This is Jeff Bayer, and I don't update this site very often. If you'd like to listen to my current movie podcast you can find it at MovieBS.com.


Quickcard Review Fados

Directed by: Carlos Saura Cast: Lila Downs, Carlos Do Carmo, Lura Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: Unrated Release Date: May 30, 2009

Plot: Fados is a collection of performance pieces of "fados", a kind of Portugese folk song. The pieces come together to give an idea of this musical style that reflects the history of the people of Portugal, Brazil, and Portugal's former African colonies.

Who’s It For? If you know what a fado is, you may like this film. Or if you like modern dance on film.

Expectations: I expected a documentary about the culture of Fados. So I was surprised.


Fados is a beautiful, well-directed film. Saura brings together years of experience making films featuring music to create beautiful backdrops for his individual songs, or fados. Unfortunately, it was really, really boring. If I didn't have to watch this for a review, I would not have made it through the whole thing. I did, but only so, you, the viewer, don't have to. By writing that, I feel like I'm damning the film, suggesting there's nothing good about it which is completely wrong. But 90 minutes of unfamiliar songs in a foreign language in translation is a tough sell. Songs in translation usually seem really silly anyway, just ask anyone who's watched anime. The problem is, in a song the words are selected for how nicely they sound together. When translated, they can look like an angry 14 year old's poetry. Some of the songs are accompanied by modern dance, which looks nice but gets old over time.

I would have enjoyed this film much more with some context. At the beginning of the film, there are two screens of text explaining the history of fado and that's it. After that you sink or swim. I spent the first 20 minutes of the film trying to figure out what a fado was, like I was going to be tested afterwards. Once I remembered that I was reviewing the film, not writing a history of fados, I enjoyed myself more. But still I was confused. The first song is instrumental, the second two are ballads, all different instruments are used. There's even a rap. After seeing this film, I'm not sure I could say what a fado is anymore than I could at the beginning. It should be in Portugese and about lost love, that's all I can gather.

If you know what a fado is or if you enjoy modern dance on film, you may enjoy Fados. Otherwise, I'd recommend waiting until DVD if you must see it, so you can pick and choose your scenes.

Final Score: 3/10