Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is my Business tells the story of Carmen Miranda from birth to death and legacy. It follows Miranda as a Portuguese immigrant to Brazil who found fame both locally and in the United States as a Samba singer, dancer and actress. Helena Solberg, who is also the director of the film, narrates the documentary. She places Miranda’s story into a more personal context, exploring the impact that the star has had on her own life and perception of the world while keeping the focus on the progression of the biography. There is a particular authenticity to Solberg’s storytelling that creates an immersive viewing experience.
The film contains many interviews with characters that were relevant to Carmen Miranda’s life, ranging from fans and journalists to her musicians and family members. Solberg interweaves these interviews with archive footage of Miranda (both staged and real), movie clips and musical performances. She shows both the public perception of Miranda as a star in Brazil and the United States, and reflects on the cultural and domestic conflicts with which Miranda had to deal with behind the scenes. It is fascinating to see Miranda’s choices in music, performance, film and beauty influence the trends of her time and leave its mark in entertainment history. One of the most remarkable things about this documentary is that even if you do not start out a Carmen Miranda fan, you cannot help but get caught up in her story.
For further reading:
A piece by Gary Morris from The Bright Lights Film Journal
A review of the documentary in the American Historical Review (pages 1162-1164)
Serra Kornfilt 2011