazilian immigrant living off of a pension in a small room near Plaza Constitución. He has been an Argentine citizen for nearly 30 years, 10 of which were spent in a Barracas mental institution. He had been committed after being found on the streets, filthy, anti-social and battling schizophrenia, ten years of treatment and the Moacir as portrayed on screen is hardly recognizable to the picture he paints of himself.
Born into the favelas, Moacir and his brothers were raised in extreme poverty by his single mother. Working in the streets since the age of 5, his happiest moments revolved around song, dance and the yearly event synonymous with Brazilian culture: Carnaval. He decided to start fresh in Argentina, and in 1984 moved to Buenos Aires to pursue a career in music. Poverty and mental illness stopped him from realizing those dreams until he was chosen by Lipgot to appear in his film “Fortalezas”, a documentary about people in isolation. Lipgot dug up Dos Santos songs and recruited the help of composer Sergio Pangaro to produce the recording of Moacir´s songs.
What makes Lipgot´s film a delight to watch is that he never chooses to take the simple route. Moacir is manic (in every sense of the word): he is energetic, self-assured, charming, he dances everywhere he goes (whether it be in his home or a café) and boasts a smile from ear to ear that infects everything around him. But his life has been one fraught with innumerable challenges. Lipgot never sweeps Moacir´s illness under the rug and neither does he glorify it to make this genuinely inspiring tale sappy. He doesn´t ask that we pat him or Pangaro on the back for their generosity, for giving the poor guy the opportunity he always wanted, they just ask that we watch this honest and loving portrait of a beautiful man, and that we too fall under music´s powerful spell.