By 31 August, 2011

Elza is a documentary about the life of samba singer Elza Soares. Yet, instead of following the normal music documentary format opts to focus on Soares in a more subjective manner, looking at her singing and what her singing means to other people.

So we get lots of new footage of Soares singing with a variety of guitarists, including Paulinho da Viola and Jorge Ben, interspersed with interviews with Soares herself as well as notable names such as Caetano Veloso and Maria Bethânia.

The general consensus is that Soares is one of the most unique singing voices Brazil has ever had, “in a country of female singers” as Bethânia adds. In terms of reinforcing that opinion this documentary serves it’s purpose. The performances between Veloso and Soares, and Bethânia and Soares in particular when they are joking and improvising, are spell-binding. The enjoyment that songwriters appear to get when Soares sings one of their songs is testament enough to the regard they have for her and her voice.

In terms of Soares’ story there is very little, a short segment about her winning a singing contest for Ary Barroso, a little about her first big hit and marriage to Garrincha, but deliberately very little else. This allows the story to focus on her singing and how she has affected people over the years, as well as not getting into a huge debate about her marriage with Garrincha, which is a story in itself.

It should also be noted that this doumentary is shot beautifully with red backdrops, glowing orange lights and dark tones, reflecting the seductive manner of Soares as a performer as well as the jazz world that she bridged better than most Brazilian samba singers.

Elza is showing as part of the 3rd Brazilian Film Festival of London. Find out more about the festival here.

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