“They Shot the Piano Player” Review

In the realm of animated films, there are few projects that can match the vibrancy and allure of “They Shot the Piano Player.” Directed by Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba, this animated docu-thriller takes viewers on a captivating journey through the history and legacy of Brazilian bossa nova.

At its core, the film explores the disappearance and presumed death of Francisco Tenório Júnior, a renowned pianist and composer in the genre. Join us as we delve into the realms of mystery, music, and animated artistry.

Unraveling the Bossa Nova Mystery

Taking place in 2010, “They Shot the Piano Player” introduces us to Jeff Harris, a fictional music journalist voiced by the talented Jeff Goldblum.

Harris’s fascination with bossa nova leads him to write an article for The New Yorker, which then propels him into a book deal and a trip to Rio de Janeiro to investigate the mysterious fate of Francisco Tenório Júnior. The film cleverly blends fact and fiction, creating a captivating narrative that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.

A Dark Chapter in History

The backdrop for this captivating tale is the politically tumultuous era of the 1970s, specifically the right-wing dictatorship in Argentina. It is during this time that Tenório Júnior vanishes, leaving behind a trail of questions and uncertainty.

The film sheds light on the dangers faced by artists who dared to challenge the regime’s politics, a stark reminder of the power of music and the lengths some would go to silence it.

Voices from the Past

To authentically capture Tenório Júnior’s story, director Fernando Trueba conducted over 150 interviews with friends, family, and colleagues of the pianist. These interviews are brought to life through skillful animation, allowing the audience to hear firsthand accounts from some of the most influential figures in bossa nova history.

João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, and others share their memories and reflections, painting a vivid picture of Tenório Júnior’s impact on the genre.

The Power of Animation

They Shot the Piano Player’ employs stunning art direction to create a visually captivating experience. The animated interviews, accompanied by the film’s gorgeous art direction, breathe life into the musicians’ recollections. Every brushstroke and color choice adds depth to their words, making the film a feast for the eyes and ears.

Even something as simple as the Arizona sunset in the background, as Bud Shank reminisces about seeing Tenório Júnior perform, immerses us in the story’s emotional landscape.

The Journey of “They Shot the Piano Player”

An Enthusiastic Investigator

Jeff Goldblum’s character, Jeff Harris, serves as the audience’s surrogate, embarking on a global journey to uncover the truth behind Tenório Júnior’s disappearance. With boundless curiosity, Harris asks probing questions and seeks out the key players in this captivating mystery. However, it is the story itself that truly shines, overshadowing the character’s narrative arc.

The Magic of Music

In a film centered around the world of bossa nova, music plays a pivotal role. The soundtrack is a mesmerizing blend of classic bossa nova tunes and original compositions. The film’s most memorable moments are when the music takes center stage, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the captivating melodies and rhythms that defined an era.

A Visual and Auditory Feast

‘They Shot the Piano Player’ captivates audiences with its stunning animation, bringing the characters and their stories to life. The meticulous attention to detail in the art direction, combined with the captivating soundtrack, creates a sensory experience that transports viewers to the heart of bossa nova. It’s a film that engages not only the mind but also the soul.

 A Captivating Blend of Mystery and Music

‘They Shot the Piano Player’ is a film that seamlessly weaves together elements of mystery, history, and music. Through its captivating animation, powerful storytelling, and unforgettable soundtrack, it brings the world of bossa nova to life. This animated docu-thriller invites audiences to embark on a journey of discovery, as they delve into the captivating mystery surrounding Francisco Tenório Júnior. Prepare to be captivated by the timeless allure of bossa nova and the power of animated storytelling.


1. Is “They Shot the Piano Player” based on a true story?

Yes, the film is based on the disappearance and presumed death of Francisco Tenório Júnior, a renowned pianist and composer in the bossa nova genre. The film blends fact and fiction to create a captivating narrative.

2. Can I expect to hear classic bossa nova music in the film?

Absolutely! The film’s soundtrack is a mesmerizing blend of classic bossa nova tunes and original compositions. The music plays a pivotal role in the storytelling, immersing viewers in the sounds and rhythms that defined the bossa nova era. It’s a feast for the ears that adds an extra layer of authenticity to the film.