Film programmer, critic and researcher Heitor Augusto takes readers on a non-linear journey through 21 short films directed by Black Brazilian filmmakers over the last 50 years.
If one truly wants to grasp the complex and numerous ways in which Black authorship has manifested itself in Brazilian cinema, exploring short films is an imperative towards gaining a qualified understanding. During the first six months of 2018, I extensively researched this topic and went on to curate the largest film retrospective centered around the presence of Black directors in Brazilian cinema, titled Cinema Negro: Capítulos de uma História Fragmentada (Black Brazilian Cinema: Episodes of a Fragmented History). The retrospective was hosted at Belo Horizonte International Film Festival and twenty-five short films spanning from 1973 to 2018 were screened*.
The constellation of films that you’re about to navigate through directly results from this research, but also bears influence from the nearly 14 years that I’ve been working with film. The function of this constellation is to provide an introduction to a history for an international audience. However, the films collected below do not make up a definitive or all-encompassing account of Black authorship in Brazilian cinema. One article can’t reverse the decades of disregard towards these films. In order to combat the constant fragmentation of our history as Black people in cinema, we need long-term action from multiple players, including those within the world of Film Studies, who, in Brazil, remain stubbornly inattentive to these films.
Many further factors limit the reach of this constellation. For example, preservation is a major issue. The short films of Waldir Onofre, Adelia Sampaio, Afranio Vital, and many other pioneers of Black Brazilian cinema are either permanently lost or are very difficult to access. I’ve also prioritized films that were produced with the original intent of being circulated in cinemas and film festivals. Therefore, I’ve not included the short films of Joel Zito Araújo, a key Black voice in the feature film format, because they are closer to journalistic paradigms rather than cinematic. This explains why some of my favorite contemporary filmmakers – Lorran Dias, Jessica Queiroz, Bruno Ribeiro, Ana Júlia Trávia, Asaph Luccas, Gabriel Martins, Gleba do Pêssego collective, and the “Perifericu”’s directors: Nay Mendl, Rosa Caldeira, Stheffany Fernanda and Vita Pereira – are also not included within the constellation, but I encourage you to explore their work. Enough said. Buckle your seatbelts and enjoy the journey.*
* For more on the retrospective, please refer to the 375-page bilingual catalogue produced by the festival, available here.