Rio On Location: Central Station

 A new day breaks at Central do Brasil and, as usual, the train station is taken over by the crowd. People arrive from all over Rio and beyond. Many are just on their way to work, others are looking ahead to a day of leisure and, for some, the train station itself is their everyday office. Dora (Fernanda Montenegro) is a member of the latter group. She arrives, sets up her little desk with her work material – paper, envelopes and pens – and begins her workday: writing letters for the illiterate who wish to get in touch with friends and family living in other parts of the country.

Then one day, two people come looking for Dora: Ana (Soia Lira) and Josué (Vinícius de Oliveira). Ana wants to makes some changes in a letter she had asked Dora to write to her son’s father, stating that the boy would like to meet him. Josué’s smile leaves no doubt as to his desire. As soon as they leave the station, Ana gets run over by a bus and dies. Just nine years old, with nobody to go to, Josué hangs around the station, looking to Dora for help. After all, she possesses the letter for his father, who has suddenly become his last resort.

At first, Dora tries to take advantage of Josué’s situation; but she soon regrets it and, along with him, goes on a trip to the inland of Pernambuco, in search of the kid’s father. It is not an easy journey, but it is due to it, and to the boy, that Dora is able to patch up with her own humanity, which had been nowhere to be found for quite a while.

Central Station (1998) is a celebration of life and friendship; the movie offers a wide range of emotions for the viewer, making us want to cry, at times to judge the characters, but also to think, forgive, and laugh. Directed by Walter Salles, the movie was one of the greatest box-office hits of Brazilian cinema (it is a co-production with France), and was watched all over the world, especially after being nominated for the Oscar in 1999, in the categories of Foreign Language Film and Actress in a Leading Role. It was awarded the Golden Globe (USA), the Golden Bear (Germany) and the BAFTA (UK) for Best Foreign Film, as well as other national and international awards. In 2010, the British magazine Empire elected it as one of the top 100 movies of the world in their foreign languages category.

A scenery fit for cinema
Photo: Fran Mateus

The Central do Brasil train station was founded in 1858, and was then called ‘Estação do Campo’ (Field Station), and is considered Brazil’s first urban train station. In 1943, the building was completely rebuilt and founded all over again as ‘Estação Dom Pedro II’ (Dom Pedro II Station). A great variety of lines operate out of its thirteen platforms, connecting Rio’s downtown to neighborhoods in the North and West of the city, as well as other towns in the state of Rio de Janeiro. A long time before the film was made, the people of Rio would already refer to the station as the “Central” – and the name caught on all around the country after the movie attained worldwide success.

Photo: Fran Mateus
The surroundings of the station were stage to significant events in the country – the greatest of which was the proclamation of the Republic on the fifteenth of October, 1889, in what was, up to that moment, the Empire of Brazil. It took place at Campo de Santana, which is now known as the Republic Square, and was led by the Brazilian Army Marshal, Deodoro da Fonseca – there is now a pantheon built at the same place in his memory.

The best way to get to the Central do Brasil station is by using Rio’s local subway. The most interesting place to visit in the building is the main hall. Unlike what is shown in the movie, the actual station is covered in ads that decorate the space while preserving the architectural elements of mid-twentieth century building. If you wish to take a tour of the surroundings of the station, be extra careful when on the Republic Square (Praça da República), since the square is frequently used for public riots and demonstrations (make sure to check if any are scheduled for the day of your visit) and it is home to many homeless persons and drug users.


  1. Thanks for the information. Hope devotes will be careful after reading this post.Regards

    Best Packers and Movers near Central Station, Chennai

    1. The place is cool, but you need be carefull. Enjoy it! Rio is great!!


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