Brazilian documentary resurrects Bahia Tropicalia musician Tom Ze

Fabricating Tom Ze

on August 01, 2008 by Sara Schieron
On the surface, Fabricating Tom Ze is a documentary about the life and work of a famous Tropicalia musician, but it appears that even a kindly pursuit by cameramen can't hide the off quality of this divine madman/experimental musician.

One of the forerunners of the Brazilian Tropicalia movement of the late '60's, Ze had a strong period of success. Though the other Bahia Tropicalia musicians were formidable, Ze's work was unique in that it embraced unconventional instruments such as household appliances and hardware, and despite his uniqueness he was very widely appreciated. Some time after he won the renowned music festival of Record TV in Sao Paulo, he made a few records and strangely dropped out of the public eye. The story goes that it wasn't until David Byrne (re)discovered him and involved him in his record label that Ze experienced a resurrection.

With the exception of some expressionistic animations, Fabricating is not terribly artificial. This becomes a strong device later in the film as you see bits of Ze's brand of exuberance surfacing. Though he's a strong and seemingly self-possessed 70-year-old, he's prone to outbursts, and if his occasionally violent bouts of expression are in any way sincere, he lays bare some rather provocative (and concerning) perceptions of the world.

In the vein of Ze's divine madness, the film closes with a beautiful quote about the body of his work. He says that he's not good at anything he does: He's a bad singer and a bad guitarist, but he's good at coming up with ideas. And in the end, it's these ideas that will become the seeds of future geniuses, as they endeavor to create the next great idea machine.
Distributor: No distributor set
Cast: David Byrne, Gilberto Gil, Tom Ze and Caetano Veloso
Director/Screenwriter: Decio Matos Jr.
Producers: Eliane Ferreira, Omar Jundi and Matias Mariani
Genre: Documentary; French- and Portugese-language, subtitled
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 89 min.
Release date: TBD
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