Central Station’ is a film produced and directed by Walter Salles. It stars Fernanda Montenegro, as Dora, and Vinicius de Oliveira, as Josué. It was first launched in Brazil at the beginning of 1998, and has competed for the Oscar Statuette this year. It was also awarded two prizes at the last Berlin Festival - for direction and interpretation. The film is fiction, but based on the real-life story of a woman who wrote letters to prove her innocence while in jail. The film is a thrilling celebration of humanity whilst capturing an unflattering portrayal of the Brazilian underworld and the poor.

It is set in Rio, on dusty roads and in a small village in north eastern Brazil. It tells the story of Josué and his good friend Dora. He is a good-natured and smart 11-year old boy who is obsessed by the idea of returning to his home village to meet his father, after being left all by himself in Rio when his mother died. As usual, Josué is wandering about the ‘Central Station’ railway station, when he first meets Dora, who is a middle-aged woman who makes her living out of writing letters for illiterate trusting people. She keeps their money and never posts their letters. She was once a respectable teacher, but has, in the meantime, become a swindler in order to survive. Dora is now fully acquainted with all the underworld tricks, and would sell her own soul to the devil if necessary.

We see the controversial reactions of Dora after selling the boy to a policeman who deals with the illegal adoption of children, and then taking him back again after being overcome by sympathy for Josué’s fate and succumbing to the boy’s appealing innocence. They have to run away from Rio so as not to suffer any violence from the enraged policeman. After a long, painful, but exciting bus trip along dusty uneven roads, they finally find Josué’s brothers, who have a small carpentry workshop and warmly welcome the boy. However, his father has, in the meantime, lost all of his few belongings due to drunkenness, and disappeared. As the story unfolds, Dora and Josué establish a close, warm friendship, and the boy wants her to stay in his village. However, she has to go back to her ‘reality’ in Rio. Finally, she somehow manages to run away from her friend, but not without leaving him a very warm and friendly goodbye letter.

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