Central Station
Theatrical release poster
PortugueseCentral do Brasil
Directed byWalter Salles
Screenplay by
Story byWalter Salles
Produced by
CinematographyWalter Carvalho
Edited byFelipe Lacerda
Music by
  • VideoFilmes
  • MACT Productions
Distributed by
  • Europa Filmes (Brazil)
  • Mars Distribution (France)
Release dates
  • 16 January 1998 (1998-01-16) (Switzerland)
  • 3 April 1998 (1998-04-03) (Brazil)
  • 2 December 1998 (1998-12-02) (France)
Running time
113 minutes
Budget$2.9 million[2]
Box office$22 million[3]

Central Station (Portuguese: Central do Brasil) is a 1998 road drama film directed by Walter Salles and starring Fernanda Montenegro, Marília Pêra and Vinícius de Oliveira. The screenplay, adapted by João Emanuel Carneiro and Marcos Bernstein from a story by its director Walter Salles, tells the story of a young boy's friendship with a jaded middle-aged woman. Montenegro's performance earned her international critical acclaim and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress (becoming the first and to date only Brazilian actress to ever be nominated in the lead actress category), while the film received a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.[4]


Estação Central do Brasil, the most famous and important railway station in Brazil. Also served as the setting and title of the famous film.

Dora is a retired schoolteacher who works at Rio de Janeiro's Central Station, writing letters for illiterate customers to earn a living. Embittered by life, she usually shows a lack of patience with customers and sometimes does not mail the letters she writes, putting them in a drawer or even tearing them up instead. One of her customers is the mother of Josué, a poor 9-year-old boy who hopes to meet his unknown father someday. When she is killed in a bus accident just outside the train station, and Josué is left homeless, Dora feels compelled to take him in. She trafficks him to a corrupt couple but later steals him back out of guilt.

Initially reluctant to be responsible for the boy, Dora eventually decides to accompany him on a trip to northeastern Brazil in search of his father.

Dora tries to leave Josué on the bus, but he follows her, forgetting his backpack containing Dora's money. Penniless, they are picked up by a kind, evangelical truck driver who abandons them when Dora encourages him to drink beer and then grows too friendly. Dora trades her watch for a ride to "Bom Jesus do Norte" (a fictionalized version of Cruzeiro do Nordeste,[5] a district of Sertânia, Pernambuco). They find Josué's father's address in Bom Jesus, but he is gone; the current residents say he won a house in a lottery and moved to the new settlements. With no money, Josué saves them from destitution by suggesting Dora write letters for visitors arriving in Bom Jesus for a massive pilgrimage.

They take the bus to the settlements, but when they locate the address they have for Josué's father, the residents tell them he no longer lives there; they say he has disappeared. Josué tells Dora that he will wait for him, but Dora invites him to live with her. She calls her friend Irene in Rio and asks her to sell her refrigerator, sofa, and television. She says that she will call when she gets settled somewhere. After she hangs up, she learns there are no buses leaving until the next morning.

Isaías, one of Josué's half-brothers, is working on a roof next to the bus stop and learns that they are looking for his father, insisting Dora and Josué come to dinner. They return to his house and meet Moisés, Josué's other half-brother. Later, Isaías explains to Dora that their father Jesus married Ana (who he doesn't know is Josué's mother) after their mother died, and that nine years ago, while pregnant, Ana left him to live in Rio and never returned. Isaías asks Dora to read a letter that his father wrote to Ana when he disappeared, six months ago, in case she returned. In the letter, the boys' father explains that he has gone to Rio to find Ana and the son he never met. He promises to return, asks her to wait for him, and says they can all be together—himself, Ana, Isaías, and Moisés. Dora pauses, looks at Josué, and says, "and Josué, whom I can't wait to meet." Isaías and Josué are sure their father will return, but Moisés does not believe it.

The next morning, while they sleep, Dora sneaks out to catch the bus to Rio. She first leaves behind the letter from Jesus and the one from Ana - the one Dora carried with her from the Central Station but never mailed, expressing Ana's wish for the family to be reunited. Josué wakes up too late to prevent her departure. Dora writes a letter to Josué on the bus. Both are left with the photos they had taken to remember one another.



Being a co-production between Brazil and France, the film was chosen by the French Ministry of Culture to receive resources of Fonds Sud Cinema, for their funding.[6]


Central Station had its world premiere at a regional film festival in Switzerland on 16 January 1998. It was then screened at the Sundance Film Festival on 19 January 1998 and at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival on 14 February 1998.

The film was released in Brazil on 3 April 1998 in 36 theaters.[3]


Box office

The film grossed R$7.7 million (US$4.3 million) from 1.6 million admissions in Brazil, the highest-grossing Brazilian film released during the year.[3][7]

It was the highest-grossing Brazilian film in the United States with a gross of $6.5 million,[3][8] surpassing the $3 million earned by the 1976 film Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.[9] It was surpassed by the 2002 film City of God which grossed $7.5 million.[10] It grossed US$11.7 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of US$22,462,500.[3]

Critical response

The film received critical acclaim. Central Station has an approval rating of 94% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 50 reviews, and an average rating of 7.9/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Director Salles transcends road-movie clichés and crafts a film that is as moving as it is universal".[11] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generaly favorable reviews".[12]

The film was a New York Times Critics' Pick: according to Janet Maslin, "Mr. Salles directs simply and watchfully, with an eye that seems to penetrate all the characters"; the film features a "bravura performance by the Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro."[13] According to Richard Schickel, the film is "an odyssey of simple problems, simple emotional discoveries, [and] a relationship full of knots that Salles permits to unwind in an unforced, unsentimental fashion. His imagery, like his storytelling, is clear, often unaffectedly lovely, and quietly, powerfully haunting.[14] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a grade of A–, concluding "In outline, Central Station recalls many of the bogusly sticky adult–kid bonding tales that have been the bane of foreign cinema for too long, but Salles, like De Sica and Renoir, displays a pure and unpatronizing feel for the poetry of broken lives. His movie is really about that most everyday of miracles: the rebirth of hope." [15]

The film is ranked No. 57 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.[16]


Year Awards Category Nominee(s) Result
1999 71st Academy Awards Best Actress Fernanda Montenegro Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Brazil Nominated
56th Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Fernanda Montenegro Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Central Station Won
14th Independent Spirit Awards Best Foreign Language Film Central Station Nominated
52nd British Academy Film Awards Best Film Not in the English Language Central Station Won
24th César Awards Best Foreign Film Central Station Nominated
São Paulo Association of Art Critics Best Film Central Station Won
Best Director Walter Salles Won
Best Actress Fernanda Montenegro Won
1998 Golden Satellite Awards Best Foreign Language Film Central Station Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama Fernanda Montenegro Nominated
Best Original Screenplay João Emanuel Carneiro and Marcos Bernstein Nominated
48th Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Central Station Won
Silver Bear for Best Actress Fernanda Montenegro Won
National Board of Review Best Actress Fernanda Montenegro Won
Best Foreign Language Film Central Station Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Actress Fernanda Montenegro Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Actress Fernanda Montenegro 2nd Place
Havana Film Festival Best Film Central Station Won
Best Actress Fernanda Montenegro Won
Association of Film Critics Spain Best Foreign Language Film Central Station Won
Association of Film Critics in Poland Best Foreign Language Film Central Station Won
National Association of Italian Critic Best Foreign Language Film Central Station Won
Sundance Film Festival Best Screenplay João Emanuel Carneiro and Marcos Bernstein Won
San Sebastián International Film Festival Audience Award Central Station Won
Association of Film Critics of Rio de Janeiro Film of the Year Central Station Won

See also


  1. ^ a b McCarthy, Todd (8 February 1998). "Central Station". Variety. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  2. ^ "Central do Brasil (1998) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e "A comercialização de um filme internacional: Central do Brasil". Asaeca.org (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  4. ^ "The 71st Academy Awards (1999) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Central do Brasil". Archived from the original on 14 September 2016.; "Pater / Patria: Central Station and the Search for Identity in Post-Collor Brazil".
  6. ^ "Cinemateca Nacional: Central do Brasil (1998)". Cinemateca Brasileira. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  7. ^ Peter Cowie, ed. (1999). The Variety Almanac 1999. Boxtree Ltd. p. 49. ISBN 0-7522-2454-9.
  8. ^ Central Station at Box Office Mojo
  9. ^ "Pix from afar: National bests in the U.S.". Variety. 7 January 1991. p. 86.
  10. ^ City of God at Box Office Mojo
  11. ^ "Central Station | Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.
  12. ^ "Central Station". Metacritic.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (20 November 1998). "A Journey of Hope and Self-Discovery for Two Hard-Bitten Souls". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  14. ^ Schickel, Richard (14 December 1998). "Central Station". Time.com. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  15. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (11 December 1998). "Central Station". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  16. ^ "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema | 57. Central Station". Empire. Archived from the original on 2 December 2011.