With In Memoriam: O Roteiro Do Gravador, Sylvio Lanna takes his camera to the Rio de Janeiro film archive, the Cinemateca do MAM, in search of his in 1967 film O Roteiro do Gravador. We soon learn that while the film was deposited within the archive, it's exact location remains unknown today  – among the Cinemateca do MAM’s mass collection, some films can be difficult to track. Not having his film in hand, Lanna instead takes the opportunity to create an experimental love letter to this great archival institution, while exploring themes such as loss, memory, and rebirth.

Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016

Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016

by Michel Schettert
by  Luís Rocha Melo
Directed  By João Pedro Faro
Translated by Matheus Pestana
by  Marcia Derraik
Simply put, Carlos Adriano’s A Voz e o Vazio: A Vez de Vassourinha (1998) stands in the ranks as one of the most important experimental works of cinema to come out of Brazil in the last 25 years. Adriano’s position as the country’s eminent found-footage filmmaker was solidified with his previous film, Remainiscences (1997), in which he rephotographs what is allegedly the first cinematographic footage to be shot in Brazil, — 11 frames of the waves hitting a pier, captured by Cunha Salles in 1897 — and transforms the material into a cornucopia of light and flicker, illustrating the sea changes in technique and metaphysical condition that cinema had gone through within the twentieth century. Vassourinha approaches the question of the archive with an opposite methodology, collecting and projecting as many different materials centered around one figure as Adriano could find, to compose a work that intensely reconstructs the short period of time lived by Mário de Oliveira Ramos, the sambista known as Vassourinha prior to his death in 1942 at the age of 19. A very popular musician in his own time, Vassourinha fell victim to what many have described as Brazil’s short cultural memory, as he became quickly forgotten after his passing. Vassourinha is thus not an act of mourning, but one of resurrection, where Adriano imbues these images and sounds with renewed life through montage, arranged under the twin poles of cinema and samba.
We are still catching up with Zózimo Bulbul’s Abolição. The two-and-a-half-hour documentary is an unflinching rumination on the state of Black life in Brazil one hundred years following the Lei Áurea, the law that officially ‘abolished’ slavery in the country. Abolição seeks to point out that the Lei Áurea was, in the words of Marcell Carrasco, “a farcical scam”. Director Zózimo Bulbul and his nearly all-Black film crew travel throughout Brazil exploring the remaining traces of colonialism and the ever-present existence of racism that was to be found throughout the country. No facet of Brazilian life escapes Bulbul’s expository camera, as he explores the ways in which racism is prevalent within sports, academia, history, the beaches of Rio, religious practices, the film industry, politics, and every other facet of social life. In Abolição, there are interviews with key icons from the Black Brazilian community, such as Abdias do Nascimento, Lélia Gonzalez, Carlos Medeiros, Beatriz Nascimento, Grande Otelo, Joel Rufino dos Santos and Benedita da Silva. As these figures add to the dialogue of what it means to be Black while living in Brazil towards the end of the 20th century, the film cuts to images of homeless living on the streets in hunger, maintaining the viewer’s focus on the message at the core of the film: society continues to suppress Black lives from anything more than subsistence through racist oppression.

The below copy of Abolição was sourced from a VHS copy of the film that was made and disseminated throughout the 90s. The low-resolution copy, as any viewer will quickly realize, does not adequately represent the beautiful images that were present during the few screenings it had prior to being shelved by Brazilian production company Embrafilme due to their lack of support for the project, nor does it reflect what we would see today if the film were properly restored. Abolição is one of the most important Brazilian documentary films ever made, and it surely deserves better than what you will see below. It is nonetheless vital for us to watch the film as it is, discuss its ideas, and disseminate the work to as many people as possible, so that those with the ability to do so will provide Abolição with the high-quality scan and translation that it truly deserves.
Paraíba, Vida e Morte de um Bandido (Lima, 1966) stars Jece Valadão as a ruthless criminal, part of a long string of similar roles throughout his career. Valadão also produced the film via his company Magnus Filmes, associated with producer Herbert Richers and director Victor Lima, both famous for their work in popular musical comedies known as chanchadas. Despite the background of Richers and Lima, Paraíba is an action-packed thriller that stands in direct contrast with the social analyses of contemporary Cinema Novo crime films. Paraíba follows the titular character as he remembers his criminal deeds while hiding in a steeple from the police. It features Jardel Filho, Milton Gonçalves and Darlene Glória.
In Os Raptores (Teixeira, 1969), a well-trained group of kidnappers are wreaking havoc on Rio de Janeiro’s bourgeoisie with a flawless ransom scheme. Dutifully following their trail, a Rio de Janeiro’s police inspector is on a mission to uncover who is behind the series of kidnappings. This slow-burning tale of greed and betrayal features a tour de force performance from actor/director Aurélio Teixeira and cements the filmmaker as one of the elite filmmaking talents of the 60s Brazilian genre scene.
Sérgio Ricardo or Joāo Lutfi? The pluralities of this single-multifaceted artist are explored in filmmaker Marcia Derraik’s film-interview Sérgio Ricardo aka João Lutfi. With a gorgeous Rio de Janeiro skyline behind him, Sérgio Ricardo takes the viewer through his long and industrious career as a filmmaker and a musician. Ricardo gives new insights into his early television career, his Bossa Nova music, the impact that the dictatorship and censorship had on his career, his work with Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira dos Santos, and much more.
The 2014 film Pé sem Chão marked Sérgio Ricardo's return to filmmaking after nearly forty years. Despite the long hiatus, Ricardo seems as comfortable as ever picking back up the (now digital) camera with a new creative team behind him. In Pé sem Chão, Ricardo continues his career-long exploration of Brazil's lower classes, telling the story of a woman from Vidigal (one of Rio de Janeiro's favela neighborhoods), who is being evicted from her home by a unsympathetic landlord, thus leaving her and her disabled son with no where to go.
Are Sérgio Ricardo and Dib Lutfi the greatest brother filmmaking duo of Brazilian Cinema? Filmmaker, dancer, and scholar Michel Schettert seems to think so, as his new film essay Esse Mundo É Fluente highlights the profundities and nuances of their collaboration on Esse Mundo É Meu. Schettert’s new film essay is an extraordinarily fresh perspective on the interactions between camera and body movements in Ricardo’s debut feature film, and will be a welcome first-stop for anyone looking to learn more after seeing it.
Bandeira de Retalhos is director Sérgio Ricardo's final film prior to his passing in 2020. The film pairs together veteran actors such as Babu Santana and Antônio Pitanga with newcomers such as Kizi Vaz to tell the real-life story of the efforts of a corrupt Rio de Janeiro mayor to evict the entire favela community of Vidigal with the help of police forces.
With In Memoriam: O Roteiro Do Gravador, Sylvio Lanna takes his camera to the Rio de Janeiro film archive, the Cinemateca do MAM, in search of his in 1967 film O Roteiro do Gravador. We soon learn that while the film was deposited within the archive, it's exact location remains unknown today  – among the Cinemateca do MAM’s mass collection, some films can be difficult to track. Not having his film in hand, Lanna instead takes the opportunity to create an experimental love letter to this great archival institution, while exploring themes such as loss, memory, and rebirth.
The concept of A Noite do Espantalho (The Night of the Scarecrow) was developed shortly before the promulgation of the repressive AI-5 decreed by the military regime in December 1968. Fearing the strong censorship that ensued, Sérgio Ricardo decided to postpone the project, restarting it in 1973. Featuring Alceu Valença (then a newcomer) in the title role, The Night of the Scarecrow tells the story of a poor rural community in Northeastern Brazil who are exploited by a local authority. It is told in striking fashion, through the vibrant colors of the costumes and sets, which include the largest open-air theatre in the world, Nova Jerusalém, located around Brejo da Madre de Deus, Pernambuco. The songs, dialogue and overall style of the film are largely influenced by cordel literature, that unique, imaginative form of poetry typical of the Northeast, making this one of the most original musicals ever to grace the screen.
With In Memoriam: O Roteiro Do Gravador, Sylvio Lanna takes his camera to the Rio de Janeiro film archive, the Cinemateca do MAM, in search of his in 1967 film O Roteiro do Gravador. We soon learn that while the film was deposited within the archive, it's exact location remains unknown today  – among the Cinemateca do MAM’s mass collection, some films can be difficult to track. Not having his film in hand, Lanna instead takes the opportunity to create an experimental love letter to this great archival institution, while exploring themes such as loss, memory, and rebirth.
Sometimes in life, when things are looking completely hopeless, we just have to throw up our hands and laugh. Luis Rocha Melo and Estevão Garcia’s Que cavação é essa? provides that much needed tone of humor towards a situation that, especially as of late, has been without much hope. This situation is, of course, the struggle to preserve and maintain the memory of Brazil’s audio-visual history, but the laughter that Que cavação é essa? brings to this subject comes from the incredibly unique, almost unheard-of approach that Melo and Garcia take towards it.

Que cavação é essa? might be described as a spoof-film or it might be described as a mockumentary, but regardless, the result of watching the film is to become greatly aware of what were some of the key issues facing Brazilian film preservation in 2008 (most of which unsurprisingly still persist today). The film opens with a perfectly staged (ironic) take on a Brazilian silent-era lifestyle film, a work which we’re told to believe is a newly restored revelation from Brazil’s silent era. The film then turns, perhaps as a viewer would with a DVD extra, to another documentary about Brazilian film preservation and restoration. All with a tone of utmost silliness, this ‘documentary’ delves into the “heroic and brave” lifestyle of film preservationists, featuring none-other than the current Director of the Cinemateca do MAM, Hernani Heffner. But despite the film’s silly voice-over and the subtle play acting of Hernani, his words remain heartbreaking factual: “More than 90% of the films made in this [silent] era are lost…If today people are still extremely unaware of Brazilian Cinema’s early film history, in 20, 30, 40, 50 years’ time, people will be completely unaware of our contemporary cinema”.

Reacting to a hopeless moment through laughter is usually cathartic, but it’s rarely a surprise when tears soon follow. For some, Que cavação é essa? might provide a similar emotional rollercoaster, but there’s no denying how good it sometimes feels to be able to laugh, even if just for a little while.
QUESTIONS BY Guilherme Maia
In this career spanning interview, director Sérgio Ricardo gives over his personal feelings about the role of music in motion pictures. Ricardo looks back at his earliest influences, such as classic Hollywood musicals, and explains why he decided to create a type of musical cinema where sound and image are more synchronized. Ricardo also expands upon his legendary score for Glauber Rocha’s Black God, White Devil (1964), one of the many reasons as to why this interview will be a joy for anyone looking to explore his work in greater detail.
As we enter October 2020, the months-long crisis of Brazil’s largest film archive, the Cinemateca Brasileira, continues. One would hope that governmental inaction placing a country’s entire filmographic history in jeopardy of destruction would be unprecedented, however Alain Fresnot’s 1974 documentary film Nitrato helps us realize that the Cinemateca Brasileira has always existed on the brink of extinction. Nitrato portrays harrowing images of nitrate reels burning, the façade of the Cinemateca Brasileira cracking and breaking away, and archival papers standing aside bathroom urinals, reflecting the desperate state Brazilian archivists were in 1974 to preserve and maintain film collections. The film also brings forth the voices of numerous scholars, archivists, and filmmakers to weigh in on the historical importance of the Cinemateca Brasileira and its lack of governmental support (the archive only became recognized as a government institution in 1984).

Watching Nitrato today should feel like a blast to the past, and the Cinemateca Brasileira should still be operating as one of the most efficient film archives in Latin America. However, the fact that Nitarto could easily pass off as a film made about the situation of the Cinemateca Brasileira in 2020 speaks volumes about the current Brazilian government’s inability to learn from previous negligences related to the institution. Nitrato helps us understand the tumultuous past of one of the world’s most important film institutions, the Cinemateca Brasileira, for which we remain in hope of a better future.
Sérgio Ricardo teamed up with filmmaker Roberto Santos (O Grande Momento) to write the screenplay for Juliana do Amor Perdido, a story of lyrical tragedy reminiscent of Dorival Caymmi’s music and Glauber Rocha’s Barravento. The fishermen of a seaside village are devoted to a local young woman who they think is a saint. They assume she is the one miraculously ensuring that they keep catching fish, oblivious to their own exploitation at the hands of the ruthless businessman who buys their fish and purposefully keeps the myth alive. The woman, Juliana, longs to escape. Every day she goes to the nearby railroad to greet the conductor of a train every time it passes by. One day, they fall in love and decide to flee. The film features beautiful songs composed again by Sérgio Ricardo, and fine performances by Maria do Rosário, Francisco di Franco and Antônio Pitanga.
In 1984 almost 60% of the Brazilian films released in theaters were pornographic films. From 1984 to 1989, hardcore pornographic films remained a huge market. Therefore, it is impossible to completely understand the history of Brazilian Cinema without having access to these films. There was a whole demographic who weren’t specifically interested in other genres of Brazilian cinema, but were rather interested in going to the theater to see pornos. While these films were very popular in the cinemas, they were not as popular among critics and academics, who overlooked their many aesthetic achievements and ideological rebelliousness. But these films were later rediscovered by a new generation of Brazilian cinephiles on the TV station Canal Brasil.

Unfortunately, today, few copies of these Brazilian pornographic films exist on film anymore. Many Brazilian porn producers telecined their films to VHS and then threw out the negatives. Therefore, some VHS copies of these films have become preservation elements, and the titles are stuck in a pixelated existence until they one day fade away altogether. 

Filmmaker João Pedro Faro’s new video-piece Cripta I plunges into that pixelated existence. Faro, like many Brazilian cinephiles, critics, and academics today, is an unabashed fan of Brazilian erotic and pornographic films. “People generally avoid these images. I feel attracted to them,” claims the voiceover in the film. In Cripta I, Faro celebrates his own fascination with Brazilian 80s erotic and pornographic films, recognizing that they have far more to offer to the viewer than the cinema scholars of their time would care to admit. 

With Cripta I, Faro brings together a montage of faces and glances from 80s Brazilian erotic and pornographic films. He highlights moments of rupture, when the female Brazilian porn actors look into the cameras and provide, through a single glance, privileged cinephilic moments rooted in lust, beauty, longing, sexual liberation, wander, and humor. Yet there is a pixelated and colorized veil over these faces in Cripta I. The video begins in clarity, revealing a shot of an innocent woman’s face, but then suddenly the images become distorted and degraded. Thus, in only four-minutes, Faro calls attention to both substance and state. He looks both internally and historically to recognize the eventual death of the cinematic genre he loves - “I adore death”.

Em 1984, quase 60% dos filmes brasileiros lançados nos cinemas eram pornográficos. De 1984 a 1989, os filmes de sexo explícito se mantiveram um enorme filão. Portanto, é impossível entender completamente a história do cinema brasileiro sem ter acesso a estes filmes. Havia uma parcela da população que não tinha interesse específico por outros gêneros do cinema brasileiro, mas sim em ir ao cinema para ver filmes pornográficos. Embora estes filmes fizessem sucesso nos cinemas, não eram tão populares entre os críticos e acadêmicos, que ignoravam suas muitas conquistas estéticas e rebeldia ideológica. Mas estes filmes foram posteriormente redescobertos por uma nova geração de cinéfilos brasileiros no Canal Brasil.

Infelizmente, hoje em dia, poucas cópias destes filmes pornográficos brasileiros existem em película. Muitos produtores brasileiros de pornografia telecinaram seus filmes para a VHS e jogaram fora os negativos. Portanto, as cópias VHS de muitos destes filmes se tornaram elementos de preservação, e os títulos estão confinados numa existência pixelada, até que um dia se desvanecem completamente.

O novo vídeo-ensaio Cripta I, do cineasta João Pedro Faro, mergulha nessa existência pixelada. Faro, como muitos cinéfilos, críticos e acadêmicos brasileiros de hoje, é um fã incondicional dos filmes eróticos e pornográficos brasileiros. "As pessoas geralmente evitam estas imagens. Eu me sinto atraído por elas", afirma a locução no filme. Em Cripta I, Faro celebra seu próprio fascínio por filmes eróticos e pornográficos brasileiros dos anos 80, reconhecendo que eles têm muito mais a oferecer ao espectador do que os estudiosos do cinema de sua época gostariam de admitir.

Com Cripta I, Faro reúne rostos e olhares dos filmes eróticos e pornográficos brasileiros dos anos 80. Ele destaca momentos de ruptura, quando as atrizes pornográficas brasileiras olham para as câmeras e proporcionam, através de um único olhar, momentos cinéfilos privilegiados enraizados na luxúria, beleza, desejo, libertação sexual, divagação e humor. No entanto, há um véu pixelizado e colorido sobre estes rostos em Cripta I. O vídeo começa com clareza, revelando o plano do rosto de uma mulher inocente, mas de repente as imagens ficam distorcidas e degradadas. Assim, em apenas quatro minutos, Faro chama a atenção tanto para a substância quanto para o estado da imagem. Ele olha tanto interna como historicamente para reconhecer a eventual morte do gênero cinematográfico que ele ama - "Eu adoro a morte".

For his first feature film, Sérgio Ricardo again chose the favela as a setting, this time focusing on the struggles of two lower class workers: Toninho, played by Antônio Pitanga, and Pedro, played by himself. Building on the themes of Menino da Calça Branca, the characters of Esse Mundo É Meu deal with poverty, religion, abortion, and the fight for workers’ rights. All of it complemented by beautiful songs composed and sung by Sérgio Ricardo himself and exquisitely arranged by maestro Lindolpho Gaya. There’s again a lyrical aspect to the film, with a nod to Roberto Santos’ 1958 classic film O Grande Momento.
Sérgio Ricardo’s debut short film Menino da Calça Branca was denied inclusion into the influential collective feature film Five Times Favela (1962) due to its “excessive lyricism”. In hindsight, it is its lyrical nature that allows us to return to the film today with such delight. The film features two artistic forces (brothers, it should be mentioned) at the beginning of their creative journeys; Dib Lutfi, who would go on to become one of the great cinematographers of Brazilian cinema, and writer, director, actor and composer Sérgio Ricardo. The story of a young favela boy whose sole desire is to obtain a pair of crisp white paints, Menino da Calça Branca is a work that highlights the extreme barriers between city and favela life. More than just a glimpse of what was to come from both Ricardo and Lutfi, Menino da Calça Branca is a touching film that deserves new critical attention in its own right.
In 1958, Sérgio Ricardo released his first long-play, Dançante nº1. Although he would only venture into filmmaking four years later, cinema was already present in his debut record. That is the idea behind Luís Rocha Melo’s comprehensive video essay 5 x Sérgio, which establishes parallels between the music in that album, Sérgio Ricardo’s first two films, Menino da Calça Branca and Esse Mundo É Meu, and the Brazilian and international films of the late 1950s. It is an exploration of both Ricardo’s artistic influences and the zeitgeist of Brazil, then at the height of an intense cultural transformation which spawned two fundamental movements he was part of: Bossa Nova and Cinema Novo.
Directed by Ludovico Persici
Ludovico Persici’s Cenas de Família (Family Scenes) was made over the span of three years in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo. It was given the title Cenas de Família by those who restored the film in the mid-2000s. Persici is one of the pioneers of cinema in Brazil, inventing his own film camera machine with the help of rotating clock blueprints. In Cenas de Família, the filmmaker tours around the state of Espírito Santo by car and train, overjoyed with the possibilities and technology of his new filmmaking device. Persici records both playful personal moments and everyday happenings throughout the municipality of Castelo. Today, Cenas de Família, which is the only surviving film of Persici, is considered to be one of the most important historical documents of early Brazilian cinema. 

*Special thanks to Arquivo Público do Estado do Espírito Santo (APEES) for providing access to this film.
Cenas de Família de Ludovico Persici, foi realizado ao longo de três anos no estado brasileiro do Espírito Santo. O título de Cenas de Família foi atribuído por aqueles que restauraram o filme em meados dos anos 2000. Persici foi um dos pioneiros realizadores de cinema no Brasil, tendo inventado a sua própria câmera com a ajuda de plantas de relógios rotativos. Em Cenas de Família, o cineasta percorre o estado do Espírito Santo de carro e de trem, entusiasmado com as possibilidades e tecnologia da sua própria câmera. Persici registra tanto os momentos pessoais lúdicos, quanto os acontecimentos do dia-a-dia em todo o município de Castelo. Hoje, Cenas de Família, o único filme sobrevivente de Persici, é considerado um dos mais importantes documentos históricos dos primórdios do cinema brasileiro.

*Agradecimento especial ao Arquivo Público do Estado do Espírito Santo (APEES) por fornecer acesso a este filme.
Directed by Paulo Torre
Paulo Torre’s 1967 short film Kaput is one of the most revolutionary Brazilian films of all time. With the beginning of the Military Dictatorship in 1964, numerous filmmakers resorted to metaphor as a means of criticizing the political situation under which they were living. However, there were a select group of filmmakers that attempted to defy film censors and make films that explicitly dealt with the acts of oppression that were taking place around them. Kaput is one of such films.

Kaput captures the counterculture spirit of 1960s Espírito Santo youth, portraying drugs, love, dancing, and rock n’ roll. Yet such elements seem to fall into the background as the film’s main character discovers his passion for political activism and literature. After studying the writings of Fidel Castro, the main character pens his own piece critiquing the Suplicy law and the war in Vietnam. When his text is published in a school newspaper, the military police descend upon him.

Brazilian filmmakers of the 60s were putting their lives on the line when criticizing the military government in their work. A film such as Kaput, which is critical in the most explicit of terms, deserves to be recognized for its extraordinary bravery. Like the film’s main character, Paulo Torre surely recognized the need to incite activists against the military at that moment in time. With Kaput, he confronted the extraordinary risks of producing an revolutionary work of art, and in doing so, created what remains today an extraordinary call-to-action in the face of oppressive forces.
O curta-metragem Kaput de Paulo Torre, de 1967, é um dos filmes brasileiros mais revolucionários de todos os tempos. Com o início da Ditadura Militar em 1964, numerosos cineastas recorreram à metáfora como forma de criticar a situação política sob a qual estavam vivendo. No entanto, havia um grupo seleto de cineastas que tentavam desafiar a censura cinematográfica e realizar filmes que tratavam explicitamente dos atos de opressão que estavam ocorrendo ao seu redor. Kaput é um desses filmes.

Kaput captura o espírito de contracultura da juventude capixaba dos anos 60, retratando as drogas, o amor, a dança e o rock n' roll.Todavia, tais elementos parecem cair em background à medida que o personagem principal do filme descobre a sua paixão pelo militância política e literatura. Depois de estudar os escritos de Fidel Castro, o protagonista escreve a sua própria obra criticando a lei Suplicy e a guerra no Vietnã. Quando seu texto é publicado em um jornal escolar, a polícia militar impõe-se a ele.

Os cineastas brasileiros dos anos 60 estavam colocando suas vidas em risco ao criticar o governo militar em seu trabalho. Um filme como Kaput, que é crítico nos termos mais explícitos, merece ser reconhecido por sua extraordinária bravura. Tal como o personagem principal do filme, Paulo Torre certamente reconheceu a necessidade de incitar os ativistas contra os militares naquele momento. Com Kaput, ele enfrentou os riscos extraordinários de produzir uma obra de arte revolucionária, e ao fazê-lo, produziu o que permanece hoje uma extraordinária chamada à ação diante de forças opressivas. 

Directed by Ramon Alvarado
Cirurgia do Coração no Espírito Santo is one of the key films of the Espírito Santo Amateur Cinema Cycle. The print of this film was recently discovered by Vitor Graize, the researcher of the Acervo Capixaba project of Pique-Bandeira Filmes. Invited by his brother, physician Luis Alvarado, filmmaker Ramon Alavardo records two unpublished surgeries carried out at the Hospital das Clínicas (Clinical Hospital), in Vitória. With a duration of five minutes, color cinematography, and montage by the filmmaker himself, this production showcases the eye of a director of photography in training, Alvarado's interest in technological advances, and the progress of science in the state of Espírito Santo.
Cirurgia do Coração no Espírito Santo é um dos principais filmes do Ciclo de Cinema Amador do Espírito Santo. A cópia deste filme foi recentemente descoberta por Vitor Graize, o pesquisador do projeto Acervo Capixaba da Pique-Bandeira Filmes. A convite de seu irmão, o médico Luis Alvarado, o cineasta Ramon Alvarado registra duas cirurgias inéditas realizadas no Hospital das Clínicas, em Vitória. Com cinco minutos de duração, filmado em cores e editado pelo próprio cineasta, essa produção mostra o olhar de um diretor de fotografia em treinamento e o interesse de Alvarado pelos avanços tecnológicos e o progresso da ciência.
Directed by Luiz Tadeu Teixeira
Directed by Luiz Tadeu Teixeira and shot by Paulo Torre (the director of Kaput), Ponto e Vírgula is a tension-filled experimental film that gives over the anxiety and mental instability of those living in post AI-5 Brazil. Closed doors, long light-filled hallways (reminiscent of mental institutions), squashed bugs, and a self-crucifying Jesus figure make up the dizzying panorama of images in this film. As a six minute snapshot of the decaying mental state of a society without basic inherent freedoms, Ponto e Vírgula is an extremely effective and powerful work. The film is an outcry from artists undergoing political and personal crises, unable to express their feelings with words, but only screams. 
Dirigido por Luiz Tadeu Teixeira e filmado por Paulo Torre (diretor de Kaput), Ponto e Vírgula é um filme experimental cheio de tensão que cede a ansiedade e a instabilidade mental dos que vivem no Brasil pós AI-5. Portas fechadas, longos corredores cheios de luz (lembrando instituições mentais), insetos esmagados e uma figura de Jesus, compõem o panorama vertiginoso de imagens que podem ser encontradas no filme. Como um retrato de seis minutos da decadente saúde mental de uma sociedade sem as liberdades básicas inerentes, Ponto e Vírgula é um trabalho extremamente eficaz e poderoso. O filme parece um protesto de artistas em crise política e pessoal, incapazes de expressar os seus sentimentos com palavras, mas apenas gritos.
Directed by Orlando Bomfim Netto
Translated by Matheus Pestana
and Gustavo Menezes
In Tutti Tutti Buona Gente, Propriamente Buona, legendary filmmaker Orlando Bomfim Netto employs archival imagery to tell the story of the immigrants from Italy who long ago came to the Capixaba state and settled there. The film then jumps ahead to its present moment to portray the diversity of the vibrant Italian-Brazilian community of Espírito Santo. InTutti Tutti Buona Gente, Propriamente Buona Bomfim travels throughout the municipality of Santa Teresa, the mountain region of Espírito Santo where Italian immigrants came to make a new life for themselves. During these travels, Bomfim reveals gorgeous Capixaba landscapes and important traditions of  Italian-Brazilian communities.
Em Tutti Tutti Buona Gente, Propriamente Buona, o lendário cineasta Orlando Bomfim Netto utiliza imagens de arquivo como forma de dar a conhecer a história dos imigrantes italianos que há muito tempo vieram para o estado do Espírito Santo e ali se estabeleceram. Em Tutti Tutti Buona Gente, Propriamente Buona Bomfim viaja pelo município de Santa Teresa, a região serrana do Espírito Santo, onde imigrantes italianos vieram para fazer uma nova vida por si próprios. Durante essas viagens, Bomfim revela lindas paisagens capixabas e importantes tradições das comunidades ítalo-brasileiras.
Directed by Orlando Bomfim Netto
Translated by Matheus Pestana
For hundreds of years, Afro-Brazilians from northern Espírito Santo have celebrated Ticumbi, a celebration composed of revolutionary songs and dances. In Canto Para A Liberdade - A Festo do Ticumbi , Orlando Bomfim Netto captures  moments from this annual festival that has been taking place in Conceição da Barra, a municipality in the north of Espírito Santo, for hundreds of years. Bomfim records the local ceremonial music and dancing, and presents an historical overview of the Ticumbi festival and the people who participate in it.
Durante centenas de anos, a população afro-brasileira da região norte do Espírito Santo tem celebrado o Ticumbi, uma comemoração composta por canções e danças revolucionárias. Em Canto Para A Liberdade - A Festa do Ticumbi , Orlando Bomfim Netto capta momentos deste festival anual que ocorre em Conceição da Barra, município do norte do Espírito Santo, há centenas de anos. Bomfim registra a música e a dança cerimonial local, apresentando um panorama histórico do Ticumbi e das pessoas que nele participam.
Directed by Luiza Lubiana
Luiza Lubiana’s A Lenda de Proitner is a magical-realist 21 minute short film with overtones of David Lynch and Peter Weir. The film follows a little boy who has been imprisoned in a cabin by an unstable couple in an undisclosed region of Espírito Santo. With a score by the legendary Brazilian composer Jaceguay Lins (who edited the film too), A Lenda de Proitner is a surrealist tale that demands repeat viewings and is open to multiple interpretations.
A Lenda de Proitner, de Luiza Lubiana, é um curta-metragem mágico-realista de 21 minutos com tons de David Lynch e Peter Weir. O filme segue um rapazinho que foi preso em uma cabana por um casal instável, numa região não revelada do Espírito Santo. Com a partitura do lendário compositor brasileiro Jaceguay Lins (que também editou o filme), A Lenda de Proitner é um conto surrealista que exige repetições de olhares e está aberto a múltiplas interpretações.
Directed by Diego Zon
Premiering in the 2016 shorts section of the Berlin Film Festival, Das águas que passam (Running Waters) portrays the daily life of Zé de Sabino, a fisherman who works and lives in the breathtaking village of Regência, Espírito Santo (located near the Rio Doce, which suffered the greatest environmental tragedy in Brazil's history in 2015). Under cloud-filled skies, the wide-angle lensed camera captures Zé on his small boat as he fishes for the Robalo, that regions most prized fish. Zé seems to be completely integrated with the vast and awe-inspiring nature around him, whether on land or sea. Das águas que passam is sensorial cinema, director Diego Zon letting nature play its own role as a character in his film.
Estreando na seção de curtas de 2016 do Festival de Berlim, Das Águas Que Passam retrata a vida cotidiana de Zé de Sabino, um pescador que trabalha e vive na deslumbrante vila de Regência, Espírito Santo (localizada perto do Rio Doce, que em 2015 foi palco de uma das maiores tragédias ambientais da história do Brasil). Sob os céus cheios de nuvens, a câmera com lente grande angular captura Zé em seu pequeno barco à pesca do Robalo, o peixe mais apreciado daquela região. Zé parece estar completamente integrado com a vasta e imponente natureza que o cerca, seja em terra ou no mar. Das Águas Que Passam é um filme sensorial. O diretor Diego Zon, em seu filme, permite que a natureza desempenhe o seu próprio papel como personagem.
Directed by Vitor Graize
Ramon Alvarado is one of the most important figures of the 60s Amateur Cinema Cycle in Espírito Santo. Not only was Alvarado a prolific director of short films throughout his life, but he was also involved as the director of photography on many other important Espírito Santo film productions. In this career-spanning interview, Alvarado takes the viewer on a journey through his decades working in the Brazilian film industry. The filmmaker highlights the cultural explosion that took place in Espírito Santo in the 60s and the ways in which filmmaking was a key part of that artistic scene. Director and editor Vitor Graize brings forth archival images to add deeper layers of meaning to Alvarado’s recollections. 
Ramon Alvarado é uma das figuras mais importantes do Ciclo de Cinema Amador dos anos 60 no Espírito Santo. Alvarado não só foi um prolífico diretor de curtas-metragens ao longo de sua vida, como também esteve envolvido como diretor de fotografia em muitas outras produções cinematográficas importantes do Espírito Santo. Nesta entrevista, Alvarado leva o espectador numa viagem através de suas décadas de trabalho na indústria cinematográfica brasileira. O cineasta destaca a explosão cultural ocorrida no Espírito Santo nos anos 60 e as formas como a produção cinematográfica foi uma parte fundamental dessa cena artística. O diretor e editor Vitor Graize traz imagens de arquivo para investigar a fundo as lembranças de Alvarado.
Directed by NENNA
opera_K is a video-artwork by internationally renowned Brazilian multimedia artist NENNA. NENNA, who was born in Espírito Santo, was very involved with the burgeoning art and filmmaking scene, becoming good friends with figures such as Paulo Torre, Ramon Alvardo, Luiz Tadeu Teixeira, and others. NENNA, in fact, was behind saving Paulo Torre’s 1967 film Kaput, by preserving the only remaining VHS copy of the film. With opera_K, NENNA returns to Kaput, adding numerous pop-culture layers to the film, and expanding its underlying themes with startling cosmopolitan imagery.
opera_K é uma obra de vídeo-arte da artista multimídia brasileira de renome internacional NENNA.  NENNA, que nasceu no Espírito Santo, esteve muito envolvida com o florescimento da arte e do cinema, tornando-se grande amiga de figuras como Paulo Torre, Ramon Alvarado, Luiz Tadeu Teixeira, entre outros. NENNA, de fato, esteve por trás do resgate do filme Kaput de Paulo Torre, de 1967, ao preservar a única cópia VHS restante. Com opera_K, NENNA retorna a Kaput, acrescentando numerosas camadas de cultura pop ao filme e expandindo seus temas subjacentes com imagens cosmopolitas estonteantes.
Directed by Virgínia Jorge
Three stories unfold simultaneously in a bar on carnival day . The stories complement each other and merge in a lyrical and humorous back and forth that seeks to create a reflection on the concept of truth and our search for explanations of everyday phenomena, which we are nevertheless far from fully understanding, such as the invention of the wheel, or the way of life of other cultures.
Três histórias, que se desenrolam "simultaneamente" em um bar num dia de carnaval, se complementam e se fundem num vai e vem lírico e bem-humorado, que procura tecer uma reflexão sobre o conceito de verdade e nossa busca pelas explicações de fenômenos cotidianos, que não obstante estamos longe de compreender plenamente, como a invenção da roda, ou o modo de vida de outras culturas.  
WARNING: IMAGENS contains graphic depictions of torture and explicit nudity
  1. Universal Exhibition or the World’s Fair were large events designed to showcase international achievements that were very important in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Terra Encantada was shot during the Independence Centenary International Exposition, held from 1922 to 1923 in Rio de Janeiro.
  2. Chanchada was the term given to the Brazilian popular musical comedies of the 1940s and 1950s by critics of the time. These critics considered these films to be simply bad copies of Hollywood features of the same genre. Atlântida was the most famous, but not the only, studio to produce chanchadas.
  3. I’m referring here to Christensen’s films Rei Pelé (1961), a biopic, and Cronica da Cidade Amada (1964), a widescreen film that can currently only be seen in a horribly cropped digital copy taken from a VHS tape.

Event Poster Design by Madeline Plotnick
Film Translation by Gustavo Menezes

Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016

April 19, 2021
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This is not a list of films that influenced the style of the making of my film "Vassourinha: The Voice and The Void."

I just cannot create such a list, because when I went to make the film I was completely absorbed, or, possessed (as one could say, in the sense of the trance in black religions) by Vassourinha and his mystery. I found that I was operating in new and unprecedented territory, although I acknowledge there is a past tradition as a found footage filmmaker.

Born in São Paulo city, Vassourinha was an elusive sign, a forgotten personality of Brazilian music doomed to be a tiny footnote of history (at least, until the film was released). In my research and production process, made in collaboration with Bernardo Vorobow, Vassourinha appeared and disappeared, full of enigmas to be discovered.

Before and during the making of the film, I had no other films to lean on as references or inspiring sources. Instigated by Limite’s proposition, I would cite films that are in dialogue with “Vassourinha” in four aspects and axes that are groundbreaking yet essential for the film’s structure and concept, and to allow the film to develop its premises.

“Vassourinha: The Voice and The Void” challenges the limit of legibility. A huge amount of information is put onto the screen about someone who we all lacked information about so far. So, I mention films that deal with putting words onto the screen in counterpoint to the lack of information about the subject matter. Vassourinha recorded only 12 Samba songs, in six 78 rpm records released in 1941 and 1942, but since 1935 he was a star, singing with the famous Carmen Miranda and Francisco Alves. Therefore, I will mention films that deal with the Brazilian music genre of Samba as a treasure of national heritage and a reservoir of beauty for the nation.

“Vassourinha” is my first film to work a motif that is foundational for my filmmaking: death and mortality. The final sequence in the cemetery (where Vassourinha is buried) proposes a sort of vengeance by means of Carnival and rapture. My film works upon “the poetics of rupture, the history of ruins”, as coined by Rubem R. M. de Barros in his master dissertation (and book - "Poéticas de fragmentos: história, música popular e cinema de arquivo”, 2014) about my film. So, I will also mention films that deal with death, ghosts, and reanimating the past.

“Vassourinha” was edited by Cristina Amaral, its sound was edited by Eduardo Santos Mendes, it was mixed by José Luiz Sasso, and its end sequence was cinematographed by Carlos Reichenbach. Therefore, I will mention at the end of this list one film directed by Reichenbach, one of the most cinephilic and creative filmmakers of Brazil, which was edited by Cristina Amaral, mixed by José Luiz Sasso, and whose sound was edited by Eduardo Santos Mendes too. The main character of this film is a black woman living and working in São Paulo.
This selection of “Ten Brazilian Films that Remain in the Shadows due to Poor Accessibility” is based on my experiences as a film preservationist over the last fifteen years as well as my work as a professor and film club organizer. As a film professor and film club organizer, I often faced the difficulty of finding a copy of a film that I wanted to screen in class or at the club. However, these difficulties in accessing Brazilian films has changed over time. For example, In the mid-2000s, I and some friends ran a film club dedicated to Brazilian films at the Museum of Modern Art FilmArchive in Rio de Janeiro (Cinemateca do MAM) called“Cineclube Tela Brasilis”. There, we had the chance of using the vast collection of film prints of the MAM Film Archive and we usually chose films that people couldn’t find anywhere else. So, we often programmed 35mm or 16mm prints of Brazilian films that weren’t available in other carriers, either video or digital. Some of the films we screened then are still widely rare and unknown as they haven’t been digitized since that time. In this list compiled for Limite, Veneno is one of the titles we screened in Tela Brasilis program of July 25th, 2009. On the other hand, the short film Bossa Nova: a moderna música popular brasileira, also in this list, is a title that we wanted to show in one of Tela Brasilis exhibitions, but we couldn’t, as there was only a preservation master, but no exhibition print, neither on film nor digital. 

As a film professor at Federal Fluminense University (UFF), whereI have been teaching courses on Brazilian Film History to graduate students for almost ten years, the problem is quite different. In the classroom, I am only able to screen DVDs or digital files, which often limits the selection of Brazilian features from the silent period to the 1940s that I can show. Unfortunately, many titles that are important to show to students exist only in very bad digital copies taken from VHS tapes, which is the case of Alô, Alô, Carnaval, for instance. That’s why I’ve occasionally taken the opportunity to bring my students to the MAM Film Archive for their classes, where we would screen films in beautiful 35mm prints, something that my students are not used anymore. That was when I was able to watch, for example, a 35mm print of É Simonal (mentioned in the list) that was borrowed from the Cinemateca Brasileira’s collection.
Since the 1990s, the most ambitious and well-funded film restoration projects in Brazil have focused on the filmography of renowned filmmakers from the Cinema Novo movement such as Glauber Rocha, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Leon Hirszman and Nelson Pereira dos Santos. These projects restored and produced new exhibition prints of many titles that were already considered classics. But the canonical status of the works that these directors produced, such as Entranced Earth (Glauber Rocha, 1967) or They Don't Wear Black Tie (Leon Hirszman, 1981), aren’t going to be further elevated through film restorations. Rather, the restoration of these films only reinforced the notion that they were the single-best titles Brazilian cinema had to offer. 

This list, based on my experiences as a film archivist and film scholar, privileges initiatives that have focused on historically ignored films, periods, or genres throughout Brazilian cinema history. I attempted to list projects, retrospectives, and events carried out over the last two decades that allowed researchers and academics the opportunity to reevaluate the history of Brazilian cinema in their work. These projects brought to light films from the past that had not been widely seen or discussed for many years (some even since they were first released), provoking feelings of freshness, surprise, and novelty towards a wider historical array of Brazilian films.

One of the criteria in compiling this list was that each project expanded, altered, or revised long existing Brazilian Cinema canons. Thus, an important program such as the 2013 “Clássicos e raros do nosso cinema”, conducted by the Cinemateca Brasileira with the sponsorship of the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center (CCBB), was not included in this list despite its undeniable merits. While new 35mm prints were struck as a result of that program, these prints were projected very few times outside of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (the main cities the program took place in) because they were elevated to the status of preservation prints. 

In addition, important projects such as the digitization and DVD release of films by Hugo Carvana and Aloysio Raulino by the Centro Técnico do Audiovisual (CTAv) in 2017 were not included in this list because it is still too recent to evaluate their impact on the academic world. There are also situations in which academic interest preceded preservation actions. This seems to have been the case with the “rediscovery” of the first Brazilian feature film directed by a black woman, Adélia Sampaio’s Amor maldito (1984). When Amor Maldito was written about in the PhD thesis of Edileuza Penha de Souza, “Cinema na panela de barro: mulheres negras, narrativas de amor, afeto e identidade” (UnB, 2013), the new attention given to the film led to it being widely requested for exhibitions in around 2017. However, the circulating copies of the film were unfortunately in bad quality and did not correspond to the film’s renewed interest.

In this list, I generally sought to show how originality, care and research involved in these projects were fundamental to their success. I also tried to highlight the relevant and continuous impact that preservation and diffusion actions have in reshaping the historiography of Brazilian cinema. Finally, the objective of this list is less to rank different preservation projects than to stimulate new debate about them.
Desde os anos 1990, os mais ambiciosos e vultuosos projetos de restauração de filmes realizados no Brasil foram aqueles voltados para a filmografia de consagrados cineastas do Cinema Novo, como Glauber Rocha, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Leon Hirszman e Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Foram projetos que restauraram e produziram novas cópias de exibição de muitos títulos que já eram considerados clássicos. De certo modo, não fizeram filmes como “Terra em transe” (Glauber Rocha, 1967) ou “Eles não usam black-tie” (Leon Hirszman, 1981) serem necessariamente considerados mais importantes do que eles já eram para a história do cinema brasileiro. Essa lista, pautada pela minha experiência pessoal, privilegia outros tipos de iniciativas. Tentei elencar projetos realizados nas últimas duas décadas que tiveram um amplo impacto, particularmente junto a pesquisadores e professores universitários, para um movimento de revisão da história do cinema brasileiro. Foram projetos que provocaram sentimentos de frescor, surpresa e novidade. Um dos critérios fundamentais na escolha desses dez projetos foi sua ampla repercussão e alcance, tendo ajudado a ampliar, alterar ou revisar os cânones. Assim, um projeto importante como “Clássicos e raros do nosso cinema”, realização da Cinemateca Brasileira com o patrocínio do Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, não foi incluído apesar de seus inegáveis méritos. Afinal, o projeto viabilizou a feitura de novas cópias 35mm que, elevadas a materiais de preservação, foram projetadas pouquíssimas vezes para além da exibição contratual nas mostras que viabilizaram sua produção, restritas a São Paulo e, no máximo, também ao Rio de Janeiro. Além disso, projetos importantes, porém mais recentes, como a digitalização e lançamento em DVD de filmes de Hugo Carvana e de Aloysio Raulino, também não foram incluídos por sua repercussão na academia – não tão imediata quanto na crítica, por exemplo – ainda me parecer estar sendo processada. Podemos mencionar ainda situações em que o interesse acadêmico antecedeu as ações de preservação. Esse parece ser o caso da “redescoberta” do primeiro longa-metragem dirigido por uma cineasta negra – “Amor maldito” (Adélia Sampaio, 1984) – pela tese de Edileuza Penha de Souza (Cinema na Panela de Barro: Mulheres Negras, Narrativas de Amor, Afeto e Intimidade, UnB, 2013). A atenção dada a “Amor maldito” levou à situação do filme passar a ser amplamente solicitado para exibições por volta de 2017, mas circulando então em cópias antigas cuja qualidade não correspondia ao renovado interesse por ele. De um modo geral, busquei nessa lista evidenciar como a originalidade, o cuidado e a pesquisa envolvida na curadoria, planejamento e realização de projetos de digitalização, duplicação, difusão e restauração são fundamentais para o seu sucesso. Tentei ainda destacar a relevante e contínua influência de ações de preservação e difusão na historiografia do cinema brasileiro. Por fim, o objetivo principal é menos hierarquizar diferentes ações do que estimular o debate.
Corcina and Rio de Janeiro’s Underground Cinema
Roberto Moura, the (now retired) filmmaker and professor at UFF, began a research project in the 2000s that focused on what he called “cinema alternativo carioca” (Rio de Janeiro underground cinema). This project focused on the wide ranging film production (especially of short films) of Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s and early 1980s. Involving members of the Brazilian Association of Documentarians (ABD), production companies would include Corisco, Moura himself, and especially Corcina - Cooperative of Independent Film Directors. The underground films of this period are marked by a diversity and experimentalism which flourished under the so-called “Lei do Curta” (the mandatory exhibition of Brazilian short films together with foreign features). Directors such as José Joffily, Sérgio Péo, Sylvio Da-Rin, all participated in making bold short works. More recently, Lucas Parente (son of the multimedia artist and professor André Parente, who directed some short films that are included in this trend), started a movement to rescue this material, together with the Cinemateca do MAM, Dobra - International Festival of Experimental Cinema, and others. As a result of these efforts, a 2019 digitalization of Eclipse (Antonio Moreno, 1984), an animation painted directly on film, was exhibited in several festivals and academic events, giving continuity to Roberto Moura's research, and fostering a renewed interest in these films and directors.
The DVD Release of A Rainha Diaba
O Centro Técnico do Audiovisual (CTAv) has launched beautiful DVD editions of films from its collection over the past decades, such as silent films made in Cataguazes and Recife or even sound feature films such as O Saci (Rodolfo Nanni, 1951) and Assault on the Pay Train (Roberto Farias, 1962). Special mention should be made of the 2004 release of Antonio Carlos Fontoura's second feature film “A Rainha Diaba” (1974) on a beautiful DVD copy. This “pop-gay-black thriller” (as it was announced at the time of its release) was rediscovered two years after the premiere of Madame Satã by Karïm Anouz, helping to highlight that A Rainha Diaba is one of the most interesting Brazilian films of the 1970s. This is a beautiful example of the rescue of a film that was still very “modern” even at the time of its rediscovery. The neat edition of the DVD, filled with well-produced extras (interviews, making-ofs, trailers, etc.), was another incentive for the wide circulation of A Rainha Diaba after a certain ostracism to which the film had initially been unfairly relegated.
The Reconstruction of Acabaram-se os otários (1929)
The reconstruction of Acabaram-se os otários (1929) was a project developed by the University Laboratory of Audiovisual Preservation of the Federal Fluminense University (LUPA-UFF) and carried out by myself and professor Reinaldo Cardenuto. The project resulted in the 2019 launch of a shortened version of the first Brazilian sound feature film, which is considered lost. This project gathered together different remaining fragments of the work such as excerpts of moving images, photographs and sound records. This audiovisual preservation project, unlike the rest on this list, was a consequence of and not the impetus for academic research. As the study of the arrival and popularization of sound cinema in Brazil motivated the interest of several researchers such as Fernando Morais da Costa (UFF), Carlos Roberto de Souza (UFSCar), and Carlos Eduardo Pereira (Cinemateca do MAM), the work of Luiz de Barros began receiving more attention from researchers as well. Researchers of Luiz de Barros include myself, Luciana Corrêa de Araújo (UFScar) and her graduate student Evandro Vasconcellos, author of the M.A. dissertation “Entre o palco e a tela: as relações do cinema com o teatro de revista nas comédias de Luiz de Barros” (UFSCar, 2015). The reconstruction of Acabaram-se os otários, on the other hand, may come to encourage other projects that combine historical research and audiovisual preservation, bringing universities and film archives closer together.
“Classics of Cinédia” Restorations
In 2004, Cinédia released copies of four restored films produced by the company through a project sponsored by BR Distribuidora. One of them, Alô, alô, carnaval (Adhemar Gonzaga and Wallace Downey, 1936), was already the most well-known Brazilian musical of the 1930s. But two others - Mulher (Octávio Gabus Mendes, 1931) and 24 horas de sonho (Chianca de Garcia, 1941) - were true “novelties” for researchers, as they had not been widely circulated for many years. Directed by Octávio Gabus Mendes, Mulher was a silent film with music synchronized with Vitaphone records at a time when talkies were already the norm in Brazil for two years. However, at that time, many movie theaters, especially in the suburbs and in the countryside, had not yet begun the move toward sound cinema. The film is highly sophisticated, comparable to another late silent production by Cinédia, the classic Ganga Bruta (Humberto Mauro, 1933). In addition to prompting interesting research on sound in cinema and silent cinema, the restoration of Mulher was the subject of the M.A. dissertation by Joice Scavone, “Mulher: a trajetória do som do primeiro filme synchronizado da Cinédia” (UFF, 2013), which discussed the close link between film studies and film preservation in academia. The Classics of Cinédia restorations remain in restricted circulation, many of the works still unavailable in digital format. As a result, the fourth film which was restored, Adhemar Gonzaga’s 1944 Romance proibido remains practically unknown to audiences. Despite this, the films that are accessible had an extremely significant impact on the academic world.
Duplication of Fábula or Mitt Hem är Copacabana by Arne Sucksdorff
Swedish filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff was best known in the history of Brazilian cinema for having offered a film course in Rio de Janeiro in 1962, which became a milestone moment for the emerging Cinema Novo movement. However, before moving to Mato Grosso’s Pantanal (where he would live until his death), Sucksdorff shot the fascinating Fábula (1965) in Rio de Janeiro. This feature film was co-produced with Sweden and it had been practically forgotten since its initial release. However, in the mid-1990s, in a project in partnership with the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center (CCBB), Chico Moreira, who was then the head of conservation at the Cinemateca do MAM, duplicated the film. Chico produced a new 16mm exhibition print optically reduced from the original 35mm internegative of the Brazilian version of the film which had been preserved by the film archive. In the 2000s, Hernani Heffner - who succeeded Chico at the Cinemateca do MAM - began to frequently screen that 16mm print of Fábula, always with enormous success among the public who were dazzled by this practically unknown work. Scholars soon became interested. João Luiz Vieira analyzed the film in the award-winning 2009 book “World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives”, edited by Natasa Ďurovičová and Kathleen Newman. I myself wrote about the film in the catalog of the “Olhares Neo-Realistas” film series, held at the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center in 2006. The film also became the subject of a wider research project by professor Esther Hamburguer (USP), which brought to Brazil a digital copy of the Swedish version. The interest aroused by the film was such that in 2011 the Moreira Salles Institute financed the making of a new print of the Brazilian version – this time in 35mm – from the original internegative.
DVDs "Os filmes de Zózimo Bulbul" and " Obras raras: o cinema negro da década de 70" (Films of Zózimo Bulbul" and "Rare works: Black Cinema of the 70s)
Released in 2005 and 2006 through a partnership between the Centro de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento, Afro Carioca Cinema Center and the Palmares Cultural Foundation of the Ministry of Culture, the DVDs “Films of Zózimo Bulbul” and “Rare works: the black cinema of the 70s” were fundamental towards expanding the circulation of films by important black Brazilian filmmakers as well as contributing to their revaluation. The double DVD-set “Films of Zózimo Bulbul” featured six films by the actor and director, made between the 1970s and 2000s. Bulbul’s first short film Alma no Olho (1973) has been reevaluated as the masterpiece that it is, being recently chosen as the 11th best short film in the history of Brazilian cinema in a list made by the Brazilian Association of Film Critics (Abbracine) in 2019. The double DVD “Rare works: black cinema of the 70s” presented six films directed by Antunes Filho, Antonio Pitanga, Zózimo Bulbul, Ola Balogun, Waldir Onofre and Odilon Lopez. Of particular note is the feature film As aventuras amorosas de um padeiro (1975), Onofre's debut feature film produced by Nelson Pereira dos Santos. In addition to the black protagonist, this erotic comedy produced during the “climax” of pornochanchada stands out for its feminist tone, rare in a genre filled with sexist works. Thus, in addition to contributing to the growing interest in black cinema in the academic world, the DVD also helped newly highlight Onofre's cinema and, more broadly, the pornochanchada itself.
Event “Cinema Brasileiro, a vergonha de uma nação” (Brazilian Cinema, the Shame of a Nation)
Researcher Remier Lion had the ambition to hold a large retrospective of Brazilian exploitation films with this provocative title (a reference to Howard Hawks’ 1932 Scarface) at the Cinemateca do MAM when it had just resumed its programming after a serious crisis hit the institution in the early 2000s. However, his idea was not well received by the institution’s then curator Gilberto Santeiro, who was very uncomfortable with the provocation aimed at the respectability of Brazilian cinema. Despite this, Remier brought part of his program to film clubs in different locations of Rio de Janeiro, titling the new program “Malditos films brasileiros” (Damned Brazilian Films). Finally, the program reached the Cinemateca Brasileira, where it was held with enormous success in 2004, even leading Remier to join the programming team of the film archive. Working at the Cinemateca Brasileira provided Remier with access to even rarer materials for his project. Although Remier’s  program can be understood as a general revision and revaluation of the films made at the “Boca do Lixo” (the neighborhood that gathered commercial film professionals in São Paulo from the 1960s to 1980s), the screening series “Brazilian Cinema: the shame of a nation” had a broader scope, incorporating a filmmaker that Remier was researching for a very long time, Nilo Machado, who independently produced strip-tease films in Rio de Janeiro since the 1960s. In general, the exhibition at the Cinemateca Brasileira shed light on several unknown examples of the long trajectory of Brazilian commercial, popular, and genre cinema, which had not yet been explored in Brazilian film historiography due to its penchant for emphasizing auteurs. Thus, this event received enormous media coverage and had great repercussion among film critics. It was also aligned with an academic research trend that was just burgeoning, exemplified by Rodrigo Pereira's dissertation “Western Feijoada: o faroeste no cinema brasileiro” (Unesp, 2002), or by works which were then yet to have been completed, including the doctoral theses of Laura Cánepa “Medo de que?: uma história do horror nos filmes brasileiros” (Unicamp, 2008) and Alfredo Suppia “Limite de alerta! Ficção cientifica em atmosfera rarefeita : uma introdução ao estudo da FC no cinema brasileiro e em algumas cinematografias off-Hollywood” (Unicamp, 2007).
Restoration of Aviso aos navegantes
With the sponsorship of BR Distribuidora and Petrobrás, the Centro de Pesquisadores do Cinema Brasileiro (CPCB) has carried out important restorations of films from different periods and directors over the last few decades. Perhaps the most notable restoration was the chanchada Aviso aos navegantes (Watson Macedo, 1950), completed between 1999 and 2000. When the 1950s musical comedies known as chanchadas started to be revaluated in the 1970s, Jean-Claude Bernardet highlighted Nem Sansão nem Dalila (Carlos Manga, 1954) as one of the most important political films in Brazilian cinema. From then on out, if any chanchada was included on the list of the most important Brazilian films of all time, it was usually this Hollywood parody full of criticism about the Getúlio Vargas government. Subsequently, based on studies such as those of João Luiz Vieira, Robert Stam and Arthur Autran, the film Carnaval Atlântida (José Carlos Burle, 1952) became the most valued example of the genre, with its reflexive character and sophisticated discussion about the politics of Brazilian cinema. Burle's film came to occupy the prominent place within the chanchada genre previously given to Carlos Manga's film. Produced before Carnaval Atlântida and Nem Sansão nem Dalila, Aviso aos navegantes stands out not as an exception to the genre, but as the rule. Rather than subverting the conventions of chanchadas, the film brilliantly employs all of its clichés, with an excellent cast of Oscarito and Grande Otelo, villain José Lewgoy and the romantic duo of Eliane Macedo and Anselmo Duarte. Restored by Chico Moreira at Labocine from different prints of various gauges, Aviso aos navegantes gradually and deservedly became the main chanchada reference for scholars of the genre.

Restoration of Moacyr Fenelon’s films.
Conducted by the Instituto para Preservação da Memória do Cinema Brasileiro (IPMCB), an organization run by Alice Gonzaga and Hernani Heffner, the restoration project of the films of Moacyr Fenelon extended between 2006 and 2010 and was sponsored by the Petrobrás Cultural Program. The project brought to light five feature films made between 1948 and 1951 that had not been seen in decades. Moacyr Fenelon is best known as a pioneer sound technician during the 1930s and as one of the creators of the Atlântida studio in 1941. Fenelon had the final part of his career recovered by the restoration project: the years when he created his company the Cine-Produções Fenelon and then joined Flama Filmes studio. Unfortunately, his relatively early death in 1953 prevented the director from having a more effective participation in the movement he helped to foster, keeping in mind that Nelson Pereira dos Santos not for nothing named the crew who made Rio 40 degrees, “Team Moacyr Fenelon”. In my PhD thesis, “Carnaval, mistério e gangsters: o filme policial no Brasil: 1915-1951” (UFF, 2011), two films restored by this project served as fundamental examples for my research of a dramatic cinema made during post-War times in Brazil: Obrigado, Doutor (1948), based on a homonymous radio series, and Domino Negro (1950), adapted from a novel by Hélio Soveral. More broadly, Fenelon's role as an “independent producer” was one of the main themes of Luís Alberto da Rocha Melo's fantastic PhD thesis, “Cinema Independente: produção, exibição e distribuição no Rio de Janeiro: 1948 to 1954 (UFF, 2011). In that thesis, he demonstrated Fenelon's pioneering leadership in developing the mode of production that would later be followed by “auteurs” who are identified today with the so-called “independent cinema of the 50s”, such as Alex Viany, Roberto Santos and Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Finally, Fenelon’s musical Poeira de Estrelas (1948) surprised today’s audiences by portraying the love between two women, receiving a pioneering analysis by Mateus Nagime in one of the chapters of his M.A. dissertation “Em busca das origens de um cinema queer no Brasil” (UFSCar, 2016).
DVD Box-Set “Coleção CTAv” (CTAv Collection)
Initiative of the Centro Técnico do Audiovisual (CTAv) in partnership with the Cinemateca Brasileira, the digitization of short films produced by the Instituto Nacional de Cinema Educativo (INCE), the Instituto Nacional de Cinema (INC) and Embrafilme, made a large number of documentaries produced by the State between the 1930s and the 1970s accessible. The beautiful DVD box-set “CTAv Collection” which resulted from the digitization project was sent to many universities for free. It contained 110 titles divided into 20 discs, not only allowing for a broader view of filmmaker Humberto Mauro’s filmography, but also shedding light on lesser-known works by several other important directors such as Leon Hirszman, Arthur Omar, Adhemar Gonzaga, Linduarte Noronha, and a wide range of educational, ethnographic, animation and compilation films. Mauro's rural education films from the 1950s, for example, would go on to be written about in a special chapter by Sheila Schwarzman in the recent book “Nova história do cinema brasileiro” (2018). Also, films that address the very history of Brazilian cinema such as the important Mulheres de cinema (Ana Maria Magalhães, 1976) was the subject of Luís Alberto Rocha Melo's chapter in the seminal book “Feminino e plural: mulheres no cinema brasileiro”, organized by Marina Tedesco and Karla Holanda, from his project on audiovisual historiography of Brazilian cinema. These films released on DVD also became accessible through the Banco de Conteúdos Culturais website (www.bcc.gov.br).5
Event “Cinema Marginal e suas fronteiras” (Cinema Marginal and its Borders)
Initially held in São Paulo in 2001, the film screening series “Cinema Marginal and its Borders” was perhaps the greatest event dedicated to Brazilian cinema among the series of outstanding screenings sponsored by the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center (CCBB) in the 2000s. Organized by the founder of Heco Produções Eugenio Puppo, the event brought together a wide range of films that had not been shown for many years, much less together. The event also helped to consolidate a successful formula for future events: film screenings + debates + catalog with texts specially written by specialists + new prints struck to premiere at the event. The impact of the experimental and iconoclast films made between the 1960s and 1970s was enormous, especially in comparison with the expensive and inexpressive films that comprised most of the contemporary Brazilian cinema of the “Retomada”. At UFF, professor João Luiz Vieira built a course around Cinema Marginal in light of the event, his students attending many screenings and becoming more interested in Cinema Marginal. In the wake of the event and its success, producers and critics from Rio de Janeiro later organized film series dedicated to directors Rogério Sganzerla and Julio Bressane, notable auteurs of the Cinema Marginal period. These series took place in the same cultural center, and new film prints were especially struck, allowing for the (re)discovery of lesser known titles from the filmography of these filmmakers. 

The event also had a major impact on the academic world, as a huge number of dissertations and theses were soon dedicated to Cinema Marginal. The topic of Cinema Marginal would soon go to supplant the Cinema Novo movement in popularity at universities. As a result of such success, Heco Produções launched the 2009 DVD collection “Cinema Marginal Brasileiro” in partnership with Lume and the Cinemateca Brasileira, institutions further collaborating to widely circulate Cinema Marginal films. At the same time, a film like Copacabana mon amour (Rogério Sganzerla, 1970), restored between 2013 and 2015 through the Petrobras Cultural Program and then released on DVD, became the subject of numerous academic research projects and became an often debated work at conferences.

Project “Resgate da obra cinematográfica de Gerson Tavares” (Rediscovery of Gerson Tavares’ Films)
Director of two fictional features in the 1960s and several short documentaries between the 1950s and 1970s, Gerson Tavares had his name and films erased from the history of Brazilian cinema. The project “Rediscovery of Gerson Tavares’ films” was approved in the first (and until today only) edition of the “Preservation and Conservation of the Fluminense Artistic Memory” public callby the Rio de Janeiro Secretariat of Culture in 2012. “Rediscovery of Gerson Tavares’ films” had the initial objective of restoring the film “Antes, o Verão” (1968), which was in danger of being lost as its only two remaining 35mm prints were already deteriorating. However, the scope of the project was widened, allowing us to digitize the feature film “Amor e desamor” (1966) as well as seven other shorts by the director. These films would go on to be released on a non-commercial double DVD. The completion of the project allowed for what was almost a new premiere of Gerson’s films, and a real rediscovery of the octogenarian director by new generations occurred. Often compared to Walter Hugo Khouri who worked in São Paulo, the work of Gerson Tavares is proof that there was quality dramatic cinema made in Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s outside of the Cinema Novo movement. Absent from most panoramic books on the history of Brazilian cinema until then, the project allowed the name of Gerson Tavares to be reinserted in that history. As an example, Fernão Ramos mentioned Gerson’s films in his chapter about Brazilian cinema of the 60s in the the recent book “Nova história do cinema brasileiro” (Sesc, 2018), organized by Sheila Schvarzman and Ramos himself.

DVD Box-Set “Resgate do cinema silencioso brasileiro” (Rescuing Silent Brazilian Cinema)
In his fundamental 1979 book “Cinema Brasileiro: propostas para uma história”, Jean-Claude Bernardet pointed out the importance of documentary (or “natural”) film in Brazilian silent cinema, despite the much greater attention allotted to fictional (“posado” or staged) film by historians. While the availability of newsreels, actualities and documentary films produced up until 1930 has always been scarce, these works in fact represent a much larger volume of preserved titles than the even scarcer availability of fiction films. A fundamental action towards providing access to silent documentary films was a project developed with the Cinemateca Brasileira by Carlos Roberto de Souza: the 2009 DVD box-set “Rescuing Silent Brazilian Cinema”. Sponsored by Caixa Econômica Federal, this box-set was composed of 27 films gathered into five DVDs and came with a booklet written by Carlos Roberto. Despite the presence of “posados” (fictional films), such as the oldest preserved fictional Brazilian film, Os óculos do vovô (Francisco Santos, 1913), the vast majority of titles within the box were “naturais” (that is, documentaries) grouped into 5 themes: “Riches of São Paulo”, “Aspects of Brazil", "Sciences (or occultism) and riches", "Daily life" and “Public ceremonies". The circulation of these films provided researchers with greater access to a wide range of films that had rarely been seen, promoting new research on Brazilian silent cinema. However, research into this field had already begun gaining momentum during gathering sessions of scholars at the Cinemateca Brasileira that resulted in the book “Viagem ao cinema silencioso do Brasil” (Azougue, 2011), organized by Samuel Paiva and Sheila Schvarzman, also largely dedicated to documentary silent films. In addition to that, important articles were written about this topic by Eduardo Morettin and Hernani Heffner. Subsequently, the films included in the DVDs became accessible through the Banco de Conteúdos Culturais website (www.bcc.gov.br).3
Canal Brasil's “Como era gostoso o nosso cinema” (How Tasty was Our Cinema) Program.
The emergence of pay-TV Channel Canal Brasil in 1998 provided a new window for showing old Brazilian films on television. Canal Brasil needed to acquire Brazilian cinema content for its programming, so they offered to pay producers for broadcasting rights in addition to paying for the telecine costs of films that did not yet have video copies (Beta, then Full-HD). For some Brazilian producers, especially producers of commercial works who had been unable to monetize their films since the decline of the VHS market in the mid-2000s, it was as if money was coming from heaven. They finally had a way to commercially release their films through Canal Brasil. 
Naturally, the main type of film that reached Canal Brasil was the popular pornochanchada. These were soft-core porn films produced between the 1970s and 1980s. The telecineing of many pornochanchada films motivated Canal Brasil to create the program “How tasty was our cinema” (mocking the title of Nelson Pereira dos Santos’s 1971 film How Tasty was My Little Frenchman), a series of live airings dedicated to the genre. Soon after these pornochanchadas were shown on Canal Brasil, they became widely available (as people would pirate recordings of the live TV presentation and post them online). With new access to these films, an extraordinary revision of the genre occurred. 

Although authors such as Jean-Claude Bernardet, José Carlos Avellar and José Mário Ortiz Ramos wrote about pornochanchadas in the 1970s and 1980s, few working within the field of academia after them (perhaps with the exception of Nuno Cesar Abreu) realized the quality and perspicacity of these pioneering works. Only more recently have there been new academic dissertations that go beyond a totalizing and simplistic analysis of the genre. These texts move away from the point of view that pornochanchadas merely held a mechanistic relationship with censorship, and that the “birth” of the genre was merely the result of State repression. Instead, they focus on specific films and filmographies, pointing out the diversity of pornochanchadas in terms of themes, approaches and quality. 

M.A. dissertations such as Luiz Paulo Gomes Neves’ “A construção de um profeta: A prática discursiva enquanto distinção de autoria no gênero pornochanchada” (UFF, 2012) and Luciano Carneiro de Oliveira Júnior’s “Masculinidades excessivas e ambivalentes na pornochanchada dos anos 1980” (UFF, 2019), both supervised by professor Mariana Baltar, are two good examples of the kind of positive influence that a large number of digitally available titles can have on film genre studies. 

1.  Telecine is the process of transferring motion picture film into video. Telecine enables a motion picture, captured originally on film stock, to be viewed with standard video equipment such as television sets, video cassette recorders (VCR), DVD, Blu-ray Disc or computers.

2. One exception to this is actor, director, and producer Carlo Mossy, whose films were acquired by Canal Brasil and then also released in a 2013 DVD collection.

3. Due to Cinemateca Brasileira’s current crisis resulting from recent government actions, the website of the Banco de Conteúdos Culturais, hosted by the Cinemateca, has often suffered from technical problems

4. In Brazil, governments occasionally put out “public calls”, which are similar to grants. Public calls are opportunities open to anybody to compete to get something funded, usually cultural works or research projects.

5. See 3
Corcina e o cinema alternativo carioca.
O cineasta e professor (hoje aposentado) da UFF, Roberto Moura, vinha desenvolvendo desde os anos 2000 um projeto de pesquisa voltado para o que ele chamava de “cinema alternativo carioca”, englobando a ampla produção, sobretudo de curtas-metragens, realizada no Rio de Janeiro dos anos 1970, envolvendo integrantes da Associação Brasileira de Documentaristas (ABD), produtoras como a Corisco, do próprio Moura, e principalmente a Corcina – Cooperativa de Realizadores Cinematográficos Autônomos. Trata-se de uma produção marcada por diversidade e experimentalismo, que floresceu com a chamada Lei do Curta, realizada por diretores como José Joffily, Sérgio Péo, Sylvio Da-Rin, entre outros. Mais recentemente, Lucas Parente, filho do professor e realizador André Parente, diretor de curtas que podem ser enquadrados nesse movimento, iniciou um movimento de resgate desse material, junto com a Cinemateca do MAM, o Dobra – festival internacional de cinema experimental, entre outros parceiros. A digitalização realizada, em 2019, de “Eclipse” (Antonio Moreno, 1984), animação com intervenção direta na película, foi exibida em diversos festivais e eventos acadêmicos, dando continuidade, de forma mais ampla à pesquisa de Roberto Moura, e fomentando um renovado interesse sobre esses filmes e realizadores.
DVD de “A Rainha Diaba”
O Centro Técnico do Audiovisual (CTAv) da Funarte lançou nas últimas décadas belas edições em DVD de filmes de seu acervo, como o de filmes silenciosos realizados em Cataguazes e Recife ou ainda de longas-metragens sonoros como “O Saci” (Rodolfo Nanni, 1951) e “Assalto ao trem pagador” (Roberto Farias, 1962). Merece destaque especial o lançamento, em 2004, da DVD com a bela cópia do segundo longa-metragem de Antonio Carlos Fontoura, “A Rainha Diaba” (1974). A redescoberta desse “thriller pop-gay-black” com Milton Gonçalves no papel título, dois anos depois do lançamento de “Madame Satã”, dirigido por Karïm Anouz e protagonizado por Lázaro Ramos, colocou em evidência esse que é um dos mais interessantes filmes brasileiros da década de 1970. Trata-se de um belo exemplo do resgate de um filme que se mostrou bastante atual no momento de sua redescoberta. A edição caprichada do DVD, recheado de bem produzidos extras (entrevistas, making off inédito, trailers etc.), foi outro incentivo para ampla circulação de “A Rainha Diaba” após um certo esquecimento ao que o filme tinha sido injustamente relegado.
A reconstituição de “Acabaram-se os otários” (1929) 
A reconstituição de “Acabaram-se os otários” foi um projeto desenvolvido pelo Laboratório Universitário de Preservação Audiovisual da Universidade Federal Fluminense (LUPA-UFF) e realizado por mim e pelo professor Reinaldo Cardenuto. O projeto resultou no lançamento, em 2019, de uma versão reduzida do primeiro longa-metragem brasileiro sonoro, considerado um filme perdido, o que foi possibilitado pela reunião de diferentes fragmentos remanescentes da obra, tais como trechos de imagens em movimento, fotografias e registros sonoros. Trata-se de um projeto de preservação audiovisual que, diferentemente do restante da lista, foi uma consequência e não o impulsionador de uma pesquisa acadêmica. Assim como o estudo da chegada e popularização do cinema sonoro no Brasil vinha motivando interesse de diversos pesquisadores como Fernando Morais da Costa (UFF), Carlos Roberto de Souza (UFSCar) e Carlos Eduardo Pereira (Cinemateca do MAM), além de mim mesmo, a obra de Luiz de Barros também vinha recebendo mais atenção por parte de pesquisadores como Luciana Corrêa de Araújo (UFScar) e seus orientandos, como Evandro Vasconcellos (“Entre o Palco e a Tela: As relações do cinema com o teatro de revista em comédias musicais de Luiz de Barros”, UFSCar, 2015). A reconstituição de “Acabaram-se os otários”, por outro lado, pode vir a incentivar outros projetos que conjugam pesquisa histórica e preservação audiovisual, aproximando mais as universidades e as cinematecas.
“Classics of Cinédia” Restorations
Em 2004, a Cinédia lançou cópias restauradas de quatro filmes produzidos pela empresa através de projeto patrocinado pela BR Distribuidora. Um deles, Alô, alô, carnaval (Adhemar Gonzaga and Wallace Downey, 1936), (Adhemar Gonzaga e Wallace Downey, 1936), já era o mais conhecido musical brasileiro dos anos 1930. Mas dois outros –Mulher (Oduvaldo Viana, 1931) 24 horas de sonho (Chianca de Garcia, 1941) – eram verdadeiras “novidades” para os pesquisadores, por não circularem amplamente havia muitos anos. Dirigido por Octávio Gabus Mendes, “Mulher” era um filme mudo com músicas sincronizadas por discos, num momento em que os talkies já estavam em pleno sucesso no Brasil havia dois anos, mas quando muitas salas de cinema, especialmente nos subúrbios e no interior, ainda não haviam se adaptado para o cinema sonoro. Trata-se ainda um filme de grande sofisticação, comparável a outra realização muda tardia da Cinédia, a do clássico Ganga Bruta (Humberto Mauro, 1933). Além de interessar a pesquisas sobre o som no cinema e o cinema silencioso, a restauração do filme foi o tema da dissertação de mestrado de Joice Scavone (“Mulher - trajetória do som do primeiro filme synchronizado da Cinédia”, UFF, 2013) que evidenciava a ligação mais estreita entre pesquisa história e preservação de filmes na academia. Apesar da circulação restrita dos filmes, que circularam muito tempo apenas em cópias 35mm – colaborando que o quarto filme restaurado, “Romance proibido” (Adhemar Gonzaga, 1944) permaneça pouco conhecido –, o impacto do projeto junto à academia foi significativo. 
Duplicação de “Fábula” ou “Moro em Copacabana” de Arne Sucksdorff 
O cineasta sueco Arne Sucksdorff era mais conhecido na história do cinema brasileiro por ter oferecido um curso no Rio de Janeiro, em 1962, que virou um marco na história do Cinema Novo. Antes, porém, de se radicar no pantanal mato-grossense, onde viveria até a morte, Sucksdorff realizou o fascinante “Fábula” (1965), longa-metragem em coprodução com a Suécia que foi praticamente esquecido desde o seu lançamento. Em meados dos anos 1990, num projeto em parceria com o Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Chico Moreira, então conservador da Cinemateca do MAM, fez uma cópia nova, reduzida para 16mm, do contratipo original 35mm da versão brasileira do filme preservado no acervo da instituição. Nos anos 2000, Hernani Heffner – que sucedeu Chico na Cinemateca do MAM – passou a projetar Fábula com frequência em diferentes oportunidades, sempre com enorme repercussão junto ao público, deslumbrado com aquela obra praticamente desconhecida. Estudiosos logo se interessaram. João Luiz Vieira analisou o filme em seu capítulo no premiado livro World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives, organizado por Natasa Ďurovičová e Kathleen Elizabeth Newman, publicado em 2009. Eu mesmo escrevi sobre o filme no catálogo da mostra “Olhares Neo-Realistas”, realizado no Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, em 2006. O filme se tornou ainda objeto de amplo projeto de pesquisa da professora Esther Hamburguer (USP), que viabilizou a vinda para o Brasil de uma cópia digital da versão sueca. O interesse suscitado pelo filme foi tanto que, em 2011, o Instituto Moreira Salles financiou a confecção de uma nova cópia, agora em 35mm, da versão brasileira a partir do contratipo original.
DVDs “O cinema de Zózimo Bulbul” e “Obras raras: o cinema negro da década de 70”
Lançados, respectivamente, em 2005 e 2006, através de uma parceria entre o Centro de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento, Centro Afro Carioca de Cinema e a Fundação Cultural Palmares do Ministério da Cultura, os DVDs “O cinema de Zózimo Bulbul” e “Obras raras: o cinema negro da década de 70” foram fundamentais para ampliar a circulação e permitir a revalorização de filmes de importantes cineastas negros brasileiros. O DVD duplo “O cinema de Zózimo Bulbul” trazia seis filmes do ator e diretor, realizados entre os anos 1970 e 2000. Seu primeiro curta-metragem, Alma no Olho (1973) tem sido reavaliado como a obra-prima que é, sendo recentemente escolhido, por exemplo, como o 11º melhor curta-metragem da história do cinema brasileiro na listagem feita pela Associação Brasileira de Críticos de Cinema, em 2019. Já o DVD duplo “Obras raras: o cinema negro da década de 70” apresentava seis filmes dirigidos por Antunes Filho, Antonio Pitanga, Zózimo Bulbul, Ola Balogun, Waldir Onofre e Odilon Lopez. De especial destaque é o longa-metragem “As aventuras amorosas de um padeiro” (1975), longa-metragem de estreia de Onofre produzido por Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Além do protagonista negro, essa comédia erótica produzida durante o “clímax” da pornochanchada se destaca por seu tom feminista, raro num gênero recheado de obras machistas e preconceituosas. Assim, além de colaborar para o crescente interesse pelo cinema negro na academia, o DVD auxiliou a revisão do cinema de Onofre e, de forma mais ampla, da própria pornochanchada.
Mostra “Cinema Brasileiro, a vergonha de uma nação”
O pesquisador Remier Lion tinha a ambição de realizar uma ampla mostra retrospectiva com esse provocativo título na Cinemateca do MAM, na ocasião em que ela retomou sua programação após a grave crise que assolou a instituição no início dos anos 2000. Sem receber, então, acolhida do curador Gilberto Santeiro (muito incomodado com a provocação à respeitabilidade do cinema brasileiro), Remier levou parte da sua programação para cineclubes que organizou em diferentes locais do Rio de Janeiro, num projeto chamado “Malditos filmes brasileiros”. Finalmente, a mostra chegou à Cinemateca Brasileira, onde ela foi realizada com enorme sucesso em 2004, levando Remier a se incorporar, inclusive, à equipe de programação. A sua realização na Cinemateca Brasileira permitiu, inclusive, o acesso de Remier a materiais ainda mais raros para seu projeto. Embora possa ser entendido dentro de um quadro geral de revisão e revalorização do cinema da Boca do Lixo, a mostra “Cinema Brasileiro: a vergonha de uma nação” tinha um escopo mais amplo ao incorporar, por exemplo, um cineasta que Remier já pesquisava há tempos, como Nilo Machado e que produziu filmes de strip-tease desde os anos 1960. De um modo geral, a mostra jogava luz sobre diversos e desconhecidos exemplares da longa trajetória do cinema brasileiro comercial, popular e de gênero, que a historiografia pouco contemplou, com sua ênfase autoral. Assim, o evento que recebeu enorme cobertura da mídia e grande repercussão junto ao público, ia ao encontro de muitas pesquisas já desenvolvidas, como a dissertação de Rodrigo Pereira (“Western Feijoada: o faroeste no cinema brasileiro”, Unesp, 2002), ou que ainda iriam ser concluídas, como as teses de doutorado de Laura Cánepa (“Medo de que?: uma história do horror nos filmes brasileiros”, Unicamp, 2008) e Alfredo Suppia (“Limite de alerta! Ficção cientifica em atmosfera rarefeita: uma introdução ao estudo da FC no cinema brasileiro e em algumas cinematografias off-Hollywood”, Unicamp, 2017).
Restauração de “Aviso aos navegantes”
Com o patrocínio da BR Distribuidora e da Petrobrás, o Centro de Pesquisadores do Cinema Brasileiro (CPCB) realizou importantes restaurações, nas últimas décadas, de filmes de diferentes épocas e diretores. Talvez a mais notável tenha sido a da chanchada .Aviso aos navegantes (Watson Macedo, 1950), realizada entre 1999 e 2000. Quando as chanchadas começaram a ser revalorizadas nos anos 1970, Jean-Claude Bernardet destacou Nem Sansão nem Dalila (Carlos Manga, 1954) como um dos mais importantes filmes políticos do cinema brasileiro. A partir de então, se alguma chanchada fosse incluída na lista dos mais importantes filmes brasileiros de todos os tempos, geralmente era essa paródia de Hollywood recheada de críticas sobre o governo Getúlio Vargas. Posteriormente, a partir de estudos como os de João Luiz Vieira, Robert Stam e Arthur Autran, o filme Carnaval Atlântida (José Carlos Burle, 1952) tornou-se o exemplar mais valorizado do gênero, com seu caráter reflexivo e uma sofisticada discussão sobre a política do cinema brasileiro. O filme de Burle passou a ocupar o lugar de destaque dentro do gênero antes dado ao filme de Carlos Manga. Produzido antes desses dois, “Aviso aos navegantes” destaca-se não como uma exceção, mas como a regra do gênero, como um exemplar clássico. Ao invés de destoar delas, o filme exemplifica as fórmulas e clichês da chanchada, mas em sua melhor forma, trazendo no elenco Oscarito e Grande Otelo, o vilão José Lewgoy e a dupla Eliane e Anselmo. Restaurado na Labocine por Chico Moreira a partir de diferentes cópias e materiais de formatos e procedências distintas, “Aviso aos navegantes” vem aos poucos, e merecidamente, tornando-se a referência principal dos estudiosos para o gênero.

Projeto de Recuperação da Obra de Moacyr Fenelon
Realizado pelo Instituto para Preservação da Memória do Cinema Brasileiro – leia-se Dona Alice Gonzaga e Hernani Heffner – o projeto de restauração de filmes de Moacyr Fenelon se estendeu entre 2006 e 2010, com patrocínio do Programa Petrobrás Cultural. O projeto trouxe à tona cinco longas-metragens realizados entre 1948 e 1951 que não eram vistos há décadas. Mais conhecido como pioneiro técnico de som nos anos 1930 e como um dos criadores da Atlântida, Moacyr Fenelon teve a parte final de sua carreira coberta pelo projeto, quando se lançou com a Cine-Produções Fenelon e, em seguida, se associou a Flama Filmes. Infelizmente, sua morte relativamente precoce, em 1953, impediu que o diretor tivesse uma participação mais efetiva no movimento que ajudou a fomentar, lembrando que Nelson Pereira dos Santos batizou a equipe que realizou “Rio 40 graus”, não à toa, de “Equipe Moacyr Fenelon”. Em minha tese de doutorado, “Carnaval, mistério e gangsters: o filme policial no Brasil - 1915-1951” (UFF, 2011), dois filmes trazidos à tona por esse projeto foram fundamentais como exemplares de um cinema dramático realizado a partir do pós-guerra no Brasil: “Obrigado, Doutor” (Moacyr Fenelon, 1948), baseado em série radiofônica homônima, e “Dominó negro” (Moacyr Fenelon, 1950), adaptado de novela de Hélio Soveral. De forma mais ampla, a atuação de Fenelon como “produtor independente” foi um dos temas principais da fantástica tese de doutorado de Luís Alberto da Rocha Melo (Cinema independente”: produção, distribuição e exibição no Rio de Janeiro, UFF, 2011), demonstrando o pioneirismo de Fenelon como “produtor independente” e desenvolvendo o modo de produção que seria seguido posteriormente por autores hoje identificados com o chamado “cinema independente dos anos 50”, tais como Alex Viany, Roberto Santos e o próprio Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Por fim, o musical “Poeira de estrelas” (Moacyr Fenelon, 1948) surpreendeu ao mostrar o amor entre duas mulheres, recebendo a pioneira análise de Mateus Nagime num dos capítulos de sua dissertação “Em busca das origens de um cinema queer no Brasil” (UFSCar, 2016).
Caixa de DVDs “Coleção CTAv”
Iniciativa do Centro Técnico do Audiovisual (CTAv) em parceria com a Cinemateca Brasileira, a digitalização de curtas e médias produzidos pelo Instituto Nacional de Cinema Educativo (INCE), pelo Instituto Nacional de Cinema (INC) e pela Embrafilme, tornou disponível um grande número de documentários produzidos pelo Estado entre os anos 1930 e 1970. A bela caixa de DVDs “Coleção CTAv” resultante do projeto, fartamente distribuída para as universidades, com 110 títulos divididos em 20 discos, não só permitia uma visão mais ampla da filmografia de um cineasta como Humberto Mauro, como trazia obras menos conhecidas de diversos outros diretores importantes, de Leon Hirszman a Arthur Omar, de Adhemar Gonzaga a Linduarte Noronha, além de um amplo leque de filmes educativos, etnográficos, animações e compilações. Os filmes de educação rural de Mauro, produzidos nos anos 1950, por exemplo, ganharam um capítulo especial de Sheila Schwarzman no recente livro “Nova história do cinema brasileiro” (2018), enquanto filmes que abordam a própria história do cinema brasileiro, como o importante “Mulheres de cinema” (Ana Maria Magalhães, 1976) foi tema do capítulo de Luís Alberto Rocha Melo do seminal livro “Feminino plural: Mulheres no cinema brasileiro”, organizado por Marina Tedesco e Karla Holanda, a partir de seu projeto sobre a historiografia audiovisual do cinema brasileiro. Esses filmes lançados em DVD também passaram a estar acessíveis através do Banco de Conteúdos Culturais (www.bcc.gov.br).

Mostra “Cinema Marginal e suas fronteiras”
Realizada inicialmente em São Paulo, em 2001, a mostra “Cinema Marginal e suas fronteiras” foi talvez o grande evento dedicado ao cinema brasileiro dentre a série de mostras marcantes patrocinadas pelo Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) nos anos 2000. Organizado por Eugenio Puppo, da Heco Produções, a mostra reuniu um amplo conjunto de filmes que há muitos anos não eram exibidos, muito menos conjuntamente. O evento ajudou ainda a consolidar uma fórmula de sucesso: mostra de filmes + debates + catálogo com textos encomendados a especialistas + cópias novas para estreia no evento. O impacto da revisão de filmes experimentais, debochados e desafiadores realizados entre os anos 1960 e 1970 foi enorme, sobretudo em comparação com o então criticado cinema caro e careta, financiado pelas leis de incentivo, da retomada do Cinema Brasileiro. Na UFF, o professor João Luiz Vieira acompanhou a mostra com uma disciplina optativa dedicada ao cinema marginal. Na esteira do evento e de seu sucesso, produtores e críticos do Rio de Janeiro organizaram, posteriormente, mas no mesmo CCBB, mostras dedicadas individualmente a Rogério Sganzerla e Julio Bressane, novamente confeccionando cópias novas que permitiam a (re)descoberta de vários títulos mais obscuros da filmografia desses cineastas. O impacto acadêmico foi notável, com um número enorme de dissertações e teses sendo dedicadas a esse movimento que suplantou o Cinema Novo em popularidade na universidade. A própria Heco Produções lançou, em 2009, a coleção de DVDs Cinema Marginal Brasileiro, em parceria com a Lume e Cinemateca Brasileira, colaborando ainda mais para a ampla circulação desses filmes. Nesse mesmo movimento, um filme como “Copacabana mon amour” (Rogério Sganzerla, 1970), restaurado entre 2013 e 2015 através do Programa Petrobras Cultural, e em seguida lançado em DVD, passou a ser tema de inúmeras pesquisas acadêmicas e apresentações em congressos.
Projeto “Resgate da obra cinematográfica de Gerson Tavares”
Diretor de dois longas ficcionais nos anos 1960 e de diversos curtas documentários entre as décadas de 1950 e 1970, Gerson Tavares teve seu nome e filmes apagados da história do cinema brasileiro. O projeto “Resgate da obra cinematográfica de Gerson Tavares”, aprovado na primeira (e até hoje única) edição do edital Preservação e Conservação da Memória Artística Fluminense da Secretaria de Estado de Cultura do Rio de Janeiro, em 2012, tinha como objetivo inicial restaurar o filme “Antes, o verão” (1968), que corria o risco de se perder. O escopo foi ampliado para a digitalização também do filme “Amor e desamor” (1966) e de outros sete curtas do diretor, lançados em DVD duplo, numa edição não-comercial. A finalização do projeto permitiu quase um relançamento dos filmes e a redescoberto do diretor octogenário pelas novas gerações. Comparado a Walter Hugo Khouri, Gerson Tavares era prova de um cinema dramático de qualidade realizado no Rio de Janeiro dos anos 1960 para além do Cinema Novo. Ausente da maior parte dos livros panorâmicos sobre história do cinema brasileiro até então, o projeto permitiu que o nome de Gerson Tavares fosse reinscrito nessa história. Exemplo disso foi a citação a seus filmes no capítulo que Fernão Ramos escreveu sobre os anos 1960, quase inteiramente dedicado ao Cinema Novo, no recente “Nova história do cinema brasileiro” (Sesc, 2018), organizado pelo próprio Fernão e Sheila Schvarzman.
Caixa de DVDs “Resgate do cinema silencioso brasileiro”
Em seu fundamental livro “Cinema brasileiro: propostas para uma história”, de 1979, Jean-Claude Bernardet apontou a importância do filme documentário (ou natural) no cinema silencioso brasileiro, apesar da atenção muito maior dada ao filme ficcional (ou posado) pelos historiadores. Entretanto, a disponibilidade de cinejornais, atualidades e registros documentais brasileiros produzidos até 1930 sempre foi escassa, apesar de representar um volume muito maior de títulos preservados do que as esparsas ficções. Uma ação fundamental para dar acesso a essa produção foi o projeto desenvolvido na Cinemateca Brasileira, por Carlos Roberto de Souza, da caixa de DVDs “Resgate do cinema silencioso brasileiro”, finalizado em 2009. Patrocinado pela Caixa Econômica Federal, a caixa era composta por 27 filmes reunidos em cinco DVDs e um livreto de autoria de Carlos Roberto. Apesar da presença de posados, como o mais antigo filme de ficção preservado, “Os óculos do vovô” (Francisco Santos, 1913), a grande maioria dos títulos eram de naturais, reunidos em 5 temas: “Riquezas Paulistas”, “Aspectos do Brasil”, “Ciências (mesmo ocultas) e riquezas”, “Vida cotidiana” e “Cerimônias públicas”. A circulação desses filmes permitiu que mais pesquisadores tivessem acesso a um amplo conjunto de filmes pouco vistos anteriormente, fortalecendo as pesquisas sobre o cinema silencioso brasileiro. Elas já tinham ganhado impulso com as reuniões de pesquisadores na Cinemateca Brasileira que resultaram no livro “Viagem ao cinema silencioso do Brasil” (Azougue, 2011), organizado por Samuel Paiva e Sheila Schvarzman, em grande parte também dedicado aos pouco estudados filmes naturais, sem falar de importantes artigos escritos por Eduardo Morettin e Hernani Heffner. Posteriormente, os filmes incluídos nos DVDs passaram a estar acessíveis ainda através do Banco de Conteúdos Culturais (www.bcc.gov.br)
Sessão “Como era gostoso o nosso cinema” do Canal Brasil
A criação do Canal Brasil, em 1998, representou o surgimento de uma nova janela de exibição de filmes brasileiros antigos na televisão. Com grande demanda pela aquisição de conteúdo para sua programação, o Canal Brasil oferecia, além do pagamento ao produtor pelos direitos de transmissão, os custos de telecinagem de filmes que não tivessem cópias em vídeo (Beta, depois Full-HD). Para alguns produtores brasileiros, sobretudo de obras comerciais que praticamente não monetizavam seus filmes desde a decadência do mercado de VHS, era um dinheiro caído do céu. Naturalmente, o principal tipo de filme que chegou ao Canal Brasil foi o da popularíssima pornochanchada, produzida entre os anos 1970 e 1980, o que motivou, inclusive, a criação da sessão “Como era gostoso o nosso cinema”, especialmente dedicado ao gênero. Poucos produtores conseguiram lançar comercialmente seus filmes fora do Canal Brasil, sendo uma exceção o ator, diretor e produtor Carlo Mossy, que lançou seus filmes numa coleção de DVDs em 2013. A ampla disponibilidade de um grande número de pornochanchadas após sua exibição pelo Canal Brasil (logo copiados e e postados na internet) permitiu o bem-vindo reexame do gênero. Embora autores como Jean-Claude Bernardet, José Carlos Avellar e José Mário Ortiz Ramos tenham escrito sobre o gênero nos próprios anos 1970 e 1980, poucos na academia – talvez com a principal exceção de Nuno Cesar Abreu – deram prosseguimento à qualidade e perspicácia destes trabalhos pioneiros. Apenas mais recentemente tem surgido bons trabalhos acadêmicos que vão além de uma análise totalizante – e simplista – do gênero, fugindo de uma relação mecanicista com a censura, focando em filmes e filmografias específicas e apontando a inevitável, mas pouco percebida diversidade da pornochanchada, em termos de temas, abordagens e qualidade. Dissertações de mestrado como a de Luiz Paulo Gomes (A construção de um profeta: a prática discursiva enquanto distinção de autoria no gênero da pornochanchada, UFF, 2012) e de Luciano Carneiro de Oliveira Júnior (Masculinidades excessivas e ambivalentes na pornochanchada dos anos 1980, UFF, 2019), ambas orientadas pela professora Mariana Baltar, foram alguns dos bons frutos da disponibilidade em formato digital de um número muito mais amplo de filmes que permitiram a comparação, análise e crítica.
1.  Telecine is the process of transferring motion picture film into video. Telecine enables a motion picture, captured originally on film stock, to be viewed with standard video equipment such as television sets, video cassette recorders (VCR), DVD, Blu-ray Disc or computers.

2. One exception to this is actor, director, and producer Carlo Mossy, whose films were acquired by Canal Brasil and then also released in a 2013 DVD collection.

3. Due to Cinemateca Brasileira’s current crisis resulting from recent government actions, the website of the Banco de Conteúdos Culturais, hosted by the Cinemateca, has often suffered from technical problems

4. In Brazil, governments occasionally put out “public calls”, which are similar to grants. Public calls are opportunities open to anybody to compete to get something funded, usually cultural works or research projects.

5. See 3

Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016

Compasso de Espera was conceived by Zózimo Bulbul and Antunes Filho in response to the lack of opportunities for Black professionals in the film industry in the late 1960s. The film’s direct confrontation of racial issues in Brazil didn’t sit well with the censorship department of the Military Dictatorship that ruled the country, and when it was finally released six years after completion, only three copies were made for its commercial release, which significantly reduced its chances of reaching a larger audience. To this day, this poignant anti-racist film remains underseen, and is better remembered as the source of the film stock with which Bulbul would make his directorial debut, the seminal short film Soul in the Eye (1973). In this video essay, Juliano Gomes and Mariana Nunes delve deeper into the symbolisms of Compasso de Espera.

Watch Compasso de Espera Here
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
PT /

The short film Nitrato has been revisited a lot in recent years, in film festivals and now on Limite. Besides its aesthetic freshness, the subject of the film, exploring the many challenges facing the Cinemateca Brasileira in 1974, feels extremely contemporary as the archive is now going through another immense crisis. Although much has changed between then and now, we still have to defend the obvious: it is important for an entity such as the Cinemateca Brasileira to exist so that we can ensure the preservation of our audiovisual heritage.

Multifaceted, Nitrato expresses the ambiguities and contradictions of the Cinemateca Brasileira. The film deals with the richness of its collection, the recognition of international entities, and explores what its relationship to the general public was like. Nitrato also portrays the neglect with which the institution is treated, as seen in how precarious its building infrastructure is, how politicians neglected to communicate with the institution’s staff, and the aftermath of another fire in the building.

Just as during the time of Nitrato, the Cinemateca Brasileira still plays an important part in providing access to Brazilian and world cinema, with excellent programs in its exhibition rooms and film festivals held in its headquarters. The diffusion of films has always been one of the aspects that attracts film students, researchers, and the general public to the institution. In fact, when Alain Fresnot made the film, he was a film student at the School of Communication and Arts at São Paulo University.
Débora Butruce and Natália de Castro: Can you describe the relationship between the ECA (Escola de Comunicações e Artes) students  and the Cinemateca Brasileira in 1974? How did you become interested in the institution?

Alain Fresnot: The Cinemateca made different films available to our film school. The presence of Paulo Emilio2 in both institutions made our contact with the Cinemateca and our interest in its collections easier. As a film student, I wanted to specialize in editing and I was very interested in Soviet cinema; Eisenstein, of course, and those films came from the Cinemateca. Lastly, my friendship with Paulo Emílio’s stepson, Gofredo da Silva Telles Neto, made it possible for me to visit his home and consequently to grow closer to the Cinemateca Brasileira.
DB & NDC: The film was shot on 35mm. What were the conditions it was made in? What about the crew and equipment?

AF: I don’t have a strong memory of making the film, far from it, but I remember that teaming up with the young cinematographer Pedro Farkas was an essential move, because he had access to all of the equipment of his father’s production company. His father was entrepreneur, producer and photographer Thomaz Farkas. Obviously, the film was made possible by the willing collaboration of the crew, as we didn’t have any financial support. However, in post-production I received support from Aluísio Leite, a producer from Rio who had ties to the Cinemateca do MAM. I vaguely remember that his help during post-production was what made it possible for us to complete the film.

DB & NDC: Does the way you perceive and make films reflect your ties to the Cinemateca Brasileira and audiovisual preservation? In what ways has your experiences with the institution shaped your career?

AF: If not for the possibility of watching the classics at the Cinemateca, my formation would certainly have been weaker and that would reflect in my work. Having said that, my ties to the Cinemateca were less important than the possibility of hanging out with Professor Paulo Emilio, whose leadership and militancy in favor of Brazilian cinema have marked my career, as well as those of many colleagues of mine.

DB & NDC: Film technology has changed a lot since Nitrato was made, especially in terms of production, distribution, exhibition and access. Do you think that has had any impact on how the film community relates to audiovisual archives and film heritage? What are your thoughts on the relationship between current filmmakers to the Cinemateca Brasileira?

AF: The banalization of images via the proliferation of technology has desacralized audiovisual media. I’m not positive about the relationship between new filmmakers and the Cinemateca. But I believe that even though they must be interested in it, since it’s so easy now to find films on various platforms, the Cinemateca has lost some of its central importance.

DB & NDC: In the 1970s, you were a volunteer at the Cinemateca Brasileira, supervised by Lucila Bernardet, a key figure in the history of that institution and audiovisual preservation as a whole who hasn’t been as notorious lately as she deserves. What are your impressions of her and of that time?

AF: I can’t evaluate how important Lucila Bernardet was to the Cinemateca. Back then, she seemed to me as the on-call volunteer, at a time after the institution had already been implemented and grown, but was decadent and “abandoned” by its founders. She’d play soccer with us, the young ones. After I got in I brought some other classmates to help there. It’s also important to mention Mr. Aluísio, who talks in the film about one of the fires as he peels cane. He worked at the city hall, he was from the Northeast, and he had been sent to work at the central building of the Cinemateca. He’d named every rat and every drip spot in there. He knew exactly what size a can or pan had to be in order to contain the rainwater.

DB & NDC: Back then you also had a small mimeographed magazine called Cinemateca. What was it about?

AF: When I began working at the Cinemateca Brasileira, I was passionate about helping the institution. I didn’t possess the technical skills to do anything significant to help in preserving the archive, so I made an effort to distribute the available film copies whose originals didn’t have conservation problems to film clubs and student events. Then came the idea to create the magazine, Cinemateca. I probably have some copies of this magazine somewhere in my personal archives. If I’m not mistaken, the magazine was about Brazilian cinema, about contemporary subjects, deep analyses, and the hardships faced by the Cinemateca. As I recall it had a complicated, militant writing style. It would be interesting to take a new look at it today.

DB & NDC: Watching Nitrato now, we have conflicting feelings: we see that a lot has changed, but the current situation of the Cinemateca Brasileira makes us think that preservation in Brazil has structural problems which always come back to haunt us. What would you say is the solution to the current crisis at the Cinemateca? How can we make sure public preservation institutions are no longer subjected to changes in government but instead operate under an effective state policy?

AF: Sadly, what Paulo Emilio said regarding the Brazilian elite’s misunderstanding of cultural issues is still true to this day. Things improved, but management contracts and social organizations are deformities of administrations who don’t think public servants are able to do their work properly. There’s a mystification of “creative economy” which makes public spending on structuring activities be devalued and seen as an expense instead of an investment. I hope technological advancements make preservation cheaper, but the situation is so serious that there’s barely any equipment left in the country to digitize the films in our archive.

DB & NDC: Do you think members of the film community today and society as a whole understand the importance of the Cinemateca?

AF: I believe that the voracity of images which come from private and public television help professionals of the audiovisual sector easily understand the need for archive preservation and consequently for the Cinemateca.

DB & NDC: Paulo Emílio Sales Gomes ends up taking a lead role in your film, along the Cinemateca Brasileira itself. Why do you think he is still such an important figure?

AF: Because the central issue formulated so clearly by him and his generation still hasn’t been resolved. That is, to make Brazilian cinema go from an intruder in its own market to the protagonist of its territory.

DB & NDC: Nitrato seems like a metaphor for the history of Brazilian cinema, as we only have access to fragments, from which we try to put together the whole picture. Audiovisual preservation institutions exist to make such gaps shorter, and their work is essential even to make it possible for us to watch a film like Nitrato 46 years after it was made. Regarding your other films, where are their originals and exhibition copies stored?

AF: It’s true, I was surprised when I watched it 30 years after making it. It deals with materials with such freedom which allows for a discourse that is simultaneously precise and full of suggestion. My other films are in the Cinemateca, which worries me constantly.

DB & NDC: Filmmaking in contemporary Brazil is challenging. How have you found your own success?

AF: Filmmaking in Brazil has always been challenging. I’ve made seven feature films in a career spanning fifty years. During that same time, in France or the United States, I’d have made 15 or 20 feature films. I’m currently working on a comedy film. I’m writing a screenplay, doing research for another one, and I have a documentary waiting to be launched. I want to conclude, without meaning to compare myself, by quoting Paulo Emilio once again. Referring to Glauber Rocha, he said: “Glauber’s limit is Brazil.” Wasting talents is a feature of underdevelopment.

1. Escola de Comunicações e Artes da Universidade de São Paulo (ECA-USP).

2. Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes (1916-1977) was one of the most influential film scholars in Brazil, one of the founders of the Cinemateca Brasileira, a film professor, a film critic, a prolific writer and researcher of Brazilian cinema history. You can check out a book of his texts in English, here.
PT /

This past September, the staff of Limite had the opportunity to conduct an interview with the Workers of the Cinemateca Brasileira (Trabalhadores da Cinemateca Brasileira), the collective representing the archivists and staff of Brazil’s largest film archive, who have been fighting for nearly an entire year for the survival of this vital institution. Our goal with this interview was to hear about the numerous issues facing the Cinemateca Brasileira and the field of audiovisual preservation in Brazil directly from workers of the archive themselves.

In honor of World Audiovisual Heritage Day, we present an interview with some of the bravest archive workers in the world today.
Limite: How have you perceived the reaction to the crisis of the Cinemateca Brasileira from the international film community? What do we need to know right now to stay up to date with what is happening at the Cinemateca Brasileira?

Trabalhadores da Cinemateca Brasileira: Firstly, we want to thank everyone who contributed to our crowdfunding campaign and everyone who has been spreading the news about the crisis of the Cinemateca Brasileira. This response from global communities motivated the Cinemateca workers’ collective to write about what was happening at the CB on social media. The Cinemateca’s technical staff is a group of people with different opinions and different employment relationships — in addition to the forty-one workers who were formally on strike, there were eleven service providers — so the feedback we got was important as it emphasized the problem of unpaid wages and the value of the technical work that we provide for the institution. This work itself is a result of public investments, of years of development of methodologies and workflow, therefore it is also a valuable asset for the institution. Right now, our demands have to be made to the Special Secretariat of Culture and the National Audiovisual Secretariat so they can come up with a solution for the crisis the Cinemateca Brasileira faces. However, this solution must account for the current technical staff, the outsourced workers and present a plan as to how the institution can hire and train new workers.

The government’s emergency solution to the crisis was to hire security and firefighter staff. However, at the moment there are no technical staff at the institution, and most of the outsourced workers did not have their contracts renewed. This situation is worrisome. Power outages have happened in that region of the city,1 and the vaults need constant monitoring by technical staff to ensure that the collection is properly preserved. Without these necessary maintenance, the archive is vulnerable to numerous mishaps.
L: The Cinemateca Brasileira has been through several crises in the past. Would you say that the current situation has been the most harmful to the institution in its history?

TCB: Yes. For the first time in its 70-year history, there are no technical staff working at the Cinemateca and there is no guarantee that the archive will continue its operations. What has never been more explicit is the negligence of public authorities, and their unwillingness to take action to solve the problems the institution is facing.

For the first time in its 70-year history, there are no technical staff working at the Cinemateca and there is no guarantee that the archive will continue its operations.
L: The crisis at the Cinemateca Brasileira did not happen overnight, as there have been several slow changes that have begun to impact the institution in recent years. Can you discuss some of the ways that working conditions have changed since the beginning of the Bolsonaro administration?

TCB: Generally speaking, the working conditions at the Cinemateca Brasileira reflect the same mistreatment dispensed by the federal government towards every institution that operates within the cultural sector. At the very beginning of their term, the Bolsonaro administration extinguished the Ministry of Culture, under which the Cinemateca was directly subordinate since being incorporated into the federal government.2 All activities previously linked to the Ministry of Culture were transferred via the Special Secretariat of Culture to the Ministry of Citizenship.

In November 2019, after three consecutive secretaries of culture had vacated their position, the control over the Cinemateca was set to be transferred to the Ministry of Tourism, but this only ended up occurring in June 2020. Among past secretaries of culture, theater director Roberto Alvim was replaced after quoting a speech of Nazi politician Joseph Goebbels, while actress Regina Duarte posted a video on social media after leaving the position where she claimed she was going to be named the next head of the Cinemateca Brasileira, which did not happen. This panorama of the Secretariat of Culture illustrates the uncertainty with which cultural policies have been dealt with by the Bolsonaro administration, and as a result of these policies, the Cinemateca has obviously been negatively affected.

The federal government is made up of functionaries with numerous ideological biases, such as those clearly displayed by ex-minister of education Abraham Weintraub. Weintraub decided unilaterally, in 2019, not to renew the contract with the social organization that managed the Cinemateca Brasileira, Acerp, leaving its employees unsure if work at the institution would continue. It was only in June 2020, following two months without salary, once the workers began protesting, and after actress Regina Duarte appointed herself for “a gig at the Cinemateca”, that the government began to take action regarding the management of the institution. This means that from January (when the contract with Acerp had already been terminated) to June the federal government did nothing, either institutionally or financially, about the management of the Cinemateca.

L:  Are there any expectations among you that there will soon be action by the government towards resolving this crisis?

TCB: In February 2020, a flood damaged part of the archive in one of the Cinemateca Brasileira’s facilities. This damage was dealt with by the workers who were hired by Acerp and outsourced. The government didn’t take any action nor send financial support. Without Acerp and the workers who carried on with their functions at the Cinemateca in 2020, the archive would literally still be in the mud.

The lack of governmental support, the unpaid salaries, the lay-offs, and our need to find new means of survival during a pandemic has been very demotivating to us. But we are trying to continue fighting for a solution to the crisis because the Cinemateca Brasileira preserves the priceless heritage of the Brazilian people. It cannot be lost in the same manner that the Museu Nacional was.3 What happened to the Museu Nacional should serve as a warning to the government of what can occur if they neglect the maintenance of their archives.

While the political situation is unfavorable, there are politicians who care for our cause. The federal government has begun to show that they are trying to understand the needs of the Cinemateca Brasileira since we handed over the keys to them during their visit to the institution on August 7th. Because of that, we hope that we can help the institution transition to new workers (in the event that new workers are hired). There are many good reasons for those in charge to bring back all of the laid-off employees. The Cinemateca Brasileira will not be able to fulfill its mission as a safeguard of national heritage without the specialized staff whose technical knowledge was specifically developed while working there. It is because these workers have spent so many years developing this knowledge that they have become vital to the institution’s operations. In order to keep the archive safe from even further damage than what it already has endured this past year, the government must be open to a solution that takes the current staff into account so that we can instruct the incoming staff properly, which wasn’t possible due to the political and administrative chaos that had been taking place over the past months.

L: Before the interruption of work at the Cinemateca Brasileira, what were some of the upcoming activities and projects that were slated to take place at the archive?

TCB: Part of the staff had been working on projects from the previous year. People can learn more about the projects we were working on prior to the work stoppage by checking out the official ACERP management report. When the pandemic arrived, it brought that as well as the work we were doing to recover archival materials from the February 2020 flood to a halt. With our technical staff cut short, everyday tasks quickly became challenging. As of today, all technical analysis of films, the management of the archives, the incorporation and analysis of legal deposit materials, the production of emergency duplicates, and the maintenance of materials hygiene has been halted. In addition, all of the requests to access our archives have been denied, which has led to the interruption of many important future projects.

The pandemic has changed our plans for this year. Even if it isn’t the direct cause of our financial crisis, it has made matters worse since it was and remains impossible to keep working without payment during this difficult time. During our strike, very few employees continued monitoring and maintaining the collections of the archive, and now even less are doing so. After the federal government took the keys of the Cinemateca Brasileira on August 7, 2020, the last employees of the institution left, as well as those linked to Acerp and the cleaning staff. The Acerp workers were fired, which made it impossible for even minimal monitoring and maintenance duties to be continued.

L: The Cinemateca Brasileira workers organized several public protests, campaigned for collective funding, put up banners around the city of São Paulo, and built a strong social media presence to spread awareness of its cause. Despite all these achievements, what have been your biggest challenges over the last few months? What are the ideals or beliefs that have kept workers united during this difficult period?

TCB: In addition to our unpaid salaries and unsure futures, the lack of transparency or communication from the government has presented a huge challenge for our protest. During the period when our protests began, we were following the decisions and political moves of Acerp and the government the same way as everyone else: through the press. But we remained united in support of one another then, and we continue to strive towards the resolution of the situation at the Cinemateca Brasileira as quickly as possible. Today, we are all contributing in whatever way we can, either through taking action virtually, taking part in the protests in person, or both.
we continue to strive towards the resolution of the situation at the Cinemateca Brasileira as quickly as possible. Today, we are all contributing in whatever way we can, either through taking action virtually, taking part in the protests in person, or both.

L: How has the Brazilian film community stood up to the injustices the Cinemateca Brasileira and its workers have endured? And why should all filmmakers be concerned about the future of the Cinemateca Brasileira?

TCB: Audiovisual-related institutions, associations, and movements which support our cause, such as SOS Cinemateca and Cinemateca Acesa, are important as they have helped to spread the word about the emergency situation the Cinemateca and its workers face. Not only are these people helping to alert more people to the cause, but they are also contacting politicians who might help us find a solution to the crisis. It is important that filmmakers follow and support the Cinemateca, whose infrastructure and technical staff not only keep the matrix of their own works safe, but also preserves and exhibits the whole of Brazilian audiovisual productions of the last 120 years, thus providing access and reference for new productions.

L: Can you talk about the importance of institutions like the Cinemateca in the rediscovery and reevaluation of Brazil’s history? And how do you see providing access to Brazilian history as playing an important role within the contemporary moment?

TCB: Institutions of cultural memory like the Cinemateca Brasileira have to keep up and exhibit their collections so that the public can access the institution’s historical materials. New generations build upon their worldviews by encountering these histories, and these new perspectives become the defining features of a nation. Audiovisual productions are a vital part of that process, and they say a lot about the period in which they were made. We can learn from the cinematic techniques being used, the way language is spoken, and develop new ideas about representation from what has or hasn’t been shown. These elements provide context to our history and allow us in the 21st century to ask questions and introduce new subjects from what we have acquired over our 120+ years of audiovisual production. We can, for instance, understand what has remained and what has changed in our society’s perception of human behavior and fundamental rights.

Brazil has little interest in its own past. We know this because public policies for material and immaterial historical heritage, when they exist, are always susceptible to the interests of the current government. The Cinemateca Brasileira is the victim of operational discontinuities which are not rare among government-funded Brazilian cultural institutions, but now more than ever these discontinuities reveal the lack of public policies for audiovisual preservation. It is important that the population has quality public education and access to information and cultural manifestations, as these are fundamental towards the development of Brazilian society. This cannot or should not be seen as threatening to any government in a democracy.
It is important that the population has quality public education and access to information and cultural manifestations, as these are fundamental towards the development of Brazilian society. This cannot or should not be seen as threatening to any government in a democracy.

L: The Cinemateca Brasileira workers’ movement has made it clear that the preservation of films does not come about through the isolated work of a few individuals, but rather that a whole range of specialized workers is needed to adequately safeguard Brazilian audiovisual history. How does the government’s neglect of the Cinemateca affect the teams of collaborators who ultimately make the preservation of films possible?

TCB: The governmental negligence has affected us in many ways. As previously mentioned, the staff has been without salary for months and all of us, even a lot of the outsourced workers, have been fired. First the pandemic affected many of our long-standing projects, as many on-site activities had to be halted; then the outsourced workers started to retreat due to the lack of payment from the companies that they work for, although some companies even kept working at the Cinemateca despite not getting paid.

Many of our staff have been part of the institution for many years, so when they are away from their work, the very society that invested in their technical skills loses out. As we mentioned before, one can only obtain this kind of knowledge and technique through years of practice, and to lose these workers means to waste years of work and public investment. If skilled workers are abruptly forced to leave the institution, everything has to start again from scratch. This means irreversible damage to the audiovisual heritage, damage to our intellectual and scientific production, damage to our history and damage to the role of our nation in the world.

L: To preserve films is to combat the natural process of film decay. To preserve the more than 250,000 rolls of films that the Cinemateca Brasileira has, a great professional team is needed. How did the government's carelessness in paying worker’s salaries and maintaining the Cinemateca Brasileira put the entire collection at risk? And what are the specific risks that this collection runs during this moment?

AF: It is a tremendous work to fight the physical and chemical degradation of film material, and audiovisual preservation is a preventive measure that must remain ongoing. From learning how to delay film degradation, analyzing and separating material in an advanced degradative state, to making new matrices in order to avoid the loss of highly-deteriorated material, the work at an audiovisual archive has to be done by highly qualified professionals. Another vital part of the preservation process is to maintain temperature conditions that are favorable to preservation of the various kinds of material contained in the Cinemateca Brasileira archive. Such conditions are achieved with air-conditioning and dehumidifying devices and these devices are controlled to match the specific conditions of each type of material. Lastly, since a portion of our content is highly flammable, the role of firefighters is fundamental to the Cinemateca Brasileira because they help us avoid the spread of a fire.  

The lack of qualified workers in the Cinemateca Brasileira leaves all of the archival materials subject to natural degradation. It is important to highlight that the federal government has not offered any financial support to the Cinemateca during the first six months of 2020. So, the technical staff, the firefighters, the workers who maintain the air-conditioning devices and those who deal with the acquisitions of new material have all been affected. In addition, the strategic work done by the coordinators and directors of the Cinemateca who are responsible for implementing and executing the institution’s preservation and diffusion policies has been affected as well. Not to mention the cleaning and security teams who serve important roles in helping the institution function, as well as those who work in the library, the document collection center, they maintain the online Brazilian film database, the three screening rooms, and digital and video materials, which also need to be preserved under specific conditions.

The Cinemateca staff, civil society, and municipal and state agencies have been working to minimize the impact of the lack of federal support, keeping the temperature devices working as well as providing security and other occasional needs of the archive. Obviously, such individual actions can only accomplish so much given the lack of financial support.

It is no exaggeration to say the collection is at risk. The risk, on one hand, is urgent, as the collection poses a real fire risk if it is not maintained, but on the other hand there is a long term risk in the fact that the audio-visual materials at the Cinemateca Brasileira will degrade naturally if they aren’t given due attention and care by qualified workers. All the work has been totally interrupted with Acerp stepping out and the dismissal of all the workers.

Trabalhadores da Cinemateca Brasileira
01 de setembro de 2020.

1. The Cinemateca Brasileira is located at Vila Clementino, SãoPaulo

2. The Cinemateca Brasileira was part of the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) in 1984, and since 1985 it has been part of the Ministry of Culture (MinC).

3. On September 2nd, 2018, there was a large fire at the National Museum of Brazil. It is believed that 92.5% of its archive of 20 million items were destroyed.
PT /

Em setembro, a equipe do Limite teve a oportunidade de entrevistar os Trabalhadores da Cinemateca Brasileira, o coletivo que representa a equipe do maior acervo cinematográfico do Brasil, que está lutando há quase um ano inteiro pela sobrevivência desta instituição vital. Com essa entrevista, pudemos nos inteirar, pelos próprios funcionários, dos vários problemas que a Cinemateca e os profissionais da preservação audiovisual enfrentam no Brasil.

Em homenagem ao Dia Internacional do Patrimônio Audiovisual, apresentamos esta entrevista com alguns dos mais bravos arquivistas do mundo atualmente.
Limite: Qual tem sido a reação da comunidade cinematográfica internacional à crise da Cinemateca Brasileira? E o que podemos fazer para nos mantermos em dia sobre a situação?

Trabalhadores da Cinemateca Brasileira: Primeiramente, um agradecimento a todos que contribuíram com a campanha de arrecadação online e que vêm repercutindo a causa da Cinemateca Brasileira. Esse retorno da sociedade motivou, e vem motivando, o coletivo de trabalhadores da Cinemateca a relatar essa situação nas redes sociais. Mesmo com um corpo técnico com opiniões e vínculos diversos - além dos 41 celetistas que formalmente estiveram em greve, existem também os 11 prestadores de serviços - o retorno que tivemos foi importante, pois elevou a questão não só dos salários atrasados, mas do valor dos trabalhos técnicos realizados na instituição. Trabalhos que, aliás, advêm de investimentos públicos, e por isso compõem um dos patrimônios da própria Cinemateca Brasileira a serem preservados em qualquer solução de continuidade. Neste momento, a cobrança tem que ser feita junto à Secretaria Especial da Cultura e à Secretaria Nacional do Audiovisual para que eles encaminhem uma solução para a Cinemateca Brasileira. E que esta solução não seja meramente formal: que considere a atual equipe técnica e profissionais terceirizados e a sua ampliação.

Na ótica do governo, eles teriam feito a saída emergencial ao contratarem os serviços de segurança e brigadista. No entanto, não existe equipe técnica na instituição e boa parte dos profissionais terceirizados que trabalhavam lá também não foram chamados para esses novos contratos. A situação é bem preocupante porque sabemos dos problemas de queda de energia na região,1 e da necessidade de monitoramento dos acervos. Sem equipe técnica suficiente para realizar essas funções, o acervo encontra-se vulnerável. Afora a ausência de uma transição da atual equipe para uma próxima.
L: A Cinemateca Brasileira já passou por várias crises no passado. Vocês diriam que a crise atual é a mais significativa da história da instituição?

TCB: Sim. Pela primeira vez, em sua septuagenária história,não há equipe técnica trabalhando no local, não há qualquer garantia decontinuidade. O que fica cada vez mais patente é o descaso do poder público e afalta de atitude para solucionar os problemas enfrentados pela instituição.

Pela primeira vez, em sua septuagenária história, não há equipe técnica trabalhando no local, não há qualquer garantia de continuidade.
L: A crise na Cinemateca Brasileira não aconteceu da noite pro dia. Houve várias e lentas mudanças que foram comprometendo a instituição ao longo dos últimos anos. De que forma as condições de trabalho mudaram desde o início do governo Bolsonaro?

TCB: De maneira geral, as condições de trabalho na Cinemateca Brasileira seguiram o padrão do tratamento geral do governo em relação ao setor cultural. O início do governo marcou a extinção do Ministério da Cultura, ao qual a Cinemateca estava diretamente subordinada desde sua incorporação ao governo federal.2 As atividades anteriormente vinculadas ao Ministério da Cultura foram transferidas, através de uma Secretaria Especial de Cultura, para o Ministério da Cidadania.

Em novembro de 2019, após a queda do terceiro nome a comandar a secretaria, foi determinada sua transferência para o Ministério do Turismo. Essa transferência só foi concluída em junho de 2020. Entre os nomes que comandaram a pasta tivemos o diretor de teatro Ricardo Alvim, afastado após reproduzir um discurso do político nazista Joseph Goebbels, e a atriz Regina Duarte, que, ao ser desligada, publicou um vídeo no qual informava que assumiria a Cinemateca Brasileira, o que não se concretizou. Esse panorama sobre a Secretaria de Cultura demonstra o clima de indefinição que norteia as políticas culturais do país, o que, obviamente, também afetou a Cinemateca.

Há nas estruturas do governo federal vieses ideológicos, como o representado pelo já demitido ex-ministro da educação Abraham Weintraub. Partiu dele, a rescisão unilateral com a Organização Social que geria a Cinemateca Brasileira, Acerp, ainda no ano de 2019, deixando definitivamente os funcionários em condição de incerteza acerca da manutenção dos trabalhos da instituição.

Somente em junho de 2020, após dois meses sem salários, o início das movimentações dos trabalhadores e da auto-indicação da atriz Regina Duarte para "fazer Cinemateca", o governo começou a apontar providências para a gestão da instituição. Ou seja: entre janeiro (quando o contrato com a Organização Social já havia sido rompido) e junho, o governo não realizou nenhum movimento, seja institucional, seja financeiro, visando a gestão da Cinemateca.

L:  Há alguma expectativa entre vocês de que em breve haja progresso por parte do governo na solução dessa crise?

TCB: Em fevereiro de 2020, uma enchente prejudicou parte do acervo de uma das sedes da Cinemateca Brasileira. O trabalho de recuperação dos danos desse patrimônio foi feito pelos funcionários contratados pela organização social. O governo federal não realizou qualquer intervenção ou aporte financeiro. Sem a presença da Acerp e principalmente dos funcionários, que continuaram executando suas tarefas na Cinemateca durante o ano de 2020, esse patrimônio continuaria, literalmente, na lama.

A falta de apoio do governo, a falta de pagamentos, as demissões e a necessidade de pensar em nossa sobrevivência durante a pandemia, tudo isso acaba nos desmotivando. Mas tentamos continuar batalhando para que a crise se resolva, porque a Cinemateca Brasileira é um patrimônio inestimável para o povo brasileiro; não pode se perder como o Museu Nacional, perda que inclusive deveria servir de alerta ao governo.

A situação política não está favorável, mas há parlamentares preocupados com a causa. Talvez seja possível uma solução de transição diante da compreensão maior por parte do governo federal em relação às necessidades da Cinemateca Brasileira, após a visita técnica durante todo o dia 07 de agosto, quando as chaves lhe foram entregues. Por isso, esperamos poder ajudar na transição dos novos funcionários da instituição (caso novos funcionários sejam contratados). Há muitos bons motivos para recontratar os funcionários demitidos. A Cinemateca Brasileira não poderá cumprir sua missão de guardiã do patrimônio nacional sem a equipe especializada cujo conhecimento técnico foi desenvolvido trabalhando lá. Como esses trabalhadores passaram tantos anos desenvolvendo esses conhecimentos, eles se tornaram fundamentais para o funcionamento da instituição.  Para que o acervo não sofra impactos mais desastrosos do que os já ocorridos neste ano de 2020, é essencial que o governo abra espaço para uma solução de transição que leve em conta essa equipe, para que ela passe os encaminhamentos para a nova gestão, o que não foi possível com o caos político e administrativo que se instalou em todos esses meses.

L: Antes da interrupção dos trabalhos, quais eram algumas dos próximos projetos e atividades que estavam programados na Cinemateca?

TCB: Uma parte da equipe estava envolvida em projetos que eram a continuidade do ano anterior. Os números podem ser vistos no relatório de gestão da Acerp 2019. Esse trabalho foi interrompido por causa da pandemia, assim como o trabalho de recuperação do acervo inundado na enchente de fevereiro de 2020. Contando com uma equipe técnica extremamente reduzida, realizar os trabalhos recorrentes já era um grande desafio. Análise técnica de materiais fílmicos, movimentação de acervo, incorporação e análise de materiais de depósito legal, duplicações emergenciais, higienização de materiais, entre outros, tudo isso também foi interrompido, além das diversas solicitações de terceiros para acesso aos materiais, que também não foram realizadas, travando diversos projetos.

A pandemia alterou os planos para este ano e, ainda que a crise financeira não estivesse relacionada a ela, fez a questão se intensificar, uma vez que não era possível continuar trabalhando sem recebimento de salário e sem haver uma perspectiva para tal recebimento. Alguns poucos funcionários continuaram com trabalhos mínimos de monitoramento e manutenção mesmo durante a greve. Após o governo federal tomar as chaves da Cinemateca Brasileira no dia 07 de agosto de 2020, os últimos funcionários da instituição saíram, os vinculados à Acerp e a equipe de limpeza. Os funcionários da Cinemateca ligados à Acerp foram demitidos, impossibilitando definitivamente até a continuação dos trabalhos mínimos de monitoramento e manutenção.

L: Os trabalhadores da Cinemateca Brasileira organizaram vários protestos públicos, fizeram uma campanha de financiamento coletivo, colocaram faixas pela cidade de São Paulo e arregimentaram importante apoio online. Apesar de todas essas conquistas, quais foram seus maiores desafios ao longo dos últimos meses? Que ideias ou crenças mantêm os trabalhadores unidos e fortes durante este período difícil?

TCB: Além da questão do não pagamento dos nossos salários e da insegurança em relação ao futuro, outro grande desafio foi a falta de transparência em relação à comunicação conosco, pois foi através da imprensa que acompanhamos as decisões e movimentações políticas da Acerp e do governo federal. Nos mantivemos unidos até aqui procurando minorar as situações individuais de cada um e tentando resolver a situação o mais rapidamente possível, com cada pessoa contribuindo da maneira que podia, fosse movimentando as ações virtuais, fosse presente nos atos ou nos dois.
Nos mantivemos unidos até aqui procurando minorar as situações individuais de cada um e tentando resolver a situação o mais rapidamente possível, com cada pessoa contribuindo da maneira que podia, fosse movimentando as ações virtuais, fosse presente nos atos ou nos dois.

L: De que forma a comunidade cinematográfica brasileira ajudou na pressão por mudanças? E por que é importante que todos os cineastas brasileiros se preocupem com a atual crise na Cinemateca Brasileira?

TCB: Instituições e associações ligadas ao audiovisual e movimentos formados em torno da causa como o SOS Cinemateca e o Cinemateca Acesa estão sendo importantes para a divulgação da situação de emergência vivenciada pela Cinemateca Brasileira e pelos trabalhadores, são pessoas que além de divulgar procuram acessar a esferas políticas que podem ajudar na resolução dessa crise. É importante que os cineastas estejam acompanhando e dando apoio, porque é a Cinemateca que tem a infraestrutura e equipe técnica que não só assegura a preservação das matrizes das obras audiovisuais produzidas por eles, como também garante a preservação e difusão de toda a produção audiovisual brasileira dos últimos 120 anos, proporcionando assim meios de acesso e referências para novas produções.

L: Podem discorrer sobre a importância de instituições como a Cinemateca na redescoberta e reavaliação do passado? Consideram que proporcionar acesso à história do Brasil é importante no momento atual?

TCB: As instituições de memória tem o papel de salvaguardar e difundir seu acervo para que nós possamos acessá-lo e produzir novas leituras de mundo, e para que a continuidade desse processo seja legada às próximas gerações. Esse movimento é, por si, um dos traços definidores de uma nação. A produção audiovisual é parte desse movimento, e diz muito sobre o período em que é produzida: a técnica utilizada, a linguagem, o que é mostrado e até o que não é. Estes são elementos que nos dão contextos históricos e nos permitem, neste século XXI, fazer questionamentos a partir da bagagem que adquirimos ao longo dos mais de 120 anos da nossa produção audiovisual. Por exemplo, compreender as permanências e mudanças, no que a nossa sociedade entende em termos comportamentais e conquistas de direitos.

O Brasil se interessa pouco por seu passado porque as políticas públicas para com o patrimônio histórico material e imaterial, quando existem, estão muito suscetíveis aos interesses do governo da vez. Nesse caso, a Cinemateca Brasileira é vítima de descontinuidades que não vêm de agora, mas que agora, mais do que nunca, expõe a ausência de uma política pública para a Preservação Audiovisual. É importante que a população esteja municiada com uma educação pública de qualidade, acesso à informação e às manifestações culturais produzidas por todo país, pois são direitos fundamentais para que a sociedade brasileira se desenvolva. Isso não pode, e nem deveria, ser visto como algo ameaçador a qualquer tipo de governo em uma democracia.
É importante que a população esteja municiada com uma educação pública de qualidade, acesso à informação e às manifestações culturais produzidas por todo país, pois são direitos fundamentais para que a sociedade brasileira se desenvolva. Isso não pode, e nem deveria, ser visto como algo ameaçador a qualquer tipo de governo em uma democracia.

L: O movimento dos trabalhadores da Cinemateca Brasileira deixou claro que a preservação de filmes não se dá pelo trabalho isolado de alguns indivíduos, mas é necessário toda uma gama de trabalhadores de diferentes áreas para salvaguardar adequadamente a história do audiovisual brasileiro. De que forma a negligência do governo em relação à Cinemateca Brasileira afeta esses grupos de colaboradores que, em última instância, possibilitam a preservação dos filmes?

TCB: A negligência afeta os trabalhadores em muitos aspectos. Do ponto de vista individual, a equipe ficou sem salários por meses e muitos encontram-se desempregados, mesmo entre as equipes terceirizadas, pois elas também tiveram muitas demissões. Do ponto de vista do trabalho coletivo, primeiro a pandemia afetou os trabalhos, exigindo a interrupção de muitos serviços presenciais e redução das equipes; depois, as equipes terceirizadas foram se retirando por causa da falta de pagamentos para as empresas e sobrecarregando poucos trabalhadores que continuavam indo na instituição mesmo sem receber os salários.

Muitos colaboradores estão na instituição há muitos anos. Afastá-los de seus trabalhos é uma perda para a sociedade que investiu em suas formações. Como já mencionamos anteriormente, esse tipo de conhecimento e técnica só são possíveis de obter na prática e com os anos, perder esses colaboradores é trabalho e investimento jogados fora, teria que se recomeçar do zero. E isso significaria danos irreversíveis ao patrimônio audiovisual, à nossa produção intelectual e científica, à nossa história e ao nosso papel enquanto nação perante o mundo.

L: Preservar filmes é combater o processo natural de decadência da película. Para preservar os mais de 250.000 rolos de filmes que a Cinemateca Brasileira possui é necessária uma grande equipe profissional. Como o descaso do governo em pagar seus salários e manter a Cinemateca Brasileira colocou em risco todo o acervo? E quais são os riscos que este acervo corre no momento?

AF: Dá um trabalho tremendo combater a degradação físico-química da película cinematográfica, e o trabalho de preservação audiovisual tem caráter preventivo e contínuo. Desde as formas de atrasar os efeitos dessa degradação, passando pela análise e separação dos materiais com degradação mais evidente (e que colocam outros materiais em risco) até a criação de novas matrizes para evitar a perda de materiais em vias de desaparecimento o trabalho de um acervo audiovisual é contínuo e bastante qualificado. Esse trabalho depende também de condições climáticas favoráveis a preservação destes e de diversos outros suportes que compõem o acervo da Cinemateca, condições estas obtidas com o auxílio de aparelhos de ar condicionado e desumidificadores, por exemplo, devidamente controlados para a especificidade de cada material. Por fim, ainda que todo o trabalho vise evitar qualquer tipo de acidente a presença de bombeiros é fundamental, dada a característica inflamável de parte do material e como forma de evitar que qualquer evento de autocombustão se torne um incêndio generalizado.

A ausência de mão de obra qualificada e das condições materiais para execução do trabalho deixam o acervo sob os efeitos dessa degradação natural. É importante salientar que o governo federal não fez aportes financeiros para a Cinemateca por, pelo menos, todo o primeiro semestre de 2020. Com isso, os técnicos, os bombeiros, a manutenção dos equipamentos climatizadores e a aquisição de material do trabalho diário ficam prejudicados. Também fica prejudicado o trabalho estratégico dos coordenadores e diretores da Cinemateca, responsáveis por instituir e executar as políticas de preservação e difusão da instituição. Da mesma forma, também ficam sem recursos os serviços de limpeza, segurança e todos aqueles relacionados com o funcionamento da instituição que também mantém uma biblioteca, acervo documental, um banco de dados sobre a Filmografia Brasileira com acesso online aberto, três espaços de exibição, entre outros serviços, além de também trabalhar com material digital e diversos formatos de vídeo, que também têm suas especificidades de preservação.

Iniciativas da equipe da Cinemateca, da sociedade civil e de entes estatais em nível municipal e estadual tentaram minorar os efeitos da ausência do governo federal, mantendo equipamentos de climatização em funcionamento, fornecendo segurança e realizando ações pontuais de cuidado com o acervo. Como fica evidente, essas iniciativas são limitadas pela falta de condições financeiras.

Não é exagero, portanto, apontar que o material está em risco, tanto em um sentido mais urgente, já que parte do acervo corre mesmo riscos de incêndio, quanto em um sentido mais sutil, mas não menos profundo: o risco de apagamento da memória audiovisual brasileira, que tem lugar nesse material que sofre sua degradação natural sem o acompanhamento e as atitudes preventivas que eram realizadas pela mão de obra qualificada. Trabalhos totalmente interrompidos com a retirada da Acerp e a consequente demissão de todos os funcionários.

Trabalhadores da Cinemateca Brasileira
01 de setembro de 2020.

1. A Cinemateca Brasileira fica na Vila Clementino, em São Paulo.

2. Em 1984, a instituição fazia parte do Ministério da Educação e Cultura (MEC) e, desde 1985, do Ministério da Cultura (MinC).

PT /
Seu curta-metragem Nitrato tem sido bastante revisitado nos últimos anos, em mostras de cinema, festivais e agora no Limite. Além do frescor estético do filme, não podemos deixar de notar a absoluta contemporaneidade do tema abordado - a Cinemateca Brasileira - que atravessa uma grave crise. Guardadas as abissais diferenças de infraestrutura entre a época retratada no filme e o momento atual, continuamos afirmando o óbvio: a importância da existência de uma entidade como essa para garantirmos a preservação do nosso patrimônio audiovisual.

Multifacetado, o filme expressa ambiguidades e contradições entre a importância da Cinemateca, expressa pela riqueza de seu acervo, seu reconhecimento perante entidades internacionais e sua relação com o público; e o descaso reservado a ela, demonstrado pela precariedade de suas instalações, a ausência de respostas nas tentativas de diálogo com o poder público e a ocorrência de mais um incêndio em suas instalações.

Assim como na época do filme, a Cinemateca Brasileira se configura, além de ser o maior arquivo audiovisual do Brasil, como um importante espaço de difusão e acesso ao cinema brasileiro e mundial, com uma excelente programação em suas salas de exibição e a realização de mostras e festivais em sua sede. A difusão sempre um dos pólos agregadores de pessoas em torno de uma Cinemateca, tanto do público em geral quanto de estudantes e pesquisadores de cinema. O filme, inclusive, foi realizado em um período em que você próprio era estudante de cinema na Escola de Comunicações e Artes da USP.
Débora Butruce and Natália de Castro: Como era a relação dos estudantes da ECA com a Cinemateca? Comosurgiu seu interesse pelo assunto?

Alain Fresnot: A Cinemateca era grande fornecedora de filmes para o curso de cinema. A presença do Paulo Emílio2 as duas instituições facilitava o contato e interesse. Como estudante, tendo um interesse em me profissionalizar como montador, o cinema soviético me interessava muito; Eisenstein, claro e os filmes vinham da cinemateca. Por último, minha amizade com Gofredo da Silva Telles, enteado do Paulo Emílio, me proporcionava frequentar a casa dele e consequentemente me aproximar da Cinemateca.
DB & NDC: O filme foi realizado em 35mm, quais foram ascondições de produção? E em relação à equipe e ao maquinário? Quais foram asbases de suas opções estéticas?

AF: Não sou pessoa com memória muito privilegiada, longe disto, mas lembro que a parceria com o jovem fotógrafo Pedro Farkas foi essencial, pois ele além de fotografo tinha todos os equipamentos da produtora do pai, o empresário, produtor e fotógrafo Thomaz Farkas. Obviamente o filme pode ser realizado graças à colaboração de equipe, pois não havia produção financeira nenhuma. Na sequência consegui o apoio do Aluísio Leite, produtor carioca, muito ligado a Cinemateca do Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro. Creio que a partir disto foi possível toda a finalização do filme, mas tudo isto sujeito a confirmação.

DB & NDC: Sua ligação com a Cinemateca Brasileira e a preservação audiovisual se reflete na sua forma de perceber e fazer cinema? De que forma essa experiência influenciou sua carreira?

AF: Não fosse a possibilidade de ver os clássicos que estavam na Cinemateca, certamente minha formação seria mais pobre e se refletiria no meu trabalho. Dito isto, minha ligação com a Cinemateca foi menos importante do que a possibilidade de conviver com o Professor Paulo Emílio, cuja liderança e militância em favor do cinema brasileiro marcaram minha carreira como a de muitos outros colegas.

DB & NDC: As tecnologias de cinema mudaram muito desde que o filme foi feito, tanto na produção quanto na distribuição, exibição e acesso. Você acha que essas questões impactaram a relação da comunidade cinematográfica com os arquivos audiovisuais e com o patrimônio cinematográfico? Como você avalia a atual relação dos cineastas e estudantes de cinema com a Cinemateca Brasileira?

AF: A banalização das imagens pela proliferação das tecnologias, dessacralizaram o audiovisual. Me lembro, quando na Cinemateca, se encontrávamos latas com sobras de um filme, era uma grande alegria. Depois de alguns anos, a Cinemateca já não aceitava as sobras de longas metragens, só as cópias finais. Não saberia dizer como as atuais cineastas e estudantes se relacionam com a Cinemateca, mas imagino que seja com interesse mas, dadas as facilidades de acessar os filmes em plataformas variadas, a Cinemateca perdeu um pouco de sua centralidade.

DB & NDC: Nos anos 1970, você foi voluntário da Cinemateca Brasileira, sob orientação de Lucila Bernardet, personagem importantíssima na trajetória da Cinemateca Brasileira e na preservação audiovisual no Brasil, que, no entanto, não tem tido visibilidade à altura de sua importância. Quais as impressões que você guarda dela e dessa época?

AF: Sou incapaz de avaliar a importância da Lucila Bernardet para a Cinemateca. Na época, ela me parecia a voluntária que estava de plantão, depois de uma primeira época de crescimento e implantação da instituição, mas já plenamente decadente e “abandonada” pelos fundadores. Jogava bola conosco, os jovens, pois depois de entrar, eu trouxe outros colegas para participar do esforço. Importante também lembrar a figura do Sr Aluísio, que dá um depoimento no filme a respeito de um dos incêndios enquanto descasca uma cana,. Ele era um funcionário da prefeitura, nordestino, cedido para presença no prédio central,  e que conhecia cada rato pelo nome e tinha batizado cada goteira, sabendo exatamente o tamanho da lata ou panela necessária para escorar a mesma durante as chuvas.

DB & NDC: Nessa época você também editava uma pequena revista mimeograda chamada Cinemateca. Do que tratava essa revista? Existem exemplares acessíveis?

AF: Sim, voluntarioso e sem condições de fazer nada efetivamente estruturante para a conservação do acervo, dedicamos um esforço em fazer circular as cópias disponíveis e sem problema de conservação de matriz, junto ao circuito de cineclubismo e de militância estudantil. Daí a idéia da revista, da qual devo ter alguns exemplares em meus arquivos. Se não me engano tratava das questões do Cinema Brasileiro, tanto na sua atualidade como nas análises de fundo e problemas da Cinemateca. A lembrança que tenho é de um texto empolado, rebuscado e militante. Valeria uma conferida.

DB & NDC: Ver Nitrato atualmente nos traz sentimentos contraditórios: ao mesmo tempo em que percebemos que muita coisa mudou, o trágico momento atual da Cinemateca Brasileira nos faz chegar à conclusão que a área de preservação no Brasil tem problemas estruturais, que sempre voltam para nos assombrar. Para você, qual é a saída para a crise que a Cinemateca Brasileira está atravessando? Como garantir que instituições públicas de patrimônio não estejam à mercê das flutuações de entradas e saídas de governantes e seja efetivamente uma política de Estado?

AF: Infelizmente a reflexão do Paulo Emílio quanto a indigência da elite brasileira em entender os problemas da cultura segue atual. Tivemos avanços, mas os “Contratos de Gestão”, as “O.S” são deformações para gestões públicas que desconfiam da capacidade de funcionários públicos realizarem corretamente suas funções.  Essa mistificação de “economia criativa” faz com que a necessidade de gastos públicos em atividades estruturantes seja desprestigiada e vista como gasto e não investimento. Espero que os avanços tecnológicos venham baratear a conservação, mas a situação é tão dramática, que quase não sobram no país equipamentos para telecinar nosso acervo.

DB & NDC: Consideramos um dos momentos mais marcantes do filme quando Paulo Emílio discorre sobre a Cinemateca e a importância da conscientização acerca do patrimônio audiovisual. Você acha que atualmente os membros da comunidade cinematográfica e a sociedade em geral entendem a necessidade da existência de uma Cinemateca?

AF: A voracidade de imagem das televisões privadas e públicas fazem com que o universo de profissionais do audiovisual entendam com facilidade a necessidade de conservação dos registros e consequentemente da Cinemateca. Quanto à sociedade em geral, as carências, diferenças de renda, de educação e de atendimento às necessidades básicas me fazem duvidar da pertinência do  conceito de “sociedade em geral”.

DB & NDC: Paulo Emílio Sales Gomes acaba sendo um coprotagonista do filme, junto com a própria Cinemateca Brasileira. Na sua opinião, por que ele continua sendo uma figura tão central?

AF: Porque a questão central que ele e a geração dele conseguiu formular de maneira clara não foi resolvida até hoje qual seja: transformar o Cinema Brasileiro de intruso em seu próprio mercado em protagonista no seu território.

DB & NDC: Nitrato parece uma metáfora para a história do cinema brasileiro, pois temos acesso apenas a fragmentos, através dos quais tentamos vislumbrar uma possível totalidade. Instituições de preservação audiovisual existem para diminuir e evitar essas lacunas, atuando na conservação dos materiais. Atividade primordial para que possamos, inclusive, acessar um filme como Nitrato, 46 anos depois de sua realização. No caso dos seus outros filmes, onde estão as matrizes e as cópias de exibição?

AF: De fato, o filme me surpreendeu ao revê-lo depois de 30 anos. Ele tem uma “liberdade” na utilização dos materiais que permite a elaboração de um discurso preciso e rico de sugestões ao mesmo tempo. Meus outros filmes estão na Cinemateca, o que é objeto de apreensão constante. A Cinemateca tem por política a manutenção das matrizes e de uma ou duas cópias. As distribuidoras tinham o costume de vender as cópias já usadas para fazer vassouras. Estamos falando das antigas cópias físicas, evidentemente.

DB & NDC: Fazer cinema no Brasil contemporâneo também tem sido um desafio. Como tem sido sua relação com o cinema atualmente?

AF: Fazer cinema no Brasil sempre foi um desafio. Tenho sete longas como diretor ao longo de 50 anos de carreira. Na França ou nos Estados Unidos, neste mesmo período teria 15 ou 20 filmes realizados. Atualmente tenho uma comédia em preparação, estou escrevendo um roteiro, pesquisando para outro e tenho um documentário pronto aguardando para ser lançado. Concluiria, sem querer me comparar, citando Paulo Emilio mais uma vez, quando, se referindo a Glauber Rocha, disse: “O limite para o Glauber é o Brasil”. É próprio do subdesenvolvimento o desperdiçar de seus talentos.

1. Escola de Comunicações e Artes da Universidade de São Paulo (ECA-USP).

2. Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes (1916-1977) was one of the most influential film scholars in Brazil, one of the founders of the Cinemateca Brasileira, a film professor, a film critic, a prolific writer and researcher of Brazilian cinema history. You can check out a book of his texts in English, here.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most historically so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that Atlântida Cinematográfica—the Brazilian film studio responsible for the majority of chanchada films—had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. Therefore, for a Brazilian archivist — or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker —the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus Brazilian cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
  1. Universal Exhibition or the World’s Fair were large events designed to showcase international achievements that were very important in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Terra Encantada was shot during the Independence Centenary International Exposition, held from 1922 to 1923 in Rio de Janeiro.
  2. Chanchada was the term given to the Brazilian popular musical comedies of the 1940s and 1950s by critics of the time. These critics considered these films to be simply bad copies of Hollywood features of the same genre. Atlântida was the most famous, but not the only, studio to produce chanchadas.
  3. I’m referring here to Christensen’s films Rei Pelé (1961), a biopic, and Cronica da Cidade Amada (1964), a widescreen film that can currently only be seen in a horribly cropped digital copy taken from a VHS tape.

Limite: Can you describe how you originally came upon the figure of Vassourinha? As a found-footage filmmaker, were you actively searching for a new topic to explore, or did Vassourinha come into your life in a more unexpected way?
Carlos Adriano: One can say that, until my feature documentary Santos Dumont: pré-cineasta? (2010), those of my films which deal with found footage or archive material share a common and essential mark: they are all about unknown, forgotten or lost subjects of Brazilian culture (and their remaining materials). For example: Remainiscences (1994-1997) is about the supposed first film footage of Brazil (registered in 1897); Militancy (2001-2002) is about the magic lantern by photographer Militão Augusto de Azevedo; Porviroscope (2004-2006) is about the only film made by writer Monteiro Lobato (as well as the only audio recording of his voice); From the Ruins to the Rexistance (2004-2007) is about the unfinished films by poet Décio Pignatari; Santoscope = Dumontage (2007-2009) is about a mutoscope film (1901) featuring Brazilian inventor and aviator Santos Dumont. So Vassourinha is a coherent subject, from a “retrospective” perspective. Personally, I was very fond of him as an original singer, one who takes part in a “low-key” tradition which includes Orlando Silva (in his first phase), Mário Reis, Roberto Silva and João Gilberto. This tradition would commonly feature a kind of singing close to the spoken words, a “canto falado” ("spoken song"). I had Vassourinha’s record long before the idea of making the film. In a way, the film is a sort of fan’s tribute. Besides, the tragedy of Vassourinha’s life—that of dying at the young age of 19 from a rare disease—is a matter relating to another axis of my film work (mortality, death, and life). Also, the extreme rarity of the subject—an artist about whom very little information and documentation was left—was an interest as well. Vassourinha came into my life as unexpectedly as all good fortunes, by a loving chance.
L: Upon learning more about Vassourinha, and deciding to make a film about him, how did you begin the process of putting together the immense number of photographs, sounds, newspaper clippings, music sheets and even financial records that can be found within A Voz e o Vazio: A Vez de Vassourinha? Were these records presented to you within a single archive or did you undergo a long research process throughout numerous places to track this material down? Take us through what this collection process was like.
CA: The great starting point is encapsulated in the loop I edited from the two words of the Emília song at the beginning of the film: “Ninguém sabe, ninguém sabe, ninguém sabe…” (“Nobody knows…”). I started with almost nothing, only a few clips and clues. After an extensive (and intense) inquiry—somewhere between archaeology and detective work—I and Bernardo Vorobow (co-producer and my life long companion)1 conducted research across every possible source, until we got two personal albums of news clippings gathered by Vassourinha himself. One of them was given to me generously by Alberto Helena Junior, a big fan and high scholar of Vassourinha; the other album I got from what remained of the singer’s family: a foster brother. All six 78 rpm records recorded by Vassourinha which were used in the film for shooting and recording (all sound in the film came from those discs) belong to the Miécio Caffé private collection.2 The Miécio Caffé collection was at that time deposited at Museu da Imagem e do Som (São Paulo). I was fortunate to meet Raul Duarte in person, the radio producer/director who hired Vassourinha to sing for Radio Record, and to talk to a doctor who treated Vassourinha during his last hospitalization. The very path of the research process dictated the film’s structure: a huge amount of information about someone whom people knew almost nothing about. Shards, specters, remains – the matter life is composed of. The collection process is, in a way, metaphorized in the end sequence at the cemetery: the search for his grave was like the search for his life-work information.
L: When watching A Voz e o Vazio: A Vez de Vassourinha, one gets the sense that they are witnessing the re-birth of a defining Samba figure of the 20th century. However, it is not one, two, or three historical documents that contribute to this feeling, but the hundreds that are sutured together through a dialectical montage of both sound and image which brings forth the presence and rhythm of Samba, life, death, mortality, and memory. It is important to note that in the film, many of these documents do not even appear on the screen for a long enough period of time for the viewer to fully read them.

The materiality of the record and its presence reigns supreme in Vassourinha. You never make fact-claims about who he was, what he wanted, or what he did, but you let these historical materials do the talking themselves. How does this speak to your larger philosophy on archival materials, and how does the cinematic medium afford you the tools to activate said material?
CA: I think that this sense of witnessing a “re-birth” or a “re-defining” of a forgotten icon is natural, as one of the film’s purposes is to make Vassourinha alive again, “simply” as it is. As the film is a gesture of love (a labor of life, a labor of love), this feeling comes forward from the screen and toward the face of the viewer/listener. Maybe it is not so accurate to say that Vassourinha is unknown, because during his time he was very famous. He fell into oblivion afterwards, after his death, aftermath. In Portuguese, the word "olvido" (oblivion) is akin to "ouvido" (ear), and this is a password I tried to work formally, as a way of aesthetic operation: representing the limits between forgetfulness and the rescuing of this forgetfulness through the act of hearing this artist's voice. But his voice fell into a void; so I felt that my “mission” (in terms of my respect to this human being and his art) was to pay the highest tribute: to create a true dialogue. I was fortunate enough to be able to gather that huge amount of historical documentation about somebody who “nobody knew anything about”. The film works around the limits of legibility, the border between reading and understanding. And it was exactly this contradiction — the fact that there existed plenty of documents about an elusive figure — which sutured together and fortified strength of the film. The fact that “these documents do not even appear on the screen for a long enough period of time for the viewer to fully read them” was an operational choice I made in order to “translate” the sign and the myth of Vassourinha. The best testimony I would be able to provide (besides the best and most sincere tribute to Vassourinha’s art) was to “let these historical materials do the talking themselves” – but articulated by proper tools of the cinematic medium, as far as its power to construct (and deconstruct) associations by the means of cinema’s supreme muse of montage (“editing” would be a word that does not give justice to the work itself). My humble task was of a [Walter] Benjaminian nature: to gather this bag of rags and suggest a coherent constellation.
"In Portuguese, the word “olvido” (oblivion) is akin to “ouvido” (ear), and this is a password I tried to work formally, as a way of aesthetic operation: representing the limits between forgetfulness and the rescuing of this forgetfulness through the act of hearing this artist’s voice"
L: Of the five films you have made which deal with forgotten cultural histories of Brazil,3 this is the only one that deals exclusively with a musician. How did the work of sifting through the archives of a sambista differ from those of your films which focus on cinematic history? Or is there a reoccurring methodology in your approach towards bringing archival materials into re-existence?
CA: I am not quite sure if there is any difference – from my point of view of the filmmaking-operation – between working upon an archive of a sambista and working upon the archive an artist of a different medium (literature, photography, caricature). Because film is “mine”, my operational mode of work; when I work on an artist’s oeuvre, I try to understand and translate their bare essentials to my vocabulary (my personal film language), to be in tune to their artistic mood. As you can read in one of the news clips, Vassourinha performed “De Babado”, a song written by Noel Rosa and João Mina, and recorded by Noel Rosa e Marília Batista in 1936. This record appears in a sequence of Santoscope = Dumontage – and of course I bear in mind that connection. The first record album (33 rpm) released with all the six sambas recorded by Vassourinha in the late 60s had its cover designed by Miécio Caffé, a famous (but also fallen into oblivion) caricaturist and music collector and tons of Brazilians singers came to browse the private collection of old 78 rpm records of Miécio to research and study. To cite just two: Chico Buarque and João Gilberto — the legendary re-interpretations of Brazilian sambas by João Gilberto would not be possible without the collection of Miécio Caffé. In 2003, I made the film A Caffé with Miécio and for that film Caetano Veloso made a new recording of a lesser-known samba, “A Voz do Povo”, originally composed by Malfitano and Frasão and recorded by Orlando Silva in 1941. Veloso called the samba a manifesto for my cinema work. Yes, there is a reoccurring methodology in my approach towards bringing archival materials into re-existance, to quote the title of my film about Pignatari’s unfinished films – note that I imply a play between « existence » and « resistance », which configure a key pair into play.
L: The history of cultural archives in Brazil is filled with stories of loss, tragedy, and neglect. However, one could also view this story as an occasional tale of triumph, as the will of a few individuals succeeded in preserving Brazilian cultural memory up until this day. Their efforts have allowed us to glean new ideas from historical works of Brazilian art in our present moment.

As a found-footage filmmaker, many of your works deal with the forgotten cultural memories of Brazil’s past. Can you speak to how the history and past efforts of Brazilian cultural preservation has impacted your work? Why, in your mind, have such important figures such as Vassourinha been (previously) forgotten?
CA: There is a  trajectory of academic research in my life. I graduated from film school of Escola de Comunicações e Artes da USP – University of São Paulo (ECA-USP). I have my master degree and my PhD (2008) at the same USP, both advised by Prof. Ismail Xavier. Besides this, I did two Post Doctorals, one in the Arts (at Pontifical Catholic University – PUC-SP, 2014) supervised by Prof. Arlindo Machado, and one in Film (at USP, 2017) supervised by Prof. Cristian Borges. For my PhD and my Post-Doctoral at PUC-SP I had fellowships from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) and for my Post-Doctoral at USP I had a fellowship from CAPES. That long and boring CV quote is just meant to show how serious I take scholarly research and how, throughout my life, spheres of study and archiving informed my trajectory. I have also worked at the Cinemateca Brasileira from 1986 to 1999.                                                        

Perhaps I could reply to your first question with an example from a case study. My PhD research (which made the way for the production of two films about Santos Dumont) was based on an unknown object of the Santos Dumont Collection of Museu Paulista da USP (aka Museu do Ipiranga). It was an unidentified object in terms of year and origin of production, its technical nature, and even its attributed name was wrong and misleading – but it was there, in the archive. After taking a research path alike the one pursued in Vassourinha’s, I identified that it was a mutoscope hub, produced in 1901 by the British branch of American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, probably shot by William K.L. Dickson, and subsequently tracked its archival history. The last sentence of your question requires too large of an explanation, so I would hazard a risk of saying in short that I think Brazil historically has a consistent tradition of treating badly and worst its best sons and daughters, mainly in the realm of culture.
L: In Vassourinha, there are moments in which the soundtrack starts and stops, as if a 78 rpm record is skipping. This is often accompanied on the image track by a flicker effect. Knowing your affinities to other found footage filmmakers such as Ken Jacobs, how do you see this flicker effect operating in relation to its use in other global contexts, and is there something about the Brazilian archive, and the life of Vassourinha, that drove you to use said effect?
CA: I could only talk about my personal use of the flicker (which is, of course, rooted in a tradition of avant-garde film), a feature that I use a lot in my films. In Santoscope = Dumontage, the flicker is a structural-film device extracted from the mutoscope apparatus itself that hosted the original 1901 film about Santos Dumont which I worked on. In the case of Vassourinha, the flicker has a role a little bit analogous to the one I used in Remainiscences: in the sense of gaps, lapses, missing links, lost abysses, the void. But in Vassourinha there is a surplus: the flicker as an instance of consciousness, as a moment when the shutter quickly obliterates the image to make it resonate in time; so the flicker is a constituent element of the fabric tissue of Vassourinha's history (which has been torn to pieces), but it is also a device for understanding this history. There is even a formal rhyme with the condition of his Blackness, in the sense of what is concealed or erased. It is as if the flicker was a correspondent to Walter Benjamin's “dialectical image”, that brief and elusive moment when associations sparkle beyond historical time. I really like the Benjaminian notion of history, both as waste and ruins and as the viewpoint of the losers. Naturally, in a peripheral country like Brazil — which has always abused its institutions tasked with the preservation of its cultural memory, and which has a long and dark past of erasing and repressing its figures(rooted in its history with slavery) — the flicker reaches an profound allegorical power (and I use this term as Ismail Xavier so well defined it in his seminal book Allegories of Underdevelopment) in a way, far beyond the formal flicker wonders of Peter Kubelka, Ken Jacobs, Tony Conrad and others.
L: A Voz e o Vazio: A Vez de Vassourinha, in addition to being a work of art invested in the gesture of resurrection, also serves, even unprojected as a roll of celluloid, as a veritable repository of images and documentation relating to Vassourinha – an archive in itself. What do you make of this and how do you feel the historical material transforms when it passes from one medium to another?
CA: Definitely, Vassourinha film is an analog piece of art – it was thought and made as a 35mm film. And I treasure most the concept of “infinite film” by Hollis Frampton, in his meta-history essay, which I “translated” in my PhD thesis to the domain of found footage. My PhD piece has not been published as a book yet, but you can browse it at the University of São Paulo’s thesis database and I published an essay based on it in the journal Anais do Museu Paulista. I took all the documents of Vassourinha I could find and gathered them as “frames” of an infinity film – all materials are matter of film poetry. I regret that you are not able to screen the film in its original format of 35mm. I made some disruptive turns with the celluloid that are only fully accomplished in film form. The “resurrection” you mention is taken in (and made by means of) the celluloid itself. Besides the flickering, I used veils, those mysterious frames which are not properly exposed in the camera shutter. Except for the final sequence, shot on location in the set of the cemetery where Vassourinha is buried, the film was shot with an Oxberry animation machine. One of the highest praises of which I am most proud is about my style of editing: even when editing in a digital suite, my work is tributary to the moviola. In the sense of passing from the medium of history to the medium of film, I would say that the transformation occurs in the realm of poetry. I take the word here to mean poetics, the method of structure, a matter of form, a way of shaping materials and thoughts. And I would say that historians like Walter Benjamin, Aby Warburg and Hayden White have contributed to let the document free, to be reappropriated by the artists.
L: Important Brazilian Cinema historians such as Vicente de Paula Araújo (A Bela Época do Cinema Brasileiro, 1976), Alex Viany (Introdução ao Cinema Brasileiro, 1959), and Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes (Cinema: Trajetória no Subdesenvolvimento, written in the 60s, but first published in 1986) were forced to search for fragments of the past and to uncover footnotes of history in order to paint a picture of bygone cinematic eras for then-present and future generations. To what extent does a work such as Vassourinha follow within that trajectory of historical research, and how in your mind does it deviate from it?
CA: To work with fragments – with the remains, with the small details at the bottom of the page –  is an attitude professed by the École dos Annales and historians like Benjamin and Warburg. The film historians you mentioned worked from a peripheral point of view, where issues of underdevelopment were very present in Brazil, and they were informed by the delayed experience of modernity in Brazil. They definitely conjured up a key body of work and provided references for anybody else interested in the adventure of investigating the Brazilian film past. I think Vassourinha is part of this tradition you mentioned in the sense of a deep research on profoundly national roots, as if the issue of national identity was a crucial and defining issue, and a kind of adhesion to popular subjects in the way defended by Brazilian Modernism (Mário de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade). The elements from popular culture were taken as a password for a revelation of Brazil to Brazilians themselves. As far as Paula Araújo is concerned, my research method is somewhat like his, sharing the deep dive into the primary sources of reference materials. As far as Paulo Emílio is concerned, my mind operates within the same framework as his: a sort of sociological inquiry about the human fact. I think that Vassourinha deviates from this tradition insofar as it radically assumes a notion of a poetic metahistory, in the sense that it is not obliged to clarify nor conclude anything as far as a national project is defined in terms of teleology and a big synthesis. I treasure the gaps, the lapses, the mysterious inconclusiveness; the serious research does not serve to any sort of “redemption” of our pride – the works and the artists compose a moving (in-motion; emotional) constellation.
L: In your essay “Found Footage and Magnetization of Affection” you bring forth from Hollis Frampton’s concept of “Infinite Cinema” the ideal of an “Infinite Archive”. The concept stems from cinema’s relationship to the digital age, and the endless ability to “digitally recycle cinema’s beginnings”. Elsewhere, referring to Aby Warburg and Georges Didi-Huberman’s notion of the Leitfossil, you claim that “In my wonder-room, there is no such thing as a dead archive; just living archives, asleep in their forms”.

Both the notion of an “Infinite Archive” and the denial of a dead archive seem to disregard, at first glance, the seemingly finite state of archiving that has approached Brazil’s institutions for decades now. However, at a second glance, one might realize that you’re not denying the reality that there are ends within the archive, but you’re expanding on the ways in which those ends can be used within the digital age – The footage can be reproduced infinitively in an array of shapes, forms, and expressions.

Can you comment on this interpretation of your ideas? And how can the notion of “Infinite Archive” be looked at under the particular guise of the Brazilian archival situation?
CA: In my PhD thesis and in subsequent articles published in academic journals, I transferred (and transformed) Frampton’s notion to the domain of found footage. I think it is an original contribution to film studies, this conceptual montage that I do between Benjamin, Frampton and Warburg (among many other theoretical, cultural and historical notions). Moving into the geographical and socio-political-economic context of a country like Brazil would require an effort and an extension of argument that I am not capable of in the brief context of this interview. Evidently, at a first glance, the economic difficulties themselves bring other parameters to the question: how to think about the survival of images (as depositories of national memory) if the very survival of the archive (as an institution of that duty) is plagued by risks to its material contingency? On the other hand, the Brazilian condition has unique and original characteristics that distinguish it from other countries: our colonial formation, our peripheral situation, our conservative modernity, our outrageous social inequality, and the artistic and intellectual strength of several generations that have responded to these challenges. We must be reminded that film celluloid is made also of organic material, therefore subject to decay, just as we are. We must bear in mind that what survived until our time of Sappho’s poems are just fragments of her verses, and the beauty of her poetry is in part the beauty of this quality of scarcity. Paradoxically, I would imagine that the very notion of “infinite archive”, when applied to Brazil, would imply a finite cinema, the very finitude of cinema, its material and intrinsic fragility, its “human” condition.
L: As you well know, Brazil’s most important film archive, the Cinemateca Brasileira, is now going through a new crisis in which its entire collection is at risk of being destroyed. The current moment evokes in our minds a Twilight Zone-esque episode in which a found footage filmmaker wakes up to learn that there is no longer any found-footage to be found. While your work has certainly featured found footage that has been sourced beyond the walls of an archival institution, one cannot deny that these institutions are repositories for cultural works that still remain hidden from the public eye. Firstly, can you comment on the long-standing neglect of the Brazilian government to properly invest in preserving Brazilian cultural memory? Lastly, can you comment on what this potentially dystopic scenario evokes for you in relation to your body of work, aspiring found footage filmmakers, and the future of found footage filmmaking in Brazil?
CA: We are currently living under dark and terrible times in Brazil, and many public institutions related to culture (and education) are under threat, at different levels, degrees and circumstances, such as Casa de Rui Barbosa and Cinemateca Brasileira. The latter is our most recognized film archive but there are others, smaller ones, spread across cities in the country, two of which are particularly deserving of our attention and respect, possessing great collections and doing notable, good research work: Cinemateca do MAM (Modern Art Museum) and Arquivo Nacional (both in Rio de Janeiro). In the case of the Cinematic Brasileira, as well as these other archives, there is a problem that has been going on for years and it is a complex issue – what is happening now is of great urgency, because it affects basic issues of maintenance of the archive itself (in addition to the salaries of the technical staff, the current crisis affects services of electrical supply, which threats refrigeration and security). The tragedy of the fire at the Museu Nacional (Rio de Janeiro) in 2018 is as a metaphor for the lack of public commitment to national memory and heritage: the neglect turns memory into ashes. The pathetic episode of Brazilian Government (literally) taking the Cinemateca’s keys, along with that of the Museu Nacional’s fire, is a powerful symbolic image in itself. Of course, as a found-footage filmmaker I have an engagement with film archiving and I think it was not a sheer coincidence that I was commissioned to make the official film of the celebration of Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes’ centenary (A Very Personal Celebration, 2016). Personally, I have always worked with shards, leftovers, remains, incomplete fragments; lost, neglected and forgotten materials. Therefore, I am used to working in scarcity and poverty. I always keep in mind the adage that "it can always be worse", which may not ease many anxieties about the future. Horace’s “carpe diem” verses help us to face our weaknesses and uncertainties, which are much bigger now with the COVID-19 crisis.
L: Part of the astonishment in watching Vassourinha is the fact that it is so rare to see works unveiled from the archive that highlights the lives on important Black artists from the past. In a way, the film projects the role that archives should be fulling in modern-day society – that is, beyond just preserving materials, recovering and presenting heretofore repressed existences and narratives. In your mind, why did it take nearly a century for the world to be able to rediscover Vassourinha in your film? And as you yourself have worked as an archivist in the past, what do you think future archivists can learn from the film? What really is most important to save for future generations?
CA: For me it is far hard to say “why [it took] nearly a century for the world to be able to rediscover Vassourinha”… It would be tempting, and it would be a fallacy as well, to say that Vassourinha was looking forward to meet me, his art & craft was waiting for my gesture…I don’t know why it took so much time… One can think of social reasons, as he was a black boy from a poor family and he didn’t have enough time to build a fame which would endure. On the other hand, we have lots of cases of great artists in different artistic areas who were forgotten. [Found footage filmmaking is] a very personal (verging on crazily idiosyncratic) way to deal with historical artifacts, a creative form to work on history, not only in terms of salvaging the remains but to bring them back to life and to keep them alive. History serving to vibrate Vassourinha’s story. I consider myself a very materialist film maker, in the sense that I treasure most the rare and bare materials that history is made of. I think one can feel in a very palpable way a sensual materiality that my films place onto the screen. Besides the very materials themselves (the “remains”), I think it is most important as well to preserve the flavor of time – the zeitgeist – in which one lives. And that is an order of alchemy: remember Duchamp’s work “Air of Paris”. In fact, as a communist filmmaker, what would be really “most important to save for future generations” is life itself – the lives of so many artists (and thinkers) who inspire us and make us thrive. But that is far from utopia; to try to defeat death… As André Bazin put it, cinema holds a mummy complex.
L: Lastly, since the release of A Voz e o Vazio: A Vez de Vassourinha there has been a new resurgence of interest in Vassourinha’s life. Numerous famous musicians have covered his songs and there are rumors that a feature length film about his life is in the works. Do you view any of this as part of the legacy and impact that your film had? Relatedly, what do you think the likelihood is that there are hundreds of other potential Vassourinhas repressed within the archives: inimitable, historical, and most commonly Black marginalized talents whose legacies have never reached the people of Brazil beyond their time?
CA: As the most humble and the most modest man I am, I should acknowledge that my film definitely and surely had an impact of “bringing” Vassourinha “back to life”. I would hate to look pretentious, but it is a fact: I did contribute to make Vassourinha more well-known and more appreciated. My film went on front covers of the two main newspapers in São Paulo (first page of cultural supplements) which are the main ones in Brazil. I would not compare myself to the status some give Ezra Pound, as being the re-inventor of Provençal to modern times, a poet who embraces a work of translation and criticism; but it is almost that…in a way, I did “invent” Vassourinha for contemporary times, and I am proud that it was made within an avant-garde mode of film. After my film was released, Caetano Veloso (who had already known my films at that time) approached me about a project proposed by Paula Lavigne (his wife and manager) of re-releasing Vassourinha’s original records along with a set of Caetano and Chico Buarque performing new versions of Vassourinha’s repertoire. My film was to be a key piece in that project, in concerts and in a possible DVD release along with the CD; unfortunately that did not go further for some reason, maybe because a label decided instead to hastily release Vassourinha’s songs. Surely there are “other potential Vassourinhas repressed within the archives”: during my research for making the Vassourinha film, I myself found a kind of female Vassourinha almost in the same style–straw hat, syncopated samba–not so famous at her time like Vassourinha, performing from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, then completely forgotten by the public. I could find only six 78rpm recordings of her chant-voice (half of Vassoruinha’s entire discography). I would love to make a film about her, but 22 years have already passed by and I have not made it yet…a companion to Vassourinha, in fashion and musical style, her voice has remained indeed lost to a deeper void.
1. Bernardo Vorobow (1946-2009), in addition to being Adriano’s partner until his death in 2009, served as director and programmer of the Society of Cinematheque Friends (Sociedade Amigos da Cinemateca, 1970–75); the film coordinator and programmer at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of São Paulo (Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, 1972–76); founder, director, and programmer of the Film Department at the Museum of Image and Sound (Museu da Imagem e do Som, São Paulo, 1975–85); as well as founder, director, and programmer of the Diffusion and Program Department of the Brazilian Cinematheque (Cinemateca Brasileira, 1982–99), then programmer until 2009.

2. Miécio Caffé would be the subject of Adriano’s 2003 film A Caffé with Miécio.

3. Mario de Andrade’s re-missions (forthcoming), Vassourinha: the voice and the void (1998), Militancy (2001-2002), Porviscope (2004-2006), and From the ruins to the rexistence (2004-2007).
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
Translation by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
Translation by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
The following interview took place with archivist Hernani Heffner on July 4th, 2020. Heffner has been working at Rio de Janeiro’s historic Cinemateca do MAM since 1996 and is one of Brazil’s most important film archivists. When we spoke on July 4th a lot was different in the world of Brazilian film preservation. At that point, Heffner held the position of chief conservator at the Cinemateca do MAM. Also, São Paulo’s Cinemateca Brasileira, Brazil’s most important film archive, was amidst a major economic crisis. The institution’s bills and its workers had not been paid for months, and as a result of this the workers went on strike. Since then, Heffner has been made the director of the Cinemateca do MAM -- certainly a cause for celebration -- but the crisis at the Cinemateca Brasileira continues, with its future remaining uncertain. On August 12 the Cinemateca Brasileira’s forty-one employees were dismissed from their positions without having received their due payments, and the institution remains without any specialized archival staff. More information about the most recent events related to the Cinemateca Brasileira can be found here.

At the moment of writing this introduction, the collection of films at the Cinemateca Brasileira remains at imminent risk, as the Brazilian government continues to fail in providing the serious and necessary federal support that this institution deserves. Despite having taken place over one month ago, this conversation with Hernani Heffner loses no relevance, as we dealt with the particularities of Brazilian Cinema and Brazilian film preservation from a transnational context. Heffner touches on issues such as access to Brazilian cinema in the digital age, our current precarious state of global unrest, and he provides an overview of the Cinemateca do MAM for those unfamiliar with the important institution. Heffner’s revolutionary approach to film preservation shines clear throughout our dialogue, and we at Limite are very excited to observe and support the undeniable impact he will have on the field of film preservation as the new Director of the Cinemateca do MAM.
  1. Universal Exhibition or the World’s Fair were large events designed to showcase international achievements that were very important in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Terra Encantada was shot during the Independence Centenary International Exposition, held from 1922 to 1923 in Rio de Janeiro.
  2. Chanchada was the term given to the Brazilian popular musical comedies of the 1940s and 1950s by critics of the time. These critics considered these films to be simply bad copies of Hollywood features of the same genre. Atlântida was the most famous, but not the only, studio to produce chanchadas.
  3. I’m referring here to Christensen’s films Rei Pelé (1961), a biopic, and Cronica da Cidade Amada (1964), a widescreen film that can currently only be seen in a horribly cropped digital copy taken from a VHS tape.

William Plotnick: Can you comment on the recent news surrounding the Cinemateca Brasileira?

Hernani Heffner: The crisis of the Cinemateca Brasileira has worsened this week. The institution is in a dangerous situation because there are no firefighters or guards, the employees are all on strike, and the government has said nothing. It’s a bad situation that is only worsening.

WP: Do you think there might be some light at the end of the tunnel? Is it possible that some of these issues can soon be resolved and things can return to normal?

HH: I don’t think so because Brazil has a president who is a terrible person. Bolsonaro doesn’t give a damn about our culture, our art, or about preservation. There remain no public policies for the preservation sector. There have been five different secretaries of culture in the last fifteen months, and the work in this sector has completely come to a halt. Brazil is now dealing with a resurgence in right-wing ideologies and thought, and even the president’s son has been implicated in scandals of corruption. All of this has paralyzed the country, and it has halted any previous intentions to develop some kind of policy concerning culture, arts, and preservation.

WP: Due to recent social injustices such as the murder of George Floyd, people throughout the world have begun re-evaluating their national histories. Social-justice protests are sparking up, and monuments erected to commemorate visions of the past built on the fruits of slavery and colonialism, are either being absconded with or torn down. In Brazil, São Paulo’s O Monumento às Bandeiras serves as such a reminder, immortalizing Brazil’s settler colonialists and their genocidal trek into the country’s interior.

To what extent do these recent historical evaluations and conversations exemplify the very crisis that the Cinemateca Brasileira is going through right now, as the institution is the safeguard of that history? And how do you perceive the fact that during the moment when the Brazilian people will need to be able to have access to their collective histories the most, the existence of those histories are being threatened?

HH: Brazil is a country that has a long colonial past. For three hundred years we moved forward on this colonial path, and many things from that time period remain today, especially the racism towards black people. The Brazilian elite portray our country like an aristocracy, providing a misleading conception to those outsiders looking in as to what the day to day life for most Brazilians is like. 

In a country with social and economic conditions so distant from one class to another, there is no real democracy. There is no democracy if the people do not perceive a sense of community among each other. A sense of respect. A sense of doing the work to construct a society that includes all persons. If you are a divided society, there is no real democracy and no real social justice. This kind of society, of course, works against the interests of the people.

If I can trace a parallel between the current moment in the United States and the current moment in Brazil - in the United States, you can disagree with the broadcasting of a film like Gone with the Wind (1939) and force the movie to be removed from broadcasting. In the United States, there is no discussion about destroying this film, destroying its materials, destroying the negatives or the prints or the digital copies. People don’t suggest the idea of destroying works that glorify racism, colonialism, imperialism, or authoritarianism because they know that it is important to be able to see these works in order to criticize them.  

But in Brazil, it’s another story. In Brazil, cinema is not important for the elite, and it isn’t thought to represent them. Although most of the time cinema is a very popular expression of art, Brazilian cinema doesn’t have a huge market in Brazil. This is because the people that make these films are coming from the lower classes, and therefore the elite actively choose to ignore these works. The Cinemateca Brasileira, the most important film archive in Brazil, which contains an enormous collection of films, is an institution that does not represent a valuable collection for the government or for the elite. According to them, if you lose the collection of the Cinemateca Brasileira, what important material have you lost? The musical comedies, called chanchadas in Brazil? The films from the Cinema Novo movement, the Cinema Marginal movement, or the state-produced films from Embrafilme? What value do these things have? They consider them all to be like soap operas!

Brazilian cinema is very important. It has received numerous prizes throughout the world, been screened in the main selections at Cannes, Venice, Berlin, and some titles have been nominated for the Oscars. But the reality in Brazilian society is that this collection, this national cinema, is not perceived as important. These works that criticize social problems and that criticize the racism of Brazilian society are often pushed aside and treated as works of little value. When Nelson Pereira dos Santos began his career in 1955 with a film called Rio, 40 Graus, he introduced the favela and the slum to Brazilian cinema. He discussed the situation of Black people and especially poor black people, pointing a finger at the elites of the country. ‘What do you do for these people?’, ‘Why are these people put aside from the main social policies in the country?’, he asked. The government is not preoccupying themselves with the kind of developmental policies that you learn about when watching films, and they therefore do not think about preserving these kinds of artistic expressions, these kinds of films, or these kinds of materials. So, if you lost, for example, the huge collection that the Cinemateca Brasileira is holding, you would be losing almost nothing for these kinds of people. This isn’t something the elite has just made apparent now during the current crisis, but this has been the case for a long time.

WP: In your opinion, what can we be doing throughout the world to stand with Brazilian cinema, the Brazilian film industry, and with the workers of the Cinemateca Brasileira during this difficult moment in time?

HH: Well, the answer is simple: people in Brazil, in the United States, and throughout the world must create value for our national cinema. We can create value for its past, for numerous rare films, and for the preservation of their materials. We can create value by spreading news about Brazilian cinema, by spreading the works through streaming, Blu-rays, and with old DVDs or even VHS tapes. We can find new ways to spread the films to academics, to artists, and to the film community in the United States to influence cinephilic perception at large so that they realize that it is important to access these films and that it is important to know about Brazilian Cinema.

It is also imperative that the cinema-watching audience at large knows that Brazilian Cinema has created and continues to create very original ways of expression in film. In order to create a better world, people must have access to Brazilian cinema, African cinema, Malaysian Cinema, to know that there are other film cultures, there are other languages, and there are other forms of expressions in cinema that are as equally important as what they typically see. If you believe that there is a center, and that the greatest films revolve around this center, then you keep an old value system alive which says that films that are not European or American are poorer works of cinema. We must do away with this by holding screenings, creating cine-clubs (and operating microcinemas — Ed.), writing theses and papers, holding debates, including the works at festivals, airing them on television channels, and including them in streaming platforms. If you create cultural exchange between two or more countries, two or more national expressions, then one begins to learn why the other acts a certain way or does the things that they do.

If you invest in Brazilian cinema in this way, you begin to understand more about the commonly held misconception that Brazilian cinema is bad cinema. You learn that Brazilian cinema is not considered poor because there are no production facilities, nor because there is no money, but because it exudes a form of conscious expression against a foreign cinema that is dominant in the Brazilian market. This conscious expression was created at a moment in Brazilian cinema history, and it was an incredibly profound moment. Brazilian cinema has a very distinctive form of expression which includes its cultures, its landscapes, and its worldview. Yet the fact of the matter is that today, Brazilian cinema history is almost unknown all over the world.

"people in Brazil, in the United States, and throughout the world must create value for our national cinema. We can create value for its past, for numerous rare films, and for the preservation of their materials".
WP: Do you think that cultural exchange between two or more countries could incite the Brazilian government to realize the value of their own national works? Do you think a major initiative abroad, manifested in large retrospectives or more prestigious awards being given to Brazilian films, that these could be the catalyst to make the government in Brazil finally realize that they need to fund the Cinemateca Brasileira and that they need to finally support the film industry and its cultural workers in a respectful and supportive way?

HH: Of course, these kinds of recognitions create a lot of perceived value for our films, and help people realize that they are important. But in Brazilian Society, this kind of importance is very particular. The elite do not value these kinds of recognitions, and they often view the works as very destructive to their right-wing agendas.

It is important for us to sustain a fight for the permanence of Brazilian cinema, of the Cinemateca Brasileira, and of the past, but the real fight is against a larger force that reduces the country to a few people. To one social class. That reduces the country to a view that asks for a future and not for a past. This force accepts and advocates for the destruction of this past with no sorrow or pity. And we as a society must fight to transform and to change that for the better of all of us so that we can become a real democracy.

The benefit Brazilian cinema receives from being recognized around the world is very valuable because these recognitions help us sustain some kind of barrier to harmful government decisions. We can sustain the fight with that. But I believe the real fight is with another, larger force.

WP: You have been associated with the Cinemateca do MAM since 1983 and a formal employee since 1986. Can you tell me about the history of this archive, and provide an idea about what makes it unique, for those less familiar with its operations?

HH: We at the Cinemateca do MAM are only a little archive. In the 60s the director was Cosme Alves Netto, who was very influential in the film preservation movement. He led a movement in which colonial countries or countries that were considered ‘third world’ could learn about film preservation. Cosme asked all the American and European archives for help in constructing film archives in these under-developed countries, because during that time, and in fact still today, these archives have no money, no structure, and no workers. These institutions are facing an enormous task to preserve their entire national cinemas. Today, I think very little has changed from that situation. The same American and European archives are incredibly well funded, while film archives from poorer underdeveloped countries are in the same position.

The Cinemateca do MAM suffered a huge crisis in the beginning of the 21st century, in 2002 and 2003. We were almost closed by a decision of our main institution, the Modern Art Museum. However, we survived. Because of this, we tried to become more connected with important international film preservation communities such as FIAF and AMIA. We also received some important guests here at the archive such as Ray Edmunson, who is a very important thinker about the philosophy of film preservation. We tried to further understand what was happening in the field in the 21st century and what our place was within the larger picture. This was an important moment for us in realizing what we can do at the Cinemateca do MAM to serve the film preservation community of Brazil.

One important thing that we do at the Cinemateca do MAM is provide educations in film preservation. We also send some students and interns to take courses at Filmoteca Española to really learn the skills of film preservation and work in that field. Especially during a time when we are going through the transition from film to predominately digital formats, it is very important to have a new work force in our country ready to meet the technical challenges that come along with this transition. Our program working with the Filmoteca Española ended up being very successful because 20-25 young people discovered a passion for film preservation and decided to have careers in that area. And also, there are even now five or six of my own former students who are working at the Cinemateca Brasileira.

Another thing at that we attempt to facilitate at the Cinemateca do MAM is the presence of foreign students in Brazil. We are a privately run archive so we are open to receiving students from Greece, France, Argentina, the United States, and other countries. It is important for us to receive these students because they will encounter an archive with less money than the national archives they have at home, and with worse conditions to preserve films. This provides them with a more realistic view as to what film archiving is like around the world for those supposedly on the periphery. It is important to us that these people have a perception of these problems, and that they can begin thinking about the best ways to solve them.

Additionally, an important intervention that the Cinemateca do MAM has made in the preservation area is focusing on preserving marginal films, especially experimental works, because in Brazil only a small space is given for this mode of filmmaking. First, we created an experimental cine-club and after that we decided to receive a festival concerning experimental cinema, DOBRA - Festival Int'l de Cinema Experimental. This was very successful because we became the main space in Brazil for presenting that kind of cinema.

We are a little archive with only seven people. So, we try to bring forth smaller initiatives and create a big impact. We try to facilitate the synchronization of information, the synchronization of people, and the synchronization of films. We are what I consider a 'hub’. We are not the terminal, we are not the first step, we are a hub in film preservation in Brazil and we can aggregate some materials, some films, some information, and make connections with a larger array of people. For a little archive, I think that this is a very important position to hold.

"Especially during a time when we are going through the transition from film to predominately digital formats, it is very important to have a new work force in our country ready to meet the technical challenges that come along with this transition."
WP: Can you talk about the ways in the Cinemateca do MAM and the Cinemateca Brasileira have provided access to their collections digitally? The Cinemateca Brasileira, for example, provides access to some of their collections through BCC (Banco de Conteúdos Culturais).

HH: Providing basic access to Brazilian cinema is an old problem in the world of film archives in Brazil. People are not familiar with Brazilian cinema. Why is that? Why are Brazilian people not more familiar with the history of their own national production? It isn’t because we don’t have the proper skills, instruments, spaces, or strategies to provide access to this national cinema. In Brazil, one of the structural problems in the cultural sector is represented by the fact that various states have created many institutions to preserve Brazilian history, but don’t put effort into making sure the public has access to this history. The Cinemateca Braisleira is an example of this. The history of Brazilian cinema is there. But getting access to these works is very difficult. The old Brazilian cinema is there, most of the 20th century Brazilian cinema is there, but the access to this past is very difficult. Using the BCC is very difficult because there is always a huge watermark placed over the film. With this logo there in the center of the frame, you cannot see the film in the proper way.

We need to try to provide access to Brazilian cinema in the best way possible, because people need to know that these treasures exist. If they can’t have this basic access, the films will become ignored and lose their value to the public. We must prevent this and make a complete 180 degree turn in policy when it comes to access.

WP: To what extent do the copyright laws make it hard to effect these changes?

HH: In my opinion, the copyright laws are not a problem. You can talk to the producers, you can talk to the people who own these films. Most of the time, anyway, it is the archives performing the technical elements such as creating new prints of the films and digitizing them. This comes from funds provided from the archives and the states, and not the producers.

Those people who refuse to provide access to the works that they own, are using a strategy of power. They are attempting to control who can see what, and for which price. Because of that, many works of Brazilian cinema are invisible in the world. The dangers of this is that in fifty years, people may no longer be interested our cinema at all. Today, we live in an information society, and in this digital world, people move forward from the past very quickly due to free exchange and the forward direction of freely circulating content.

Going hand in hand with this is the fact that we need to be making good digital copies of films and making them available on the internet. Copyright owners can find ways to get 2K or 4K versions of their works, and even make a profit from them. Once the spectator is connected with this good digital copy, and they begin to personally relate to the film, they will begin to ask for more of this type of content. This puts that viewer in the running to become deeply interested in discovering the many pearls of cinema to be found throughout Brazilian film history.

WP: Put yourself in the shoes of an international programmer interested in doing a program of Brazilian films: An enigma arises, because whether you show older works of Brazilian cinema or newer works, the material is going to be unfamiliar to the majority of those audiences. You have numerous amazing contemporary Brazilian filmmakers on one hand, whose works need to be seen and discussed, but on the other hand, you have the entire history of Brazilian cinema which many international audiences have not yet had the chance to discover. A case in point is that that there has never been a North American retrospective of Humberto Mauro.

HH: There is a contradiction in that situation, no?

In the past, the Brazilian government used to put money towards international programs of Brazilian film. In the 80s there was a huge retrospective of Brazilian cinema at the Centre Georges Pompidou in France, and in 1998 MOMA hosted another. All of these programs were sustained by the Brazilian government which commissioned new 35mm prints and paid for the transportation of said prints as well as the rest of the logistics.

When the 21st century came around, there was no longer the need to spend money sending prints around the world thanks to digital copies. The digital seemed to be the magical response towards the problem of increasing the circulation of Brazilian cinema.

But there is a huge problem with this situation as it stands. To circulate Brazilian cinema on a global scale, especially through the internet, you must be able to digitize the Brazilian films made during the 20th century. You must digitize the films in 2K, 4K, and perhaps in five or ten years, even 10K. However, in Brazil, there is no strategy, no money, and no interest to digitize these older films. Suddenly, once these works are finally digitized, we realize that there is no space being made for them. A gap has been created in their circulation and in their recognition. The new generation of filmgoers is not in contact with these works. This explains why Humberto Mauro has never received a retrospective in the United States up until today.

We desperately need a program that allows us to digitize Brazilian cinema systematically. If we do not come up with one, older works of Brazilian cinema will disappear from national and international programs and will never show up on streaming platforms for a new generation to discover. This is going to be a huge test for us because the status of the mission is critical. It is critical to spread older works of Brazilian around the world so that people can understand: what is Bacurau (Filho & Dornelles, 2019)? What is a Brazilian film about the Brazilian Northeast? What is a film like Karim Aïnouz’s Invisible Life (2019)? What kind of melodrama is that? Do these works stem from a Brazilian filmmaking tradition, or are they completely unique in Brazil’s film history? Why did a director like José Mojica Marins create this famous character of Zé do Caixão, and what does he symbolize for Brazil and for international cinema?

If you do not circulate these older films, then you can’t understand the full picture. Without the full picture, you may still think Bacurau is a great movie and that it is very attractive! But you don’t really understand the content that Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles have put in it. When the international public finally has a chance to see these older works as they were meant to be seen, it will surely be a great surprise for them because people don’t know that this cinema exists, that we have a very unique cinematographic style, and that our point of view so strongly differs from the rest of the world’s.

There needs to be a balance between both the contemporary works and the past works. They need to be able to inform one another for a larger picture of Brazilian cinema to be understood.
"It is critical to spread older works of Brazilian around the world so that people can understand: what is Bacurau (Filho & Dornelles, 2019)? What is a Brazilian film about the Brazilian Northeast? What is a film like Karim Aïnouz’s Invisible Life (2019)? What kind of melodrama is that? Do these works stem from a Brazilian filmmaking tradition, or are they completely unique in Brazil’s film history? Why did a director like José Mojica Marins create this famous character of Zé do Caixão, and what does he symbolize for Brazil and for international cinema?"
WP: Despite all this, one is tempted today to say that we are in a groundbreaking moment as far as having international access to Brazilian films. You can see a much larger presence of Brazilian films on the internet right now than there has been in the past, and many of these works are being translated into different languages too.

However, at the same time there is the sense that this access does not matter if these works are not being properly preserved. So, the digital moment is an illusion in a way – we finally have access and with subtitles, but we know the film print itself is decomposing right now within the Cinemateca Brasileira.

HH: Well, I think that this digital moment is a double illusion. On one side, the difficulties to access Brazilian films have existed for a long time, but nevertheless we must find some way to see them. So, someone takes an old VHS, or they take a poor copy, and you put these films on the internet so people can see them. Of course, this is the worst way to see the film, but when it is all that we have, it is better than nothing. The downside of this, though, is that usually, Brazilian cinema looks bad. Although Brazilian cinema is not bad in terms of its cinematography, sound, texture, and contrast, these copies give off the impression that this is so. This state of preservation causes the feeling among people that Brazilian cinema is not important. We don’t get to see our national works in all their splendor, nor in a state-of-the-art way. We don’t have state-of-the-art 4K restorations of our works. This is very tragic.

On the other side, even if we had pristine 4K digital copies of our films, we know that to present a film digitally is not to preserve it. So, we must preserve the film in its original format. You must create a positive print and an internegative, and you must preserve all the negatives in a professional way. This preservation work is not optional, but mandatory. If it is not done, the material will be lost in a span of twenty years! Then, what do we have? Just a digital copy, and this is not the same thing. Not to mention, these digital copies must be preserved in equal measure. Digital preservation is a completely separate task from that of film, with other demands, which requires different technical specifications. So, you must face the task of preserving both the digital and the physical at the same time. Preserving the materials in this way requires a huge task of planning, of creating an infrastructure of conservation, of digitization, and providing access (mostly through the internet). For us to be able to do this successfully becomes mostly a question of politics. It is a question of whether we will be provided with the necessary funds to carry this task out. It is a tragedy that our cinematic heritage remains put aside on the global scene because of these politics. The impact that this lack of political action on the part of the governmental elite has had can be seen and felt still today.

We are living in a moment in which we need cinema to help us understand what Brazil is today. If we can or if we desire to take down the statues which retain the values of our colonial times, we must be able to know what they represent. Film is a good way to know, to understand, and to perceive that some statues have been around for 100 years. These statues were raised at the beginning of the 20th century, a time in which Brazil was another place and had a different society. What has changed since then?

Films from those periods help give a voice to the anonymous people that have not had their voices heard, and in the event that these people cannot be found in the films, we begin to understand why that is. I think we need to have this debate and film is a good way to hold a debate about our heritage because it has lived with us for over a century.

*This interview has been edited for clarification.
Image by Giorgia Prates
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Kleber Mendonça Filho on A Noite do Espantalho and the Music of Bacurau
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
Photo by Giorgia Prates
Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016
Questions by
April 19, 2021
It should come as no surprise that in Brazil, as in most so-called “underdeveloped” countries, the question of cultural memory and access to history as dictated by the archive is far more precarious than one approaching the subject from the relative wealth of the United States or Europe. There are far more gaps, erasures, and interstices for pieces of Brazilian culture to fall into with a much higher frequency, which is a condition both of political determination and physical incapability. On this second factor, one need only be pointed to the fact that a historical Brazilian film studio had to burn its nitrate prints from the golden era of the 40s and 50s after new safety film copies were made, for fear of the entire studio burning down due to the combination of nitrate film and tropical heat. For a Brazilian archivist—or their counterpart on the side of production, the found footage filmmaker—therefore, the task of even taking the first steps toward the gathering of documents for their work is an arduous one sure to be met with many frustrations, barring a situation where one’s subject has an exceptionally well-kept estate.

Thus such cultural workers find their labor to be determined under the sign of fragmentation, and we find the most compelling work to be that which wears this mark as one of pride and uses its form to reflect its material inconsistencies. Carlos Adriano has worked with Brazil’s cinematic archives for over twenty years, creating films that both preserve and project the gaps and other forms of lack that he encounters when faced with the heretofore undocumented sections of Brazil’s past.
PT /
Limite: Pode dar alguns detalhes sobre O Roteiro do Gravador (1967), um filme que ainda está sendo buscado no arquivo da Cinemateca do MAM? Que tipo de filme era? Quem trabalhou nele?

Sylvio Lanna: Respondendo à primeira interrogação, eu lhe digo que O Roteiro do Gravador contém algumas pérolas: é o primeiro filme, já um média-metragem, de uma juventude inquieta que aos 23 anos, estudante de Filosofia, opta pelo Cinema = Liberdade. Isto, no Brasil, debaixo do processo de arrocho da Ditadura Militar, que se instalara em 1964, e poucos meses antes de Maio de 68, na França, de onde a Nouvelle Vague projetava um Cinema Revolucionário. É um filme existencialista. Fala da perspectiva do mundo apocalíptico da Guerra Fria, no qual vivíamos, para o indivíduo, no seu processo de consciência do amor, e do coletivo. O In memoriam que é um filme em busca (“…do Tempo Perdido”) de O Roteiro do Gravador, abre com uma ?, daí, a precisão da sua pergunta “está sendo buscado no arquivo da Cinemateca do MAM?”  …afinal, são os negativos de imagem e de som de um filme 16mm. com 30 min. e duas cópias, que se encontram por aí… Naquele próprio Recibo de Depósito que aparece no filme de agora, existem outros trabalhos meus aí depositados e desaparecidos. Centrei no Roteiro porque ele é a semente do meu Cinema, poético, questionador e aventureiro. Caligráfico. A sua própria ideia central, de um indivíduo que investe contra uma megalópole de posse de um Gravador, no qual registra as suas memórias de um mundo apocalíptico, é algo que retomo, de outra forma, na fascinante experiência sonora em que se tornou o longa Sagrada Família. O Cinema que faço é assim: um filme puxa o “fio da meada” do outro. Sou da geração de cinéfilos que viu surgir o conceito Cinema de Autor. Agora, a evolução tecnológica, alcançou o estágio do insite vertoviano (Diziga Vertov) do Cinema visto como uma nova caneta.
O Cinema que faço é assim: um filme puxa o “fio da meada” do outro. Sou da geração de cinéfilos que viu surgir o conceito Cinema de Autor. Agora, a evolução tecnológica, alcançou o estágio do insite vertoviano (Diziga Vertov) do Cinema visto como uma nova caneta.
Quanto à segunda, que tipo de filme é…?  Hoje eu tenho uma páginaCinema Caligráfico de Sylvio Lanna.1  O Roteiro, antes de tudo, pode ser classificado como o primeiro destes meus filmes. Poucos trabalhos que fiz em cinema estão fora. Como registro de uma época, em que a ditadura começara já a estabelecer os seus porões de torturas e a arte a se expressar por metáforas, o filme apresenta de forma irritante mente violenta a morte de um porco, sangrado à maneira tradicional, com uma peixeira2  (faca pontuda e fina, para atingir diretamente o coração do animal), no Aterro do Flamengo, na época em construção, com a metrópole ao fundo. Esta sequência dividiu radicalmente a Plateia do famoso Festival 16mm do Cine Paissandú em 1967; em 74, em Copenhagen, fez-me perder uma amiga dinamarquesa. O Roteiro traz as influências de sempre, Luís Buñuel, e da epóca, Glauber Rocha.

Quem trabalhou nele?  Boa pergunta… Foi aí que Andrea Tonacci (fotografia e câmera) e eu selamos nossa grande amizade e parceria, que na sequência proporcionou-nos produzir e dirigir nossos dois primeiros longa-metragens. Bang Bang e Sagrada Família. Voltando ao Roteiro, os protagonistas eram o poeta Pedro Garcia, meu colega na Faculdade Nacional de Filosofia, e Lucia Milanez. Ainda, certamente será muito importante ao recuperar uma cópia que seja do Roteiro, resgatar os vários solos de sax, improvisações em estúdio, assistindo ao copião mudo, de ninguém menos que o genial Victor Assis Brasil e em contraponto com Flávia Calabi na flauta transversal.

L: Houve exibições públicas de O Roteiro do Gravador?

SL: Histórias do Cinema da Vida. Hoje, nem pen drive você necessita. Há uma geração, você carregava na mochila cópias de seus filmes. Eu vivi literalmente on the road, em bons períodos da minha vida; a primeira grande identificação que encarei para com os desígnios da minha geração. No Planeta Terra a vida se dá por Gerações. Em 68, com a grana que recebi da TV Alemã para lhes produzir, roteirizar e dirigir “The History of Superstition Around Brazilian Football” (…e como cinema é montagem, um ano depois, com Tonacci, montei o curta Superstição e Futebol – main prize no Iº Sport Film Festival de Oberhausen, 1970), parti de carona pela América do Sul. Ainda no Brasil, no Rio Grande do Sul, fui preso pelos militares por suspeita de ser informante da UNE (União Nacional dos Estudantes), então na clandestinidade. Passei 15 dias numa solitária e ao ser solto tive uma longa conversa/interrogatório com o coronel que chefiava o DOPS3 de Porto Alegre, sobre O Roteiro do Gravador. Segui viagem e, na Argentina, em Rosário, na Faculdade de Medicina, houve uma sessão que gerou debates madrugada adentro. Em 1979, em NY, numa festa de cineastas, discutiu-se a possibilidade de adaptação do Roteiro, tendo como cenário Nova York ao invés do Rio de Janeiro.
L: Quanto tempo levou entre a descoberta de que O Roteiro do Gravador estava perdido e a decisão de fazer o In Memoriam? E por que fazê-lo?

SL: Assim como o cinema é montagem, assim é a vida. Pelo menos a minha. Desde que fazer cinema no Brasil ficou explicitamente inviável para mim, com o boicote ao meu Malandro, termo civilizado ou MALANDRANDO, em 1987, minha vida girou, girou e me levou de volta à terra da minha infância e a uma longa história: o projeto “A BuchaVegetal Brasileira”.4 Uma proposta prática para um projeto ambiental e socialmente educativo, e facilmente universal. Houvesse boa vontade política para solucionar vários problemas que nos afligem. Trabalhando com agricultore se audiovisual, para mudança de hábito de uso e consumo, na limpeza em geral, das esponjas sintéticas, substituindo-as pelas Luffas, biodegradáveis. Assim, estava eu vivendo distante doCinema, quando há uns 10 anos, um pouco mais, me chega uma solicitação de assinatura para autorizar o traslado dos negativos do Sagrada Família, guardados por mim na Cinemateca do MAM-Rio, para a Cinemateca Brasileira-SP, a qual num convênio com a Cinemateca de Lisboa iriam pagar a restauração e uma cópia nova para exibição em Lisboa. Autorizei. Só que não se encontrou, no princípio, os negativos do longa e eu fui ao Rio para checar e constatei o caos em que, na prática, se encontrava, se encontra aInstituição, e agora, também a Cinemateca Brasileira, onde ficaram depositadosos negativos, depois de tirada aquela cópia. E agora, de resto a mesma situação se repete num “desmonte” criminoso e sistemático, em todo o País.  
Sylvio Lanna com sua Luffa Biodegradável
Quanto à decisão de fazer o In Memoriam, são Coisas da Vida (daria um ótimo título para um filme, não?). A vida girou, larguei da Luffa e decidi voltar ao cinema. Conheci o grande Cavi [Borges]. Ele me propôs lançar meus filmes antigos. E foi nesta conversa que eu lhe falei da importância do Roteiro, e foi também nesta conversa que me surgiu o conceito de Cinema Caligráfico. Ele me instigou a fazer um clipe de 6 a 8 minutos sobre o filme desaparecido na Cinemateca. Do clipe que seria saiu o In Memoriam - O Roteiro do Gravador.

Ainda, quanto a por que fazê-lo?...  Certamente não o fiz por causa disso… Mas o fato é que a Arte antecipa a História. Agora você está precisando deste filme para denunciar ao mundo a tragédia que está acontecendo com a nova tentativa contemporânea de genocídio da alma brasileira. Da Brasilidade.

L: Quem era Adriano Fonseca Filho? Por que o filme é dedicado a ele? Você considera seu filme um desaparecido político também?

SL: É exatamente isso. O Roteiro do Gravador é um jovem (juventude é promessa) desaparecido político, desarmado, assassinado e enterrado sem cova no território do Araguaia.5 Adriano Fonseca Filho, como outros na sua geração de românticos, morreu aos 27 anos, depois de passar pela vida como um cometa. Contemporâneo na Faculdade Nacional de Filosofia e meu primo, foi o primeiro beatnik do Rio de Janeiro, em seguida, dos primeiros hippies. Depois, larga tudo e se engaja na luta armada contra a ditadura.
L: O filme é apropriadamente intitulado "In Memoriam", como que aceitando a perda de O Roteiro do Gravador e tecendo um elogio a ele. Como esse processo se daria no público, que não conhece o filme? Como elogiar um filme que não se pode assistir?

SL: Como eu já disse, o título "In Memoriam" vem precedido de uma ?. Ainda espero encontrá-lo.  Assim como o Brasil precisa de se reencontrar… Justamente no acervo do seu passado.

De qualquer forma, tecendo mais que um elogio, eu diria, uma elegia ao meu primeiro filme (“elogios não devem ser confundidos com elegias, que são poemas escritos em tributo à morte de alguém”), com o In memoriam, cuja sinopse é, “um filme sobre a morte e o renascimento do Cinema”. Considero que o Cavi, cumprindo o seu papel de produtor, me passou a bola na hora certa para eu fazer um gol de placa. Fazer um filme sobre um filme que não existe é para o público exatamente o que é o Cinema. A eterna busca pelo tesouro perdido.

De qualquer forma, tecendo mais que um elogio, eu diria, uma elegia ao meu primeiro filme (“elogios não devem ser confundidos com elegias, que são poemas escritos em tributo à morte de alguém”), com o In memoriam, cuja sinopse é, “um filme sobre a morte e o renascimento do Cinema”.

L: O filme se concentra muito nos espaços da Cinemateca do MAMe na história de lá. Por que foi importante contar a história da Cinemateca junto com a história de seu filme?

SL: Porque a Cinemateca do Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, foi, não apenas para a minha Geração do Cinema de Invenção Brasileiro, o abrigo, na figura do seu Diretor Clovis Alves Netto; lá, madrugadas adentro montei a maior parte dos meus filmes.
Mas também e principalmente, anote-se o plano de abertura do In memoriam, pela força da arquitetura pujante de um Brasil pulsante, que começou a ser castrado em 1964. O Edifício do MAM, do arquiteto Affonso Eduardo Reidy é um símbolo vivo de uma época/alma brasileira que precisa ser resgatada. E isto pode ser mais viável do que se imagina.
L: Você está trabalhando em algum novo projeto?

SL: Com certeza! Sem projeto, o que é da vida? E como Cinema é a Arte que não se faz sozinho  (mas de mãos dadas) e para mim, quase sempre os filmes começam por seus títulos: FOROFINA To Africa L’Afrique Na África, uma coprodução Brasil/Africa para a qual já estou reunindo colaboradores numa organização sem fins lucrativos, Centro Cultural África/Brasil/África, que terá por objetivo principal promover a Coprodução de filmes, em todos os formatos, entre o Brasil e a África.

Começando pelo curta Forofina Um Filme A Ser Feito. Trata-se de um curta-metragem promocional para o lançamento de um crowdfunding. Quanto a sinopse de Forofina, trata-se de uma história de amor, como milhares que acontecem todos os dias, cada uma com a sua particularidade, sendo a particularidade desta a de envolver a paixão entre dois continentes, dois povos, dois sangues gerando Vida e mais Amor.

1. Sylvio Lanna’s Calligraphic Cinema  

2. A large, thin knife that can go straight through an animal’s heart.

3. Departamento de Ordem Política e Social (Department of Political and Social Order), was the official repression agency of the military dictatorship, where political prisoners were taken to be tortured and interrogated. There was a DOPS building at every state capital.

4. Sponge gourd, or Luffa cylindrica.

5. The Araguaia Guerilla was an armed political movement which opposed the military dictatorship in the Araguaia river basin. During the 1970s, the military executed most of its members and concealed their remains.

PT /
Limite: Iracema Filmes is a film production company that began in 2008, and today you both comprise 2/6 of the team. Daniel and Victor, can you provide an overview of your paths to careers in filmmaking? When did you first meet and begin collaborating with one another through Iracema Filmes?

Daniel Paes: I was born in the Lins de Vasconcelos, Méier neighborhood. I wasn’t a precocious cinephile, although I could have been. It was only in journalism school that I started watching films and thinking about cinema. But in those days, I was more interested in reading and writing. I started Iracema Filmes with my girlfriend at the time, Júlia Machado. We had made a short fiction film, Paó (2008), and a short documentary, Cidade dos Jovens (2006), which she directed. Cidade dos Jovens even won some awards. Today, Júlia is a filmmaker and film researcher. 

So, we decided to start a production company, Iracema Filmes, named after the film by Jorge Bodanzky and Orlando Senna which had blown us away when we first watched it. Then Júlia left the company, and I was doing other things by myself for quite some time, mostly occupied with commercial freelance jobs and projects related to academic audiovisual research. In 2013, while working on Pé Sem Chão, I met Victor Magrath and Juliana Krause. From that meeting, the idea of building a production company came to fruition again. Our modus operandi was somewhat like this: Vitinho, as we call him, and I took the creative jobs (usually I was the cinematographer, and he was the editor) and Ju was the producer. Those were very good times, as we all lived in Vidigal. A beautiful cultural scene was taking place, and Sérgio Ricardo was a big influence on us in an artistic and geographic sense, as every time we went to his house, we would likely meet someone else who was visiting him. From these interactions sprung many new meetings and creative exchanges which resulted in many forms of collaboration. From then on, our larger friend group was immersed in many art forms, while we at Iracema Filmes focused on audiovisual content.

Victor Magrath: I started developing an interest in film in my teen years. I enjoyed filming my friends as they rode skateboards and surfed. I loved editing those videos, setting them to music and cutting the action to the beats. My parents told me I could be a professional editor and supported me by showing me films that had made a deep impression on them throughout their lives. My father would show me classics from all around the world and my mother would tell me about Glauber Rocha and Ruy Guerra. I decided to move to Biarritz for a while to try and take a film course, which, unfortunately, I was never able to take. Back then I shot and edited many experimental shorts. Years later, when I was living in Vidigal and working for a small production company in the Botafogo neighborhood, I had the opportunity to work on Sérgio Ricardo’s Pé Sem Chão. It was then that I first met Daniel, Juliana, and Sérgio Ricardo. We instantly became friends and noticed we had very similar thoughts about filmmaking. We gathered our equipment and rented a small room at the same production company I was working for in Botafogo and started writing screenplays and projects to apply for grants via the Culture Incentive Law. Those were incredible times.
L: Based upon both of your work experiences, it’s obvious that the history of Brazilian Cinema has had a major influence on your work, particularly cinema from the 60s. The first clear example of this is Daniel’s role as the director of photography and camera on Rafael de Luna Freire’s Reencontro com o Cinema (2014), a film which told the history of Rio de Janeiro filmmaker Gerson Tavares and helped revitalize new interest in his work. Then, Victor was the editor of Domingos de Oliveira’s Aconteceu na Quarta-Feira (2018), a work which capped off the directors late-career filmmaking endeavors. 

Can you elaborate on the Brazilian films or filmmakers which you view as your larger cinematic influences? And where does the drive to collaborate with great veteran filmmakers come from?

VM: I am a great champion of Brazilian cinema. I really enjoy rewatching films to help sharpen my creative process. I have a vital relationship to those films, and I think Daniel is similar to me in that aspect. When we were editing Cacumbu (2018) and Maré Mansa Traiçoeira (2020) we built, for two sequences, a sort of emotional memorial to the cinema that inspires us. Something I really like about the films of the 1960s is that the filmmakers were also cinephiles. The film writings of that generation are captivating. I learned a lot by reading Glauber Rocha’s Revisão Crítica do Cinema Brasileiro and Alex Viany’s O processo do Cinema Novo. These texts allowed me to understand and respect those masters of Brazilian cinema. Regarding contemporary Brazilian filmmakers, I like the films of the Alumbramento Group from Ceará and the films of new documentary filmmakers such as Milena Manfredini, Denize Galiao and Yasmin Thayná.

DP: Yes. Knowing the history of Brazilian cinema is key. It’s hard to pick just a few films. The list has no end. But some of the filmmakers I admire and identify with are Rogério Sganzerla, Glauber Rocha, Leon Hirszman, Cláudio Assis, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Andrea Tonacci, Sílvio Tendler, Eduardo Coutinho and Ana Carolina. When we make films, we’re thinking of the present and the past and pointing to the future. I think all of my films, which include Vento Burro (2016), Cacumbu and Maré Mansa Traiçoeira, all convey this notion of admiring and updating the deep roots of our cinematic history.
L: As independent filmmakers in Brazil, you both have been able to make the utmost out of scarce financial resources. The introduction to Pé sem Chão (2014) even highlights that the “…film was…crafted by the entirety of its artists and technicians, who, by invitation of the director accepted the challenge of undertaking a production devoid of any financial resource”. What kind of lessons did you both learn in approaching filmmaking in this way, and how does this reflect the ideas behind the Cinema Novo movement which Sérgio Ricardo helped begin, ideas such all a filmmaker needs is “an idea in the head, and a camera in the hand”? Did you both return to these Cinema Novo films to gain inspiration for this kind of filmmaking process? And what kind of lessons would you say that new and emerging filmmakers can learn from watching Cinema Novo or Cinema Marginal films, and seeing the way that Brazilian filmmakers have made so much in the past out of only a camera and inspiration?
DP: It is impossible to make films without any budget. But it is possible to make films despite the budget. No film should be classified according to its budget. When we put together a work force, our minds are never focused on how much money we’ll be able to collect, or how much will be donated to us. We think only of the film itself. Of filmmaking. Making films in a country like ours shouldn’t be seen just as economic activity (which it obviously is), but mainly as human activity. We’re narrating our own time and movement. So, to me, filmmaking is an activity which doesn’t teach us through money. But the absence of money alters relationships. You only devote unpaid time to something you believe in. To make necessary films. That's what Sérgio Ricardo proposed to us when we made Pé Sem Chão. And I put together a crew who would agree with that. We were working for ourselves.

Yes, this does relate to the Cinema Novo movement. To New Cinemas all around the world. To decolonial cinemas. Sérgio represents that school of film thought. But we liked those films prior to meeting him. Is it Marginal or Marginalized Cinema? The 1970s were such a hard time for filmmaking in Brazil. Actually, what we’re discussing here are alternative lines of flight, as if to go on creating freely with no ties to prominent aesthetic or economic (or political!) patterns. As Bergman said, “Your hiding place isn’t watertight. Life trickles in from the outside”.1 In that sense, I think aesthetic is always linked to production conditions. And a brief look at the history of cinema proves few filmmakers are able to change their production conditions without sacrificing their own styles. In Brazil, 2021 will likely be the worst year in our entire history, both in macro and micro aspects. We have no perspective whatsoever of securing a true audiovisual industry. So, we must make the necessary cinema, a cinema placed in reality. I don’t like the expression “camera in hand, idea in head”,2 because, to me, it implies that all ideas are equally valid. In other socioeconomic contexts, it’s possible to make films with the leitmotiv of an individual’s idea, even a vain one. In our context, that idea has to be magnetic and important to all involved. Collectivity is the idea.

VM: I can see a parallel between the cinema of the 1960s and 1970s and contemporary cinema, and I think that’s how Sérgio incorporated guerrilla filmmaking into his creative process so well. The technological revolution of the 60s made cameras smaller and allowed for direct sound recording, which took films out of the studio lot and into the streets, closer to the people. Sérgio Ricardo himself used to tell an interesting story about what that moment represented in the history of Brazilian cinema. He said that during the production of Menino da Calça Branca, in 1960, in a favela, he had to replace the cinematographer. The cinematographer was used to dolly shots, tripods (in the old-fashioned way, let’s say) and thought shooting inside a favela was impossible. Since the early 2000s, with the advent of digital technology, we’ve gone through a similar process. You can make great films without ever setting foot outside your home, such as Nunca é noite no mapa (2016), but we can’t stop fighting for public policies to stimulate audiovisual work in a multifaceted country like Brazil. Unfortunately, very little has been done in that sense and the situation gets worse with the arrival of a far-right government which sees artists and minorities as enemies. I can only hope for better days ahead.

L: You both served major roles on the production of Sérgio Ricardo’s final two films, Pé Sem Chão and Bandeira de Retalhos (2018). Before touching on the films specifically, can you highlight how you came to know the films of Sérgio Ricardo? Then, how did you finally meet the director, and build this working relationship with him?

DP: I had just moved to Vidigal. Once, during a boring residents’ meeting at my apartment building, I noticed this senior citizen leaving to the balcony to have a smoke. I’m a long-time smoker, so I joined him, and we started talking. Bingo! That was Sérgio Ricardo. The director of A Noite do Espantalho! I knew he lived there, but I had just moved and didn’t expect to meet him so soon. I mentioned the film and he gladly told me more about it, but his expression soon turned sour once he spoke of how hard it was to make more films. So, I told him I owned a small production company, and we could “play around”. We could come up with a short film just so he could go back to directing. Less than a week later we met again in the stairway and he went: “I’ve got the idea. When do we start shooting?” I was surprised, as at that point I’d gotten used to unfulfilled promises. So, I got a hold of myself and heard his idea. While we wrote new treatments and made small adjustments, I began to understand his work process and I formed a crew with some friends, and he brought other people in as well. Among them was Juliana Krause, whose strength as a producer was fundamental to bring together a very diverse crew to work on the film. After the shooting was over, we still didn’t have any editors. Victor had shot the making-of doc. So, he said: I’ll edit it. From then on it was a long immersion in Sérgio’s creative universe. The editing took a long time.

VM: Sérgio loved working at a digital station. There were so many possibilities for the favela fire. We spent a whole week working on that sequence alone. People who watched the first cuts thought our initial solution, combining superimposition and digital effects, felt exaggerated. That was until Daniel came up with the idea of setting fire to some photos of the shacks. And we ended up using that “analog” method for the favela fire. Bandeira de Retalhos was made in that same vein. Just watch the intro and you see how much digital animation fascinated Sérgio.

L: One of the remarkable aspects of Pé sem Chão is the extremely free hand-held digital cinematography, which evokes, in some ways, the earlier work of Dib Lutfi. Daniel, you shot the film and worked as an assistant director on it. Can you recall some of the early discussions you had with Sérgio Ricardo about the desired appearance of the film? 

DP:  We wanted a crude aesthetic. For the feel to be similar to Cinema Novo, the Sérgio Ricardo school. I mostly used an 50mm objective to affect the audience’s perspective. Like Neorealism, you know? The camera was always near the actors. Many times, I leaned on them to shoot close-ups. That strengthened the relationships between the crew. 

The script was very open. Sérgio’s work process was clear and I was familiar with Dib’s approach to cinematography. I began with that knowledge in my head. I remember the first shot was a pan which started in a low angle shot, went down through a sun flare and slowly framed the two characters, with girls playing in the background. If you tried to plan to shoot this with a handheld camera a week prior, you’d go crazy. You’d think of a thousand different equipment pieces that could assist you. But, when that moment comes, if someone gives you directions, it works out right then and there. That shot is in the film. There was no mystery. Sérgio would come up with the actions, and while he was at it, I’d come up with the framing and camera movements. Then I’d propose it to him, and he’d either agree with me or change it. It was all very open, all very focused.

L: Victor, it is clear from Domingos de Oliveira’s film Aconteceu na Quarta-Feira (2018) that you have over the course of your career established a strong working practice for editing films that were shot hand-held. Here, four years earlier, is an example of your working with such footage. Can you provide any insights into how you approach cutting a film that has such a freely moving camera, especially when all the interesting things captured cannot wind up in the final cut? 

And likewise, can you discuss what kind input Sérgio gave you while you worked to edit the short?

Many times, the editor has to convince the director to remove excess footage, which can be pretty hard. My mind as an editor is very documentary-oriented, which means I have a different approach when working with fiction. All of Sérgio Ricardo’s films share many elements commonly associated with documentaries. No shot is ever like the other - unlike the films of Domingos de Oliveira. Sérgio refused to shoot the same take over and over. He liked the freshness of chance, the surprise element. That’s a lot like the process of editing a documentary. Sérgio had a wonderful saying: “The first take is always the best one”. I think this mix of styles is very noticeable in Pé Sem Chão. The initial idea was to tell the story of an eviction, the eviction of Marília Coelho’s character. But during the editing process, we thought we needed a witness to this story. That’s when we came up with that opening scene where Sérgio Ricardo goes up in the favela and sees what had changed with his own eyes. The film was made one part at a time. That’s why, as Daniel mentioned, the editing took so long.

L: Four years after Pé sem Chão, Sérgio Ricardo went on to make what would be his final feature-length film, Bandeira de Retalhos. Did the cast and crew of Pé sem Chão always know that another feature length film from Ricardo was going to be made? When did the production process of the new feature length film begin, and what were the important factors leading up to it being made? 
VM: Bandeira de Retalhos was an old project of Sérgio’s. That story was important not only to him but also to the residents of Vidigal. The idea came from a real story, the judicial struggle of those dwellers who were facing eviction during the military dictatorship. Sérgio witnessed it firsthand and decided to write a screenplay set in that context. That screenplay was adapted into a theatre play by Nós do Morro,3 and it was a huge hit. Even with the success of this play, we couldn’t secure funding to shoot the film. Everyone wanted to cooperate to make the film, but it was a period movie with complex scenes of shacks being taken down, and it was impossible to make it without a budget, as we did with Pé Sem Chão. Initially, the budget for Bandeira was estimated at 2 million reais.

DP: With the help of Silvio Tendler’s production company, Caliban, we assessed the viability of the project. We sent the project to Ancine [to get funding] but it wasn’t approved. That was surreal, especially considering what happened to Sérgio in the early 1990s, when his budget for another film project was approved by Embrafilme, but then the company was dissolved by the damn president, Fernando Collor.4 That was a rotten moment in our history. But I digress. Our budget was 2 million reais, but the film ended up being made with roughly 200 thousand reais! Thanks to the “magical powers” of Cavi Borges, who managed to assemble a fantastic crew who were totally devoted to the project. Cavi’s history with Vidigal goes way back. But when we made Pé Sem Chão we never thought we’d be shooting an epic feature film at (and on) the Vidigal favela. That was quite a surprise.
L: Cavideo, Nós do Morro, Cacumbu Produções, Caliban, Canal Brasil, Iracema Filmes, Lume Filmes, Tuhumusic Audiovisual, Paiva Produções, Cafeína Produções, and Link Digital. This incredible list of companies got behind making Bandeira de Retalhos. It is remarkable that such a large group formed around each other to help make Sérgio’s vision for this film a reality. It seems to me that the numerous people working within the cultural field had an attachment to Sérgio Ricardo, and therefore accepted the opportunity to help create what would be his final film. Can you discuss the kind of influence and impact that Sérgio Ricardo had on the artistic community of Rio de Janeiro?

DP: Sérgio always worked with people who saw art as he did. Art is political, in tune with the times. Because of this, he was loved by many but despised by others. The things many people have told me about Sérgio didn’t match up to how I saw in him in day-to-day life. The gathering of people around Sérgio was partly due to his age and the urgent notion that it had to be done then or never. We accepted it and did what was possible. I built a camera shoulder rig out of polyvinyl tubes bought at a building supply store in Vidigal hours before the shoot. We improvised all the time. So, it wasn’t a very romantic shoot. We did it because we had to. There was a sense of urgency which unfortunately went unnoticed by all cultural, business, or governmental spheres. We could have made a much better film with some minimal structure. I think Sérgio knew that, but in his gurulike serenity he accepted it and worked with what he had. But the people involved were all top quality. Technicians, actors, etc. were all focused on making art with love.

L: Four years after Pé sem Chão, Sérgio Ricardo went on to make what would be his final feature-length film, Bandeira de Retalhos. Did the cast and crew of Pé sem Chão always know that another feature length film from Ricardo was going to be made? When did the production process of the new feature length film begin, and what were the important factors leading up to it being made? 
DP: We worked with a Blackmagic Pocket, a kit of prime objective lenses, and practically no quality lights or machinery. It was all raw handheld camera. Another cinematographer started the film, as I wasn’t available at first. He owned a studio, etc. so it was the right choice from a production perspective. But it didn’t work out, for similar reasons explained by Victor regarding Menino da Calça Branca. To quote the poet Aldir Blanc, it was an incompatibility of geniuses. So, Sérgio called me more than once and after the second time I couldn’t say no. But when I came to the set, the equipment was all gone.

It felt like being drafted to war, coming to the front lines and only being given a single gun. We made the best of it. There was little lighting, a wide aperture very close to the characters, and the camera pulsating with their actions. Unfortunately, 80% of the shots had to be cut because (yet again!) the memory cards we borrowed were defective. Many of the 24 frames per second simply vanished, and that jeopardized Victor’s editing process. My job was to go over the screenplay with Victor and my assistants at Edna’s bar in Vidigal until we were called in to shoot the next scene. We shot practically every nighttime scene, and the previous cinematographer had shot every daytime scene. If not for that, I believe the cinematography would have felt closer to the characters, an idea I’m very fond of. In that sense, I undoubtedly prefer the cinematography of Pé Sem Chão. But the key to making these films isn’t only about focusing on your specific contribution. It's also important to focus on collaborating as part of a collective process. For me, it was fantastic to see the descendants of those who represented popular resistance playing their own ancestors in the retelling of their story.

L: I found that one of the most fascinating elements of Bandeira de Retalhos is its use of archival footage of the Vidigal crisis from 1977. This footage adds a sense of realism to the events taking place within the film. But Bandeira de Retalhos doesn’t only use archival footage from the Vidigal crisis of 77’. It pulls archival footage from many diverse media formats that details the various struggles of favela inhabitants over different time periods. Victor, can you discuss how you found and used all of this archival footage and incorporated it into the film? How much digging through archives did you have to do to find materials?
VM: In the first written treatment of the film, the shacks were supposed to be taken down and we would have to shoot those sequences. However, since our budget was very small and the wood from the shacks was going to be reused to build other shacks, we couldn’t break them. Then, Sérgio remembered a woman who had filmed everything from the Vidigal crisis of 1977 with a super-8 camera (she is even portrayed in the film), and we realized there was also a lot of news footage covering those events. That’s when we had the idea to mix archival footage from 1977 to 1980, when the Pope visited Vidigal. I think that solution was in tune with Sérgio’s aesthetic. So, we began looking for archival materials. First, we went to the National Archive and asked for everything they had on Rio’s favelas in the 1970s. The search was going to take a long time, and while we were conducting that search, Christian Caselli5 began to send us everything about favela evictions he could find, regardless of image quality, time or place. We made a draft version of the film, using footage that was only found online. Weeks later, a DVD with Globo broadcasts and the National Archive materials arrived, but there was still no trace of the super-8 footage. So, the version that ended up in the final cut was that draft version. Sérgio didn’t mind the poor image quality, and the obvious anachronism between them underlines the never-ending struggle of the oppressed against real estate speculation. I have to add that the Olympics happened two years prior to the film’s launch and many people were evicted in the name of a supposed “revitalizing”, but what was the legacy of this “revitalizing”, finally? Funny enough, the super-8 footage was later found and digitized by the Cinemateca do MAM. But by then our film had already premiered at the Tiradentes festival and Sérgio decided to leave it as it is.

L:  In 2018, the same year Bandeira de Retalhos was made, you both collaborated on three short films which weaved a fictional narrative into diverse topics such as Brazilian cinema history, the importance of Brazilian cultural heritage, and the power of music. These films were Cacumbu, Maré mansa traiçoeira, and Vento Burro. In particular, I want to speak about Cacumbu, which featured Sérgio Ricardo as an actor, playing a wise old man. When I spoke to Daniel about the films, he told me that Cacumbu “is a tribute to Sérgio Ricardo. It's about the importance of cultural heritage and how young people should get to know and strengthen themselves with the great cultural figures that came before them”. 

Can you say more about this idea? You both have committed so much time to projects that highlight the history of Brazilian cinema or propel forward new works of those who were important figures in this history. What sparks your initiative to make films like Cacumbu, which is both an homage to Cinema Novo, 60s New Waves, and Sérgio Ricardo?

DP: Our trilogy about Deep Brazil consists of Vento Burro, Cacumbu and Maré Mansa Traiçoeira. The idea came from talks between me, Victor, Sérgio and other close friends about the route our society had taken since the election of President Dilma Rousseff and the subsequent coup attempt by those who refused to accept her victory. From then on, we could already feel the serpent’s egg which would hatch three years later with the parliamentary coup, and whose venom would be cast upon us with the election of Jair Bolsonaro. I took hold of my film tools to reflect on that, while rejecting a literal or didactic approach. 

The films contain a huge mix of different elements. It has politicians from all over the world (an idea stolen from an old Bob Dylan song). A skyscraper in Asia burns as Odetta, a powerful black woman, sings. Both Sérgio Ricardo and the Racionais Mc’s are featured. There is a homage to a shot by Dub Lutfi in Menino da Calça Branca and another to Leon Hirszman’s Nelson Cavaquinho. There’s Sganzerla, Luiz Gonzaga, Soviet films and Edward Hopper, providing an overview of world cinema. There is music by Ivan Lins and Guerra-Peixe. These references are enough for a person to immerse themselves in for an entire year.

The purpose of the first film was to consider, in a poetic and documental manner (with echoes of Chris Marker), that initial moment. I refer to the social regeneration brought on by childhood as I close the film with a song by the great Clementina de Jesus. 

In Cacumbu, I wanted to focus on poor Brazilian children and give them some perspective. The hero’s journey in the film will lead the boy to knowledge, to art, to an escape route from such a cruel reality. That’s when Sérgio appears in the film, playing himself. In a way, the line “the child is me” is real. I was that child who awoke when I first met Sérgio. I think that also applies to Victor. We owed him that. And we wanted to have Sérgio in Maré Mansa Traiçoeira too. He would have played the guide to the main character as he discovers cinema. The idea was to have the archetypes of each age well represented: childhood, maturity, old age. But Sérgio wasn’t doing very well by then, he had lots of lung issues, and it was cold during the shoots (our trilogy was shot in Winter, so it could look less like “tropical cinema”). So, we had to do it without Sérgio, but there’s a reference to him when the character turns the projector on and says: “the old man taught me this”. 

This last film in the trilogy refers to the inescapable reality that people will see themselves in power, sooner or later. Even though crooks like Trump and Bolsonaro are elected, we will evaluate this, lick our sore spots and change. We learn from those mistakes, I’m sure. Our morning will come, there’s no doubt about that. So, I can’t stop seeing the world from the same perspective that guided Italian Neorealism, the Nouvelle Vague, the New Waves and Cinemas of Invention from all around the world. I don’t believe they’re outdated. They are ways of filmmaking. By mixing them with contemporary perceptions and techniques, we make current films. No matter how strong the coup is, we will rise. It’s just a matter of time.
L: The last question is for Victor Magrath, who co-directed the video-film Na Rota do Vento (2019) along with Cavi Borges and Marina Lutfi. Na Rota do Vento is a rather brilliant work in that in 20 minutes it highlights the extraordinary depth to Sérgio Ricardo’s cinema - laying out the numerous themes and visual motifs that he dealt without throughout his career. Can you discuss your process of building this video-project with Marina and Cavi, how did the final product come together?
VM: The film Na Rota do Vento came from the Cinema na Música concert, conceived by Marina Lutfi in 2017. It was sort of a cine-concert which paid homage to the soundtracks composed by her father throughout his 60-year career. From Cinema Novo classics (Black God, White Devil) to the brilliant scores of his own films (Juliana do Amor Perdido, A Noite do Espantalho, etc). I was very fond of Sérgio’s work at the time, so I was invited to join the crew as the coordinator of its “cinema” aspects. Basically, I had to cut and edit fragments from the films and project them live. I watched Sérgio’s films countless times to draw parallels between the scenes selected for each song. Then I noticed all of Sérgio’s works relate to each other in some way. His narratives complement his songs as well as his paintings, his poetry, and of course film was the ultimate tool to bring them all together. The show drew the attention of Biscoito Fino records and Canal Brasil, and they decided to make a CD and a DVD of the concert. Cavi Borges directed the making of doc to serve as DVD extras. The behind the scenes were very agitated and the material Cavi shot was never finished. When Marina and I were incorporated to the crew of this extra, we thought about the best way to showcase Sérgio’s creative process when composing his film scores. We interviewed him and other people, but nothing and no one could explain where his artistic world was born and what it grew from. In a modest way, we thought that by showcasing his films and his music like a mosaic we would be able to express this. The film eventually entered some festival selections but was left out of the DVD extras. Sérgio enjoyed seeing the images of his films parading on the big screen while the music took over the movie theater.

1. Editor’s note: From Persona (1966).

2. EN: In Portuguese, “Uma câmera na mão e uma ideia na cabeça”. This sentence is considered the motto of the Cinema Novo movement, and commonly attributed to Glauber Rocha. In reality, it was said by Paulo Cézar Saraceni.

3. EN: A theater group founded in Vidigal in 1986 by actor Guti Fraga. Today, the group works as a formative space for children, teenagers and adults in theater as well as film, both in acting and technical jobs.

4. EN: Embrafilme was a state-owned film production and distribution company. It was dissolved in March, 1990 by the National Destatization Program, which led to a practical halt in film production in the country until about five years later; when new incentive laws by the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration resulted in a burst in production, dubbed the Retomada period.

5. EN: A filmmaker and editor. His films include the short O paradoxo da espera do ônibus (2007) and the documentary Rosemberg: Cinema, Colagem e Afetos (2017), co-directed with Cavi Borges.
PT /
Limite: Iracema Filmes é uma empresa de produção cinematográfica que começou em 2008, e hoje vocês representam 2/6 da equipe da empresa. Daniel e Victor, vocês dois podem fazer um panorama de suas carreiras no cinema? Quando vocês se conheceram e começaram a colaborar na Iracema Filmes?

Daniel Paes: Eu nasci no Lins de Vasconcelos, no Méier. Então, até poderia, mas não tive uma cultura cinematográfica precoce. Foi só na Faculdade de jornalismo que comecei a ver filmes e pensar sobre cinema. Mas nessa época eu estava mais voltado para leitura e escrita. Foi com uma namorada da época, Júlia Machado, que criamos a Iracema Filmes. A gente já tinha feito um curta-metragem, Paó (2008),e um doc, Cidade dos Jovens (2006), que foi dirigido por ela e ganhou prêmio até. Hoje a Júlia é cineasta e pesquisadora de cinema.

Então decidimos abrir a produtora. Iracema Filmes, em homenagem ao filme do Jorge Bodanzsky e Orlando Senna o qual havia nos arrebatado na época. Depois ela saiu e eu segui um bom tempo sozinho, fazendo freelas comerciais e projetos em parcerias, ligados a pesquisa acadêmica e audiovisual. Em 2013, fazendo o Pé Sem Chão, conheci o Victor Magrath e a Juliana Krause. Desse encontro (re)nasceu a ideia da produtora como eu desejava. Funcionamos mais ou menos da seguinte forma: eu e Vitinho, como a gente chama, criávamos (eu mais na fotografia e ele mais na montagem) e a Ju produzia. Foi um período muito bom pois todos morávamos no Vidigal. Acontecia uma cena cultural muito linda e o Sérgio Ricardo era pra gente uma grande referência, no sentido artístico e até mesmo geográfico, pois cada visita na casa dele era o encontro provável com alguém que também visitava ele. Isso foi alimentando encontros e trocas que geraram muitas colaborações. A partir daí foi uma imersão em muitas linguagens artísticas. A gente ficava à frente do audiovisual na Iracema.

Victor Magrath: Eu comecei a me interessar por cinema desde minha adolescência. Gostava de filmar meus colegas andando de skate e surfando. Adorava editar esses vídeos, botar música e encadear as ações no ritmo das batidas sonoras. Meus pais me fizeram descobrir que poderia fazer daquilo uma profissão e me incentivaram mostrando filmes que marcaram as vidas deles. Meu pai me mostrava os clássicos universais, e minha mãe falava do Glauber Rocha e Ruy Guerra. Decidi ir morar um tempo em Biarritz e tentar fazer alguma formação em cinema que acabou não acontecendo na época. Esses anos eu filmei e editei vários curtas experimentais. Só anos mais tarde morando no Vidigal e trabalhando numa pequena produtora em Botafogo que encontrei Daniel, Juliana e Sérgio Ricardo na filmagem do Pé Sem Chão. A amizade foi instantânea e percebemos que tínhamos uma visão muito parecida sobre o fazer cinema. Juntamos nossos equipamentos e alugamos uma salinha na mesma produtora que me empregava em Botafogo e começamos a elaborar roteiros e projetos para a lei de incentivo à cultura. Foram anos incríveis.
L: Com base em suas experiências de trabalho, é óbvio que a história do cinema brasileiro teve uma grande influência, particularmente o cinema dos anos 60. O primeiro exemplo claro disso é o papel de Daniel como diretor de fotografia e câmera em Reencontro com o Cinema (2014) de Rafael de Luna Freire, filme que contou a história do cineasta carioca Gerson Tavares e ajudou a revitalizar o interesse em seu trabalho. Em seguida, Victor foi o editor do último filme de Domingos de Oliveira, Aconteceu na Quarta-Feira (2018), que fechou com chave de ouro a última fase da carreira cinematográfica do diretor.

Podem citar os filmes ou cineastas brasileiros que são as maiores influências cinematográficas de vocês? E de onde vem o impulso para colaborar com grandes cineastas veteranos?

VM: Sou um grande entusiasta do cinema brasileiro. Gosto muito de revisitar filmes para incorporar no meu processo criativo. Tenho uma relação vital com esses filmes e acho que o Daniel é parecido comigo nesse ponto. Quando trabalhamos na montagem do Cacumbu (2018) e Maré Mansa Traiçoeira (2020)  fizemos um tipo de memorial afetivo do cinema que nos inspira, para nos servirmos em duas sequências do filme. O que gosto muito no cinema dos anos 60 é o lado da cinefilia dos realizadores. Os escritos dessa geração são apaixonantes. Eu aprendi muitas coisas lendo a revisão crítica do cinema brasileiro de Glauber Rocha e O processo do Cinema Novo de Alex Viany, que me deram uma base para compreender e respeitar esses grandes mestres do cinema brasileiro. No que diz respeito a cena contemporânea gosto dos filmes do coletivo Alumbramento no Ceará e da nova geração de cineastas documentaristas como Milena Manfredini, Denize Galiao e Yasmin Thayná.

DP: Sim. A noção da produção cinematográfica brasileira é fundamental. Difícil dizer alguns. A lista é infindável. Mas para falar dos diretores com os quais mais me identifico e admiro, citaria Rogério Sganzerla, Glauber Rocha, Leon Hirszman, Cláudio Assis, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Andrea Tonacci, Silvio Tendler, Eduardo Coutinho e Ana Carolina. Fazemos filmes pensando o presente, passado e apontando o futuro. Creio que todos meus filmes, desde
Vento Burro (2016), passando por Cacumbu e Maré mansa traiçoeira, têm essa relação de admiração e atualização com as raízes profundas da nossa cinematografia.
L: Como cineastas independentes no Brasil, vocês conseguiram fazer o máximo com escassos recursos financeiros. A abertura de Pé Sem Chão (2014) destaca "Este filme foi....feito pela totalidade de seus artistas e técnicos, que (...) aceitaram o desafio de uma produção sem nenhum recurso financeiro, a convite do diretor".

Que tipo de lições vocês aprenderam fazendo cinema desta forma, e como isso reflete as ideias por trás do movimento Cinema Novo, como achar que tudo que um cineasta precisa é "uma uma câmera na mão e uma ideia na cabeça"? Vocês revisitaram os filmes do Cinema Novo para buscar inspiração antes de trabalhar nessa produção? E que lições vocês acham que cineastas novos e emergentes podem aprender com o Cinema Novo ou o Cinema Marginal, vendo a maneira como cineastas brasileiros no passado fizeram tanto usando apenas uma câmera e a inspiração?

DP: Não existe a possibilidade de fazer sem dinheiro. Mas existe a possibilidade de fazer apesar do dinheiro. O orçamento não deveria classificar nenhum tipo de filme. Quando fazemos um mutirão, não estamos pensando em quanto será arrecadado ou doado. Estamos pensando na coisa em si. Na realização. Fazer cinema em países como o nosso não deveria ser apenas uma atividade econômica (claro que é), mas principalmente uma atividade humana. Narrar nosso próprio tempo e movimento. Então, para mim, fazer cinema é uma prática que não nos traz ensinamentos via dinheiro. Mas a ausência de dinheiro muda as relações. Você só dedica seu tempo não vendido àquilo que acredita. Fazer cinema necessário. Essa foi a proposta do Sérgio Ricardo para que a gente fizesse o Pé Sem Chão. E eu fui atrás da equipe que topasse essa empreitada. Nós por nós.

A proposta dialoga sim com o Cinema Novo. Com os cinemas novos. Com os cinemas decoloniais. Sérgio é esta escola de cinema. Mas a gente já gostava e conhecia antes de conhecer ele. Cinema Marginal ou marginalizado, né? Que tempos difíceis para se fazer cinema foram os anos de 1970 no Brasil. Na verdade, estamos falando de linhas de fuga da cultura cinematográfica para seguir criando livremente. Sem as amarras dos padrões estéticos e econômicos (e políticos!) dominantes. Como disse Bergman, “Seu esconderijo não é vedado. A vida se infiltra em todo lugar”. Nesse sentido, creio que toda estética está ligada aos modos de produção. E basta olhar a história do cinema para perceber que são poucos os cineastas que conseguem transpor modos de produção sem perder seu estilo. No Brasil, o ano de 2021 será, provavelmente, o pior ano de nossa história. Em aspectos macro e micro. Não temos perspectivas de consolidar uma real indústria audiovisual. Então é realmente fazer o cinema necessário, colocado no mundo. Não gosto muito da expressão “uma câmera na mão e uma ideia na cabeça”, porque depende da ideia. Em outros contextos sócio-econômicos, é possível fazer cinema com o leitmotiv de uma ideia individual, até vaidosa. No nosso contexto, essa ideia tem que ser magnética e importante para todos os envolvidos. A coletividade é a ideia.

VM: Consigo ver um paralelo entre o cinema feito nos anos 60 e 70 com o cinema feito agora e acho que isso fez com que o Sérgio incorporasse tão bem esse cinema de guerrilha ao seu processo criativo. A revolução tecnológica dos anos 60, que deixou a câmera menor, fazendo possível a captação do som direto, fez com que o cinema saísse dos moldes de estúdios e fosse para rua e se aproximasse do povo. O próprio Sérgio Ricardo contava uma história que exemplifica bem esse momento da história do cinema brasileiro. Dizia ele que filmando Menino da calça branca em 1960, na favela, teve que trocar de fotógrafo, porque o primeiro estava habituado a fazer tomadas de carrinho, câmera no tripé (à moda antiga, diríamos assim) e que filmar na favela era impensável. A partir dos anos 2000, com a chegada do digital, vivemos um processo parecido. Grandes filmes podem ser feitos sem sair de casa, como Nunca é Noite no Mapa (2016), mas acho indispensável pensarmos em políticas públicas de fomento ao audiovisual num país múltiplo como é o Brasil. Infelizmente foi feito muito pouco e esse cenário piora com a chegada desse governo de extrema direita que é inimigo da arte e das minorias. Dias melhores virão, espero.
L: Vocês dois tiveram papéis importantes na produção dos dois últimos filmes de Sérgio Ricardo, Pé Sem Chão e Bandeira de Retalhos (2018). Antes de abordar especificamente os filmes, podem destacar como foi o primeiro contato de vocês com os filmes de Sérgio Ricardo? Depois, como conheceram e construíram essa relação de trabalho com ele?

VM: Meu primeiro contato com o Sérgio Ricardo foi no set do Pé Sem Chão. Eu não tinha visto ainda nenhum filme dele e fiquei muito impressionado com a forma como ele dirigia as cenas. Fiquei pasmo com a complexidade de suas tomadas e o senso de ritmo que encontramos em sua obra. A montagem do Pé Sem Chão foi feita na própria casa do Sérgio com ele ali do meu lado me dando as instruções. Daniel estava sempre presente e nas pausas Sérgio Ricardo nos contava os bastidores dos seus filmes. Sempre histórias engraçadas que aumentavam minha curiosidade para assistir não só o cinema dele, mas conhecer o trabalho daqueles que faziam parte do cinema novo. Foi uma grande escola para mim. 

DP: Com a ampliação da Internet no final dos anos de 1990 no Brasil ocorreu uma onda de blogs que disponibilizavam discos e filmes pouco conhecidos (além, claro dos blockbusters e hits). Foi através de um blog destes que baixei e assisti A Noite do Espantalho (1974). Fiquei assustado com aquele universo todo novo. O Brasil profundo tratado de forma psicodélica, realista e fantástica. Depois não assisti mais nada dele, sabia sobre suas músicas, mas poucas. Quando me mudei para o Vidigal e o conheci veio a proposta de filmar. Me lancei nessa aventura. A partir daí virei entusiasta da sua obra e assisti todos os filmes. Já conhecia, claro, o trabalho do Dib Lutfi. As conversas com Sérgio sobre ele eram sempre melancólicas e hilárias. Era um artista fabuloso e uma pessoa incrível. Pena que não pude conhecê-lo pessoalmente. Lembro de assistirmos juntos o filme Dib da Márcia Derraik, filmado em 1997. Nossa, que obra fantástica essa.

L: Pé Sem Chão é um filme de 2014, e Sérgio Ricardo estava por volta dos 82 anos de idade quando o realizou. De onde veio a ideia e a inspiração para Sérgio voltar a se aventurar no cinema àquela altura da vida? Vocês podem, a partir de sua própria perspectiva, contar os bastidores do retorno de Sérgio Ricardo ao cinema?

DP: Procuramos a estética mais crua. Cinema Novo, escola do Sérgio Ricardo. Usei quase que somente a objetiva 50mm para criar um olhar afetado diretamente do público. Neo-realismo, né? A câmera estava presente o tempo todo próxima dos atores. Por vezes eu me apoiava neles para fazer closes. Isso gera uma relação forte na equipe.

Como o roteiro era totalmente aberto e o Sérgio já tinha deixado clara a forma de fazer, eu já conhecia a fotografia do Dib, me lancei em cena. Lembro que o primeiro plano filmado era uma panorâmica que começava em contra-plongée, descia através do flare do sol e suavemente enquadrava os dois personagens com meninas tocando ao fundo dentro do quadro. Se você pensa em como fazer isso com a câmera na mão uma semana antes, você fica louco. Vai pensar em mil aparatos para ajudar. Se alguém te dirige na hora, você encara e o plano sai. Tá no filme. Não teve mistério. Sérgio pensava a ação e enquanto pensava a ação eu ia pensando no enquadramento e movimento. Mostrava a proposta para ele que concordava ou mudava. Tudo muito aberto e concentrado.
L: Victor, está claro no filme Aconteceu na Quarta-Feira (2018) de Domingos de Oliveira que você teve, ao longo da carreira, bastante prática como editor de filmes feitos com câmera-na-mão. Quatro anos antes, em Pé Sem Chão, temos outro exemplo de seu trabalho com este tipo de filmagem. Você pode dar uma ideia de como é sua abordagem ao montar um filme que tem uma câmera que se move livremente, especialmente quando tanta coisa interessante que foi filmada acaba não saindo no corte final?
E como foi sua colaboração com Sérgio Ricardo durante a montagem do curta?

Muitas vezes o montador tem que ser aquele que convence o diretor a tirar o excesso do filme que é uma missão bem difícil. Eu tenho uma cabeça muito voltada para a edição de documentário que me faz ter uma abordagem diferente quando me deparo com um material de ficção. O Cinema do Sérgio Ricardo tem muitos elementos que são atribuídos ao cinema documental e isso está presente em toda sua obra. Nunca uma tomada é igual a outra - diferente do cinema do Domingos Oliveira. O próprio Sérgio era contra filmar uma determinada cena diversas vezes. Ele gosta do frescor do acaso, o elemento surpresa. Muito parecido com o processo de montagem do documentário. O Sérgio tinha uma máxima maravilhosa: “A primeira tomada é sempre a melhor”. No caso do filme pé sem chão acho que fica muito evidente essa mescla de linguagens. A ideia inicial do filme era contar a história de um despejo, personagem interpretada pela Marília Coelho, mas ao longo da montagem vimos com Daniel a necessidade de ter um testemunho dessa história e assim nasceu a sequência de abertura do filme com o Sérgio Ricardo subindo o morro e vendo as mudanças com os próprios olhos. O filme foi se compondo por partes e isso fez com que a edição demorasse, como disse Daniel.
L: Quatro anos depois de Pé Sem Chão, Sérgio Ricardo realizou o que seria seu último filme, Bandeira de Retalhos. O elenco e a equipe de Pé Sem Chão sabiam dos planos para realizar esse longa-metragem? Quando começou o processo de produção do longa, e quais fatores importantes antes da realização?
VM: Bandeira de Retalhos é um projeto antigo do Sérgio. Aquela história tinha uma importância não só para ele mas para os moradores do Vidigal também. A ideia para o filme foi inspirada em uma história verídica, a luta judicial que a comunidade enfrentou contra o governo militar para não perderem suas casas. Sérgio viveu isso de perto e resolveu escrever uma história para o cinema ambientada nesse contexto. O roteiro do filme foi adaptado para o teatro pelo Grupo Nós do Morro que fez um grande sucesso mas nada da verba sair para a adaptação pro cinema. Todos estavam dispostos a cooperar para a feitura do filme, mas por ser um filme de época com cenas complexas de derrubada de barraco não dava para fazer a custo zero como foi o caso do Pé Sem Chão. O projeto inicial estava orçado em 2 milhões de reais.

DP: Fizemos um estudo de viabilidade do projeto, em parceria com a produtora Caliban, do documentarista Silvio Tendler. Enviamos o projeto para a Ancine, mas não foi aprovado. Surreal isso pois se pararmos para pensar o mesmo ocorreu com o Sérgio no início dos anos de 1990 quando ele aprovou verba na Embrafilme, mas a agência estatal foi extinta pelo maldito presidente Fernando Collor. Uma página podre de nossa história. Mas enfim, ficamos então com um orçamento de 2 milhões de reais que acabou sendo realizado por aproximadamente 200 mil reais! Isso por pura “mágica” do Cavi Borges que conseguiu reunir uma equipe fantástica e entrou de cabeça no filme. A história do Cavi com o Vidigal não vem de hoje, é antiga também. Mas quando filmamos Pé sem chão não imaginávamos que um dia filmaríamos um longa épico na (e sobre) a favela do Vidigal. Foi surpreendente.
L: Cavideo, Nós do Morro, Cacumbu Produções, Caliban, Canal Brasil, Iracema Filmes, Lume Filmes, Tuhumusic Audiovisual, Paiva Produções, Cafeína Produções, e Link Digital. Esta incrível lista de empresas apoiou a realização de Bandeira de Retalhos, um filme que tinha pouco ou nenhum orçamento. É notável que um grupo tão grande se formou para ajudar a tornar real a visão de Sérgio para este filme. Me parece que várias pessoas que trabalham no campo cultural tinham um apego a Sérgio Ricardo, e portanto aceitaram a oportunidade de ajudar a criar o que seria seu último filme. Vocês podem discutir a influência e o impacto que Sérgio Ricardo teve sobre a comunidade artística do Rio de Janeiro?

DP: Sérgio sempre criou com as pessoas que viam a arte como ele via. Arte política, colocada em seu tempo. Isso fez com que ele fosse amado por muitos mas também desprezado por outros. A imagem que muitas pessoas me passaram sobre o Sérgio não batia com a que eu via no dia a dia com ele. A reunião em volta do Sérgio se deu em parte pela idade dele e pelo senso de urgência de que teria que ser aquele momento ou nunca seria. Topamos fazer com o possível. Eu construí um rig (camera shoulder) com canos PVC comprados na loja de materiais de construção do Vidigal horas antes de filmar. Improvisamos por todo o lado. Então não foi tão romântico filmar. Fizemos pois precisávamos. Havia um senso de urgência ali. Senso que não foi percebido por nenhuma esfera cultural empresarial ou governamental, infelizmente. Poderíamos ter realizado um filme muito melhor se tivéssemos um mínimo de estrutura. Creio que Sérgio sabia disso, mas com sua tranquilidade de mestre, soube aceitar e trabalhar com o que tinha. E no quesito material humano tudo era da melhor qualidade possível. Técnicos, atores e etc focados e, com amor, fazendo sua arte.
L: Daniel, você pode discutir tanto as limitações quanto os pontos fortes da filmagem com câmeras digitais neste projeto? Como foi o processo de filmagem, e a que tipo de equipamento você teve acesso?
DP: Filmamos com uma Blackmagic pocket com kit de objetivas prime e praticamente nenhuma qualidade de iluminação e maquinária. Foi câmera na mão, bruta. Um fotógrafo começou o filme pois eu não podia no momento. Como este fotógrafo possuía ainda um estúdio e etc foi a escolha acertada para a produção. Ele entraria com muitos equipamentos e etc. Mas não deu certo, pelos mesmos motivos que o Victor apontou sobre o filme Menino da calça branca. Incompatibilidade de gênios como diria o poeta Aldir Blanc. Então Sérgio me ligou por mais de uma vez e eu não pude negar. Mas quando cheguei todos os equipamentos não existiam mais. 

Foi como ser chamado para a guerra e ao chegar ao front ter apenas uma arma. Fizemos o melhor uso possível dela. Pouca luz, abertura radical do diafragma, proximidade dos personagens e uma câmera que “pulsava” junto com as ações. Infelizmente 80% dos planos como foram realizados precisaram ser cortados em pedaços pois (mais uma vez!) os cartões de memória emprestados estavam com defeito. Dos 24 frames por segundo muitos sumiam e isso prejudicou muito a montagem do Victor. No mais, meu trabalho era de estudar o roteiro com Victor e os assistentes da equipe de fotografia no bar da Edna no Vidigal até sermos chamados para a próxima cena. Filmamos praticamente todas as cenas noturnas e o fotógrafo anterior fez as diurnas. Não fosse isso, creio que teríamos uma fotografia mais “agarrada” aos personagens, o que me agrada mais. Neste sentido, sem dúvida, gosto mais do trabalho de fotografia do Pé sem chão. Mas fazer esses filmes não é apenas ver sua “área” bem feita, mas colaborar com o processo coletivo. Ver os descendentes da resistência popular interpretando seus antepassados nesta mesma história foi algo fantástico.
L: Achei que um dos elementos mais fascinantes de Bandeira de Retalhos é o uso de imagens de arquivo da crise do Vidigal de 1977, que dão um senso de realismo aos eventos que ocorrem dentro do filme. Mas o filme não usa apenas filmagens de arquivo da crise do Vidigal de 77, também parece ter puxado filmagens de diversos formatos de mídia que detalham as lutas dos habitantes das favelas de outras épocas. Victor, como você encontrou e incorporou essas imagens de arquivo? Elas foram encontradas na internet, em algum acervo de canais de TV, ou fornecidas pela produção?
VM: No roteiro inicial os barracos eram derrubados e teríamos que filmar tais sequências. Como nossa verba era muito miúda e as madeiras dos barracos eram reutilizadas para a construção de outros barracos, era impensável quebrar as madeiras. Então o Sérgio lembrou que tinha uma moça na época que filmava tudo com sua super 8 (inclusive essa personagem é representada no filme) e que a mídia deu bastante destaque aos acontecimentos na época. Daí surgiu a ideia de misturar com material dos anos 1977 até 1980, quando o Papa visitou o Vidigal. Acho que essa solução dialoga com a estética do próprio Sérgio. Assim começou a saga da busca dos materiais de arquivo. Primeiro fomos ao Arquivo Nacional pedir tudo que eles tinham sobre favelas do Rio de Janeiro nos anos 70. A busca iria demorar e enquanto esse material não chegava em nossas mãos, Christian Caselli nos mandava tudo de remoção de favela que ele encontrava. Independente da qualidade de imagem, da época e do local. Fizemos um esboço com o material da internet no corte do filme. Semanas depois, o DVD com as transmissões da Globo e o material do Arquivo Nacional nos apareceu, mas nada do super 8. A versão que ficou no filme é do esboço. O Sérgio não se importou com a qualidade do material e o anacronismo aparente dá uma força para uma luta sempre presente dos povos oprimidos contra a especulação imobiliária. Lembrando que as Olimpíadas dois anos antes da estreia do filme desalojou muitas pessoas em nome dessa “revitalização”, e nos perguntamos qual legado ficou? Curiosamente o material de super 8 foi encontrado e digitalizado pela cinemateca do MAM, a essa altura o filme já tinha estreado na Mostra de Tiradentes e o Sérgio achou melhor deixar como está.
L: Em 2018, no mesmo ano em que foi feito Bandeira de Retalhos, vocês trabalharam juntos em três curtas-metragens que tecem uma narrativa ficcional sobre diversos temas como a história do cinema brasileiro, a importância do patrimônio cultural brasileiro e o poder da música. Estes filmes foram Cacumbu, Maré mansa traiçoeira e Vento Burro. Em particular, quero falar sobre Cacumbu, que traz Sérgio Ricardo como ator, interpretando um velho sábio. Quando eu falei com Daniel sobre os filmes, ele me disse que Cacumbu "é uma homenagem a Sérgio Ricardo. É sobre o patrimônio cultural e como os jovens devem conhecer e se fortalecer com as grandes figuras culturais que vieram antes deles". 

Podem discorrer mais sobre esta ideia? Vocês dedicaram tanto tempo a projetos que discutem a história do cinema brasileiro ou impulsionam filmes novos daqueles que foram figuras importantes do cinema brasileiro. O que desperta a iniciativa de fazer filmes como Cacumbu, que é ao mesmo tempo uma homenagem ao Cinema Novo, às new waves dos anos 60 e a Sérgio Ricardo?

DP: A trilogia do Brasil profundo, que é composta por Vento Burro, Cacumbu e Maré mansa traiçoeira tem início nas nossas conversas (eu Victor, Sérgio e demais amigos próximos) sobre os rumos que nossa sociedade vinha tomando desde a eleição da presidente Dilma Rousseff e a tentativa golpista de não aceitar sua eleição. Ali já estava colocado o ovo da serpente que se chocaria três anos mais tarde com o golpe parlamentar e que nos atacaria com seu veneno na eleição de Jair Bolsonaro. Usei as ferramentas do cinema para refletir sobre isso sem ser literal ou didático. 

Tudo misturado: políticos de todo o mundo (ideia roubada de uma antiga canção de Bob Dylan). Um arranha-céu asiático queima enquanto Odetta canta. Odetta: mulher, negra poderosa. Temos Sérgio Ricardo, Racionais Mc’s. Tem homenagem a um plano do Dib Lutfi de Menino da calça branca e ao Nelson Cavaquinho de Leon Hirszman. Tem Sganzerla, Luiz Gonzaga. Filmes soviéticos e Edward Hopper. Cinemas de todos os continentes. Música de Ivan Lins e Guerra-Peixe. Só nestas últimas linhas tem referências para um ano de imersão.
A proposta do primeiro filme foi refletir de forma poética e documental (ecos de Chris Marker) acerca deste momento inicial. Aponto para a regeneração social que a infância traz sempre, ao fechar o filme com a canção da grande Clementina de Jesus. 

Em Cacumbu a ideia era focar na criança brasileira pobre e apontar algum horizonte. Essa trajetória do herói foi criada levando o menino até o conhecimento, a arte, a linha de fuga dessa realidade tão cruel. Assim a figura do Sérgio está no filme. Ele representa a si mesmo. De certa forma, a fala do filme “a criança sou eu” é real. Eu fui essa criança que despertou ao conhecer o Sérgio. Creio que o Victor também. Devíamos isso a ele. E a ideia era ter o Sérgio no Maré Mansa Traiçoeira, como o guia para o personagem na hora do encontro com o cinema. A proposta era ter os arquétipos etários bem desenhados: infância, maturidade e velhice. Mas o Sérgio já não estava bem de saúde, com muitos problemas pulmonares, e fazia frio quando filmamos (a trilogia foi feita no inverno, para soar menos como “cinema tropical”). Então não deu para ter o Sérgio, mas a referência da personagem ao ligar o projetor está lá dita: “isso o velho me ensinou”. 

Este filme que fecha a trilogia aponta para a inescapável realidade de o povo estar representado no poder, mais cedo ou mais tarde. Por mais que algum crápula como Trump ou Bolsonaro seja eleito, vamos rever isso lambendo as feridas e mudando. Aprenderemos com esses erros. Tenho certeza. Nossa manhã chegará, sem dúvida. Então, eu não consigo deixar de ver o mundo sob outros aspectos que não os que guiaram o neo-realismo italiano, as nouvelle vagues, as new waves e os cinemas de invenção. Não acredito que foram usos do passado. São formas. Misturando isso com percepções e técnicas contemporâneas fazemos sim cinema atual. Não importa a força do golpe. Vamos nos erguer. Questão do grande tempo.
L: A última pergunta é para Victor Magrath, que co-dirigiu o filme Na Rota do Vento (2019) com Cavi Borges e Marina Lutfi. Na Rota do Vento é um trabalho bastante brilhante pois, em 20 minutos, destaca a extraordinária profundidade do cinema de Sérgio Ricardo - expondo os inúmeros temas e motivos visuais tratados ao longo de sua carreira. Como foi o processo de construção deste vídeo-projeto com Marina e Cavi, até chegar ao produto final?  
VM: O filme Na Rota do Vento é uma ramificação do show Cinema na Música, idealizado pela Marina Lutfi em 2017. Uma espécie de cine-concerto homenageando as trilhas sonoras compostas por seu pai ao longo dos seus 60 anos de carreira. Dos clássicos do Cinema Novo (Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol) até as brilhantes trilhas dos seus próprios filmes (Juliana do Amor Perdido, A Noite do Espantalho, etc.). Eu estava afeiçoado à obra do Sérgio nessa época, então fui convidado a participar sendo responsável pela parte “cinema” do show. Resumindo, eu tinha que editar trechos dos filmes e projetar ao vivo. Vi os filmes do Sérgio inúmeras vezes para traçar um paralelo entres as “cenas-temas” de cada trilha-sonora. Nesse momento, reparei como a obra do Sérgio dialoga toda entre si. Suas narrativas são complementares não só na música mas nas artes plásticas, na poesia; e, claro, o cinema era a ferramenta de que ele dispunha para englobar todas elas. O show chamou a atenção da Biscoito Fino e do Canal Brasil, que decidiram filmar o espetáculo para um lançamento de CD e DVD. Cavi Borges dirigiu o making of para integrar os extras do DVD. Os bastidores foram tumultuados e o material que o Cavi filmou ficou incompleto. Quando eu e Marina fomos incorporados ao projeto desse extra, pensamos qual seria a melhor forma de apresentar o processo criativo de Sérgio em suas trilhas. Entrevistamos ele e outros, mas nada nem ninguém nos explicava de onde nascia, amadurecia e brotava seu mundo artístico. De forma modesta, achamos que mostrando seu cinema e sua música como um mosaico chegaríamos perto do resultado que buscávamos. O filme acabou sendo selecionado para festivais mas não se integrou aos extras do DVD. Sérgio gostou de ver as imagens de seus filmes desfilando na tela grande, e sua música tomando todos os espaços da sala de cinema. 
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In 1974, Sérgio Ricardo’s A Noite do Espantalho, shot entirely in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, was shown at the New York Film Festival. It was not until forty five years later, when Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’s Bacurau came to the New York Film Festival in 2019, that Ricardo returned to New York City, this time through song. A Noite do Espantalho was not well received by critics when it premiered at NYFF, but a new generation of viewers are now looking back at it as one of the great Brazilian films of the 1970s. As such, the NYFF screening of Bacurau can be seen as a kind second-coming for Sérgio Ricardo, his voice swooning over the festival audience during one of the film’s most famous scenes: the burial procession of Dona Carmelita. 
Limite: Sérgio Ricardo’s classic Cinema Novo films and legendary film compositions have an enormous place in the history of Brazilian cinema. His name being spoken and his music being performed in Bacurau functions as a kind of homage to the artist and his major contributions to this history. Can you speak about your personal relationship to the cinema of Sérgio Ricardo, especially his film A Noite do Espantalho?

Kleber Mendonça Filho: It’s fascinating to be able to answer this question because Sérgio Ricardo appeared in my life in many indirect ways. 

As a child and teenager, I frequently visited the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation in Recife since my mother worked as a historian and researcher there. In the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation cultural sector, there was an A Noite do Espantalho poster on the wall. That poster always grabbed my attention. It left a strong mark on my imagination because it features Alceu Valença in psychedelic colors and is visually remarkable. Throughout part of my childhood and early teenage years, the poster always remained hung up on the wall there.
In the late 1980s, I still frequently passed by that poster when visiting the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation. By that point in time, I’d already seen Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max 2 (1981), and that’s when I finally found out that A Noite do Espantalho was a film that had been shot in Pernambuco. In a way, A Noite do Espantalho brought me closer to the idea of making films because, unlike all of the other films that were made in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Hollywood, Europe, or Australia (in the case of Mad Max), that film had been shot in Fazenda Nova. Fazenda Nova was a place I was familiar with, as its only 200 km away from Recife. It’s where the Passion of Christ is staged every year at the Nova Jerusalém theater. Knowing that it was filmed so close to where I lived was exciting to me.

Finally, I was able to watch A Noite do Espantalho at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation. It reminded me, in a free-associative way, of the Mad Max films. It was different than all the other Brazilian films I’d seen up to that point. Thirty-two years later, I can still say it’s much different than all of the Brazilian films I’ve seen in my life. In the late 1990s, I was invited to work as a curator at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, where I went to watch films growing up. I found the A Noite do Espantalho poster, and made sure it was in the room I worked in.

In 1997, I was promoting my first short film to receive a wide audience reception,1 Enjaulado, at the Rio Cine festival, which later became Festival do Rio. At the same festival, a wonderful documentary by Márcia Derraik and Simplício Neto called DIB (1997) was being shown. Dib, rightly so, portrays cinematographer Dib Lutfi as a great hero of Brazilian cinema, and I came to know and admire his work immensely after watching the film. Marcia and Simplício became my friends at that festival. Many years later, I got to know Dib Lutfi well enough that when he was once working on a film in Recife, he came to my house to have dinner. Our friendship, marked by mutual admiration, began to grow from there. 

And Dib Lutfi is Sérgio’s brother. That changed my perception of Sérgio Ricardo. He was not only that voice in Black God, White Devil (1964) or the director of A Noite do Espantalho, but also Dib’s brother. This, to me, meant a lot. To think of what Dib did for Brazilian cinema, all the films he shot, including  A Noite do Espantalho… I felt that I was standing next to the greatness of Brazilian cinema when I was with him. It was that same great feeling of finding out A Noite do Espantalho was shot in Fazenda Nova. That is, filmmaking felt very close. Filmmaking was possible.

Now that they have both passed away, it’s incredible to think that the legacy of these two brothers who did so much for Brazilian culture is being commemorated. It’s great that a 2019 film like Bacurau can also bring back a bit of their greatness, and commemorate it along with many other initiatives.

L: “Let us begin the funeral procession in honor of Dona Carmelita, which is why all of Bacurau is here with us today. Carmelita lived 94 years to tell the story. She was a major figure in our community. As is customary, I’ll now play you the message of mister Sérgio Ricardo…”

Bacurau fans will recognize the above line, spoken by DJ Urso, right before what has perhaps become the most famous scene from Bacurau: the burial procession of Dona Carmelita. The song by Sérgio Ricardo used in that scene is “Bichos da Noite”, composed by Ricardo and Joaquim Cardozo for the 1967 theatre play O Coronel de Macambira. When were you introduced to that song, and why did you decide to include it in such an important scene of Bacurau? Did the song have any influence in naming the town or the film, or was it picked after the film’s title had been decided? 

KMF: I really like DJs who show their respect for the artists whose music they’re playing. Some DJs are automated, and some are more familiar with the music they’re playing. I’m happy DJ Urso mentions Sérgio Ricardo by name because it shows respect for the artist. And I think that establishes Ricardo’s Bichos da Noite as a sort of local anthem. No other song could be better for the community in Bacurau.

A wonderful thing was that I sent a draft of the Bacurau script to a great friend of mine since college, Toinho Castro. In fact, it was around the same time that I first watched A Noite do Espantalho at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation that I became friends with Toinho. There are no coincidences, right?

Toinho read the Bacurau script and immediately sent me a YouTube link to Ricardo’s “Bichos da Noite”, which I had never heard before. I listened to the song and sent it to Juliano [Dornelles]. We were instantly impressed, not only by the beauty and the strength of the song, but how it seemed to have been made for the film and for the burial scene. We were listening to the song all the time, so impressed by how the words are used, the poetry, the suggestion of the fantastic… The poetry is very Brazilian. The sequence of the burial of Carmelita already existed in the script, and the film’s title has been Bacurau since 2009. So, when Toinho sent me the link with the song, it was because he read the script and thought of “Bichos da Noite” which has a verse that mentions a bacurau.2 It was just a perfect alignment of elements.

So, it’s interesting how Sérgio Ricardo has been an indirect influence in my life and work. Of course, when I saw Black God, White Devil, his voice was there. But the way his presence in my life became greater through the poster, Dib, and Toinho sending me the YouTube link, that’s a wonderful thing. One of the most beautiful aspects of cinema and art in general are how the influences and parts that make up your life end up in the art you make. This is because you are made by the things that shape you as a person and an artist.

L: Besides Sérgio Ricardo, Bacurau has other musical links to the Cinema Novo movement. The opening of the film to the sound of “Não Identificado”, sung by Gal Costa, seems to relate directly to the ending of Walter Lima Jr.’s 1969 film Brazil Year 2000, where the exact same recording plays as Anecy Rocha’s character leaves the city. On the other hand, in Bacurau we hear the song in space and as a truck moves toward the town. There’s also “Réquiem Para Matraga”, composed and sung by Geraldo Vandré for Roberto Santos’ classic 1965 film The Hour and Turn of Augusto Matraga

How do you see the relations between Bacurau and the Cinema Novo movement?

KMF: I don’t think it’s up to me to establish links between any film I make and other works. In fact, over the years, with Neighboring Sounds, I have always been very economical and concise when discussing references. But, little by little, I’ve opened up. I think today, maybe because of how easy it is to access information, more and more cinephiles, critics, and the audience in general go on these safaris trying to spot and map what are the references behind each film. I find it entertaining, most of the time. Sometimes I find it too reductionist because references are emotional. Often, references aren’t guided by you being a fan of someone, it’s just a question of what music and what images are part of your life and trajectory. Sometimes you simply love something. 

For instance, “Não Identificado” is a wonderful song. It’s wonderful in terms of its musical production, the quality of its sound, the voice of Gal Costa, what she says, the lyrics… And it puts you in such a special mood, especially for the opening scene of the film. That song works in this scene on many levels. 

I was the one who suggested “Não Identificado” be used in the film. One day, during the editing process, I brought it with me and gave it to Eduardo Serrano, the editor. Juliano [Dornelles] was sitting on the sofa, and I said “I want you two to take a look at this”. And it was an amazing feeling. To see the union of that sound, that music, and the draft of the special effects of planet Earth. We understood right away how strong that was. The contrast between a Brazilian song, a very particularly Brazilian song in the most beautiful way, and images we usually associate with industrial American cinema. CGI, outer space… That tension between sound and image seemed very proper to us.

And another time during the editing process, Juliano did the same thing. He said: “Let’s try this.” He brought “Réquiem Para Matraga”. And it was incredible. The association of that song to that moment in the film was so beautiful. It was one of those rare moments in which every single cut seemed to be waiting for the song. There was a magnificent editing incident when we played the song and it was in perfect synchronization with the sequence where Pacote carries his dead friends. It was like the song was beautifully making love with the image at every single cut.

In the end, it’s a matter of combining a wonderful song with the film we’re making. First and foremost it’s about the sound and the feel. That they have ties to Cinema Novo is interesting, we obviously like it, it’s a moment of Brazilian culture that will never cease being amazing. There are immortal works of art from the moment of Brazilian history that produced that music and that cinema. But using the music from the Cinema Novo period in Bacurau happened naturally. There was no planning it and no strategy whatsoever. It was just: “Listen to this song. Fuck, it’s incredible! Let’s try to secure the rights to use it in the film!”

1. Kleber had already made four short films.

2. The bacurau, or Nyctidromus albicollis, is a bird commonly known in English as nightjar or nighthawk.
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Limite: Besides both of your work in film production, you’ve also worked professionally as film critics and film scholars. How did you first meet, and what led you to begin working together?

Estevão Garcia: Luís Alberto, aka ‘Morris Albert’ to his close friends, and I first met when we were critics and writers for Contracampo, an online film magazine. Every Monday the writers would gather at a bar in the Botafogo neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro to drink beer, talk films, and plan the next edition of the magazine. After that gathering, we’d go to another bar and the last two guys remaining were always Luís and myself. This is how we became friends and ended up working together.

Luís Rocha Melo: Contracampo magazine was truly an important gathering point. The first decade of the 21st century was really atypical for Brazil. We had a government that was concerned with social inclusion, as it defended free public education and policies in favor of cultural diversity. There were many film festivals, many grants and stimuli to finance and develop cultural projects. The mood was very different than the current depression we’ve sunk into since 2016. In 2004, I received a master’s degree in Communication, Image and Information from the Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), where Estevão was an undergraduate student. Estevão had made a very interesting film, O latido do cachorro altera o percurso das nuvens, co-directed with Rebecca Ramos, Camila Marquez and Raul Fernando. If I’m not mistaken, it was shot on super-8mm, and was influenced by Dadaist cinema, by René Clair’s Entr’Acte (1924). The film proposed a strong dialogue with silent cinema. I, on the other hand, had just co-directed a medium-length documentary with Alessandro Gamo, titled O Galante Rei da Boca (2004). This film is about the legendary film producer Antonio Polo Galante, whose nickname was “King of the Boca”.1 Galante was one of the most prolific film producers of the popular cinema made in the Boca do Lixo region of São Paulo between the 1960s and 1980s. 

I’d always wanted to combine research and filmmaking. The 2000s were, for a whole generation of cinephiles, critics and filmmakers, a time of discovery and contact with films and filmmakers we had only heard or read about. Prior to this moment, many important works were not available to us. The internet hadn’t yet become what it is today. Film prints were still being shown in cultural centers, cinematheques, and independent movie theaters. The Mostra do Filme Livre festival was fundamental for this, as since 2002 they were held at the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center. Other initiatives that were key for film discovery included the Cinema Marginal retrospectives organized by Eugênio Puppo in São Paulo and Rio, and above all the retrospectives curated by researcher and curator Remier Lion, especially “Cinema Brasileiro: a vergonha de uma nação”,2 in 2004, and “Malditos filmes brasileiros!”,3 in 2005, which I consider two of the most important and triggering historiographic revisitings in the history of Brazilian cinema. Estevão and I would attend these screenings and events, write about them, talk in bars, and from that exchange of ideas came the possibility of us making a film together.
L: When I try to explain Que cavação é essa? to my friends, they find it almost hard to believe. The film approaches the themes of preservation, memory of Brazilian cinema and specifically silent Brazilian cinema with irony and humor. How did you come to this approach? What was the original conception and how did it develop into what we see in the film?

Actually, our original idea was to make another film whose temporary title was Cidadão Quem??? (Citizen Who???).4 It would be a spoof of the Orson Welles film [Citizen Kane] starring comedian Jorge Loredo (who created the famous character Zé Bonitinho). The plot was that the millionaire Quem had a “film tree” in his farm, and every film to fall on this cinematographic orchard would be seen onscreen. Each film would be a spoof of an era of Brazilian cinema: cavação, chanchadas, etc. Various films inside a film. However, the cavação segment turned out so interesting that it became our main focus. So, we scrapped the Cidadão Quem??? project and decided to develop the script for a film that would make homage to cavação films of the 1910s and 1920s. But, during the writing process, we realized that restricting it to the silent era wouldn’t be enough and we could frame the cavação as a timeless, structural phenomenon of Brazilian filmmaking. Then came the idea to make two films inside the film: the cavação from the 1910s and the institutional newsreel or “complemento nacional”5 from the 1970s. The second one became a short documentary on film restoration and preservation, and it deals, among other things, with the restoration of the film from the 1910s that covered the barbecue at Colonel Alexandrão’s farm.

The Cidadão Quem??? project was conceived from an interview that Estevão, Remier Lion and I did with Jorge Loredo for Contracampo in 2004. Jorge Loredo lived in a hotel in the Flamengo neighborhood, and we interviewed him in the lobby. Cidadão Quem??? was never filmed, but it made its way into Que cavação é essa?. You can see it as one of the posters on the wall of a room at the Cinemateca do MAM, during the scene where Hernani talks about silent Brazilian cinema. But besides the Cidadão Quem project (it had another title: Memórias de um amnésico),6 I would say Que cavação é essa? spawned directly from the Brazilian cinema history course taught for a year (2005-2006) by professor, researcher and current director of the Cinemateca do MAM Hernani Heffner at the Cinema Odeon movie theater, in the Cinelândia district of Rio de Janeiro. I think that course, organized by Tela Brasilis, was an event that defined a generation. All who went there every Saturday morning from 9 AM to 12 PM to watch films from the archive of the Cinemateca do MAM in 35mm and to attend Hernani’s fantastic classes afterwards received an immense Brazilian film education. At least to me it was an unforgettable experience. And it wasn’t just film students who attended. The Odeon, with almost 600 seats, would be packed by film students, researchers, cinephiles, critics, and people with general interest in Brazilian cinema. From June to December 2005, the first module of the course was mostly dedicated to silent cinema, especially the so-called “filmes naturais”, i.e. films that could be identified as documentaries, newsreels, travelogues, family home movies, institutional films, etc. Those “naturais” (which earned the name because they were shot “in nature”) had been despised by traditional historical researchers of Brazilian cinema from the 1950s to the 1980s. Those were the so-called “filmes de cavação”.7 The “cavadores”8 were cameramen who sought financial sponsors among politicians, rural landowners, industrialists or rich families. That is, they “dug up” resources with which to film. They were very badly regarded. Film historians and film critics, in turn, were always interested in fictional films (or “filme de enredo”,9 in the terminology of the time), that is, feature films with actors, make-up, costumes, scripts, studios, etc. In Brazil, however, fictional films were, for many years, especially from the early days until the 1940s, the exception, not the rule. The rule was precisely the “natural” films, which kept producers, cameramen, laboratories, etc. at work. 

As I said before, when we came up with the project for Que cavação é essa? Brazil was going through a unique moment, as it had a democratic and inclusive government that focused on public policies for preserving and stimulating cultural activities. Many silent films were restored and new research about Brazilian cinema was conducted inside and outside universities. All of these initiatives brought new perspectives in their historical and methodological analyses, and mostly took “natural” films to a privileged position in their study, breaking with tradition of classical historical research. Strictly speaking, this process of historical revision started in the 1970s, but it was only in the late 1990s that it gained tremendous momentum. One example is the book Viagem ao cinema silencioso do Brasil, organized by Samuel Paiva and Sheila Schvartzman, and edited in 2011. This book is the outcome of a research group that, beginning in 2002, met once a month at the Cinemateca Brasileira to watch, study and discuss silent Brazilian films. Que cavação é essa? debuted at the 2008 Brasília Festival. So, it was contemporary to this new wave of interest in old Brazilian cinema. However, in this case, rather than our interest materializing in articles or retrospectives, it did so in the form of a film - or in “two films inside a film”, as Estevão put it. Actually, that reference to the 1970s in our film, with the “complemento nacional” Restaurare, is reminiscent of the origins of this process of historical revision in Brazil. The “diegetic year” of Restaurare, as the censorship card10 at the start of the second part tells us, is 1974. This was the same year in which Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes wrote the famous piece “A expressão social dos filmes documentais no cinema mudo brasileiro (1989-1930)”, published in the annals of the I symposium of Brazilian Documentary Film, in Recife, Pernambuco. In this essay, he coined the notorious formula of the “filmes naturais” whose themes are “Splendid Cradle”11 and “Rituals of Power”.12 1974 is also a call back to the time when Cinema Novo and the military regime were closer than ever, as well as the start of state policies to help the cultural sector (which included film preservation), by Embrafilme. That’s where the “official” tone comes from in Restaurare, which makes two references, both to the notion of “cultural film” with links to the State (a cultural form of “cavação”) and newsreels made by the National Agency. Skipping ahead to the 2000s, we see Paulo Emilio’s formula of “Splendid Cradle” and “Rituals of Power” questioned by Hernani Heffner in his courses and in his 2006 piece “Vagas impressões de um objeto fantasmático”, which was released at the same time as the production of Que cavação é essa?. So, it’s not a coincidence that Hernani is one of the main characters in our film, where he plays the Film Archaeologist. I believe Que cavação é essa? is linked to all of those references; some more explicitly and some indirectly.

L: If I'm not mistaken, Que cavação é essa? was shot on 35mm film, something unusual for a short film, even in 2008. How did you get financial support for such an ambitious project? Was filming on 35mm an easy decision to make from a financial and aesthetic point of view? What was access to this type of equipment in Brazil like in 2008?

EG: The film’s postproduction was in 2008 but it was shot between the end of 2005 and the start of 2006. In 2005, its script won the first prize in a FORCINE grant intended only for final projects at film schools. By then, I was finishing my bachelor’s degree in Cinema and Audiovisual studies at UFF, and I submitted Que cavação é essa? as my concluding project. With the prize money we were able to shoot it on 35mm.

LRM: We were shooting Que cavação é essa? during a period of transition for the audiovisual sector. A lot of things were still being shot on film. Digital hadn’t become the norm yet, but many theaters were being equipped for digital projection and most of the young filmmakers and film students were shooting on digital. Many projects were still being made using the transition of video to film and vice-versa. These moments of transition are always very interesting, as they open up multiple possibilities for experimentation. In that sense, the fact that we shot Que cavação é essa? on 35mm film represented a radical gesture of experimentation made possible by the institutional structure of a public federal university. In addition to the infrastructure provided by the university, we had the support of Kodak, LaboCine (previously named Líder laboratory), Apema video rental store, and CTAv (Audiovisual Technical Center). Apema and CTAv lent us a 35mm camera, electrical and technical equipment, and an optical printer to make table-top effects, the intertitles in the first section of the film, and end credits. It’s worth noting that Hernani Heffner was fundamental during postproduction, as he mediated our business with LaboCine, Rob Digital, where the sound was mixed, and Movedoll, where the title cards for the sponsors and supporters were made. The sound was also vital, and we worked with Luís Eduardo Carmo in sound editing and mixing. He’s an inventor and an artist. 

But going back to what I was saying about experimentation: I consider that to be an important aspect when discussing Que cavação é essa?, especially because the challenge of shooting it in 35mm required deep technical and aesthetic research. So, we can’t forget to mention the cinematographer, William Condé, who was also an undergraduate film student at UFF. William played a crucial role in every part of the production. He was involved since the initial meetings when we agreed to drop the Cidadão Quem??? project and started discussing making only the “cavação” film, up until the laboratory color grading process for the final copy. William did all the research on the photographic resources used in the film, and in that sense his work was not only extremely creative, but also a work of historical research, in which he tried to emulate the effects of orthochromatic negatives with emulsions that are much more sensitive than those used in the 1910s and 1920s. To me, the experimentations with negative film conducted by William during that research period would warrant an exclusive interview with him. Through the ingenious combination of various kinds of emulsions, different expositions, filters and development processes, William was able to simulate the halo of bright lights, the loss of definition in black areas, and the contrast. So, everything that could be done very easily today using two or three plug-ins, William did with his own resources during shooting, by combining exposition, filters, and negative sensibility. He handcrafted an iris, which he used in the orgy scene. So, the preservation discourse in Que cavação é essa? isn’t just in the theme or in what is seen and heard, but also in the very texture of the images. That was only possible because we shot it on 35mm film and because we had the talents of William Condé. I think we wouldn’t be able to repeat that feat today. It's almost impossible. What mattered when we made the film was the handcraft mechanical process of filmmaking. I think that we unconsciously knew it was a unique opportunity to shoot a film under those conditions. Indeed, a few years later, the digital revolution happened. If we want to show Que cavação é essa? today, in the original format, we won’t be able to find a screening room with a 35mm projector, which is actually ironic. There are few exceptions - the CineArte UFF theater, for instance, or the Cinemateca do MAM; where, by the way, the two 35mm copies of the film are stored. On the other hand, it’s great that today we’re able to share our film on a platform like Cinelimite.

L: Que cavação é essa? starts with the staging of a film from the silent film era called Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão (A Joyful Barbecue in Col. Alexandrão's resort), which, according to the information in the film, would have been restored thanks to the joint efforts of the Fluminense Federal University, the Audiovisual Secretariat of MinC, and Forcine. When watching the film, we realized that there was great care and attention to detail in the recreation of the settings, characters, circumstances and even the spelling of a real film of that time. Which films served as inspiration and reference for Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão?

EG: We watched some “cavação” films from the Cinemateca do MAM archive. One of them was actually a barbecue hosted by a colonel. The research of that kind of material was a great inspiration.

LRM: Yes, we had the opportunity to see many films. Among them, Aristides Junqueira’s Reminiscências, one of the oldest surviving Brazilian films, from 1909. It’s a family film, where Colonel Junqueira and family appear from the start. Another remarkable film was Cidade de Bebedouro (1911), a Campos Film production, which featured panoramic shots of the titular municipality. Those panoramas, as was common with “cavação” films, were always unsteady and shaky, which we sought to emulate by tightening the head of the tripod. Other references include As curas do professor Mozart (1924) and A catastrophe da Ilha do Caju (1925), both produced by Botelho Film. We really liked the fact that, in the second film, the intertitles mentioned a “catastrophe” but all that was shown was a broken window. We also tried to emulate that with the scene of the “tragic fire in Colonel Alexandrão’s land”, where all you can see is smoke, ashes, a burnt tree trunk and a pair of boots. On the other hand, the character played by Luiz Carlos Oliveira Júnior, the guest who woos the Colonel’s “prettiest daughter”, was influenced by the “squanderer” character in A Filha do Advogado (Jota Soares, 1927), a fictional film of the Recife Cycle.

L: The intertitle cards created for the first part of the film are often very humorous: "Bravo to the healthy activity of contemplative leisure"! What was the process like of drafting the text for these title cards?

LRM: Brazilian silent documentary intertitles have yet to be properly researched. Very often they contain involuntary humor, especially when they try to convey a serious or majestic tone to trivial events and mediocre authorities - as was the case with many colonels, politicians, industrialists and rural landowners portrayed in those films. The intertitles in As curas do professor Mozart (1924) are a good example. That film is a festival of complicated, sensationalist sentences. When the images appear, they immediately contradict and expose the fraud in those sentences. That constant contradiction between literary and visual reveals a society eager to present itself as “modern” when it was in fact deeply backward, reactionary, conservative, preserving the mentality of a slave society. The subliterary quality of those intertitles is more in tune with modern times than it seems at first. On the other hand, the intertitles are part of the grammar of those films. They’re linked to the narrative, and, ultimately, to their idea of editing. For example: the duration of each intertitle in the films from that time period interfere with the length of the films as a whole. A cameraman from the silent era who worked in “cavação” films called Tomás de Tullio once stated in an interview that the intertitles were a fundamental part of the cavador’s strategy. The more length a film had, the more money they would earn from those who had hired them to shoot it. So, the cavadores would stuff their films with intertitles in order to make them longer. That procedure obviously had an impact on the editing process, the rhythm of the sequences, and the duration of the other shots. But, when we look at those films today, we only have access to what was left of those copies. Many times, there are intertitles with long texts but very short durations, not by choice of the filmmaker, but due to the passage of time and poor storage conditions. In Que cavação é essa? that inspired some gags, when an intertitle containing some absolutely useless information - such as the one about “the healthy exercise of contemplative leisure” - has a lot more screen time than other intertitles with longer sentences, which go away before you can read the whole thing. The intertitles also provide important information. For instance, they’ll often include the names of the production company and the place where the film was shot. To researchers, that’s vital. In Que cavação é essa? we used that in the intertitles about the fire at the property of Colonel Alexandrão. In those intertitles, unlike the previous ones, both the production company and the filmmaker are named - Prosopopeia Actualidades - L. A. Ramos. This indicates that the first section of Que cavação é essa? is made up from different materials edited together. From that perspective, we have “three films in one”, instead of just two. That’s what happens in a film like Reminiscências (1909) too. It begins in 1909, but some shots were filmed decades later. So, we used all of those references to make the text and the intertitles - the sub-literature typical of a society accustomed to sucking up to powerful people, the phony erudition that mistakes quantity for quality, and the traces of information preserved for posterity in those intertitles.

L: Can you describe the selection process of actors for Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão? Also, I imagine that most of the actors did not have experience acting in other works that emulated the silent period. Knowing this, what was your approach to directing them?

EG: Actually, most of the actors in the film had no experience in acting whatsoever. Most of them were our friends and/or part of the film crew. For instance, the priest was played by critic Gilberto Silva Jr., and the star is played by critic and researcher Luís Carlos Oliveira Jr. The production director, Rodrigo Bouliett, played the “prettiest daughter” of Colonel Alexandrão. Very few were professional actors. We wanted to capture the spontaneity that is typical of non-actors. We did table-reads and lots of rehearsing and ended up with what’s in the film.

LRM: I remember things somewhat differently. Yes, there was an intense period of preparation as Estevão mentioned, and if I recall correctly, at least two or three rehearsals on video, because body language was crucial to the film. I remember we were very concerned about directing the actors in a way that did not emulate a cliché style of silent comedy. Rather, we attempted to emulate “cavação” films, that is, a style reminiscent of the films we had been studying, a style which researcher José Inácio de Melo Souza, when discussing early cinema in a piece published in 2018, called “the commitment of the character being shot on the camera”. José Inácio says that when discussing Reminiscências, the very film that had been one of our major inspirations. We watched it countless times. We even started imitating certain frames and character actions, such as a guest who starts jumping and goofing around for the camera. So, it was important that the actors acted for the camera as they used to in early cinema, and as was characteristic of “cavação” cinema. 

On the other hand, our idea was to subvert this “copy” we were crafting, breaking away from the reverence for the documental aspects and making the fictional aspects increasingly evident. In diegetic terms, that “fiction” becomes more and more uncontrollable as the barbecue guests get drunker. From then on, the actors go full slapstick comedy. The rehearsals were crucial to define their gestures and to establish the switching between documentary and fiction, but it was during the shooting that the characters developed, thanks to the costumes designed by Maíra Sala and Rebecca Ramos and to the set where the shooting took place, a century-old farm in Rio das Flores, Rio de Janeiro. We had the honor of working with José Marinho, an actor who worked in such classics of Brazilian cinema as Entranced Earth (Glauber Rocha, 1967), The Red Light Bandit (Rogério Sganzerla, 1968) and The Amulet of Ogum (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1975). He plays Colonel Praxedes, Colonel Alexandrão’s political rival. Marinho is a great guy and a fantastic storyteller. Another great actor in the film is the amazing Godot Quincas, of Amir Haddad’s Tá na Rua theatre group, who plays the guest that ends up below the table with one of the daughters of the Colonel. Godot is a wonderful, versatile, circus actor. Other fundamental cast members include Cosme Monteiro (Colonel Alexandrão), Sílvia Carvalho (the Colonel’s wife), Érica Collares (Cel. Praxedes’ wife), Lizandra Miotto (the wife of one of the guests) and Otávio Reis (the reporter), who had previously worked in theatre and television. Anna Karinne Ballalai, the production assistant, who has been an actress in theatre and film since her teenage years, plays Godot’s wife. In her scenes, it’s clear how she cared about body language, incorporating the posture of women of that period with a specific, very characteristic way of positioning the shoulders. So, to me, it was a huge learning process in directing actors, experimenting with comedy, working together and dedication. We all had so much fun. Besides, as Estevão mentioned, we worked with many of our dear friends, like Gilberto Silva, Fabián Núñez, Rebecca Ramos, Luísa Marques, Thaís Barreto and Rodrigo Bouillet, some being part of both cast and crew. And Luiz Carlos Oliveira Júnior is a born actor! 

I also want to discuss the second part of the film. Although very different from the first half, the performances you see in the second half was very challenging to direct as well. Similar to how the first half of the film featured the iconic José Marinho, in the second part we had the character/homage of the Film Archaeologist, “self-played” by Hernani Heffner, and a special appearance by Severino Dadá. Severino Dadá is a film and sound editor with over 300 films under his belt. He worked on classics such as The Amulet of Ogum and It’s Not All True (Rogério Sganzerla, 1987), and appeared as himself in Tent of Miracles (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1977), where he shared the screen with Hugo Carvana. In Que cavação é essa?, Dadá offers a very tongue-in-cheek performance as historian Abraão Aragão, an expert in coronelismo.13 Lastly, I want to give a special mention to the character of the “hillbilly” (Luiz Carlos dos Santos) in the scene of the news report. Mr. Luiz was one of the longest serving cleaners at Rio’s Museum of Modern Art, and one of the sweetest, kindest people there. He had no prior acting experience. Yet he was one of our most disciplined actors, very rigorous when memorizing his lines. His line about the fire at Colonel Alexandrão’s place feels like he’s talking about the MAM fires.

L: At the end of Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão, everything gets out of control. There is an angry priest, a big fight breaks out, an orgy, and a dwarf riding the back of a woman. It is at this point that the historical authenticity of the film begins to collapse for the viewer. The complete chaos of the scene allows us to look back at the silent films from that time in a different light. Why is it important that, in the absence of most of the records of the period, we still look to the silent period for inspiration? And what is the value of historical revisions, in this case a comedy, in allowing us to think about this differently?

LRM: I believe historical research is a crucial tool to fight ignorance. It’s no coincidence that today, when neofascism rises in many countries around the world, history is its first target. History is the field where narrative disputes happen, but also the territory for tensions between winners and losers. Revisions are necessary, not to erase or distort, not to spread lies, but to question official versions. This also applies to cinema. It’s not by chance that the historian who is an expert in coronelismo, played by Severino Dadá, states that “Since the beginning, there has always been a complicity between coronelismo and Brazilian cinema”. Since Dadá is a veteran film and sound editor, he knows very well what he’s talking about. Evidently, the dispute over funds and “cultural prestige” chose a few representatives and relegated a large number of films produced in this country to limbo. In the best-case scenario, the outcome is that heritage is “recovered” either by academia or by public authorities, resulting in the “museification” of the past and consequently its “domestication”. And, in the worst-case scenario, the result is the marginalization of everything that doesn’t interest intellectuals, researchers, students, etc. Que cavação é essa? is also about this “cultural colonialism”, which hides the commitment of power to a cultural stratum.

L: Returning to Restaurare, the mockumentary that follows Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão, we immediately noticed that the color tone of the film mirrors a film with deteriorated color. This detail is very important, especially when it comes to a film about preservation. How was this effect created? Was the sequence filmed with already-faded film? What does the use of faded color in this sequence say about the preservation of Brazilian cinema?

EG: That color was achieved via the research and resourcefulness of our cinematographer, the orientation given to the laboratory, and via “ruining” the film by hand. We didn’t want to deteriorate it digitally, so we did it all manually. That section was scratched by running it through the moviola and projecting it countless times on the projector at the Cinemateca do MAM.

LRM: That was during the editing phase. Image and sound editing, and sound mixing were mostly done digitally. But the work on the texture of the film was created by hand. The black-and-white section, as we said before, was mostly designed and executed during pre-production and shooting. While the film was being edited, we made a rough cut in 35mm. Estevão, William and I “ruined” that rough cut manually, by projecting and scratching it on an old moviola at the Cinemateca do MAM, making grooves in the emulsion by passing the film through two “coils”, among other atrocities. From that positive we made an internegative which incorporated all of those defects. The idea was to copy it without doing a wet gate,14 but this was impossible due to the pattern of the technical process at LaboCine, which reduced a lot the dirt and scratches on the film. For the color section, the faded tones were achieved by color grading. All of that had to be balanced for the definitive copy, and the hard part was exactly preserving the characteristics of the contrasted black and white and faded colors in the same color copy. After our post-production process, the “ontological experience” commonly associated with the photographic image ended up feeling very paradoxical. We shot on 35mm film, then we did away with everything it had to offer, including the impeccable, clean, and high-quality image that was superior to digital images at the time. We used 35mm to carve into the film material itself what actually happened and still happens to our filmic heritage: the loss, the deterioration, and the tragedy of having almost no means to preserve it. And since, diegetically, the “complemento nacional” Restaurare was made in 1974, the fading of the color denounces the neglect towards relatively recent material as well. How many films from the 1970s and 1980s have been lost or are in the process of being lost? By the way, in the waves of destruction of analogical audiovisual material (the transition from short films to feature films, the advent of sound, the replacement of nitrate by acetate), color films suffer more than black and white films; their colors fade away and deteriorate. When it comes to works deemed important by popular historiography, there is still hope of recovering them. But what about those films despised by historians, academics, film critics and official cultural sectors? The faded color in Restaurare calls attention to that contradictory aspect of public policies in support of culture: they speak on behalf of the totality, but only reach a selected group. The irony in Restaurare is that a film about restoration is presented in a state of deterioration, i.e., that film itself needs to be restored! But as it is a typical “cavação” of the 1970s - halfway between an official newsreel and a cultural film - it doesn’t stand a chance. Today, we live in a much more tragic situation: the very notion of “culture” is under attack. In that scenario, everything faces the risk of disappearing.

L: The spoken narration in Restaurare, in the famous voice of Jorgeh Ramos, is surprising for the viewer because it deals with serious issues (the preservation of Brazilian cinema and the professionals who do this work) with a humorous and somewhat exaggerated cadence. Of course, due to recent events, the preservation of Brazilian cinema is a subject that has been discussed with total seriousness, but what is the importance of looking at these recent events with a tone of humor, and how can comedy be a useful tool during this moment?

EG: Humor is one of the most revolutionary things. Comedy and parody are excellent weapons, as they efficiently trigger critical thinking and reflection. That’s kind of what we did in Que cavação é essa?

LRM: I agree with Estevão completely. Tragedy and comedy walk hand in hand. How can we deal with what is happening in the world today, with this histrionic, cheating far-right spreading absurd conspiracy theories, saying the Earth is flat? Buffoons have risen on a global scale, the democratic fraud of anti-corruption stances is a pretext to promote coups d’etat. All of this is a tragedy, and there’s a deeply ridiculous aspect to that tragedy. We are the targets of that huge publicity stunt called neofascism, which serves to mask the real, eternal tragedy; the plundering by the 1% of billionaires on 99% of the world’s population, especially on the global south. A planetary theft resulting in the extermination of entire populations due to hunger, extreme poverty, and ignorance. The most subversive and intelligent brand of art has always manifested itself through humor and mockery in many other periods which were equally or even more tragic than this one. Humor doesn’t mean lack of seriousness or responsibility. On the contrary. There is nothing more ridiculous than the pseudo-serious taking itself seriously.

L: The film makes many references to the history of Brazilian cinema in general, from the cavações, the newsreels, the TV reports, the federal censorship cards from the period of the military dictatorship and the pornochanchadas, which are alluded to by the name “Colonel Alexandrão”, a character played by Carlos Imperial in A Viúva Virgem (1972). These references are very specific and even niche, which makes us think that the target audience of your film is aficionados, researchers and preservationists of Brazilian cinema. Is this impression correct?

EG: Certainly cinephiles, researchers and critics who are familiar with Brazilian cinema will catch all the references and quotes more easily. But I think they weren’t intended as our target or main audience. Our intention was to reach as many viewers as possible, and generate interest in film restoration and preservation, and obviously in Brazilian cinema.

LRM: Exactly. I think our film can be read “in layers”. People may find it interesting even if they don’t spot those references. One proof of that is, during the premiere at the Festival de Brasília, the audience in the theater - of course, it was a festival audience, but not necessarily an “erudite” audience in references to the history of Brazilian cinema - laughed from start to finish and gave a long round of applause at the end. Scholars have fun too, as when it was shown in Chile, at the La Moneda Cultural Center, Mónica Villarroel, a researcher on silent Brazilian and Chilean cinemas, and who was the director of the Cineteca Nacional, couldn’t stop laughing. But they can relate to other layers of the film, namely the references to specific genres, characters, styles, films and scenes of Brazilian cinema. In that sense, the film does have a large share of “inside jokes” - but you don’t have to spot or get them to understand the film.

1. Boca do Lixo was an important center of film production in São Paulo from the 1960s up until the late 1980s. Generally, the films produced there were low-budget and of a wide variety of genres. Although usually classified as exploitation, these works had remarkable commercial success among Brazil’s lower classes.

2. “Brazilian Cinema: The Shame of a Nation”

3. “Damned Brazilian Films!”

4. Cidadão Quem? (Citizen Who?) is a pun with Citizen Kane. “Quem” in Portuguese sounds almost like “Kane”.

5.  Newsreels produced in Brazil which movie theaters were legally obligated to screen before the main attraction.

6. Memories of an Amnesiac.

7. Literally, “films of digging”

8. Literally, “diggers”

9. Literally, “films with plot”

10. Every film during the military dictatorship opened with the image of a document from the censorship department authorizing the film’s exhibition and informing its age restriction.

11. Documentaries praising Brazil’s natural resources and natural beauty. Splendid cradle, or berço esplêndido in Portuguese, refers to a line in the National Anthem, which states Brazil is “eternally laying in a splendid cradle”.

12. Documentaries focusing mainly on the President of Brazil, as well as national celebrations such as the military parades on Brazil’s Independence Day (September 7th).

13. Coronelismo, literally colonelism, is a phenomenon in Brazil by which a rich political leader rules over a community.

14.  EN: Wet gate is a technique used in film restoration to remove scratches.
PT /
Limite: A trajetória de vocês dois passa pela produção de filmes e pelas bolsas de estudo de cinema. Como vocês se conheceram e como começaram a trabalhar juntos?

Estevão Garcia: Eu e o Luís Alberto, vulgo “Morris Albert” para os mais íntimos”, nosconhecemos na época em erámos críticos e redatores da revista de cinema onlineContracampo. Os redatores dessa revista se reuniam todas as segundas-feiras em um bar nobairro de Botafogo, no Rio de Janeiro, para beber cerveja, discutir cinema e ajustar as pautaspara o próximo número da revista. Depois da reunião, a gente ia para um outro bar e os doisúltimos que ficavam até o final eram justamente eu e o Luís, assim, nos tornamos amigos eacabamos trabalhando juntos.

Luís Rocha Melo: A revista Contracampo foi de fato um ponto de união importante. A primeira década dos anos 2000 foi um período realmente atípico no Brasil, com um governo preocupado com a inclusão social, a defesa da educação pública e gratuita e as políticas de apoio à diversidade cultural. Havia muitas mostras de cinema, muitos editais de financiamento à produção e de apoio ao desenvolvimento de projetos. Era um clima realmente muito diverso da depressão atual em que nos afundamos desde 2016. Eu fui fazer mestrado em Comunicação, Imagem e Informação em 2004, na Universidade Federal Fluminense, onde o Estevão já era aluno de graduação. Estevão tinha feito um filme na UFF muito interessante, chamado O latido do cachorro altera o percurso das nuvens, que ele codirigiu com Rebecca Ramos, Camila Marquez e Raul Fernando. Se não me engano foi filmado em Super-8, e tinha influência do cinema dadaísta, de René Clair, de Entr’Acte. Já era um filme que tinha um diálogo forte com o cinema silencioso. Eu, por outro lado, tinha acabado de codirigir com o Alessandro Gamo o média documental O Galante rei da Boca, sobre o lendário produtor Antonio Polo Galante, que tinha o apelido de “Rei da Boca” e que foi um dos mais ativos produtores do cinema popular feito na Boca do Lixo de São Paulo, entre os anos 1960 e 1980. Eu sempre tive esse interesse de unir a pesquisa e a realização cinematográficas. A primeira década dos anos 2000 foi, para toda uma geração de cinéfilos, críticos e cineastas, um período de descoberta e de contato com filmes e diretores sobre os quais a gente ouvia falar ou lia muito sobre, mas que eram em sua maioria ainda inéditos para nós, circulavam muito pouco. A internet ainda não era o que é hoje, os filmes ainda eram exibidos em película nos centros culturais, nas cinematecas, nos cinemas alternativos. Fundamentais nesse processo foram as Mostras do Filme Livre, que desde 2002 aconteciam no Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, as retrospectivas sobre o Cinema Marginal organizadas pelo Eugênio Puppo em São Paulo e no Rio, e sobretudo as mostras criadas pelo pesquisador e curador Remier Lion, notadamente “Cinema brasileiro: a vergonha de uma nação”, em 2004, e “Malditos filmes brasileiros!”, em 2005, que eu considero duas das mais importantes e deflagradoras releituras historiográficas já feitas até hoje no cinema brasileiro. Eu e o Estevão frequentávamos essas mostras e eventos, escrevíamos sobre elas, batíamos papo nos botecos, e nessa troca de ideias surgiu a possibilidade de fazermos um filme juntos.
L: Quando tento explicar Que cavação é essa? a amigos meus, acham quase difícil de acreditar. O filme aborda os temas da preservação, da memória do cinema brasileiro e especificamente do cinema silencioso brasileiro com uma postura de ironia e humor. Como vocês chegaram a esta abordagem? Qual foi a concepção original e como ela se desenvolveu até o que vemos no filme?

Na verdade, a nossa ideia original era fazer um outro filme cujo título provisório eraCidadão Quem??? Seria uma paródia ao filme do Orson Welles com o comediante Jorge Loredo(o criador do célebre e popular personagem Zé Bonitinho) interpretando o protagonista. Omilionário Quem tinha em sua fazenda uma árvore de filmes e cada filme que caía desse pomarcinematográfico seria visto na tela e cada um deles seria uma paródia a um período da históriado cinema brasileiro: os filmes de cavação, as chanchadas, etc… Seriam vários filmes dentro deum filme. Porém, o segmento dedicado aos filmes de cavação ficou tão interessante queadquiriu uma autonomia e uma independência própria. Assim, resolvemos abandonar o projetodo Cidadão Quem??? e decidimos desenvolver o roteiro cujo centro seria uma homenagem aosfilmes de cavação dos anos 1910 e 1920. No entanto, durante o processo de escrita,percebemos que só ficar no cinema silencioso seria insuficiente e que poderíamos abordar acavação como um fenômeno atemporal e estrutural na prática cinematográfica brasileira. Daísurgiu a ideia de fazer os dois filmes dentro do filme: o filme de cavação dos anos 1910 e ocinejornal institucional/ complemento nacional dos anos 1970. Este segundo se tornou umcurta-metragem documental sobre o trabalho de restauração e preservação de filmes e tratavacomo um de seus tópicos exatamente a restauração do filme dos anos 1910 que registrava ochurrasco na fazenda do coronel Alexandrão.

O projeto do Cidadão Quem??? nasce de uma entrevista que eu, o Estevão e o Remier Lion fizemos com o Jorge Loredo para a Contracampo, isso em 2004. O Jorge Loredo morava em um hotel no bairro do Flamengo, e a entrevista foi feita no hall desse hotel. O Cidadão Quem??? não foi feito mas acabou entrando no filme, em um dos cartazes pendurados na parede de uma sala da Cinemateca do MAM, na cena em que o Hernani surge dando um depoimento sobre o cinema mudo brasileiro. Mas além do projeto do Cidadão Quem??? (que tinha um subtítulo: “Memórias de um amnésico”) eu diria que o filme nasce diretamente do curso de História do Cinema Brasileiro que o professor, pesquisador e atual diretor da Cinemateca do MAM Hernani Heffner ministrou durante um ano (2005-2006) no cinema Odeon, na Cinelândia, Rio de Janeiro. Tenho a impressão de que esse curso, organizado pelo Tela Brasilis, foi um marco geracional para todos os que compareciam aos sábados de manhã, das nove horas ao meio-dia, para ver os filmes do acervo da Cinemateca, evidentemente projetados em 35 mm, e em seguida para assistir as aulas fantásticas do Hernani. Pra mim, pelo menos, foi uma experiência inesquecível. E não eram só estudantes de cinema. O Odeon, com seus quase 600 lugares, ficava lotado. Eram alunos de cinema, pesquisadores, cinéfilos, críticos, interessados em geral. De junho a dezembro de 2005, o primeiro módulo do curso foi em grande parte dedicado ao cinema silencioso, com ênfase nos chamados “ filmes naturais”, quer dizer, filmes que podemos identificar aos documentários, cinejornais, filmes de viagem, registros familiares, institucionais etc. Esses “naturais” (assim chamados por serem filmes “tirados do natural”) sempre foram desprezados pela historiografia tradicional do cinema brasileiro, aquela que se sedimenta entre os anos 1950-1980. Esses filmes eram chamados de “cavação”. Os “cavadores” eram os cinegrafistas que arranjavam dinheiro com figuras do poder público, com fazendeiros, industriais ou famílias ricas. Ou seja, “cavavam” recursos para filmar. A fama desses “cavadores” era a pior possível. O interesse dos historiadores e críticos de cinema, por outro lado, sempre foi o filme de ficção (ou “filme de enredo”, para usar a terminologia de época), quer dizer, o longa-metragem com atores, maquiagem, figurinos, roteiro, estúdio etc. Ocorre que, no Brasil, esses filmes ficcionais, durante muitos anos, sobretudo dos primórdios até meados dos anos 1940, sempre foi a exceção, e não a regra. A regra, justamente, era o filme “natural”, que inclusive mantinha em atividade produtores, cinegrafistas, laboratórios etc. Como eu disse antes, quando o projeto do Que cavação é essa? surge, estávamos vivendo um período inédito no país, com um governo democrático e inclusivo, voltado para políticas públicas de preservação e de fomento à cultura. Muitos filmes silenciosos foram restaurados e muitas pesquisas em torno do cinema brasileiro foram desenvolvidas, dentro e fora da academia. Todas essas iniciativas traziam novos enfoques historiográficos, metodológicos, e em grande parte já entendiam os filmes “naturais” como objetos privilegiados de estudo, rompendo com a tradição da historiografia clássica. A rigor, esse processo de revisão historiográfica tem seu início nos anos 1970, mas só a partir da segunda metade dos anos 1990 é que ele conhece de fato um momento de vigor extraordinário. Um exemplo disso é o livro Viagem ao cinema silencioso do Brasil, organizado por Samuel Paiva e Sheila Schvarzman e editado em 2011. O livro é resultado das atividades de um grupo de pesquisa que se reunia mensalmente na Cinemateca Brasileira desde 2002 para ver, estudar e discutir justamente... filmes silenciosos brasileiros. Que cavação é essa? foi lançado no Festival de Brasília em 2008, quer dizer, ele é contemporâneo desse reflorescimento do interesse pelo cinema antigo no Brasil. Só que, no nosso caso, em vez de o interesse pelo cinema brasileiro resultar em textos ou em mostras, resultou em filme – no caso, nesses “dois filmes em um” a que o Estevão se referiu. Aliás, essa referência que o filme faz aos anos 1970, com o complemento nacional Restaurare, remete justamente às origens desse processo de revisão historiográfica no Brasil. O “ano diegético” de Restaurare, segundo informa a cartela de censura logo no início da segunda parte, é 1974, mesmo ano em que Paulo Emilio Sales Gomes escreve a famosa comunicação “A expressão social dos filmes documentais no cinema mudo brasileiro (1989-1930)”, publicado nos Anais do I Simpósio do Filme Documental Brasileiro, no Recife (Pernambuco), texto em que ele elabora a célebre fórmula dos “filmes naturais” que têm como temas o “Berço Esplêndido” e os “Rituais do Poder”. 1974 também remete ao período de maior aproximação entre o Cinema Novo e o Estado militar, assim como o início das políticas de apoio ao setor cultural (que incluía a preservação de filmes), por parte da Embrafilme. Daí o tom “oficial” de Restaurare, que por sua vez faz uma dupla referência, isto é, à noção de “filme cultural” atrelado ao Estado (ou seja, à “cavação” culturalista) e aos cinejornais estatais realizados pela Agência Nacional. Se a gente saltar para os anos 2000, veremos a fórmula paulemiliana do “Berço Esplêndido” e dos “Rituais do Poder” sendo questionada por Hernani Heffner em seus cursos e em um texto como “Vagas impressões de um objeto fantasmático”, de 2006, contemporâneo à realização de Que cavação é essa?. Então, não é por acaso que o Hernani é um dos personagens principais do filme, fazendo o Arqueólogo Cinematográfico. Creio que o Que cavação é essa? se liga a todas essas referências, algumas mais explícitas, outras mais indiretas.   

L: Se não estou enganado, Que cavação é essa? foi filmado em filme 35mm, algo incomum para um curta-metragem, mesmo em 2008. Como conseguiram apoio financeiro para um projeto tão ambicioso? A filmagem em 35mm foi uma decisão fácil de ser tomada, do ponto de vista financeiro e estético? Como era o acesso a este tipo de equipamento em 2008 e como isso mudou hoje?

EG: O filme foi finalizado em 2008, mas ele foi filmado entre o final de 2005 e o começo de2006. Em 2005 o roteiro do Que cavação é essa? ganhou o primeiro lugar em um edital doFORCINE (Fórum Brasileiro de Ensino de Cinema e Audiovisual) que contemplava somentefilmes de conclusão de curso produzidos em escolas de cinema. Na ocasião, eu estavaterminando o Bacharelado em Cinema e Audiovisual na Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF)e inscrevi o Que cavação é essa? como o meu filme de conclusão e assim foi possível concorrerao edital. Com a verba do prêmio conseguimos fazer o filme em 35mm.

LRM: Esse período em que filmamos o Que cavação é essa? foi um período de transição no campo do audiovisual. Ainda se filmava bastante em película, o digital ainda não havia se tornado hegemônico, mas muitas salas de exibição já estavam se “digitalizando”, e a maior parte dos cineastas jovens e estudantes de cinema filmavam em digital. Ainda existiam muitos projetos prevendo a passagem do vídeo para a película e da película para o vídeo. Esses momentos de transição são sempre muito interessantes, porque abrem múltiplas possibilidades de experimentação. Nesse sentido, termos filmado Que cavação é essa? em película 35mm foi um gesto radical de experimentação proporcionada pela estrutura institucional de uma universidade federal pública. Além de toda a infraestrutura de produção, os convênios mantidos pela UFF permitiram, por exemplo, contarmos também com o apoio da Kodak, da LaboCine (o antigo laboratório Líder), da locadora Apema e do CTAv (Centro Técnico Audiovisual), que entrou com câmera 35mm, material de elétrica e maquinária e Truca, para a realização dos table-tops, dos intertítulos da primeira parte e dos letreiros finais. Vale lembrar que o Hernani Heffner também foi fundamental para a finalização do trabalho, intermediando acordos com a LaboCine, com a Rob Digital, onde fizemos a mixagem, e com a Movedoll, que fez as cartelas iniciais dos apoios. A parte sonora também foi muito importante, pois contamos com o Luís Eduardo Carmo na edição de som e na mixagem, um inventor, um artista. 

Mas voltando ao que eu estava falando sobre a experimentação, considero esse aspecto importante para falar do Que cavação é essa? sobretudo porque o desafio de fazer o filme em 35 mm implicava em uma pesquisa muito grande em termos técnicos e estéticos. Aí a gente não pode deixar de falar do fotógrafo do filme, o William Condé, que na época era também estudante de graduação de Cinema na UFF. O William foi absolutamente fundamental em todas as etapas do filme, desde as primeiras reuniões em que abandonamos a ideia do “Cidadão Quem?” e começamos a falar em fazer somente o “filme de cavação”, até a marcação de luz no laboratório para a cópia final. Cabe ao William todo o mérito da pesquisa em torno dos recursos fotográficos do filme, e nesse sentido o trabalho dele não apenas foi extremanente criativo, mas também foi um trabalho de pesquisa histórica, procurando emular os efeitos do negativo ortocromático a partir de emulsões muito mais sensíveis do que aquelas que existiam nos anos 1910-20. Acho que os testes de negativo feitos pelo William nesse processo de pesquisa são um capítulo à parte, mereceriam uma entrevista só com ele. Através de uma engenhosa combinação de tipos de emulsão, diferentes exposições, uso de filtros e tipos de revelação, o William conseguiu simular o halo nas altas luzes, a perda de definição nas áreas pretas, o contraste. Então, tudo o que hoje poderia ser feito com a maior facilidade usando dois ou três plugins, pro Que cavação é essa? o William conseguiu fazer artesanalmente nas filmagens, combinando exposição, filtros e sensibilidade dos negativos. Ele mesmo produziu uma íris, que usou na cena da orgia. Ou seja, o discurso sobre a preservação, no Que cavação é essa?, não está apenas no tema ou no que se vê e se ouve, mas na própria textura da imagem. E isso só foi possível porque trabalhamos com a película 35mm e porque contamos com um talento como o William Condé. Acho que dificilmente conseguiríamos repetir esse processo hoje. É quase impossível. O que importava, na época em que fizemos o filme, era vivenciar esse processo artesanal, mecânico, do cinema. Acho que inconscientemente sabíamos que seria talvez uma possibilidade única de rodarmos um filme assim. De fato, pouco depois, o digital revolucionou tudo. Hoje, se quisermos exibir o Que cavação é essa? em seu formato original, não conseguiremos encontrar uma sala de exibição com um projetor 35 mm, o que não deixa de ser irônico. Salvo raríssimas exceções – o CineArte UFF, por exemplo, ou a Cinemateca do MAM, onde, aliás, as duas cópias em 35 mm do filme estão depositadas. Por outro lado, é ótimo que hoje a gente possa difundir o filme em uma plataforma como o Cinelimite.

L: Que cavação é essa? começa com a encenação de um filme da era do cinema silencioso chamado Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão, que, segundo somos informados, teria sido restaurado graças aos esforços conjuntos da Universidade Federal Fluminense, da Secretaria do Audiovisual do MinC e do Forcine. Ao assistir ao filme, percebemos que houve muito cuidado e atenção aos detalhes na caracterização dos cenários, personagens, circunstâncias e até a ortografia de um filme real daquela época. Quais filmes serviram de inspiração e referência para Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão?

EG: Serviram como referência alguns filmes de cavação que estão disponíveis no acervo daCinemateca do Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ). Um deles, inclusive, eraum churrasco oferecido por um coronel. A pesquisa feita em cima deste material foi umagrande inspiração.

LRM: Foram vários filmes. Dentre eles, Reminiscências, de Aristides Junqueira, um dos filmes mais antigos que sobreviveram, datado de 1909. É um filme de família, mas que mostrava logo no início o Coronel Junqueira e seus familiares. Outro filme marcante foi Cidade de Bebedouro (1911) da Campos Film, com suas panorâmicas sobre a cidade. Essas panorâmicas, como as de vários outros filmes de “cavação”, sempre apresentavam hesitações e solavancos, que nós buscamos emular apertando a cabeça do tripé da câmera. Também tivemos como referências As curas do professor Mozart (1924) e A catastrophe da Ilha do Caju (1925), ambos da Botelho Film. Achávamos sensacional, nesse último, o fato de as cartelas anunciarem a “catástrofe” mas as imagens mostrarem apenas uma janela com um vidro quebrado. Esse tipo de coisa também buscamos fazer na cena do “trágico incêndio nas terras do Coronel Alexandrão”, em que são vistos apenas fumaça, cinzas, um tronco chamuscado e um par de bota. Por outro lado, a personagem interpretada pelo Luiz Carlos Oliveira Júnior, o convidado do Coronel Alexandrão que paquera a “filha mais bonita” do Coronel, é influenciado pelo “estroina” de A filha do advogado (Jota Soares, 1927), um filme de ficção do chamado Ciclo do Recife.

L: É ótimo ler as cartelas criadas para o filme, que em alguns pontos são bem-humoradas: "E viva a saudável atividade do ócio contemplante"! Como foi o processo de elaboração do texto dessas cartelas?

LRM: Existe toda uma pesquisa a ser feita em torno das cartelas de intertítulos nos filmes documentais mudos brasileiros. Elas possuem, muitas vezes, um humor involuntário, sobretudo quando tentam conferir seriedade e imponência a eventos absolutamente triviais e a autoridades medíocres – caso de muitos coronéis, políticos, industriais e latifundiários retratados nesses filmes. Nesse sentido, as cartelas de As curas do professor Mozart (1924) são exemplares. É um festival de frases rebuscadas e sensacionalistas. Quando surgem as imagens, elas imediatamente contradizem e desmascaram essas mesmas frases. Essa constante contradição entre o “literário” e o “visual” é reveladora de uma sociedade bacharelesca que procura se apresentar como “moderna”, mas que na verdade é profundamente atrasada, escravocrata, reacionária, conservadora. Essa subliteratura das cartelas é mais atual do que se imagina. Por outro lado, a questão dos intertítulos está vinculada à linguagem desses filmes, à narrativa, e, em última instância, à concepção de montagem. Por exemplo, se observarmos o tempo que leva cada cartela nos filmes da época, esse tempo influi na metragem total do filme. Existe um depoimento de um cinegrafista desse período do silencioso, que fazia cavação, chamado Tomás de Tullio, em que ele revela que essas cartelas eram fundamentais para a estratégia do cavador. Mais tempo de metragem significava um preço mais caro a ser pago por quem havia encomendado o filme. Assim, os cavadores enchiam os filmes de cartelas para aumentar a metragem dos filmes. Esse procedimento, é claro, impactava a própria montagem do filme, o próprio ritmo das sequências e a duração dos outros planos. Ao mesmo tempo, quando vemos esses filmes hoje, temos acesso apenas ao que sobrou dessas cópias. E, muitas vezes, cartelas com textos extensos aparecem e desaparecem rapidamente, não por escolha de quem realizou o filme, mas pela ação do tempo ou pela má conservação dos filmes. Também isso se tornou, no Que cavação é essa?, motivo para algumas gags, na medida em que às vezes uma cartela com uma informação absolutamente supérflua – como a da “saudável atividade do ócio contemplante” – se mantém durante um bom tempo, enquanto outra cartela, com frases mais extensas, some antes do tempo “normal” de leitura. As cartelas também são importantes fontes de informação. Por exemplo, é comum que elas informem a produtora e a cidade do filme. Isso para os pesquisadores é fundamental. Em Que cavação é essa? jogamos com isso nas cartelas que fazem referência ao incêndio na fazenda do Coronel Alexandrão. Nessas cartelas, ao contrário das anteriores, está indicada a procedência do filme – Prosopopeia Actualidades – L. A. Ramos. Ou seja, a primeira parte de Que cavação é essa? constitui-se então de materiais heterogêneos reunidos em um só. Desse ponto de vista, temos “três filmes em um”, e não apenas dois. É o que ocorre com um filme como Reminiscências (1909), também. O filme começa em 1909, mas reúne imagens de várias décadas depois. Então, usamos todas essas referências para criar os textos e as cartelas – a subliteratura típica de uma sociedade que está sempre bajulando quem tem poder; a falsa erudição que acredita que quantidade é qualidade; e os vestígios que esses intertítulos deixam para a posteridade.

L: Como foi o processo de seleção de atores para Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão? Além disso, imagino que a maioria dos atores não tenha experiência atuando em outras encenações de filmes do período silencioso. Sabendo disso, como foi a direção da atuação deles?

EG: Na verdade, a maioria dos atores do filme não tinha experiência alguma em atuação, emnenhum tipo de encenação. A maior parte era nossos amigos e ou integrantes da equipe defilmagem. Podemos citar como exemplo o crítico Gilberto Silva Júnior, que faz o Padre e ocrítico e pesquisador Luís Carlos Oliveira Júnior, que interepreta o galã. O nosso diretor deprodução Rodrigo Bouliett, encarnou a “filha mais bonita” do Coronel Alexandrão. Tivemosalguns atores profissionais, mas eram minoria. Queríamos captar essa espontaneidade própriados não-atores. Para habituar os atores fizemos o trabalho de leitura do roteiro e muito ensaio.O resultado final foi esse que saiu na tela.

LRM: Tenho uma visão bem diferente. Considero o trabalho com os atores do Que cavação é essa? uma das experiências mais estimulantes que já vivenciei. Houve sim esse período muito intenso de preparação, como o Estevão mencionou, e, se bem me lembro, pelo menos dois ou três ensaios foram feitos com uma câmera de vídeo, pois importava muito para o filme a expressão corporal. A relação entre o enquadramento e os personagens era, vamos dizer assim, a matéria-prima do trabalho de encenação. Eu me lembro que existia uma preocupação muito grande, nossa, de conduzir o trabalho dos atores não para uma concepção clichê de “comédia muda”, mas para o estilo “filme de cavação”, quer dizer, remetendo aos filmes que nós estávamos estudando. Aquilo que mais tarde o pesquisador José Inácio de Melo Souza, falando do cinema dos primórdios num texto publicado em 2018, vai chamar de “comprometimento do personagem filmado com a câmera”. O José Inácio fala disso a propósito justamente do Reminiscências, que nos serviu como uma das principais fontes de inspiração. Vimos e revimos esse filme várias vezes. Chegamos até a copiar algumas atitudes de personagens e enquadramentos, como um dos convidados que pula e faz palhaçadas diante da câmera. Então, era importante que os atores atuassem para a câmera, como no chamado “primeiro cinema”, um traço característico desse cinema de cavação. Isso por um lado. 

Por outro, a ideia era justamente a de subverter essa “cópia”, rompendo com o respeito pelo aspecto documental através da evidência cada vez maior da ficção. Em termos diegéticos, essa “ficção” vai se tornando cada vez mais incontrolável na medida em que os convidados do churrasco oferecido pelo Coronel Alexandrão vão se embriagando. Aí, são os momentos em que os atores investem na comédia mais escrachada, no corre-corre, no pastelão etc. Os ensaios foram fundamentais na marcação desses gestos e na construção dessas passagens e oscilações entre o documental e o ficcional, mas foi na filmagem mesmo que os personagens cresceram, graças ao trabalho de figurino de Maíra Sala e Rebecca Ramos e à ambientação proporcionada pela fazenda centenária em que filmamos, na cidade de Rio das Flores, interior do estado do Rio. Tivemos a honra de contar com um ator como José Marinho, que atuou em clássicos do cinema brasileiro como Terra em transe (Glauber Rocha, 1967), O Bandido da Luz Vermelha (Rogério Sganzerla, 1968) e O amuleto de Ogum (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1975). Ele interpreta o Coronel Praxedes, rival político do Coronel Alexandrão. Marinho é uma grande figura e um fantástico contador de histórias. Outra participação especial é a do genial Godot Quincas, ator do grupo teatral Tá na Rua, de Amir Haddad, que faz um dos convidados, aquele que termina debaixo da mesa em cima de uma das filhas do Coronel. Godot é um ator maravilhoso, versátil, circense. Fundamentais também para o filme foram Cosme Monteiro (Coronel Alexandrão), Sílvia Carvalho (a mulher do Coronel), Érica Collares (a esposa do Cel. Praxedes), Lizandra Miotto (mulher de um dos convidados) e Otávio Reis (o repórter), atores com experiência no teatro e na televisão. Anna Karinne Ballalai, nossa assistente de produção, também já era atriz desde adolescente, em teatro e no cinema, e no filme interpreta a esposa do Godot. Nas cenas em que aparece, fica patente a preocupação com o trabalho de corpo, incorporando a postura das mulheres da época, com uma certa inclinação dos ombros muito característica. Para mim, portanto, foi um processo de enorme aprendizado em termos de direção de atores, de experimentação da comédia, de convivência e de entrega. O clima geral era de muita diversão. Além disso, como falou o Estevão, trabalhamos com muitos amigos queridos, como Gilberto Silva, Fabián Núñez, Rebecca Ramos, Luísa Marques, Thaís Barreto e Rodrigo Bouillet, sendo que alguns deles também faziam parte da equipe. E Luiz Carlos Oliveira Júnior, bom, esse é um ator nato! 

Gostaria de falar também sobre a segunda parte. Embora muito diversa da primeira, também resulta de um trabalho de direção de atores que, ao menos para mim, me proporcionou um aprendizado muito grande, com muitos desafios, também. Assim como na primeira parte tivemos a figura icônica de José Marinho, na segunda parte temos o personagem-homenagem do Arqueólogo Cinematográfico, “auto-interpretado” por Hernani Heffner, e a participação especial de Severino Dadá. Montador e editor de som de mais de 300 filmes, Dadá é o responsável pela montagem de títulos como O amuleto de Ogum e Nem tudo é verdade (Rogério Sganzerla, 1987), e foi ator-personagem de Tenda dos Milagres (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1977), contracenando com Hugo Carvana. No Que cavação é essa? Dadá interpreta de forma bem debochada o historiador Abraão Aragão, especialista em coronelismo. Por fim, faço uma menção especial ao personagem do Matuto (Luiz Carlos dos Santos), na cena da reportagem em som direto. O senhor Luiz era um dos mais antigos funcionários da limpeza do Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio, e uma das figuras mais doces e amáveis de lá. Nunca havia atuado na vida. Pois foi um dos atores mais disciplinados do filme, com um rigor impecável para decorar o texto. A sua fala sobre o incêndio da fazenda do Coronel Alexandrão parece ter o peso dos incêndios já sofridos pelo MAM.

L: No final de Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão, tudo sai de controle. O padre furioso, a luta, a orgia, e o anão montando uma mulher. É neste ponto que a autenticidade histórica do filme começa a ruir para o espectador. O caos completo da cena nos permite olhar para trás os filmes mudos daquela época sob uma luz diferente. Por que é importante que, na ausência da maioria dos registros do período, ainda olhemos para o período em busca de recursos e inspiração? E qual é o valor das revisões históricas, neste caso uma comédia, em nos permitir pensar sobre esta história de forma diferente.

LRM: Acredito que a pesquisa histórica é uma ferramenta fundamental para se combater a ignorância. Não é por acaso que hoje, quando o neofascismo assume uma posição proeminente em vários lugares do mundo, a História é a primeira coisa a ser atacada. A História é o campo das disputas de narrativas, mas também é o território das tensões entre vencedores e vencidos. As revisões são necessárias não para criar apagamentos e distorções, não para difundir mentiras, mas para questionar as versões oficiais. O cinema não foge à regra. Não é por acaso que o personagem do historiador especialista em coronelismo, interpretado por Severino Dadá, afirma que “desde os primórdios existe uma cumplicidade entre o coronelismo e o cinema brasileiro”. Sendo Dadá um veterano montador e editor de som, ele conhece perfeitamente o que é isso. É evidente que as disputas por verbas e pelo “prestígio cultural” elegeu alguns poucos representantes e deixou no limbo uma grande parcela do conjunto de produções cinematográficas feitas no país. O resultado disso é, na melhor das hipóteses, a “recuperação” desse ativo pela academia ou pelo poder público, gerando o processo de “museificação” do passado – e consequentemente sua “domesticação” –; e, na pior das hipóteses, a marginalização de tudo aquilo que não se torna “objeto de interesse” de intelectuais, pesquisadores, estudantes etc. Que cavação é essa? fala também desse “coronelismo cultural”, que esconde o comprometimento do poder com o verniz da cultura. 

L: Voltando a Restaurare, o mockumentário que segue Um alegre churrasco na estância do Cel. Alexandrão, notamos imediatamente que o tom de cor do filme reflete um filme com cor deteriorada. Tal detalhe é muito específico, especialmente quando se trata de preservação. Como esse efeito foi criado? A sequência foi filmada com película já desbotada? O que o uso da cor desbotada nessa sequência diz sobre a preservação do audiovisual brasileiro?

EG: Aquela coloração foi alcançada através das pesquisas e dos recursos utilizados pelo nossoDiretor de fotografia, pela orientação que foi dada ao laboratório e pela ação manual de“estregar” o filme. Não queríamos fazer esse efeito de deterioração digitalmente, então,fizemos tudo manualmente. Este trecho foi manualmente arranhado ao ser passado diversasvezes na moviola e ao ser projetado inúmeras vezes no projetor da Cinemateca do MAM.

LRM: Isso aconteceu já durante a fase de montagem. A edição de imagem e som e a mixagem foram etapas em que trabalhamos mais com o digital. Mas o trabalho com a textura da imagem foi feita totalmente dessa forma artesanal. A parte em preto-e-branco, como a gente já comentou, foi em grande parte criada e executada na pré-produção e durante as filmagens. Enquanto o filme estava sendo montado, fizemos um copião em 35 mm. Esse copião, o Estevão, o William e eu ficávamos “estragando” manualmente, projetando, arranhando o filme em uma velha mesa de montagem na Cinemateca do MAM, arrancando sulcos na emulsão ao passar a película entre dois batoques, e outras atrocidades. Desse positivo geramos um internegativo, incorporando todos esses defeitos. A ideia era copiar sem janela molhada, mas isso foi impossível pela padronização dos processos técnicos da LaboCine, o que atenuou bastante a sujeira e os riscos na imagem. Em relação à parte colorida, o esmaecimento das cores foi feito através do processo de marcação de luz. Sendo que tudo isso teria que ser depois reequilibrado na cópia final, e a dificuldade era justamente manter as características do preto e branco contrastado e das cores esmaecidas em uma única cópia colorida. Toda essa “experiência ontológica” com a imagem fotográfica acabou sendo um tanto paradoxal. Utilizamos a película 35 mm para detonar com tudo aquilo que ela poderia nos fornecer – uma imagem impecável, limpa, de altíssima qualidade, que nenhuma imagem digital naquela época poderia nos dar. Usamos o 35 mm, portanto, para inscrever nele mesmo, no próprio suporte, a denúncia do que realmente acontecia e continua a acontecer com o nosso acervo fílmico: a perda, a deterioração, a tragédia da ausência quase total de meios para a conservação. Como diegeticamente o complemento nacional “Restaurare” é de 1974, o esmaecimento das cores denuncia também o descaso com acervos relativamente recentes. Quantos filmes dos anos 1970 e 1980 se perderam ou já estão em processo de desaparecimento? Inclusive, dentro das ondas de destruição do audiovisual analógico (a passagem dos curtas para os longas-metragens, a chegada do som, a substituição do nitrato pelo acetato), os filmes coloridos sofrem mais do que os filmes em preto-e-branco, as suas cores somem, se deterioram. Quando se trata de obras consideradas importantes pela historiografia, ainda existem esperanças de recuperação. Mas e quanto aos filmes desprezados por essa historiografia, pelos acadêmicos, pelos críticos de cinema, pelos setores oficiais da cultura? A cor desbotada do segmento “Restaurare” chama a atenção para esse aspecto contraditório das políticas públicas de apoio à cultura: falam em nome de uma totalidade, mas só conseguem agir sobre um recorte muito seletivo. A ironia de “Restaurare” é que um filme sobre a restauração apresenta-se em estado de deterioração, ou seja, ele mesmo precisaria ser restaurado! Mas por ser uma típica “cavação” dos anos 1970 – a meio caminho de um cinejornal oficial e de um filme cultural – não terá muita chance. Hoje vivemos um momento ainda mais trágico: a própria noção de “cultura” está sob ataque. Nessa conjuntura, tudo está sob o risco de desaparecimento.

L: A narração em Restaurare, na famosa voz de Jorgeh Ramos, chama atenção porque trata de assuntos sérios (a preservação do cinema brasileiro e os profissionais que fazem esse trabalho) com uma cadência humorística e de forma um tanto exagerada. É claro que, devido aos eventos recentes, a preservação do cinema brasileiro é um tema que tem sido discutido com total seriedade, mas qual é a importância de olhar para esse caos com humor, e o que a comédia pode nos ensinar neste momento?

EG: O humor é uma das coisas mais revolucionárias que existe. A comédia e a paródia sãoexcelentes armas e acionam, de maneira eficaz, o pensamento crítico e a reflexão. Foi mais oumenos nesse sentido que esses procedimentos foram articulados em Que cavação é essa?

LRM: Concordo inteiramente com o Estevão. A tragédia e a comédia andam de braços dados. Como lidar com o que está acontecendo no mundo hoje, com essa extrema-direita histriônica e canalha, difundindo as teorias mais absurdas de conspiração, espalhando que a terra é plana? O bufonismo ganhou escala mundial, a farsa democrática dos discursos anticorrupção são pretextos para promoverem golpes de Estado. Tudo isso é uma tragédia, e essa tragédia tem também um lado imensamente ridículo. Nós somos hoje alvos desse enorme golpe publicitário chamado neofascismo, que serve para esconder a verdadeira tragédia, essa sim perene, que é a espoliação praticada por 1% de bilionários em cima dos 99% restantes da população mundial, sobretudo no sul global. Um roubo planetário que resulta no extermínio de populações inteiras pela fome, pela miséria, pela ignorância. A arte mais subversiva e inteligente se manifestou através do humor e do escracho em diversos períodos igualmente ou ainda mais trágicos. Humor não significa ausência de seriedade ou de responsabilidade. Ao contrário. Nada mais ridículo que o pseudo-sério que se leva a sério.

L: O filme faz muitas referências à história do audiovisual brasileiro em geral, desde as cavações, os cinejornais, as reportagens de TV, as cartelas da censura federal do período da ditadura militar e as pornochanchadas aludidas pelo nome Coronel Alexandrão, personagem interpretado por Carlos Imperial em A Viúva Virgem. São referências muito específicas e até de nicho, o que nos faz pensar que o público-alvo do seu filme seja aficionados, pesquisadores e preservacionistas do cinema brasileiro. Essa impressão é correta?

EG: Certamente os cinéfilos, pesquisadores e críticos conhecedores do cinema brasileiro terãoum pouco mais de facilidade para reconhecer todas as referências e citações. Mas, penso queeles não foram previamente projetados para serem o público-alvo ou o principal público dofilme. A intenção era chegar ao maior número de espectadores possível e despertar o interessepela restauração e preservação de filmes e, é claro, pelo cinema brasileiro.

LRM: Exatamente. Acho que o filme pode ser lido “em camadas”. Ele pode interessar às pessoas independentemente de possuírem essas referências. Uma prova disso é que, em sua estreia no Festival de Brasília, o público do cinema – claro, um público específico, de festival, mas não necessariamente “erudito” em termos de referências historiográficas sobre o cinema brasileiro – riu do princípio ao fim e aplaudiu longamente no final. Os estudiosos também se divertem – quando foi exibido no Chile, no Centro Cultural La Moneda, a pesquisadora e diretora da Cineteca Nacional, Mónica Villarroel, que estuda o cinema silencioso brasileiro e chileno, não parava de rir –, mas podem se relacionar com outras camadas do filme, justamente as que fazem referências a gêneros, personagens, estilos, filmes e cenas específicas do cinema brasileiro. Nesse sentido, o filme possui mesmo muitas “piadas internas” - mas não é necessário entendê-las ou captá-las, para compreender o filme.
PT /

Em 1974, A Noite do Espantalho, de Sérgio Ricardo, rodado inteiramente no estado de Pernambuco, foi exibido no Festival de Cinema de Nova York. Somente quarenta e cinco anos depois, quando Bacurau, de Kleber Mendonça Filho e Juliano Dornelles, agitou o Festival de Cinema de Nova York em 2019, Sérgio Ricardo voltou a Nova York, desta vez numa canção. A Noite do Espantalho não foi bem recebido pela crítica quando estreou no NYFF, mas uma nova geração de espectadores agora o reavalia como um dos grandes filmes brasileiros dos anos 70. Como tal, a exibição de Bacurau na NYFF pode ser vista como uma espécie de segundo advento de Sérgio Ricardo, sua voz se derramando sobre o público do Festival de Cinema de Nova York durante uma das cenas mais famosas do filme: a procissão do enterro de Dona Carmelita. 
Limite: Os clássicos filmes do Cinema Novo dirigidos por Sérgio Ricardo, bem como suas famosas trilhas sonoras, têm um lugar de destaque na história do cinema brasileiro. A menção a seu nome e a presença de sua canção em Bacurau servem de homenagem ao artista e seu legado. Qual é sua relação com o cinema de Sérgio Ricardo, e com A Noite do Espantalho especificamente?

Kleber Mendonça Filho: É fascinante poder responder essa pergunta porque o Sérgio Ricardo chegou a mim de várias maneiras indiretas.

Quando eu era criança e adolescente, eu frequentei muito a Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, no Recife, porque minha mãe trabalhava lá como pesquisadora e historiadora. E na área de cultura da Fundação Joaquim Nabuco tinha o pôster do Noite do Espantalho. E aquele pôster sempre me chamou muito a atenção. Ele passou a fazer parte do meu imaginário, porque tem o Alceu Valença com tonalidades psicodélicas, é extremamente gráfico. E durante uma parte da minha infância, entrando pela adolescência, esse cartaz tava lá.
KMF (cont.): No final dos anos 80, eu voltei a ver muito esse cartaz quando ia à Fundação Joaquim Nabuco. Naquela época, eu já tinha visto Mad Max (1979) e Max Max 2 (1981), e foi quando eu aprendi finalmente que A Noite do Espantalho era um filme que tinha sido feito em Pernambuco. Então, de uma certa forma, A Noite do Espantalho me aproximou muito da ideia de fazer cinema, porque, diferente de todos os outros filmes, que eram feitos no Rio ou em São Paulo ou nos Estados Unidos, Hollywood, Europa, ou Austrália (no caso do Mad Max), esse filme tinha sido feito em Fazenda Nova. Um lugar que eu conhecia, que ficava a 200 km do Recife, e onde a Paixão de Cristo é encenada todo ano no Teatro Nova Jerusalém. A ideia de que esse filme tinha sido feito perto de onde eu vivia era uma informação bastante excitante pra mim. 

Finalmente eu vi A Noite do Espantalho, na própria Fundação Joaquim Nabuco. E ele me lembrou, numa associação livre, os filmes do Mad Max. Era diferente de todos os filmes brasileiros que eu tinha visto até então. Trinta e dois anos depois, eu posso dizer que ele é em grande parte diferente de todos os filmes brasileiros que eu já vi na minha vida. No final dos anos 90, fui convidado pra trabalhar lá e ser o curador da área de cinema. Eu achei o cartaz da Noite do Espantalho, e ele fez parte da sala onde eu trabalhava.

Em 1997 eu estava lançando meu primeiro curta-metragem que teve uma repercussão maior,1 o Enjaulado, e foi no Rio Cine, que depois virou Festival do Rio, que Enjaulado passou na mesma sessão com um documentário maravilhoso, de Márcia Derraik e Simplício Neto, chamado DIB (1997). O filme, corretamente, faz de Dib Lutfi um grande herói do cinema brasileiro, e, por causa de Márcia e Simplício, que viraram novos amigos durante o festival, eu passei a conhecer e admirar muito Dib. Conheci o Dib ao ponto de, uma vez que ele tava fazendo um filme no Recife, ele foi jantar lá em casa. Passamos a ter uma amizade marcada pela admiração.

E o Dib é irmão do Sérgio Ricardo. Isso pra mim foi fazendo do Sérgio Ricardo não só aquela voz no Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) e o diretor da Noite do Espantalho, mas o irmão de Dib. Que pra mim era muita coisa, porque pensar no que Dib fez no cinema brasileiro, em todas as imagens que ele filmou, inclusive no próprio Noite do Espantalho... Eu me sentia como se eu tivesse próximo da grandeza do cinema brasileiro. A mesma sensação de descobrir que A Noite do Espantalho tinha sido feito em Fazenda Nova. Ou seja, fazer cinema estava muito perto. Era possível fazer cinema.

E é incrível pensar, agora que eles morreram, que o legado desses dois irmãos que fizeram tanta coisa pra cultura brasileira, seja lembrado. Que bom que um filme como Bacurau, feito em 2019, traga de volta um pouco dessa riqueza, e a celebre junto a outras iniciativas.

L: "Vamos dar início ao cortejo em homenagem a Dona Carmelita, e é por isso que basicamente toda Bacurau se encontra reunida aqui neste momento. Dona Carmelita, que viveu 94 anos para contar a história…. Que foi uma figura muito importante pra nossa gente. E como é costume na nossa comunidade, eu deixo com vocês agora a mensagem do senhor Sérgio Ricardo".

Os fãs de Bacurau reconhecem a fala acima, do DJ Urso, que antecede aquela que talvez seja a cena mais famosa do filme: a procissão do enterro de Dona Carmelita. A canção de Sérgio Ricardo usada na cena é “Bichos da Noite”, composta em parceria com Joaquim Cardozo para a peça O Coronel de Macambira, de 1967. Quando você conheceu a música? Como foi a decisão de usá-la no filme, em uma cena tão importante? Ela teve alguma influência na escolha do nome da cidade e do título, ou foi escolhida depois que o título já estava definido?

KMF: Eu gosto muito dos DJs que mostram respeito por quem eles estão tocando. Tem DJs que simplesmente são automatizados, e tem DJs que sabem o que estão tocando. Eu acho muito bom que o DJ Urso mencione nominalmente Sérgio Ricardo, porque mostra respeito pelo artista. E acho que estabelece o Bichos da Noite como uma espécie de hino local. Aquela música de fato não poderia ser melhor praquela comunidade.

Uma coisa maravilhosa que aconteceu é que eu mandei uma versão do roteiro de Bacurau pra um grande amigo desde a época de universidade, Toinho Castro. A época que eu vi A Noite do Espantalho no cinema da Fundação é exatamente a época que eu comecei a amizade com Toinho, na universidade. Coincidências não existem, né?

Toinho leu o roteiro de Bacurau e imediatamente me mandou o link no YouTube do Bichos da Noite, que eu não conhecia. E aí eu ouvi e compartilhei o link com Juliano. A gente imediatamente ficou impressionado não só com a beleza e a força, mas como aquela música parecia que tinha sido escrita pro filme, pra cena do enterro. A gente não parava de ouvir a música e ficava muito impressionado com o uso das palavras, a poesia da música, a sugestão do fantástico que estava lá… Uma poesia muito brasileira. A sequência do enterro de Carmelita já existia, e o título do filme é Bacurau desde 2009, então quando Toinho me mandou o link da música é porque ele leu o roteiro e fez a associação clara com Bichos da Noite, que tem um verso que fala em “horas do bacurau”.2 É um alinhamento maravilhoso de elementos.

Então, é curioso como Sérgio Ricardo chegou em minha vida e meu trabalho de maneiras indiretas. Claro, quando eu vi o Deus e o Diabo, a voz dele tava lá. Mas essa coisa do cartaz, e de Dib, e de Toinho mandar o link do YouTube é maravilhosa. Uma das coisas mais lindas do cinema e do trabalho artístico é como as influências e o que faz parte da sua vida terminam aparecendo nas coisas que você faz. Porque você é composto por coisas que te moldaram como pessoa, como artista.

L: Além de Sérgio Ricardo, Bacurau tem vários elos musicais com o Cinema Novo. A abertura do filme ao som de Não Identificado, na voz de Gal Costa, parece se relacionar diretamente com o final de Brasil Ano 2000, de Walter Lima Jr., onde se ouve a mesma gravação enquanto a personagem de Anecy Rocha deixa a cidade. Por outro lado, em Bacurau o movimento é de aproximação da cidade. Há ainda Réquiem para Matraga, tema composto por Geraldo Vandré para o clássico A Hora e Vez de Augusto Matraga, de Roberto Santos. 

Você vê relações entre Bacurau e o Cinema Novo?

KMF: Eu acho que não sou eu quem deve estabelecer parentescos entre qualquer filme que eu faça e outras obras. De fato, ao longo dos anos, com O Som ao Redor, eu sempre fui muito econômico, lacônico, ao falar sobre referências. Mas, aos poucos, eu fui abrindo um pouco mais essa proteção e eu acho que, hoje, cada vez mais, talvez pela facilidade de acesso à informação, cada vez mais as pessoas, cinéfilos, críticos, público em geral, embarca em safáris de tentativa de identificar, de mapear de onde vieram as referências pra cada filme. Eu acho curioso, na maior parte das vezes. Às vezes eu acho muito reducionista, porque as referências precisam ser emotivas, e muitas vezes elas não são guiadas por você ser fã de alguém, é simplesmente uma questão de que músicas e imagens fazem parte da sua vida, da sua trajetória. E você simplesmente ama determinadas coisas. 

Por exemplo, Não Identificado é uma canção magnífica. É magnífica como produção musical, como som, sonoridade, a voz de Gal Costa, o que ela diz, a letra… Tudo é maravilhoso. E te coloca num estado de espírito que é muito especial, principalmente pra abrir o filme. Ela funciona em muitos níveis. 

Fui eu quem trouxe Não Identificado pro filme. Eu trouxe, num dia de montagem. Entreguei pro Eduardo Serrano, o montador, Juliano [Dornelles] tava no sofá, e eu falei “eu queria que vocês dessem uma olhada nisso aqui”. E foi incrível a sensação. Você ver a junção daquele som, daquela música, com o rascunho dos efeitos especiais do planeta Terra. Mas já dava pra entender que tinha uma força muito forte. O contraste entre uma música tão brasileira, tão particularmente brasileira na sua forma mais linda, e imagens que a gente associa muito ao cinema industrial americano. Do CGI, do espaço…  Essa tensão entre som e imagem nos pareceu muito correta.

E num outro momento da montagem Juliano faz a mesma coisa. Ele diz assim: “vamos sentar aqui, vamos testar isso aqui”. E ele traz o Réquiem Para Matraga. E foi incrível. Muito linda a associação da música com aquele momento do filme. E não só isso, é um daqueles raros momentos em que cada corte já parecia tá esperando a música. Houve um incidente magnífico de montagem onde a gente simplesmente colocou a música e ela parecia tá trepando lindamente com toda a sequência do Pacote levando os amigos mortos. Pra cada corte, inclusive. Então, no final das contas, é a junção de uma música maravilhosa com o filme que a gente tá fazendo. 

Eu acho que o fato de serem expoentes do Cinema Novo, na verdade é algo que pra gente é uma informação curiosa e no final das contas também emotiva mas em primeiro lugar é tudo uma questão de som e de sentimento. Em terceiro lugar, a associação histórica pra gente é interessante, a gente gosta, claro, mas no final das contas é um momento da arte brasileira, da cultura brasileira, que nunca deixará de ser incrível. São obras artísticas já imortais. Esse momento da história do Brasil que produziu essa música e esse cinema. Então é tudo uma questão de organicidade. Não há planejamento nisso. Não há estratégia de jeito nenhum. É: “Dá uma olhada nessa música aqui. Caralho, é incrível. Vamo tentar comprar os direitos e usar no filme.”

1. Kleber já tinha feito quatro curtas.

2. Bacurau, ou Nyctidromus albicollis, é um pássaro também conhecido como carimbamba, curiango, entre outros.
PT /
Limite: What can you tell us about the film O Roteiro do Gravador (1967), a work that is still being searched for within the Cinemateca do MAM archive? What kind of film was it? Who was involved?

Sylvio Lanna: To answer the first question, O Roteiro do Gravador is filled with gems: it was the first film, a medium-length film, made by a restless youth who, as a 23-year-old Philosophy major, chose instead Cinema = Freedom. Meanwhile, Brazil had been under a military dictatorship since 1964, and a few months later the May 68 protests would erupt in France, where the Nouvelle Vague projected a revolutionary cinema. O Roteiro do Gravador is an existential film. It takes place from the perspective of an individual in the apocalyptic world of the Cold War (which was the situation we were living in then), and his process of knowing love and the collective. In Memoriam is in search (“...of Lost Time”) of O Roteiro do Gravador. It opens with a ?, hence why you’re very precise when you say “still searching for it within the Cinemateca do MAM archive”, after all it is two copies of the image and sound negatives of a 16mm, 30-minute film that are around somewhere… In that deposit receipt shown in the film, other works of mine are listed, they are also stored there and have temporarily disappeared. I chose to focus on Roteiro because it is the seed of my cinema - poetic, inquisitive and adventurous. Calligraphic. The main idea, an individual charging against a megalopolis with nothing but an audio recorder in which he registers his memories of an apocalyptic world, is something that I go back to, in a different way, in the fascinating sound experience that became the feature film Sagrada Família. Such is the cinema I make: one film generates the other. I belong to the generation of cinephiles that saw the birth of the concept of auteur cinema. Now, the evolution of technology has reached Dziga Vertov’s insight, and the camera is like a pen.
Such is the cinema I make: one film generates the other. I belong to the generation of cinephiles that saw the birth of the concept of auteur cinema. Now, the evolution of technology has reached Dziga Vertov’s insight, and the camera is like a pen.
As for the second question, “what kind of film is it?”, I keep a website called Cinema Caligráfico de Sylvio Lanna.1  O Roteiro, first and foremost, can be classified as the first of my calligraphic films (a few of my films don’t fit into that category). Because the film was a document of a period when the dictatorship had institutionalized torture, art had to be metaphorical. The film therefore shows the slaughtering of a pig in an annoyingly violent way, bled with a peixeiraat the Aterro do Flamengo (which was under construction then), with the city in the background. This scene accounted for radically mixed reactions from the audience of the famous Cine Paissandú 16mm Film Festival of 1967; in 74, in Copenhagen, that same scene made me lose a Danish friend. O Roteiro has the main influences of my whole life, Luís Buñuel, and the one big influence from that period, Glauber Rocha.

Who worked on it? Good question… In that film, Andrea Tonacci (as cinematographer and cameraman) and I sealed our immense friendship and partnership, which soon after made it possible for us to direct our first feature films, respectively Bang Bang and Sagrada Família. The main actors were the poet Pedro Garcia, who was my classmate at the National Faculty of Philosophy (Faculdade Nacional de Filosofia) and Lucia Milanez. It is imperative that, once a copy of O Roteiro is recovered, the music is preserved, with the sax solos of none other than the brilliant Victor Assis Brasil, improvised in the studio while watching the film without sound, accompanied by Flávia Calabi on the transverse flute.

L: Did public exhibitions of O Roteiro do Gravador take place?

SL: Stories from the Cinema of Life. Today, you can store your film on things smaller than a pen drive. One generation ago, you would have to carry copies of your films in your backpack. I literally lived on the road for a good portion of my life. This was the first time I truly identified with the ideas of my generation. On planet Earth, life happens in generations. In 68, with the cash I got from German TV to produce, write, and direct “The History of Superstition Around Brazilian Football” (... and since cinema is editing, one year later I would put together, alongside Tonacci, the short film Superstição e Futebol which was awarded the main prize at the 1st Oberhausen Sports Film Festival in 1970), I hitchhiked through South America. Still in Brazil, in Rio Grande do Sul, I was arrested by the military, a suspect of being an informer of the União Nacional dos Estudantes (National Student Union), which had been designated an illegal organization. I spent fifteen days in solitary confinement, and when I was freed, I had a long talk with the colonel who commanded the Porto Alegre DOPS3  about O Roteiro do Gravador. I resumed my trip and in Rosário, Argentina, held a screening of my film at the Faculty of Medicine followed by a night-long debate. In 1979, in New York, at a party for filmmakers, we discussed the possibility of adapting O Roteiro to a New York setting.
L: How long did it take between the discovery that O Roteiro do Gravador could not be tracked down and the decision to make In Memoriam? And what made you decide to actually begin making this film?

SL: Cinema is editing, and so is life. At least mine is. Since making films in Brazil was explicitly impossible for me, because my 1987 film Malandro, termo civilizado ou MALANDRANDO had been boycotted, my life took a turn and led me back to my hometown, and to the beginning of a long story: the project “A Bucha Vegetal Brasileira”.4 It was a practical proposition for an environmental and social educational project and these ideas were universal. If only politicians had enough will to solve the problems that afflict us…

During this project, we worked with farmers and audiovisual artists to propose changed habits of consumption and to replace synthetic sponges with biodegradable Luffas. And so, I had been far from cinema when, about 10 years ago, I got a request to sign an authorization to move the negatives of Sagrada Família, which I had stored at the Cinemateca do MAM in Rio, to the Cinemateca Brasileira in São Paulo. Together with the Cinemateca de Lisboa, they were going to finance the restoration, and make a new copy to be screened in Lisbon. I authorized it. But at first, the archivists weren’t able to find the negatives, so I had to go to Rio, where the negatives were stored after the new copy was finally made, and I witnessed the chaos the Cinemateca do MAM was then embroiled in. Now, the same situation is happening again with the Cinemateca Brasileira in São Paulo, as criminal and systematic destruction goes on throughout the country.
Sylvio Lanna with his Bio-degradable Luffa
As to why I decided to make In Memoriam, it’s things of life (that would be a great title for a film, huh?). Life moved on, I abandoned the Luffa project, and decided to go back to making films. I met the great Cavi [Borges]. He proposed a re-release of my old films. And I told him of the importance of O Roteiro, in the same talk where I had the insight of the concept of Calligraphic Cinema. He urged me to make a 6 to 8-minute clip about the the film in the Cinemateca. That’s where the idea of In Memoriam - O Roteiro do Gravador came from.

Still about that subject... I certainly didn’t make the film for this, but the fact is, Art anticipates History. Now my film is necessary to show the world the tragedy of this new attempt at the genocide of the Brazilian soul.

L: Who was Adriano Fonseca Filho? Why is the film dedicated to him? Do you consider your film to be politically disappeared too?

SL: That’s exactly right. O Roteiro do Gravador is young (youth is promise), politically disappeared, unarmed, assassinated, and buried without a grave in Araguaian territory.5 Adriano Fonseca Filho, like other romantics of his generation, died at age 27, after going through life like a comet. He went to college with me at the Faculdade Nacional de Filosofia, and he was my cousin. He was the first beatnik of Rio de Janeiro. Then, he became one of the first hippies. Later, he abandoned everything to join the armed resistance against the dictatorship.
L: The film is titled "In Memoriam", as if a eulogy is being made to O Roteiro do Gravador while it is still being searched for. How does one memorialize a movie that cannot be seen? And if the film cannot be seen, what then is being memorialized?

SL: As I said before, the title In Memoriam is preceded by a ?. I still hope to find it. Just like Brazil needs to find itself again… Precisely in the archives of its past.

Anyway, I would call it an elegy to my first film (an eulogy shouldn’t be confused with an elegy, which is a poem in honor of someone’s death). The synopsis of In Memoriam reads, “A film about the death and rebirth of Cinema”. I think Cavi, in his role as the producer, passed me the ball just in time for me to score a great goal. A film about a film that doesn’t exist is, to an audience, exactly what cinema is. The eternal search for the lost treasure.

Anyway, I would call it an elegy to my first film (an eulogy shouldn’t be confused withan elegy, which is a poem in honor of someone’s death). The synopsis of In Memoriam reads, “A film about the death and rebirth of Cinema”.

L: The film focuses a lot on the spaces of the MAM Cinematheque and the history of the institution. Why was it important to tell the story of the Cinematheque along with the story of your film?

SL: It was important because the Cinemateque of the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art represented, to my generation of the Brazilian Cinema de Invenção, a shelter in the figure of its director, Cosme Alves Netto. It was there that, long into the night, I edited most of my films.
But also, and mainly, as seen in the opening shot of In Memoriam, due to the strong and powerful architecture of a pulsating Brazil, which began to be castrated in 1964. The MAM building, made by the architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy, is a living symbol of a time/soul in Brazil that needs to be recovered.And that may be more viable than it seems.
L: Are you working on any new projects?

SL: Of course! Without projects, what is life? Cinema is the Art form that can’t be done alone (but hand in hand). My films almost always begin by the title; Forofina To Africa L’Afrique Na África is the name of my current project. The film stems from a Brazil/Africa/? co-production to which I am gathering new collaborators in the goal to create a non-profit organization, the Africa/Brazil/Africa Cultural Center, whose main objective is to stimulate the co-production of films in all formats between Brazil and Africa.

We begin this work with the short film Forofina Um Filme A Ser Feito. This short film intended to promote the crowdfunding campaign to gather money in. As for the plot, Forofina is a love story like millions that happen every day, each one with their peculiarities, and the peculiarity of this one is the passion between two continents, two peoples, two bloods which begets Life and more Love.

1. Sylvio Lanna’s Calligraphic Cinema  

2. A large, thin knife that can go straight through an animal’s heart.

3. Departamento de Ordem Política e Social (Department of Political and Social Order), was the official repression agency of the military dictatorship, where political prisoners were taken to be tortured and interrogated. There was a DOPS building at every state capital.

4. Sponge gourd, or Luffa cylindrica.

5. The Araguaia Guerilla was an armed political movement which opposed the military dictatorship in the Araguaia river basin. During the 1970s, the military executed most of its members and concealed their remains.

Questions by
Translation by
April 19, 2021
PT /
Writer/director Diego Zon is one of the standout filmmakers working in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo today. Zon has been pursuing film projects since 2010, directing the acclaimed short films O Maestro em Si (2010), A Nona Vítima (2012), and Os Lados da Rua (2012). These three projects varied somewhat in theme, style, and genre, as if the director was then still searching for the type of filmmaker he wanted to become. However, Zon’s 2016 short documentary Das águas que passam (Running Waters), a work of extraordinary beauty and poetic maturity, feels like a major landing point in his career.

Premiering in the 2016 shorts section of the Berlin Film Festival, Das águas que passam portrays the daily life of Zé de Sabino, a fisherman who works and lives in the breathtaking village of Regência, in Linhares. Under cloud-filled skies, a wide-angle lensed camera captures Zé on his small boat as he fishes for the Robalo, one of the most prized fish in the Espírito Santo region. Zé seems to be completely in tune with the vast and awe-inspiring nature around him, whether on land or sea. Das águas que passam is a sensorial work, director Diego Zon letting nature play its own role as a character in his film.

Soon after the making of Das águas que passam, the region of Brazil that the film depicts went through one of the country’s most significant ecological disasters in its history. A dam owned by one of the world's largest mining companies collapsed, letting dirty water and mud flow into the nearby river, Rio Doce. This fact cannot be ignored when talking about Zon’s film, as it has evolved into a vital historical document that portrays the beauty of an area on the unknowing brink of an ecological collapse. 

In this interview, Cinelimite staff members William Plotnick and Matheus Pestana had the opportunity to speak to Diego Zon about his career, the making of Das águas que passam, his life growing up near Linhares (close to the village of Regência), the ecological disaster, life during the pandemic, and the future projects that he has been working on.
Cinelimite: Das águas que passam (2016) feels like a landmark film in your career, a work where you leave behind the aesthetic feel and pacing of your previous three shorts and embrace a slower and more contemplative cinematographic style. It is worth noting that there are four years between the making of your third film Os Lados da Rua (2012) and Das águas que passam. Can you fill us in on what took place in the life of Diego Zon between these four years? How did you wind up making a film about a fisherman from Regência (an area close to where you were born) and where did the slow-paced aesthetic approach to the film come from, as it differs so strongly from your previous work?

Diego Zon: Making these early short films was truly a school for me. A means of discovering cinema by trying to make films. In the beginning of my career, I was always very interested in cameras and the process of video editing. The first short films I directed came about through invitations from other people. The executive producer José Carlos Oliveira, who was friends with Wilson Laerte (the pianist at the center of the film), invited me to make O Maestro em Si and Jovany Sales Rey, who was the screenwriter of The Ninth Victim, invited me to direct that film. Soon after came Os Lados da Rua, my first experience with writing fiction. The technical team behind these productions were all just starting out with filmmaking and the process of creation made an impact on each of our careers. Today, I see these films as having been produced in the freshness of my youth, when I was trying to learn more about the elements of cinema and to find in art a form of expression.

I did take a brief hiatus before making Das águas que passam, my latest short film. It was a period in which I ruminated on the ideas that affected me. I was interested in the idea of belonging and of characters that are seen but little-noticed. And I was left with the provocation, "how to film belonging?". At that time, the idea of building an atmosphere of space was also something that caught my attention in films and even in literature. I think that this is how the rhythmic form of Das águas que passam came about. I tried to capture an experience of space that is always linked to time. Both the time of the place and the time of the lives of those people living within it. It was then that I had the motivation to develop a film about someone's relationship with water, having the figure of a fisherman as a link to this unknown world. Initially, I imagined shooting a story that would take place on the high seas, on a journey far from land, however, this idea was abandoned when I came across the village of Regência, Zé de Sabino, and the mouth of the Doce River.
CL: You grew up in Linhares, very close to where Das águas que passam was filmed, but then moved to Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, a city located at the southern end of Espírito Santo. To what extent were you familiar with the spaces and areas depicted in Das águas que passam throughout your early and adult life? Was there the need to become reacquainted with that space after a long period away?

Your question is interesting because it leads me to think about the subconscious relationship I have with the village of Regência, a district of Linhares. Linhares was the city where I was born and raised until the beginning of my adolescence. My first encounter with the village of Regência was through a classmate, about three years older than me, who was called by the peculiar name "Jatobá".  "Jatobá" is a type of tree considered sacred by indigenous people and used in moments of meditation. I remember that when the weekend was approaching, Jatobá would always say that he was going to Regência to surf. This was very unusual for us kids. Sometimes he would disappear from school for a while and when he returned we would ask him what had happened, "I am in Regência", he would say, with the verb in the present tense. So, little by little, the place grew in my imagination. This was despite the fact that I couldn't reach it physically since it was 50 km away from the center of town on a road that was difficult to access. As the years went by I got to know the Caboclo Bernardo feast that the Regência community organizes through a live television broadcast. The feast is in honor of the national hero who saved hundreds of lives in a shipwreck near the mouth of the Doce River at the end of the 19th century. The highlight of the celebration is the gathering of congo bands and folklore groups from Espírito Santo.

The Doce River, on the other hand, was always present in my early years. One of the entrances to Linhares is through a bridge that crosses the river. The image of this entrance, wide in immensity, always appears in my mind during moments of peace and silence. Unfortunately, this image was transformed along the years with the silting up of the Rio Doce, as sandbanks have formed where it was once full of water. This is the result of severe environmental degradation by human beings. And, perhaps by a condition of fate, I moved with my parents to Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, another city with the presence of a river, in this case, the Itapemirim. In fact, rivers are found in every city where I have lived for a significant amount of time (Linhares, Cachoeiro, Alegre in Espírito Santo, and Lisbon in Portugal).

CL: Where and how did you come to meet Zé de Sabino, the fisherman at the center of the film, and what was the process like of convincing him and the rest of the characters depicted in the film to participate in this movie?
DZ: During the research for the development of the script, Djanira Bravo (the executive producer) and I went to the beach towns on the southern coast of Espírito Santo in search of characters that had a close bond with water. We were in Presidente Kennedy, Marataízes, Itapemirim, Anchieta, Piúma, but we were not finding anything that truly inspired us from what we had envisioned. We discovered that fishing, and especially deep-sea fishing, had developed into the type of work done in large boats with groups of 10 or 15 people, and this was different from the more isolated daily lifestyle that we were hoping to depict in our film. At the time, I had read Victor Hugo's Toilers of the Sea, and the experience made me more enthusiastic about trying to meet someone who faces the humor and uncanniness of nature on a daily basis. We decided to continue the research in the northern region of Espírito Santo. We passed through other cities, but it was in Regência that we really found something special and I was, at last, getting to know the mouth of the Rio Doce. In Aracruz, the town previous to Regência, someone told us about the fisherman Zé de Sabino. The director of photography of the film, Patrick Tristão, who had lived in the village a few years before, had also mentioned his name to us.

So we spent a few days in Regência and got to know Zé de Sabino better. We met with him at different times of the day, we followed him when he went fishing, we were at the beachfront with him, we had lunch together, we went to the port of the community, and we socialized. We even got to know Dona Sônia, his wife, and Patrick, his youngest son, as they were part of his daily life and work routine. Little by little, Zé told us his story, which is very beautiful. He told us about the time he was between life and death with the sharks, about being shipwrecked on the high seas, and about his friendship with porpoises. He exuded pride while telling us about being able to pay for his children's schooling with money from fishing, especially the sea bass, the most valuable but hard to catch fish in the region. Djanira and I felt a very spiritual connection between him and the village, it was a true force of nature. I could notice that when on land, Zé was a little more anxious and was always grabbing something from the ground or looking for something through the branches of vegetation; but he had another state of mind when sailing his boat. It was a paradox between a state of serenity and relaxation. He, always wearing his hat, reminded me of the western characters, having the waters as their particular desert. But it was, above all, because I felt in him bravery permeated by the possibility of failures and disappointments (I remember a text by Jean-Claude Brisseau saying something similar about John Ford's characters). At that time, the river was drying up and the fish were no longer plentiful, yet life goes on.

We all decided to make this film. I was able to present to Zé what I thought about the form of the film, that I would bet on images and the intervals of silence and noise to tell his story, making it possible for those watching to imagine what he would not at first tell us in words. I confided that it would be a challenge to transpose to the screen all the sensations we experienced in those days. He accepted and trusted the team, but I think he only understood that this was not a crazy job until after he watched the film for the first time.
CL: Nature in the surrounding area of Regência almost takes on its own character in Das águas que passam, providing the beautiful scenic backdrop for many of the shots in the film. But the surrounding environment also determines the lives of the characters living close to the waters. Can you talk about your pre-production process for this film? How did you determine the best areas of Regência to capture, the perfect time of the day when the sky would be most colorful, and when those powerful weather storms would occur? And how much of the footage that you ended up filming made it into the final cut of the film?
DZ: When I film, I like the idea of letting myself be influenced by my surroundings and being open to the surprises and the very flow of life, improvising a fluidity of the moment. However, I also believe that we can foresee certain paths by knowing the routine, the culture of the region, and its landscape. After the research period, Djanira and I returned to Regência for pre-production. It was early summer, the environment was very sunny, full of birds, and Zé was also able to have better luck with the fish. I remember that even though I brought a camera, I hardly used it (the only time was to film him and his trail on the sand under the flight of seagulls, a sequence that appears at the beginning of the film); it was an oppertunity to prepare my eyes for when we were with the whole team in production. As I mentioned before, I appreciate working on the construction of space in cinema, and the ambiance of that region seemed ideal to me for converting it into the aesthetic and narrative matter, transforming it into a kind of character. Zé had told us that after the summer it would be more complicated to shoot, the wind would change, the scarcity of fish would be greater, both in the river and on the high seas. But we agreed to run in March, at the end of the season. It was because I was looking for the likely changes of climates and moods in the image and soundscape, as well as the wind variations, and I believed in the gradation of the light - which would be less direct at this time. I think it was the conjunction of energies that led me to shoot at that time, we were really lucky with the choice. As for the fish, Das águas que passam is a film in which the fish appear very little; I feel that for those people the fishing life is not just a matter of survival, it seems to be an existential choice, nourishment for the soul. So in the film we have the sensation of the presence of the fish all the time, even though we see them little.

I believe that of the sequences filmed, around 65% went to the final cut. Sometimes during the shoot we ended up not filming at all because we were trying to belong and inhabit the character’s relationships with nature. There were also sequences in which I felt the images displayed a certain beauty but which ended up not being included. One of them was a sequence of three or four scenes in which Zé communicated with the porpoises at the edge of the beach, and they appeared and dived, then he said goodbye asking the porpoises to be careful because there was a net around - they could get trapped. I really like the sequence, it has a specificity, but I don't know... It seemed to make the film too lyrical as a whole. Sometimes it's the film itself that dictates the cut no matter how charming a sequence may be.
CL: Can you talk about working with cinematographer Patrick Tristão to create the sweepingly beautiful images of the sky and waters of Regência? The wide-angle shots in the film of Zé de Sabino on his boat, when the sky is lush, cloud-filled, and colorful, feel as if they might come out of a William Turner painting. What sort of things did you discuss with your cinematographer to achieve the look and feel of this film? Were there specific paintings or stills from other films that you used as an influence to create these breathtaking images? Or was it simply a process of embracing the environment in which you were in?
DZ: I met Patrick in my late teens because he was a friend of my older brother, they went to college together. We met at certain stages of our lives, and when I started to have the desire to make films, Patrick already had some experience as a director of photography. Making Das águas que passam together, in collaboration with the rest of the team, was a very happy coincidence since he has an early relationship with nature (he has been surfing and canoeing for many years), which helped us understand the raw materials of that space to make his images possible. And he had lived in Regencia for a while, it was a region he was familiar with. We were building a way of working supported by the experiences of each one of us, having respect for the other and for nature, sometimes talking with our eyes while a scene was happening in front of us. Our references were then the conviviality and the appreciation of the environment itself. In preliminary conversations, we reflected on the proposal to fill out the composition in some scenes with the sky as a major highlight. I felt that with the understanding of natural light, a remarkable characteristic of Patrick, and the formation of clouds and colors characteristic of the place, I could bring a sensation of movement even in a plane of rigidity. It was an attempt to propose a kind of relationship with infinity in some moments of the film. Now, at the time of shooting, these images happen quickly, there is no time to work on them, the development was done before. We had to prepare ourselves for a few hours for situations that we imagined could happen in seconds, that's why having his sensitivity as a photographer was essential.

CL: While you certainly could not have anticipated it, Das águas que passam has become an important film in stimulating discussions around the ecological disaster that occurred on the Rio Doce, as a dam owned by a mineral mining company broke, unleashing dirty water and mud into the natural habitat that you depict in your film. It’s uncanny because while your film was clearly meant to showcase the beauty of the waters and environment around the Rio Doce, it now serves as an important historical document of what this area looked like before this disaster occurred. In that sense, your film takes on a larger historical and cultural meaning given the historical trajectory of which it is a part.

That being said, we can’t help but think about your film in comparison to Eduardo Countinho’s Cabra Marcado Para Morrer, as the footage shot by Coutinho only took on its full meaning when looking back at the historical event that it was a part of. Can you talk about filmmaking as an aesthetic and cultural exercise that the filmmaker can control, but how the ways in which the historical context of the images filmed remain out of the creator’s hands? And do you see your film in a similar way to Countinho’s, in that it can now stimulate a larger discussion about the vital moment in Brazilian history to which it is linked to?

DZ: I believe so, of course, keeping the proper proportions with Cabra Marcado Para Morrer, which is a cinema landmark, there is a parallel if we think of these films as historical documents of the events of their times. During the editing of Das águas que passam I began to have the feeling that the film seemed to be a portrait of a past, as if that story, or even the place, no longer fit in today's world. And the very nature of the film, in its contemplative form of that experience, seemed to me a manifestation of something connected to the sacred. Already this sense of a past, unfortunately, intensified with the bursting of the dam and the sudden spilling of polluting waste along the river. I think that the film, based on the routine and experiences of Zé de Sabino, became a small part of the representation of so many other stories and identities built around that nature, an even more important record to preserve in these times of erasure of memories. These are situations that we don't foresee, and then we realize how essential the production of art is; it is this art that provokes our feelings, critical thinking, that relates us to the world, and that also reveals time.
CL: Das águas que passam is a film of great visual beauty, but the film also does not hide the fact that it is essentially about working-class people who have to struggle and risk their lives on the seas in order to survive. The ecological crisis of 2015 highlighted the ways in which major corporations have a complete grip on the economy and lives of this area of Espírito Santo.Can you discuss the underlying working-class themes of your film, and the forms of inequality that affect the northern region of Espírito Santo and the inhabitants there?

DZ: I understand it as a characteristic of the whole of Espírito Santo. The presence of these large companies exposes the labor relations of the people of Espírito Santo and also the historical degradation of the environment. Here we find marble and granite extraction, steel, metallurgy, furniture, and cellulose industries, the latter of which is undergoing aggressive deforestation of the original forest for the large-scale monoculture of eucalyptus. The ecological disaster has only highlighted the extractivist profile of these companies, which do little to repair the profound changes they have caused in people's lives. The interest is in the productivity of both the people and the locality, and so there are forms of work that disappear over time. I remember something that Zé said to me when we were on the high seas, which symbolizes our discussion a little: "We have to sleep with one eye open, because big foreign ships come along at any time, and if we don't take our little boat out of the way, they will pass us over". 

In the region where we filmed, artisanal fishing still happens a lot due to a sense of collectivity among the people of the village, and there is even a fishermen's association with products from the processing of the fish, helping in the sustainability of the community itself. That is where I can see humanity and it makes me interested in discovering, learning, and understanding how life is made. It was this same community that years ago resisted and prevented the construction of resorts in Regência; the market wanted to transform the village into a real estate paradise. They didn't let them. The community is not interested in this overwhelming progress, they want and also live from tourism, but they want it their way.
CL: Have you had the opportunity to revisit Regência since the making of your film, and since the ecological crisis occurred? How have the characters whose lives you depict in Das águas que passam been affected by the crisis? How does the area differ today from what you depict in your film?

DZ: I was in the village two more times. The first time, I went with Djanira Bravo and Lucas de Lima (who did the sound of Das águas que passam) a week after the mud with the mining tailings had reached the mouth of the Doce River. It was heartbreaking, the energy of the place had been transformed. There was a silence between the community and the surrounding nature, in an experience similar to the mourning process. We went to the village port and came across some fishermen working for the mining company, which by then was already present there. It was a strong image - the people from the community burying fish on the shore or placing buoys over the river waters as if it were possible to contain the advance of the orange sludge. We met with Zé de Sabino who was also shaken, although he carried a certain hope that the water would clear, thus returning to normality. I think that with time the community began to understand the gravity of what had happened; it is difficult to have an affective relationship that was built up for years become broken suddenly.

We had brought film equipment and decided to take a long walk to the end of the beach to get to the place where the waters crossed. Because of the silting up that had occurred months before our walk, the river outlet was practically closed, so at that point we found backhoe machines removing the sand for the mud to follow the flow until it met the sea. We were at the same location as the initial shot (that of the panoramic movement) of Das águas que passam. My idea was to film the same panorama, leaving the river and going to the sea, but registering this sad transformation: the orange water of the river, the sound of the machines, the absence of birds, and the brutality of the machines widening the passage of the estuary. However, while trying to film, I noticed a speck of dirt in the image. We checked and it was not on the lens, it was on the camera sensor, but as it was very windy it was impossible to remove the lens to try to clean it. The three of us remained watching this scene, so different from the one we had inhabited months before. We walked some kilometers back to the community and eventually decided to return to our homes in the south of Espírito Santo.

During the trip, I noticed that we didn't record any images or even sounds that mark the environmental disaster. I don't know, I believe in those energies that drive and hinder us, fate wanted us to only have the last image of the river's life.

In 2016, still touched by the experience, I ended up writing the script for Margeado (Submersal), my first fiction feature film, whose story begins a year after the contamination of a river, in situations similar to what we know in the Doce River. Some months before the pandemic broke out, I was again in Regência and in Povoação, the village on the other bank of the river, researching locations for the development of this feature film. Nowadays, the riverside community has been trying to work with different forms of fishing - which has been forbidden since then. Zé de Sabino, for example, works receiving researchers from universities and institutions, taking them on his boat for mapping and analyzing the biodiversity of the waters. It is complicated, I cannot measure the pain of these people who suddenly had to say goodbye to a way of life.
CL: Das águas que passam is a kind of perfect film to watch during the COVID-19 pandemic since it transports viewers from their couches to one of the most beautiful areas of the world. As a filmmaker who seeks to transport viewers in this way, how has the past year of introspection impacted you as an artist? Have you been able to pursue certain projects you have been working on, or did the pandemic bring them to a halt?

DZ: With Covid-19, I tried to respect the moment of isolation and make sure that the people I live with and I go through this period well. Perhaps this is the possible form of collective care; by taking care of ourselves we are taking care of each other. After the initial shock, and without having the ability to disassociate life from cinema, I continued to work on writing new projects and developing existing ones. Through De Repente o Rio, a production company I am part of, we are producing a web series and short films by directors, waiting for a calmer and safer period to start shooting these projects.

Of the films I will be making, I wrote a short fiction film and worked on the feature fiction film project, such as Margeado (Submersal), which was funded in 2019 by Espírito Santo and the Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual, and at the moment we are waiting for the release of the resources by Ancine. Margeado (Submersal) is a film about presence within absence. It is about how people face certain impermanences of what is most common. The lack of routine, the memory of a familiar lap, the modification of nature - which reflects on our state of the present, with a tension between tradition and the need to adapt, a way of thinking about time. I also delved deeper into A planta sob a terra selvagem (The plant under the wildland), a project selected and developed at the "Biennale College Cinema 2019", a program of the Venice Film Festival. A planta is a film that deals with the loving relationships between senior citizens, with whom we go through a process of meditation on life, spirituality, and mortality. This project is in the funding stage.
CL: Das águas que passam is being presented in Cinelimite’s program “The World Seen and Dreamt: A Collection of Films from Espírito Santo”, where we are showcasing a brief collection of films that present a general overview of the history of cinema in Espírito Santo. We’re showing films by Espírito Santo filmmakers such as Ludovico Persici, Ramon Alvarado, Paulo Torre, Luiz Tadeu Teixeira, and Orlando Bomfim Netto. Like in your film, we find numerous wide-angle shots throughout the work of Orlando Bomfim Netto that showcase the beauty of the Capixaba state. So, we’re wondering to what extent you’ve been influenced by the history of cinema in your state, and whether you have had the opportunity to interact with these films throughout your life. If not, can you talk about what Brazilian films or filmmakers most influenced you generally or Das águas que passam specifically?

DZ: Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to get to know these films in the past, I think they are films that the capixaba people themselves had little access to. It was only after I made Das águas que passam that I watched some of Orlando Bomfim Netto’s films. "Acervo Capixaba", an important preservation project of Espírito Santo cinema, coordinated by Marcos Valério Guimarães, Vitor Graize, and the Pique-Bandeira Filmes team, took care of the restoration and digitization of Orlando's films. I was amazed to find myself in his work, with his inventive editing of the landscapes and the soul of our people. The unusual thing is that, even though I live in the interior, I first got to know him before his films. In the mid-2000s Orlando taught a documentary workshop in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim with two other instructors (Carlos Tourinho and Roberto Maciel). And I was one of the students. I remember those days fondly, we were around 15 students, with a marked age variation, and it was a beautiful interchange of generations. The workshop produced the documentary Batei, Lavadeiras with the old washerwomen of the Itapemirim River, having as narration the poem of the same name by the writer and poet Newton Braga.

When we think about the importance of the restoration project of Orlando's work, we realize the need for the preservation of audiovisual content from all over Brazil. This proves the importance of the Cinemateca Brasileira itself, an institution for the conservation, collection, and diffusion of Brazilian audiovisual heritage. The Cinemateca Brasileira has been closed since August 2020, without the necessary government resources, without any technical team, and without basic care for the collections. The Cinemateca is fundamental to the memory of the country.

I think our cinema is very rich and diverse. In recent times we have had access to very good films from every corner of the country. Thinking about influence, if there is something that has accompanied me from my youth up until now it is the work of Glauber Rocha. I was very impressed with the experience of his films and tried at all costs to find out more about him, at a time when we barely had the internet. In my school library, I used to get VHS tapes to watch and, although the collection was more of classic foreign films, there was Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964). What struck me was seeing the characters as various social forces, and, of course, the landscape, which was happening in a camera full of tension. The way the music crossed from the popular to the erudite, the choreography of the bodies, the turns, the sertão turning into the sea, I felt I was in front of something essentially Brazilian. With a literature professor, a lover of Brazilian culture and art, I had access to books and magazines about Glauber and Cinema Novo. I also got to know his thinking about the world beyond the particular aesthetics of his films. I think that our influences come from all kinds of experiences, sometimes highlighted by our appreciation of certain arts, but also by certain relationships we have in the ordinary circumstances of life. Even though Das águas does not have a Glauberian montage or a Cinema Novo aesthetic, by studying his work I could discover the ways in which social contents can become tensions in the dramaturgy itself. Through his work I felt an enthusiasm to believe and move forward.

Questions by
Translation by
April 19, 2021
PT /
O escritor/diretor Diego Zon é um dos cineastas de maior destaque trabalhando hoje no estado do Espírito Santo. Zon tem realizado projetos audiovisuais desde 2010, dirigindo os aclamados curtas-metragens O Maestro em Si (2010), A Nona Vítima (2012) e Os Lados da Rua (2012). No entanto, enquanto esses três projetos parecem variar um pouco em tema, estilo e gênero, como se o diretor ainda estivesse explorando o tipo de diretor que queria se tornar, o curta-metragem documental de Zon, Das águas que passam (2016), uma obra de extraordinária beleza e maturidade poética, parece ser um importante marco em sua carreira.

Estreando na seleção oficial de curtas do Festival de Berlim de 2016, Das águas que passam retrata o cotidiano de Zé de Sabino, um pescador que trabalha e vive na deslumbrante vila de Regência, em Linhares. Sob os céus cheios de nuvens, uma câmera com lente grande angular captura Zé em seu pequeno barco enquanto ele pesca pelo Robalo, um dos peixes mais apreciados da região do Espírito Santo.  Zé parece estar completamente integrado com a vasta e imponente natureza que o cerca, seja em terra ou no mar. Das águas que passam é um filme sensorial, o realizador Diego Zon permitiu que a natureza desempenhasse seu próprio papel como personagem ao longo de seu filme.

Logo após a realização de Das águas que passam, a região do Brasil em que o filme retrata tornou-se palco de um dos desastres ecológicos mais significativos da história do país. Uma barragem negligenciada, pertencente a uma das maiores empresas de mineração do mundo, rompeu-se. Assim deixando água contaminada por metais pesados e lama fluir para o rio vizinho, o Rio Doce. Esse fato não pode ser ignorado quando se fala do filme de Zon, pois o mesmo se transformou em um documento histórico vital, que retrata a beleza de uma região à beira de uma crise ecológica.

Nesta entrevista, os funcionários da Cinelimite, William Plotnick e Matheus Pestana, tiveram a oportunidade de falar com Diego Zon sobre sua carreira, a realização de Das águas que passam, sua vida crescendo perto de Linhares, o desastre ecológico, a vida durante a pandemia e os projetos futuros nos quais ele vem trabalhando.
Cinelimite: Das águas que passam (2016) apresenta-se como um filme marcante na sua carreira, um trabalho onde você deixa para trás a sensação estética e o ritmo de seus três curtas anteriores e abraça um estilo cinematográfico mais lento e contemplativo. Vale ressaltar que há quatro anos entre a realização de seu terceiro filme, Os Lados da Rua (2012) e Das águas que passam. Você poderia nos contar o que aconteceu na vida de Diego Zon nesses últimos quatro anos? Como você acabou fazendo um filme sobre um pescador de Regência (uma área próxima de onde você nasceu) e de onde veio a lenta abordagem estética do filme, já que ela difere fortemente dos seus trabalhos anteriores?

Diego Zon: A realização destes filmes foi verdadeiramente como uma escola para mim. Um meio de descobrir o cinema ao se tentar fazer filmes. No começo, sempre tive muito interesse pelas câmeras e pelo processo de montagem de vídeos. Os primeiros curtas que dirigi surgiram através de convites de outras pessoas. O produtor executivo José Carlos Oliveira, que era amigo de Wilson Laerte (o pianista protagonista do filme), me convidou para fazer O Maestro em Si e Jovany Sales Rey, que era o roteirista de A Nona Vítima, me convidou para dirigir o filme. Logo em seguida Os Lados da Rua aconteceu. Essa foi a minha primeira experiência com a escrita de ficção. São trabalhos que marcaram sendo também o começo da maior parte da equipe técnica com a ideia de fazer cinema. Hoje, os vejo como filmes produzidos no frescor de uma juventude que procurava aprender sobre os elementos do cinema e que começava a encontrar na arte uma forma de expressão.

Nesse tempo houve um hiato até Das águas que passam, meu último curta-metragem. Foi um período de encontro e despertar com as ideias que me afetavam. Eu estava interessado pela ideia de pertencimento e de personagens que são vistas, porém pouco notadas. E fiquei com a provocação: “como filmar o pertencimento?”. Nessa altura, a ideia da construção de uma atmosfera do espaço, foi também algo que chamou minha atenção tanto em filmes quanto na literatura. Penso que assim foi acontecendo a forma rítmica do curta, a experiência do espaço que está atrelado ao tempo, ao tempo do lugar e ao tempo da vida daquelas pessoas. Foi aí que tive a motivação de desenvolver um filme sobre a relação de alguém com a água, tendo a figura de um pescador como ligação a este mundo desconhecido. Inicialmente, eu imaginava rodar uma história que se passasse em alto-mar, numa jornada longe da terra, no entanto, essa ideia sucumbiu quando me deparei com a vila de Regência, Zé de Sabino e a foz do Rio Doce.
CL: Você cresceu em Linhares, próximo de onde Das águas que passam foi filmado e depois mudou-se para Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, uma cidade localizada no extremo sul do Espírito Santo. Até que ponto você estava familiarizado com os espaços e áreas retratadas em Das águas que passam ao longo de sua juventude e vida adulta? Foi necessário familiarizar-se de novo com esse espaço, após um longo período de vida e viagens, antes de filmar no local?

A pergunta de vocês é interessante, porque me leva a pensar na relação inconsciente que fui construindo com a vila de Regência, distrito de Linhares, cidade onde nasci e vivi até o início da minha adolescência. Meu primeiro encontro com a vila foi através de um colega de classe, uns três anos mais velho que eu, e que era chamado pelo nome peculiar de “Jatobá”, árvore considerada sagrada pelos povos indígenas e utilizada em momentos de meditação. Recordo que quando se aproximava do fim de semana, o Jatobá sempre dizia que iria para Regência surfar. Isso era muito diferente para nós. Às vezes ele sumia da escola por uns tempos e quando regressava a gente perguntava o que tinha acontecido, “estou em Regência”, dizia ele, dessa forma, com o verbo no presente. Então, aos poucos o lugar foi crescendo em meu imaginário, mesmo que não conseguisse o alcançar fisicamente, pois fica 50km distante do centro da cidade numa estrada de difícil acesso e eu tinha poucas possibilidades de deslocamento. Com o passar dos anos fui conhecendo, pela televisão, a festa do Caboclo Bernardo que a comunidade organiza para homenagear o herói nacional que, no fim do século XIX, salvou centenas de vidas num naufrágio no mar próximo à foz do rio Doce. O ponto alto da celebração é o encontro das bandas de congo e grupos folclóricos do Espírito Santo.

Já o rio Doce sempre esteve presente nos meus primeiros anos. Uma das entradas para Linhares se faz pela ponte que cruza o rio e a sua imagem, largo em imensidão, foi sempre uma contemplação em meus momentos de silêncio. Infelizmente essa imagem foi se transformando ao longo dos anos com o assoreamento do rio Doce, formando bancos de areia onde antes estava cheio de água. Resultado de uma severa degradação pelas ações do homem sofrida em toda a sua extensão. Talvez por uma condição do destino, mudei com meus pais para Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, uma outra cidade com a presença de um rio, nesse caso era o Itapemirim. Na verdade, os rios estão presentes em todas as cidades onde vivi por mais tempo (Linhares, Cachoeiro, Alegre no Espírito Santo e Lisboa, em Portugal). Aos poucos, fui percebendo o rio se manifestando no filme que eu desenvolvia ao longo de 2014, 2015 e acabei deixando de lado a ideia de somente filmar o oceano.
CL: Onde e como você conheceu Zé de Sabino, o pescador em foco no filme, e como foi o processo de convencê-lo e aos demais personagens retratados a participar da produção?
DZ: Durante a pesquisa para o desenvolvimento do argumento, Djanira Bravo (a produtora executiva do filme) e eu fomos até cidades praianas do litoral sul do Espírito Santo em busca de encontrar personagens que tivessem uma certa especialidade com as águas. Estivemos em Presidente Kennedy, Marataízes, Itapemirim, Anchieta, Piúma, mas não estávamos encontrando algo que verdadeiramente nos motivasse a partir do que havíamos idealizado. Descobrimos que a pesca, principalmente em alto-mar, passou a ser uma viagem em barcos maiores, com grupos de 10 ou 15 pessoas, e isso era diferente do estilo de vida diário mais isolado que esperávamos retratar em nosso filme. Na época, eu havia lido Os Trabalhadores do Mar de Victor Hugo e a experiência me deixou mais entusiasmado de tentar conhecer alguém que estivesse diante dos humores e dos mistérios da natureza. Resolvemos prosseguir a pesquisa para a região norte do Espírito Santo. Passamos por outras cidades, mas foi em Regência que realmente encontramos algo especial e eu finalmente estava conhecendo a foz do Rio Doce. Na cidade anterior (Aracruz), uma pessoa já havia nos falado do pescador Zé de Sabino. O próprio diretor de fotografia do filme, Patrick Tristão, que havia morado na vila alguns anos antes, também o havia mencionado.

Então passamos uns dias por lá e conhecemos melhor o Zé de Sabino. Nós nos encontrávamos com ele em diferentes momentos do dia, acompanhamos a pesca, estivemos na orla da praia, almoçamos, íamos ao porto da comunidade, convivemos. Dona Sônia, sua esposa, e Patrick, seu filho caçula, faziam parte do cotidiano na casa ou mesmo na rotina do trabalho. Aos poucos, Zé nos contou a sua história, que é muito bonita. Ele nos contou sobre o tempo que esteve entre a vida e a morte com os tubarões, sobre o naufrágio em alto-mar e sobre sua amizade com os botos. Ele contou do orgulho de ter conseguido pagar todo o estudo dos filhos com o dinheiro da pesca, especialmente o robalo, o peixe mais valioso e difícil de capturar da região. Djanira e eu sentimos uma combinação muito espiritual entre ele e a vila, era uma verdadeira força da natureza. Pude notar que Zé, quando em terra, era um pouco mais ansioso e estava sempre pegando algo pelo chão ou procurando qualquer coisa pelos galhos da vegetação; mas tinha outro estado de espírito quando navegava em seu barco. Era um paradoxo entre um estado de serenidade e relaxamento. Ele, sempre usando seu chapéu, me lembrava as personagens de faroeste, tendo as águas como o seu deserto particular, mas era, sobretudo, por sentir nele uma bravura permeada pela possibilidade de fracassos e decepções (lembro de um texto de Jean-Claude Brisseau dizendo algo semelhante sobre os personagens de John Ford). Naquela altura, o rio estava secando e os peixes já não eram fartos, ainda assim a vida continua.

Resolvemos todos por fazer este filme. Pude apresentar a Zé o que eu pensava quanto a forma do filme, de que apostaria nas imagens e nos intervalos de silêncio e ruído para narrar a sua história, possibilitando a quem assistisse imaginar sobre o que ele não nos contaria por meio da palavra. Confidenciei que seria um desafio transpor para a tela toda a sensação que vivenciamos naqueles dias. Ele aceitou e confiou na equipe, mas acho que só entendeu que aquilo não era um trabalho de loucos depois que assistiu ao filme pela primeira vez.
CL: A natureza dos arredores de Regência quase assume-se como um próprio personagem em Das águas que passam, proporcionando o belo cenário de fundo para muitas das cenas do filme. Mas o ambiente ao redor também determina a vida dos personagens que vivem perto das águas. Você poderia falar sobre o seu processo de pré-produção para esse filme? Como você determinou as melhores áreas para filmar Regência, o momento perfeito do dia em que o céu seria mais colorido e quando essas poderosas tempestades meteorológicas ocorreriam? Quanto das sequências que você acabou filmando chegaram ao corte final do filme?
DZ: Quando filmo, gosto da ideia de deixar ser influenciado pelo entorno e de estar aberto às surpresas e ao próprio fluxo da vida, improvisando uma fluidez do momento. No entanto, acredito também que podemos prever certos caminhos conhecendo a rotina, a cultura da região e a sua paisagem. Depois do período da pesquisa, Djanira e eu voltamos a Regência para a pré-produção. Era início de verão, o ambiente estava bastante solar, repleto de aves, Zé também conseguia ter uma melhor sorte com os peixes. Lembro que mesmo levando uma câmera, eu quase não a usei (a única vez foi para filmar ele e seu rastro na areia sob o voo das gaivotas, sequência que aparece no início do filme); foi uma opção para ir preparando o olhar para quando estivéssemos com toda equipe em produção. Como disse anteriormente, tenho apreço por trabalhar a construção do espaço no cinema e a ambiência daquela região me parecia ideal para convertê-la em matéria estética e narrativa, transformando-a numa espécie de personagem. Zé havia nos dito que depois do verão seria mais complicado de rodar, o vento mudaria, a escassez de peixes seria maior, tanto no rio como em alto-mar. Mas acordamos de rodar em março, no fim da estação. Era porque eu estava à procura das prováveis mudanças de climas e humores na imagem e na paisagem sonora, além das variações do vento e acreditei na gradação da luz - que estaria menos direta nessa época. Penso que foi a conjunção de energias nos levaram a rodar naquela época, tivemos muita sorte com a escolha. Quanto aos peixes, realmente, trata-se de um filme em que os peixes pouco aparecem; sinto que para aquelas pessoas a vida da pesca não é apenas um questão de sobrevivência, parece ser uma escolha existencial, um alimento da alma, então temos a sensação da presença dos peixes a todo o momento, mesmo os vendo pouco.

Acredito que das sequências filmadas, por volta de uns 65% foi para o corte final. Por vezes, na rodagem, acabávamos não filmando tudo a todo instante, também tínhamos momentos de procurar pertencer e habitar a relação deles com a natureza. Houve também sequências em que sentia certa beleza mas que acabaram não entrando. Uma delas foi uma sequência de três ou quatro cenas em que Zé se comunicava com os botos na orla da praia, eles apareciam e mergulhavam, depois Zé se despedia pedindo para que os botos tomassem cuidado porque havia rede por ali - poderiam ficar presos. Gosto muito da sequência, tem uma especificidade, mas não sei… Parecia tornar o filme demasiado lírico como um todo. Às vezes é o próprio filme que dita o corte por mais encantadora que possa ser a sequência.
CL: Você poderia falar sobre como foi trabalhar com o cinegrafista Patrick Tristão para criar as belíssimas imagens do céu e das águas de Regência? As imagens no filme em grande-angular, de Zé de Sabino em seu barco ou quando o céu é exuberante, cheio de nuvens e colorido, sente-se como se saíssem de uma pintura de William Turner. Que tipo de coisas você discutiu com o seu diretor de fotografia para alcançar o visual e a sensação do filme?  Você usou pinturas ou fotografias específicas de outras produções como influência para criar estas imagens de tirar o fôlego? Ou simplesmente abraçou o ambiente em que se encontrava?
DZ: Eu conheci o Patrick no fim da minha adolescência por ele ser amigo do meu irmão mais velho, eles estudaram juntos na faculdade. Nós nos encontramos em algumas fases de nossas vidas e quando eu comecei a ter o desejo por fazer filmes, Patrick já tinha certa experiência como diretor de fotografia. Realizarmos juntos Das águas que passam em colaboração com o restante da equipe foi um acaso muito feliz, já que ele tinha desde cedo uma relação com a natureza (ele pratica há muitos anos surfe e canoagem), o que nos ajudou no entendimento das matérias-primas daquele espaço para possibilitar as suas imagens. Como eu tinha dito, ele tinha morado em Regência por um período, era uma região que lhe era familiar. Fomos construindo uma maneira de trabalhar amparada nas experiências de cada um no que se relaciona ao respeito ao outro e à natureza, por vezes conversando com o olhar enquanto uma cena acontecia na nossa frente. Nossas referências foram então o convívio e a apreciação do próprio ambiente. Em conversas prévias, refletimos a proposta de em algumas cenas preencher a composição, tendo o céu como destaque maior. Sentia que com a compreensão da luz natural, uma característica marcante de Patrick, e a formação de nuvens e cores característica do lugar, poderia trazer uma sensação de movimento mesmo num plano de rigidez. Era uma tentativa de propor uma espécie de relação com o infinito em alguns momentos do filme. No momento de rodar, essas imagens acontecem rapidamente, não há tempo para trabalhá-las, a maturação se faz antes. Era nos prepararmos por algumas horas para situações que imaginávamos que poderiam ocorrer em segundos, por isso ter contado com a sensibilidade dele enquanto fotógrafo foi essencial.
Embora não o pudesse ter previsto, Das águas que passam tornou-se um filme importante para estimular as discussões em torno do desastre ecológico que ocorreu no Rio Doce, uma vez que a barragem pertencente à mineradora multinacional rompeu-se e despejou água contaminada e lama no habitat natural que você retratou em seu filme. É assombroso, porque embora sua produção fosse claramente destinada a mostrar a beleza das águas e do meio ambiente ao redor do Rio Doce, agora serve como um importante documento histórico de como foi essa área antes desse desastre ocorrer.

Nesse sentido, seu filme assume um significado histórico e cultural maior, dada a trajetória histórica da qual ele faz parte. Não podemos deixar de compará-lo com Cabra Marcado Para Morrer (1984), de Eduardo Coutinho, pois as filmagens rodadas por Coutinho só tomaram todo o seu significado, quando se olha para o evento histórico do qual fizeram parte. Você poderia falar da realização de filmes como um exercício estético e cultural que o cineasta pode controlar, mas como as formas em que o contexto histórico das imagens filmadas permanecem fora das mãos do criador? Você vê seu filme de maneira semelhante ao de Coutinho, na medida em que pode agora estimular uma discussão mais ampla sobre o momento vital da história brasileira a que está ligado?

DZ: Acredito que sim, claro, guardadas as devidas proporções com Cabra Marcado Para Morrer, que é um marco do cinema, existe um paralelo se pensarmos esses filmes como documentos históricos dos acontecimentos de suas épocas. Durante a montagem de Das águas que passam eu comecei a ter a sensação de como o filme parecia ser o retrato de um passado, como se aquela história, ou até mesmo o lugar, não coubesse mais no mundo de agora. E a própria natureza do filme, em sua forma contemplativa daquela experiência, parecia-me uma manifestação de qualquer coisa ligada ao sagrado. Já essa sensação de um passado infelizmente se intensificou com o rompimento da barragem e o súbito derramamento de resíduos poluentes ao longo do rio. Acho que o filme, a partir da rotina e vivências de Zé de Sabino, tornou-se uma pequena parcela da representação de tantas outras histórias e identidades construídas ao redor daquela natureza, um registro ainda mais importante de se preservar nestes tempos de apagamento das memórias. São situações que não prevemos, aí percebemos como a produção de arte é essencial; é essa arte que provoca nossos sentimentos, o pensamento crítico, que nos relaciona com o mundo e que também revela o tempo.
CL: Das águas que passam é uma produção de grande beleza visual, mas o filme também não esconde o fato de se tratar essencialmente de pessoas da classe trabalhadora que têm de lutar e arriscar as suas vidas para sobreviver. A crise ecológica de 2015 destacou as formas como as grandes corporações têm um controle total sobre a economia e a vida dessa região do Espírito Santo.

Você poderia abordar os temas subjacentes à classe trabalhadora que seu filme claramente destaca, assim como as formas de desigualdade que afetam a região norte do Espírito Santo e os seus habitantes?

DZ: Entendo como uma característica de todo o Espírito Santo. A presença dessas grandes empresas expõe as relações de trabalho do povo capixaba e também a degradação histórica com o meio ambiente, por vezes gerando pouca contrapartida social e ambiental. Aqui encontramos empreendimentos da extração de mármore e granito, indústrias siderúrgicas, metalúrgicas, moveleiras e de celulose, para esta última ocorrendo um agressivo desmatamento da mata original para a monocultura de eucalipto em larga escala. O desastre ecológico só evidenciou o perfil extrativista dessas empresas que pouco fazem para reparar as profundas mudanças que provocaram na vida das pessoas. O interesse é na produtividade quer do povo quer da localidade e, assim, há formas de trabalho que vão desaparecendo ao longo do tempo. Eu me lembro de algo que Zé me disse quando estávamos em alto-mar, que simboliza um pouco a nossa discussão: “aqui é dormir com um olho aberto, porque grandes navios do estrangeiro aparecem de uma hora pra outra e se a gente não tirar o nosso barquinho da reta, eles passam por cima”.

Na região em que filmamos, a pesca artesanal ainda acontecia muito por um sentido de coletividade entre as pessoas da vila, inclusive tendo ali uma associação de pescadores com produtos do beneficiamento do pescado, ajudando na sustentabilidade da própria comunidade. É onde eu posso ver humanidade e me faz ter interesse em descobrir, aprender e compreender como a vida se faz. Foi essa mesma comunidade que anos atrás resistiu e impediu a construção de resorts em Regência, o mercado queria transformar a vila num paraíso imobiliário. Eles não deixaram. A comunidade não está interessada nesse progresso avassalador, desejam e vivem também do turismo, mas que seja da forma deles.
CL: Você já teve a oportunidade de revisitar Regência desde a realização de seu filme, após a ocorrência do desastre ecológico? Como os personagens cujas vidas você retratou em Das águas que passam foram afetados pela crise? Como a área difere do que você retratou em sua produção?

DZ: Estive na vila por mais duas vezes. Na primeira, fui com Djanira Bravo e Lucas de Lima (que fez o som de Das águas que passam) uma semana depois que a lama com os rejeitos da mineração havia chegado na foz do rio Doce. Foi desolador, a energia do lugar estava transformada. Havia um silêncio entre a comunidade e a natureza do entorno, numa experiência parecida com o processo de luto. Fomos até o porto da vila e nos deparamos com alguns pescadores trabalhando para a empresa de mineração, que naquela altura já se fazia presente por ali. Era uma imagem forte das pessoas da própria comunidade enterrando peixes na orla da praia ou colocando boias sobre as águas do rio como se fosse possível conter o avanço da lama alaranjada. Encontramos com Zé de Sabino que também estava abalado ainda que carregasse uma certa esperança de que a água iria limpar, voltando assim a normalidade. Acho que com o tempo a comunidade foi entendendo a gravidade do acontecido; é difícil ter uma relação afetiva construída por anos ser rompida de uma hora para outra.

Nós tínhamos levado equipamentos e resolvemos fazer uma longa caminhada até o fim da praia para chegarmos no local do cruzamento das águas. Por causa do assoreamento ocorrido meses após a nossa rodagem, a saída do rio estava praticamente fechada, então, naquele momento, encontramos máquinas retroescavadeiras retirando a areia para a lama seguir o fluxo até o encontro do mar. Estávamos no mesmo local do plano inicial (o do movimento de panorâmica) de Das águas que passam. Minha ideia era filmar a mesma panorâmica, saindo do rio e indo até o mar, mas registrando essa triste transformação: a água laranja do rio, o som das máquinas, a ausência de aves e a brutalidade das máquinas alargando a passagem da foz. No entanto, ao tentar filmar notei um foco de sujeira na imagem. Conferimos e não era na lente, era no sensor da câmera, mas como estava ventando bastante era impossível de retirar a lente para tentar qualquer limpeza. Ficamos os três observando aquela cena tão distinta do cenário que habitamos meses atrás. Caminhamos alguns quilômetros regressando à comunidade e acabamos por decidir voltar às nossas casas no sul do Espírito Santo.

Durante a viagem pude perceber que não fizemos nenhuma imagem ou sequer o som das marcas do desastre ambiental. Não sei, acredito nessas energias que nos conduzem e nos impedem, quis o destino que ficássemos somente com a última imagem da vida do rio.     

Em 2016, ainda tocado por toda a experiência do antes e do depois, acabei por escrever o roteiro de Margeado (Submersal), o meu primeiro longa-metragem de ficção, cuja a história se inicia um ano após a contaminação de um rio, em situações parecidas a que conhecemos no rio Doce. Alguns meses antes da pandemia se instaurar, estive novamente em Regência e em Povoação, a vila da outra margem do rio, fazendo pesquisa das locações para o desenvolvimento deste longa. Atualmente, a comunidade ribeirinha tem tentado trabalhar com formas distintas da pesca - que é proibida desde então. Zé de Sabino, por exemplo, trabalha recebendo pesquisadores de universidades e instituições, levando-os em seu barco para mapeamento e análise da biodiversidade das águas. É complicado, não consigo medir a dor dessas pessoas que subitamente tiveram de dizer adeus a um modo de vida.
CL: Das águas que passam é um filme perfeito para se assistir durante a pandemia da COVID-19, pois conduz os espectadores de seus sofás para uma das mais belas áreas do mundo. Enquanto cineasta que procura transportar sua platéia desta forma, como o último ano de introspecção o impactou como artista? Você foi capaz de prosseguir certos projetos em que esteve trabalhando ou a pandemia os paralisou?

DZ: Com o acontecimento da Covid-19, eu procurei respeitar o momento de isolamento e cuidar para que as pessoas de meu convívio e eu passássemos bem por esse período. Talvez seja a forma possível de um cuidar coletivo, cuidando da gente estamos cuidando do outro. Passado o choque inicial, e sem ter habilidade para desassociar a vida do cinema, segui trabalhando com a escrita de novos projetos e desenvolvimento dos já existentes. Pela De Repente o Rio, produtora da qual faço parte, estamos produzindo uma websérie e curtas-metragens de realizadoras e realizadores, esperando por um período mais tranquilo e seguro para iniciar as rodagens destes projetos.

Dos filmes que vou realizar, escrevi um curta-metragem de ficção e trabalhei nos projetos de longa-metragem de ficção, como Margeado, que foi contemplado em 2019 pelo fundo de financiamento da parceria entre o Espírito Santo e o Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual e, no momento, estamos esperando pela liberação do recurso pela Ancine. Margeado é um filme de presença dentro de uma ausência. É sobre como as pessoas encaram certas impermanências daquilo que é mais comum. A falta da rotina, a lembrança de um colo familiar, a modificação da natureza - que reflete sobre nosso estado do presente, com uma tensão entre a tradição e a necessidade de adaptação, uma maneira de pensar o tempo. Me aprofundei também com A planta sob a terra selvagem, projeto selecionado e desenvolvido no “Biennale College Cinema 2019”, um programa do Festival de Cinema de Veneza. A planta é um filme que trata das relações de amor entre pessoas da terceira idade, com as quais passamos por um processo de meditação sobre a vida, a espiritualidade e a mortalidade. De tal maneira a coexistir o ancestral e a experiência da vida contemporânea, a ternura e a complexidade humana. Esse projeto está na etapa de captação de financiamento.
CL: O filme Das águas que passam está sendo exibido no programa da Cinelimite "O Mundo Visto e Sonhado: Uma Coleção de Filmes do Espírito Santo", onde apresentamos uma breve coleção de filmes que traçam uma visão geral da história do cinema no Espírito Santo. Estamos exibindo filmes de cineastas capixabas, como: Ludovico Persici, Ramon Alvarado, Paulo Torre, Luiz Tadeu Teixeira e Orlando Bomfim Netto.Assim como no seu filme, encontramos inúmeros planos de grande-angular ao longo da obra de Orlando Bomfim Netto, que evidenciam a beleza do estado do Capixaba. Logo, estamos nos perguntando até que ponto você foi influenciado pela história do cinema em seu estado, ou se teve você teve a oportunidade de interagir com estes filmes ao longo de sua vida. Em caso negativo, você poderia falar sobre quais foram os filmes e cineastas brasileiros que te influenciaram em geral, ou ‘Das águas que passam’ em específico?

DZ: Infelizmente não tive a oportunidade de conhecer esses filmes no passado, acho que são filmes que o próprio capixaba teve pouco acesso. Somente depois de ter realizado o Das águas que passam que assisti a alguns dos filmes do Orlando Bomfim Netto. Foi através do “Acervo Capixaba”, um importante projeto de preservação do nosso cinema, coordenado por Marcos Valério Guimarães, Vitor Graize e a equipe da Pique-Bandeira Filmes, que cuidaram da restauração e digitalização dos filmes de Orlando. Fiquei maravilhado ao me deparar com a obra dele, com sua montagem inventiva das paisagens e a alma de nossa gente. O inusitado é que, mesmo morando no interior, eu conheci primeiro a pessoa dele antes de seus filmes. Em meados dos anos 2000, o Orlando ministrou, com mais dois instrutores (Carlos Tourinho e Roberto Maciel), uma oficina de documentário em Cachoeiro de Itapemirim. E eu era um dos alunos. Lembro com carinho daqueles dias, éramos por volta de uns 15 alunos e com uma destacada variação de idade, foi um intercâmbio bem bonito de gerações. Pela oficina foi produzido o documentário Batei, Lavadeiras com as antigas lavadeiras do rio Itapemirim, tendo como narração o poema homônimo do escritor e poeta Newton Braga.

Ao pensarmos na importância do projeto de restauração da obra de Orlando, percebemos a necessidade da preservação dos conteúdos audiovisuais de todo o Brasil, como a própria Cinemateca Brasileira, uma instituição de conservação, acervo e difusão do patrimônio audiovisual brasileiro, que se encontra fechada desde agosto de 2020, sem os recursos governamentais necessários, sem qualquer equipe técnica e cuidados básicos aos acervos. A Cinemateca é fundamental para a memória do país.

Acho o nosso cinema muito rico e diverso, nos últimos tempos temos tido acesso a filmes muito bons de cada canto do país. Pensando em influência, se tem algo que me acompanha da juventude até então é a obra de Glauber Rocha. Eu fiquei muito impressionado com a experiência de seus filmes e tentava a todo custo saber mais sobre ele, numa época em que mal tínhamos a internet. Na biblioteca de minha escola eu pegava fitas VHS para assistir e, embora o acervo fosse mais de filmes estrangeiros clássicos, estava lá o Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964). O que me marcou foi ver as personagens sendo diversas forças sociais, e, claro, a paisagem, que acontecia numa câmera cheia de tensões. A maneira como a música atravessava do popular ao erudito, a coreografia dos corpos, os giros, o sertão virando mar, sentia que estava em frente a algo essencialmente brasileiro. Com um professor de literatura, um apaixonado pela cultura e arte brasileira, tive acesso a livros e revistas sobre o Glauber e o Cinema Novo. Fui conhecendo também o seu pensamento de mundo para além da estética particular de seus filmes. Penso que as nossas influências chegam de experiências de todo o tipo, às vezes ressaltada por nossa apreciação com determinadas artes, mas, de igual maneira, por certas relações que vamos tendo nas circunstâncias comuns da vida. Ainda que o Das águas não tenha uma montagem ou uma estética cinemanovista de Glauber, com ele pude descobrir as formas pelas quais os conteúdos sociais podem se tornar tensões na própria dramaturgia. Através de seu trabalho, senti um entusiasmo para acreditar e seguir em frente.

IMAGE BY luiz paulo lima

Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016

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Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016

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Das águas que passam (Running Waters) | 2016

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IMAGE BY luiz paulo lima
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Abolition – A Brief Introduction to the Film
1988 marked the 100th anniversary of the Lei Áurea in Brazil, the legislation that officially emancipated slaves throughout the country. This anniversary sparked conversations about the historical significance of the Lei Áurea, and provoked new criticisms about how far Brazil had come in its treatment of Black people since that historical decree. It was in light of this renewed interest in the Lei Áurea that actor/filmmaker/activist Zózimo Bulbul debuted Abolição (Abolition), his first and only feature film as a director and the product of more than ten years of thorough research. Bulbul intended to use this anniversary as an opportunity to critically reflect on the conditions of Black Brazilians after the emancipation and to demonstrate that the abolition in fact had been a farcical scam. Notwithstanding that there were other films1 produced at that time which covered the Lei Áurea and racism in Brazil, Bulbul’s film explored these topics in a particularly unique way - it was the first Brazilian film shot by a nearly all-Black crew to portray the reflections of Black Brazilians on their own post-abolition condition.

One of the major aspects which made Bulbul’s filmmaking process stand-out from the other works that explored the conditions of Black people in Brazil is the breadth of locations which the film covers. The crew of Abolition traveled with their camera through sites and cities that remain crucial to the development of Afro-Brazilian culture. These included Bahia and Pernambuco (Northeast), Manaus (North), Rio Grande do Sul (Deep South), and São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (Southeast). Another of Abolition’s achievements is the way that Bulbul managed to shed light on a diverse array of situations in which Black people were living. For example, the crew captured interviews with key icons from the Afro-Brazilian community, such as Abdias do Nascimento, Lélia Gonzalez, Carlos Medeiros, Beatriz Nascimento, Grande Otelo, Joel Rufino dos Santos and Benedita da Silva. In the film, these interviews are occasionally shown on-screen sharing perspectives informed by their own Blackness, but in other moments, voices from the interviews materialize as the camera shifts its attention to Black bodies that are, despite being part of our social urban fabric, perpetually rendered invisible throughout our history: workers, the homeless population, the impoverished living in the slums, the street artists and so on.
Why Abolition?
I’ve been involved with the work of recuperating Abolition’s historical materials on a daily basis since I began the graduate studies program in Communications at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro two years ago, and I recently concluded the program with a master’s dissertation on the film. As I began conducting research for my dissertation, I encountered a scarcity of information on Bulbul’s lone feature film. There are only a few academic works that cover the cineaste’s life—all of which barely discuss Abolition—and I had not come across any work that provides it with a thorough analysis. This makes clear that despite receiving awards at Brazilian film festivals, as well as overseas,2 the documentary went on to make only a minor impact on the world of film academia. Noel dos Santos Carvalho, a film teacher and researcher from Universidade de Campinas (UNICAMP), attests to how the film was met with indifference: “With its 150 minute duration, Abolition did not find approval with the audience. Not even among Black people. The conversation around it was limited to a small circle of intellectuals and Black activists”.3 Carvalho’s testimony poses several questions: Why was Abolition seen by so few people? Why was its impact so minimal? What is the film’s legacy among today’s Black researchers?

Aside from investigating these questions, this article will bring together some of the memories and recollections from the Abolition film crew that I gathered while interviewing them for my master’s thesis. These memories and recollections are vital towards gaining an updated understanding of the film today, as it is important to appreciate that Abolition was the universal effort of many forces of Black creativity. In the eyes of researcher Heitor Augusto (2018), investigating the creation of Abolition allows us to comprehend the nuances of a film that was conceived and executed by Black creators during a moment when new ideas, projects, and perspectives, both in Black Brazilian cinema and intellectual thought at large were emerging. The core crew members of Abolition were/are trailblazers in that they executed roles that were unprecedented for Black professionals. However, perhaps even more importantly, they reclaimed the legitimacy of their enunciative position and their right to tell their own stories. From behind the camera (or even because of it) this crew contributed to the theorization and structuring of Black cinema, a field that was practically nonexistent in Brazil at that time.
In conversation with the film crew
On January 28, 2020, on a hot Rio de Janeiro afternoon, I first encountered Vantoen Pereira Jr. Pereira Jr. played a decisive role as a facilitator on Abolition’s production, and he still works to promote the film and fights to preserve its memories. In my conversation with Pereira Jr., he started off by bringing me back to the origin of Abolition, towards the earliest days when Bulbul first began developing the project.

According to Pereira Jr., Abolition began to take shape around 1977 on an immersive trip that he and Bulbul took to Búzios, a city located in Rio de Janeiro’s lake areas. He recounts that Bulbul, who had just returned from a self-imposed exile4, rented a house at Rasa beach and immediately began writing. Bulbul set out to incorporate some of the social, historical, and aesthetic investigations to be found within his previous films Alma no Olho (Soul in the Eye, 1973) and Dia de Alforria (Emancipation Day, 1981). In addition, Bulbul had gathered new ideas and information throughout his journey through Africa, Europe and the United States, and he was eager to incorporate this into a new project. While working in Búzios, Bulbul used a typewriter to register his memories and recollections from this journey.

Then, in 1986, after nearly a decade of research during which he was working towards a final draft of the screenplay, Bulbul put together the crew that would bring Abolition to life. From the very beginning, Bulbul expressed his predilection for having an all-Black crew since he believed that only professionals from the Black community would be able to bring the specific perspectives needed to make the film. However, though the race criteria was important to Bulbul, it was not the determining factor as to who would get hired to work on Abolition. While I will touch on this point further on, I find it imperative to now introduce eight crew members from Aboliton and explain the important role they played in its production. But before delving into these testimonies, I must stress the importance of analyzing Abolition through the point of view of the professionals whose jobs aren’t typically perceived with the same level of prestige enjoyed by screenwriters and directors (both roles personified by Bulbul in the case of Abolition). The conception and the construction of a work of cinema such as Abolition is necessarily based on the input of a collective, and by bringing to light the voices and experiences of the crew members on this predominantly Black film set, we are able to delve deeper into the film, following the tracks left by their accounts and collective memories. We can then begin to comprehend how the need for collectivity, or “aquilombamento”5 stems from the desire to forge a space where people can show each other affection, actively listen to one another, forge new connections, and discover identities.
Deusa Dineris

The first crew member that I would like to highlight was the only Black woman to be a part of the making of Abolition, Deusa Dineris. Dineris was one of the film’s most important contributors and she was invited to join the project in 1986, right before shooting started. At the time, she had been working as an advertising executive for the advertising company Momento Filmes.6 During the film’s funding stage, the producers identified the need to create a co-production in order to compete for a grant from Embrafilme, and therefore Momento Filmes acted as the co-producer. Through this co-production, Dineris got involved with the film; but she explains that her involvement only happened by chance, since she wasn’t working in cinema at that time.

Dineris and Bulbul’s first encounter took place at Momento’s headquarters. She knew very little about Abolition, only that the crew was made of eleven men and one Black woman, Anya Sartor, who was expected to work as the continuity supervisor despite having a previous career in acting. Just before shooting began, Sartor had to withdraw from the project for personal reasons. This left a major gap within the production crew, and there was now the challenge to find another Black woman who could fill in for Sartor. Bulbul believed it was necessary to have a racialized feminine perspective as part of the crew and to the surprise of Dineris, Bulbul and owner of Momento Filmes (Jerônimo César) decided to invite her to fill the position vacated by Sartos. Although Dineris initially showed reluctance in accepting this offer due to her lack of experience in the film industry, in the end, Bulbul managed to convince her to work on the film.
Dineris on the the set
Image From the collection of Deusa Dineris

In our interview, Dineris recollected that being the only Black woman on the crew was not a challenge for her, as she had three prior experiences working for publicity agencies where there were no other racialized women on staff. However, the real challenge for her was accepting a job that she had no previous experience in. By working on the documentary, she likely became the first Black woman to serve as a continuity supervisor on a Brazilian film. The fact that it took so long for a female to fill this role may come as a shock to many. But it is important to keep in mind that it was only in 1984 — 4 years before Abolition — that the first feature length film directed by a Black Brazilian woman hit the theaters. This was Adélia Sampaio’s Amor Maldito (Cursed Love).
In a film industry dominated by white men, the presence of Dineris was of fundamental importance to Abolition. Throughout the interviews I conducted with the film’s eight crew members, each emphasized that the presence of Dineris on the predominantly male film set allowed the film to be less oriented towards the male-gaze. However, during the production of Abolition, there remained the all too common gender-oriented working dynamic that privileged men. Dineris recounts that because the crew was so small, she accumulated new tasks beyond her initial role as the continuity supervisor, becoming actively engaged as assistant director and producer. “While the crew would go to the bar after the shooting, I’d stay indoors working and getting everything ready for the next morning”, she recalls. Such unbalanced divisions of labor reveal that there was still gender stereotyping throughout the making of Abolition.

Despite these obstacles, Dineris reveals that being part of the film had a direct influence on the growth of her own budding racial identity. It is no coincidence that, after working on the documentary, Dineris decided to quit the advertising business and become engaged with the Black struggle, eventually launching an event-production company7 solely dedicated to promoting Black artists.
Deusa Dineris during the shooting of Abolition at the Pelourinho square in Salvador, Bahia
Image From the collection of Deusa Dineris
Dineris has preserved both her personal memories and memorabilia from the period of making Abolition. On the day of our interview, she brought pictures, a book autographed to her by the journalist Edmar Morel (who is featured in the film), and a publicity folder produced for the release of the movie. She passed that folder onto me as a gift, remarking on the importance of sharing it with future generations in order to show the ways in which Brazilian films were advertised during the pre-Internet era.

My conversation with Dineris and the act of investigating her role in the film was one of the most thought-provoking parts of my research, and her narrative is crucial towards understanding what working dynamics were like on the film set of Abolition. A Black cinema — that is, a cinema made by Black creators — must be mindful of intersectionality. In its efforts toward building a nearly all-Black crew, Abolition contributed to larger efforts of inserting Black professionals in the film industry, all the while reproducing gender stereotypes and sexist microaggressions in its division of labor.
Vantoen Pereira Jr.
Vantoen Pereira Jr. and Zózimo Bulbull
Coming from a career in photography, Vantoen Pereira Jr. joined the crew of Abolition with former experiences in the arts. But it was through Bulbul, who was like an uncle and godfather, that he first began to learn about cinema. Since Bulbul never had children, he and Pereira Jr. were able to forge something like a father-son relationship. I would like to stress that this close relationship, as well as Pereira Jr.’s previous experience as a still photographer for well-regarded directors such as Nelson Pereira dos Santos, José Medeiros and Roberto Farias, helped create a familial atmosphere on the set of Abolition.

The official role that Periera Jr. had on Abolition was assistant cinematographer alongside DP Miguel Rio Branco, but his involvement in making the film went beyond that—he witnessed and contributed to early research in Búzios, and he read over Bulbul’s initial screenplay drafts. Bulbul also had a profound influence on Periera Jr., as he was able to develop his photographer’s eye while working on the set of Abolition. Bulbul changed my "understandings around image-making, visual poetics and working practices”, Pereira Jr. said. During our conversation, Pereira Jr. walked me through each step of Abolition’s filmmaking process. He made sure to reiterate that Abolition is a very meaningful film, and insisted that we can glean much more from it than what was initially grasped during the time of its release.According to him, it was a film for the future, to be explored by generations to come.

Pereira Jr. is not merely a source for valuable archival material related to the film (as he has preserved photographs and documents from the film sets), but he also serves as a precious carrier of memories related to Abolition’s production previously known only to him. Of these memories, Pereira Jr. recollects that Bulbul often stressed the “importance of family” throughout the filmmaking process; according to him, Bulbul emphasized this idea because he believed that it was an important force in providing a reconnection and reconstruction for Black families who were torn apart as a result of centuries of slavery. Pereira Jr. also discussed how community building and the power of encounter were key ideas that influenced Bulbul throughout his career, even claiming that one of Bulbul’s intentions with Abolition was to explain why thousands of Black families were separated and decimated since the Lei Áurea.

Pereira Jr. was instrumental to both Abolition and to my research. In our conversations he shared fresh information and diligently helped me contact the rest of the crew. As I look back at those moments when I held my interview with seven of the crew members, sharing the same space for the first time in years, I realize how important it was to have them all together in a friendly environment.
Severino Dadá

Severino Dadá worked as the editor for Bulbul’s second film, the documentary Aniceto do Império em dia de Alforria? (1981). In our conversation, Dadá recalled that he was first to be formally invited by Bulbul—with whom he had been friends since the 1970s—to work on Abolition. The two shared thoughts throughout the entire pre-production process, from providing input on the screenplay to helping Bulbul choose the interviewees. Every member of the crew who worked on Abolition is reverent towards Dadá, who is famous for his encyclopedic knowledge, and recognized for his fundamental contributions to Brazilian cinema. Dadá is one of the most active film editors within the history of Brazilian Cinema, his credits amounting to more than 300 films. His fondness for Bulbul was visible when he spoke about Abolition, as he emotionally recalled the intimate friendship which he had with the filmmaker that contributed to this crucial chapter in Brazilian cinema history.

Before working on Abolition, Dadá had already enjoyed a prolific career as an editor, having worked with prominent Brazilian directors such as NelsonPereira dos Santos and Rogério Sganzerla. A native of Pedra, a small city located in the backcountry of Pernambuco state in the Northeastern Coast of Brazil, Dadá began his career as a radio announcer. However, he soon migrated to cinema once he joined the independent film club circuit. His life-trajectory soon intersected with Brazil’s immediate political history as he was incarcerated and tortured by the military during Brazil’s military dictatorship8. Both Dadá’s background as a native of Pernambuco and his political activism were vital to the ways in which he contributed to Abolition. Also, as one of the few white crew members, his political convictions and perspectives as a nordestino9 offered a fresh perspective to the film.

One of the many stories Dadá told me recounts the day that Bulbul was informed of Embrafilme’s decision to fund Abolition. The director invited the editor to São João Batista Cemetery in Botafogo on the South Side of Rio de Janeiro, in order to deliver an ebó, which is a type of offering that is part of the tradition of various Afro-Brazilian religions. The ebó was being delivered by Bulbul to express his thankfulness for receiving the awarded grant that would make the production of the film possible. As they entered the cemetery, a police car that was circling in the vicinity approached them. One of the officers stepped out the vehicle, and he recognized both Dadá and Bulbul. That officer was Paulo Copacabana, who had worked as an actor in some films, including Roberto Farias’s O Assalto ao Trem Pagador (Assault on the Pay Train, 1962) and J.B. Tanko’s Bom Mesmo é Carnaval (Carnival is Truly Good, 1962). As he questioned them for their reasons of being in front of the cemetery late at night, Dadá and Bulbul explained they were about to execute a thanking ritual. Copacabana then proceeded to put them both inside the police vehicle and drove them to a nearby bar in order to celebrate the film grant; they all sat together—Dadá, Bulbul, Copacabana and another cop, who eventually paid the bill.

Another less humorous anecdote recounted by Dadá involved Pelé, elected in 1980 as the Athlete of the Century by the French paper L’Equipe. As an international superstar and the Black symbol of soccer at the time, Pelé was invited to be interviewed and share his thoughts on racism in sports. Pelé declined the invitation, explaining that he believed racism did not exist in Brazil. Disappointed with his stance, Bulbul and Dadá were forced to look for another figure to be interviewed in the film, someone who had a more critical perspective on racial issues in sports, especially in soccer. They ultimately invited Paulo Cézar Caju, who was known throughout his career as a lone critical voice of racism in soccer. Caju promptly accepted being interviewed for the documentary, where he devoted harsh criticisms towards Pelé due to his lack of engagement in the Black struggle. The response to this was immediate: Pelé’s lawyer contacted Bulbul to communicate the athlete's wishes to have the interview removed from the film, as it tarnished his image. Despite such extreme pressure, Caju’s opinions remained in the final cut.

This situation illuminates the difficulties one faces when trying to begin a conversation about racism in Brazil. What Bulbul encountered with Pelé is a common situation in Brazil: eitherBlack figures refuse to acknowledge structural racism or they give the packaged, standardized answer that, despite the existence of prejudice in society, they themselves were never the target of it. I’m left to wonder how painful it must have been forBulbul to hear from Brazil’s most important athlete that racism is a fiction by which he was never hurt. The episode serves as a clear testament to the obstacles that the film had to overcome in providing a more truthful representation of Black life in Brazil.
Alexandre Tadeu, Edson Alves, and Biza Vianna

Alexandre Tadeu, a film electrician, met Vantoen Pereira Jr. when they worked together on Roberto Farias’s Pra Frente Brasil (1982) and they quickly became friends. Soon thereafter, Tadeu met and became friends with Bulbul, as they both frequently attended the bars and night life of Lapa, a historic neighborhood in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Their favorite place to meet became “Tangará”, a tavern where they would exchange new ideas about cinema. Tadeu recalls that they never directly talked about Abolition during those encounters and that he only became familiar with the project when editor Severino Dadá took Bulbul to the offices of Memento Filmes. As a staff member of Memento Filmes, Tadeu naturally became involved with the production of Abolition, offering the crew support with company rental equipment. Tadeu also remembers that during post-production, he would accompany Dadá and Bulbul in the cutting room, and after a long shift of work they would head to São Salvador square, in Laranjeiras, to discuss all of the editing choices of the day.

Edson Alves, aka “Edinho”, was a professional lighting technician and electrician who had a brief stint working on the set of Abolition for ten days. His work can be prominently seen in the fictional sequences in early half of the film.10 However, despite the fact that Ediho only worked on the set for a short period, his presence was very important to Deusa Dineris, who recounted in our interview that she learned many of the ins and outs of a film set from Edinho. I would like to emphasize this relationship between Edson and Dineris it reflects the importance of aquilombamento on the making of Abolition. It was made evident throughout the interviews I conducted that the sense of shared identity and communion that Abolition’s production offered the crew was a respite from the previous experiences that they had in white-dominated working environments which precluded this form of collectivity.

Bulbul’s widow, Biza Vianna, shared with me that the couple were forced to break the agreement they had made to never work together, especially on film shoots. She joined the project at the last minute because it urgently needed a costume designer for the aforementioned fictional sequence in which Princess Isabel reads the proclamation of emancipation. Vianna had a career working in fashion and theater, so she joined the crew and was responsible for both the costume of the fictional characters and the clothing of the crew members who would eventually be shown on-screen in key sequences. Vianna used Zapatistas Army of National Liberation as an inspiration for dressing the crew as a way to suggest an image of a Latin-American resistance. She considers her role on the film to have been small, but other members of the team such as Pereira Jr. and Flávio Leandro think otherwise, stressing the importance of Vianna as both a professional and Bulbul’s partner, whose legacy she oversees today.
Alexandre Tadeu, Fernando Spencer, Severino Dadá e Zózimo Bulbul, during the film editing
Miguel Rio Branco

Lastly, it is paramount to explore the role of cinematographer Miguel Rio Branco, the only white man on the Abolition shooting crew. Prior to joining the production, his work as a photographer had shown a predilection for popular culture, as can be seen in the series Maciel (1979). Maciel documents the precarious conditions in the oldest areas of Pelourinho, a historic neighborhood in Salvador, Bahia. Years later, Rio Branco directed Nada levarei quando morrer, Aqueles que mim deve cobrarei no inferno  (1985), a key short film in his career.11 By the time he worked on Bulbul’s documentary he already was a nationally and internationally acclaimed artist, especially praised for his photography. In August of 2019 I travelled to Araras, a city on the mountains of Rio de Janeiro, to interview Rio Branco and record his memories from working on Abolition. Rio Branco did not maintain close contact with Bulbul and the rest of the crew after shooting completed, and therefore his thoughts on the final version of the film are enigmatic. According to Biza Vianna, Rio Branco distanced himself from the documentary upon its completion, “never [making] any effort to learn about the film”.

Although Bulbul had wanted to assemble an all-Black crew, he faced challenges when it came to choosing a DP, since, according to Dadá and Flavio Leandro, there were very few Black cinematographers in Brazil. Bulbul believed that Rio Branco’s vast oeuvre12 of photographing Black bodies would provide him with the necessary experience to shoot Abolition. When I brought this up to Rio Branco during our conversation, he disagreed that this was the reason that had led Bulbul to choose him as DP. According to him, “As long as you have the ability to gaze and possess technical knowledge, you can photograph any type of body, black or white”. I believe that this statement deserves further scrutiny.

Rio Branco’s understanding is opposite to that of Eustáquio Neves, another well-regarded Brazilian photographer who has discussed his struggles during the 1980s to find the right camera equipment appropriate for capturing different shades of dark skin. Neves became known for having developed alternative and multidisciplinary techniques to manipulate film negatives and positives to suit this purpose. According to Neves:
Lighting standards weren’t developed having darker skins in mind, but rather to the Caucasians’. It used to be very difficult to photograph a Black woman in a white wedding dress. One ended up having to lighten the skin instead of portraying the color as it was originally. I used to believe that I didn’t know how to photograph, until I realized the issue wasn’t me, but the standards.13
Neves’s statement reveals that it wasn’t just a matter of having a pure ability to take good photographs, since properly photographing Black bodies involved overcoming different technological factors and social norms that were created by the photographic industry and which went unchallenged for many years. As Abolition would be a film that mostly rendered Black bodies, the aesthetic choices behind the film’s cinematography was a matter taken into serious consideration by Bulbul. Not only was Bulbul forced to reckon with the technical limitations of producing an authentic image of Black bodies, but he also had to consider the cinematographer’s subjective gaze. It was therefore necessary to count on a DP who could be sensitive to these issues. Despite his declared indifference to the systemic prejudices of technical cinematography at the time, Rio Branco’s success with Maciel led Bulbul to believe that the photographer could deliver an image similar to what he had in mind. Despite the disparate choice, the partnership between Bulbul and Rio Branco yielded beautiful results, as the film went on to win the Best Cinematography award at the Festival de Brasília. Rio Branco revealed that he was surprised to receive this award, since he believed that the film’s strengths were its research and screenplay, particularly the unprecedented coverage of the emancipation of slavery by Black creators.

There was also a disagreement between Bulbul and Rio Branco over Bulbul’s decision to pre-conceive the form in which the film would take, as this implied that there would be very little room for debate and experimentation in the film's mode of visuality. Of course, this “preconceived form” was in fact a reflection of Bulbul’s clarity of vision for Abolition. The film was the very definition of a passion project for Bulbul, who therefore knew how he wanted the film to look and what form of construction it should take. For a white cinematographer such as Rio Branco who was used to having greater autonomy in the decision-making process on the set of a film, being relegated to the role of an observer felt like a disappointment. The friction between Rio Branco and Bulbul, of which remnants can still be felt today, reveals the social hierarchy of race within working relationships, and how it was and still is difficult for white people to take directions from Black professionals.

In fact, as a white man, Rio Branco was amazed that he was even invited to work on Abolition.14 During our conversation he expressed that: “In the United States they would never cast me as the DP of a film like this, and my presence in it shows that we Brazilians enjoy the possibility of a bigger interracial relationship than other countries”. However, when we look at the history of racial disparities within the Brazilian film industry, they reveal that Brazilian cinema has always been a predominantly white industry. A thorough examination of the Brazilian film industry sponsored in 2017 by GEMAA (Study Group for Affirmative Action)15 revealed a severely segregated landscape throughout the history of Brazilian cinema. GEMAA’s study looked at the highest grossing Brazilian films between 1970 and 2016. Their findings revealed that gender and racial inequality have always been the norm within the Brazilian film industry. The study claims:
Between 1970 and 2016, the highest grossing films (works seen by more than 500 thousand people) were predominantly directed by white men (98%). We couldn’t identify a single director who was a person of color, though we must state that 13% of the titles couldn’t be analyzed due to lack of data. When it comes to gender, we noticed a very low number of women working as directors: only 2%. And none of them were Black.16
When analyzing the screenwriters of those titles, “only 8% were women and the only Black woman we could identify in the sample was Julciléa Telles, who was the co-writer of the sex comedy A Gostosa da Gafieira”.17 Despite the fact that GEMAA’s study only took into consideration feature-length fiction films, I believe the landscape wouldn’t be much different had other modes or formats of filmmaking been considered.

There is one final element related to Bulbul hiring Rio Branco that is important to note. In my conversations with the film crew, they revealed that Bulbul saw this hiring as a strategic decision: by inviting in a member of the Brazilian elite,18 Bulbul was inverting the common social hierarchy in which white men had all of the decision-making power on a film set. When we consider the hiring from this perspective, we see the irony in Bulbul’s choice. It’s surely no accident that Rio Branco is the only crew member that is never featured on-screen throughout the film. This indicates that the self-reflexivity of Abolition was not intended to include the position of its own DP.

In concluding my analyses of the roles that each crew member had on Abolition, I would like to highlight one last component related to the personal dynamics of the crew. Throughout the interviews I conducted, each crew member mentioned the importance of “tavern talk”, an expression of Bulbul’s that was meant to be applied and understood as an ethical value. Cultivating a bohemian lifestyle was seen by Bulbul as an important ritual that one must always engage in, and even include it within work processes. Upon listening to the crew’s memories of working on the film, I soon realized that many decisions that went into the construction of the film were made during encounters at bars and taverns. It is worth noting here that the word “bohemia”, beyond its connotations of pleasure and entertainment, also connotes a social-cultural practice that takes into account lived experiences from different subjectivities. There are political implications to be gleaned when considering that a nearly all-Black crew was circulating and, to a certain extent, occupying areas of Rio de Janeiro, a city that still to this day disguises its hostility towards Black bodies. Congregating within these spaces and sharing discussions among one another certainly played a significant role in the film’s construction and in the way that the crew bonded throughout the filmmaking process.
The Commercial Distribution and Further Legacy of Abolition
Abolition was finished in 1988 after extensive periods of research, production, and post-production. Bulbul’s expectations for the film were high, as he had just completed a work of unprecedented depth that was to be released in the same year that marked the centennial of the Lei Áurea, one of the most important moments for Brazilian Black activism in the 20th century. This was a period of intense conversations and debates around many topics involving racial issues, and the representation of Black people in film and television was among the most discussed. Bulbul’s goal was to make a major contribution to that conversation.

Everyone involved with the film hoped Abolition would spark a meaningful and broad conversation around these issues, and they all hoped that the film would be released in the commercial circuit and screened at various film festivals. One of the reasons that the crew hoped the film would achieve this success is summarized by researcher Noel dos Santos Carvalho, as he claims the documentary “objectively manifests the political stances taken by Black activism since the 1970s”.19 Bulbul believed Abolition would also serve as a counternarrative to other contemporary productions around the centennial celebration of the emancipation. Bulbul made sure to detach himself from any production that he believed posed an opposition to his political values, which, according to Carvalho, led him to refuse taking part in a special production by Rede Globo, Brazil’s biggest communications conglomerate, that would celebrate the anniversary. He claimed, “There were artists and Black activists who pressed me to be there. But I don’t work for free for [Globo’s founder] Roberto Marinho. And besides, I found their show a demagogic piece”.20

Bulbul was completely engaged in securing a commercial run for his film, and his widow Biza Vianna recalls how releasing the documentary became one of the biggest frustrations of his life. Abolition did not resonate with the public nearly to the extent he had hoped for. When I asked the crew and Vianna about why the film was received so poorly, they all referred to a boycott coming from certain players and intelligentsia within Brazil’s film circles, and within Embrafilme, the state-owned company responsible for distributing the documentary.
The topic of Brazilian commercial film distribution was analyzed by researcher Patrícia Selonk, who highlighted the role played by Embrafilme as the main sponsor of our films since the company’s conception in 1969 until its implosion in 1990. According to Selonk, Embrafilme provided a certain level of infrastructure and helped forge a new public interest in Brazilian cinema despite the fact that the market was dominated by foreign studios. However, Embrafilme’s practices were also met with criticism from filmmakers who made the accusation that they prioritized certain films while delaying the commercial release of others:
Júlio Bressane and Rogério Sganzerla were critical of Embrafilme for its close ties with specific producers, such as Luis Carlos Barreto. The company’s chief of distribution, Marco Aurélio Marcondes, would justify his practices on the basis that these filmmakers’ works were underground, therefore wouldn’t be the recipient of a major financial injection by any distributor.21
Although the fundamental role of Embrafilme was to sponsor new works of Brazilian cinema, they often made insufficient efforts to distribute the films that they had funded to make. When analyzing Abolition’s commercial run – or lack thereof – the mindset of those at the head of Embrafilme becomes evident. The crew members I’ve interviewed assert that the documentary was never officially released, and its distribution was limited to screenings at film festivals in 1988, among which were the Festival de Brasília and the Cine Rio Festival.22 During the latter festival, Vianna recollects that the film was not programmed as part of the main section, in which films were projected within an actual film theater. On the contrary, Abolition was only programmed in a sidebar of outdoor screenings. Similarly, the first showing of Abolition was at an outdoor screening in Bulbul’s hometown, the affluent neighborhood of Ipanema. The screening took place at Nossa Senhora da Paz square and was packed with many viewers and guests. One of them, according to Vantoen Pereira Jr., was a young Spike Lee, who was in Brazil promoting his second feature, She’s Gotta Have It.

Edinho Alves and Alexandre Tadeu explain that the film crew ended up taking the task of distributing the documentary into their own hands. They improvised a communications strategy, which included spreading posters around the city and booking screenings outside of Rio de Janeiro. Regardless of their initial success in attracting a large crowd to the film’s premiere, Abolition would go on to barely make an impact on the national film market, never enjoying an official commercial run.

Beyond Embrafilme’s active disengagement from helping to distribute Abolition, another factor that contributed to the film’s poor reception is its duration. The current cut of Abolition is two hours and thirty minutes long, and according to Flávio Leandro, this negatively influenced the audience’s ability to embrace the work. The length of the film proved to become a point of contention between Bulbul and his crew. The first cut was over four hours long, and it required a strenuous effort on the part of the film crew to convince him to acquiesce to a shorter version.

Therefore, without adequate institutional support or the financial means to distribute Abolition independently, the documentary was only shown overseas years after its completion:
Abolition was awarded at Festival de Brasília ’88 and it also won something in Cuba and while I was at a film festival there, I was invited to show the film in New York. I was also awarded there, but in my country not even a line was written on the papers on the film and on the awards. I came back to Brazil profoundly sad with the international recognition the film enjoyed, while here nothing happened, neither with the film, nor with me. I expected to be known, to show the film, I wanted to be out there talking about it, discussing both Brazilian film history and the topics touched by my documentary, but in the end it felt like “shut up, nigger, there’s no racism in Brazil! You’re making these things up!” That brought a great deal of frustration.22
The lack of acknowledgement and financial support for Black filmmakers, even those with proven abilities such as Bulbul, caused the cineaste to take a long hiatus as a director. Only in 2001, when he received a grant from Rio de Janeiro’s state production fund dedicated to short films, did he produce and direct another film, the documentary Pequena África (2001).23 In the same year he also finished Samba no trem (2001).24 Despite not working as a director between 1988 and the early 2000s, Bulbul’s life was filled with remarkable experiences. He would go on to cement his important legacy with the creation of the Centro Afro-Carioca de Cinema (Afro-Carioca Center for Cinema). The frustrations that Bulbul experienced throughout the release of Abolition drove him to take a personal journey that resulted in the idea to create a space where he could show his films as well those of other Black filmmakers.

In 1997, when he had the opportunity to travel to Burkina Faso to participate in the 15th Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou,25 he realized how much his work was recognized and appreciated.
(...) They gave me warm reception. From the airport to the hotel and throughout the duration of the festival, I was respected as a Black Brazilian, as a filmmaker and as a guest. When I saw all those people at the opening ceremony, more than 20 thousand people gathered at a track field, it moved me. The difference between “FESPACO” and other film festivals around the world is that over there regular people from Burkina and the neighboring countries engage with the event, while “Cannes” or even “Festival do Rio” are held to the elite, not to the people. 26
Experiences such as those at FESPACO helped to forge Bulbul’s conviction that a new landscape for Brazilian cinema needed to be established. It wasn’t enough to just make films, there was also an urgency to create a circuit for the screening of Black-directed films. As Abolition’s distribution saga illustrates, Black creators faced a double impediment: even when they were able to overcome the difficulties in completing their films, they still had to fight a distribution and exhibition system that was specifically designed to exclude them from theater screens.
Team photo with Edmar Morel
Final considerations
In conclusion, I wish to share with you my individual trajectory throughout the course of conducting research for my Master’s thesis. I consider myself a member of a generation of Black youth that have been promoting long-silenced conversations and reclaiming the memories of those who have paved the way for us to finally occupy spaces to which we have been historically denied. The very possibility of being able to conduct my research was the result of those who have paved the way before me. In my eyes this is the true legacy of Abolition: providing greater esteem for Black culture, giving it the regard and study it deserves, and scrutinizing history for the purposes of making intellectual contributions to society at large. As an art form, cinema is a tool that has the power to affect, to move and to create new ways of seeing and understanding. To be able to watch and identify myself in a documentary made 32 years ago illustrates how cinema can be timeless.

This change was made possible by the social policies implemented throughout Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s and Dilma Rousseff’s administrations, as they pushed for programs aiming to fight for equal access to education. The implementation of race-based affirmative actions and the establishment of programs such as Universidade Para Todos (PROUNI, University for All,)27 provided an important aid that allowed a younger Black and unprivileged generation to go to college, graduate and find better opportunities within the job market. My own trajectory intersects with these policies: as a recipient of a scholarship from PROUNI, I managed to finish college and subsequently enroll in an advanced studies program. At that program, I was inspired to conduct the research from which this article stems.

It’s also important to highlight the expansion of broadband internet throughout new territories in Brazil, as well as the arrival of cheaper technological devices that enabled the rising of new voices from underprivileged areas of Brazilian society. These voices are now creating radical works of art that continue to push forward the conversations kept alive by Bulbul and others. I would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge that I was only able to start my research on Abolition due to an unofficial, sole hyperlink that is available on a Facebook page devoted to the film (@AbolicaoZozimoBulbul). In the early stages of my research, before I was provided with an official link to the film, that page allowed me to re-watch the documentary multiple times, thus structuring the analysis I’ve developed during my master’s thesis. That same hyperlink, and , and the video available on Limite, makes it possible for Abolition to be seen by a wider range of people.  Bulbul’s accomplishment is a work that must be revisited today so that we can finally acknowledge it as an important and unique historical documentation of our country and a pioneering work of Black cinema throughout the world.

1. For example, Eduardo Coutinho’s documentary Fio da Memória (1988) and Abolição, a miniseries written by Wilson Aguiar Filho for TV Globo.

2. Best Historical Research and Best Cinematography at the 21st Festival de Brasília do Cinema Brasileiro in 1988; Best Documentary at the New York Latino Film Festival in 1989; and Best Poster at the 11th Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, in 1989, Havana, Cuba.

3. Noel dos Santos Carvalho,. “O Produtor e o cineasta Zózimo Bulbul – o inventor do CinemaNegro Brasileiro”. Revista Crioula, São Paulo, n. 12, nov. 2012,p. 18.

4. In 1974, Bulbul attempted to obtain permission from Brazil’s censorship bureau that would allow him to screen his latest film, “Alma no Olho”. However, he was called upon by the military to be interrogated. “They were suspicious about the film and its authorship, so they requested Bulbul to decode the images, since they thought there was some implicit subversive leftist message. After this event, which lasted for days, feeling psychologically pressured by the general political atmosphere, and fearful of the repressive state forces that were then persecuting artists, he traveled to New York intending to remain away from Brazil for a while.” (CARVALHO, 2012, p. 14)

5. The “quilombos” (“maroon communities”) were constituted, according toBeatriz Nascimento, as spaces for resistance, for political organization and for reframing cultural and social values for Black people and their descendants. “Aquilombar”, which in English could be interpreted as “gathering ourselves as a quilombo”, is a political and epistemological notion that hase merged specifically out of the cultural-historical Afro-Brazilian process. SeeAnother Gaze’s discussion of the concept here.

6. Momento Filmes is a production company located at Laranjeiras, a neighborhood at the South Side of Rio de Janeiro. The business operations of Momento Filmes were mostly focused towards advertisements, but they also partnered in the production of several short films and some feature films, particularly from independent filmmakers. Additionally, Momento Filmes rented out film equipment.

7. Among the events produced by her company, Dineris emphasizes a party called “100% afrobrasileiro” (“100% Afro-Brazilian”), which was dedicated to promoting Black artists who weren’t part of the mainstream Rio de Janeiro cultural circuit.

8. Brazil was being ruled under a military dictatorship between 1964 -1985  

9. Besides serving as a geographical marker, “Nordestino” also represents a specific cultural and sociali dentity that relates to characteristics specific to the Northeast side ofBrazil. Abolition documents some of the cultural expressions of the “nordestino” identity, such as the “Teatro de Mamulengo and the “Emboladoresde Recife”.

10. These fictional scenes took place at the house of the Marquess of Santos in São Cristóvão neighborhood, located on the North Side of Rio deJaneiro.

11. This film belongs to the Inhotim Museum’s collection in the state Minas Gerais.

12. Miguel Rio Branco is a photographer who documented areas marked by violence, degradation and neglection by the state. The majority of the population in these areas, due to reasons made explicit by this article, were Black.

13. Velasco, 2016, n.p

14. Rio Branco was with the crew members for the majority of the shooting, but had to withdraw from the film when they were shooting the scenes at the Palace of the Marquess of Santos, due to health complications related to hepatitis that was aggravated by his heavy alcohol consumption during the filming.  

15. The full report can be read at: http://gemaa.iesp.uerj.br/boletins/boletim-gemaa-2-raca-e-genero-no-cinema-brasileiro-1970-2016/ (only in Portuguese)  

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Miguel Rio Branco is the great-grandson of the Baron of Rio Branco and the great-great-grandson of the Viscount of Rio Branco, besides being the son of a diplomat.

19. Noel dos Santos Carvalho,. “O Produtor e o cineasta Zózimo Bulbul – o inventor do Cinema Negro Brasileiro”. Revista Crioula, São Paulo, n. 12, nov. 2012, p. 17.

20. Ibid 19.

21. Selonk, 2004, p. 98

22. The Rio Cine Festival was launched in 1984. After a fusion with the Mostra Banco Nacional de Cinema, it became, in1999, the Festival do Rio, as it’s known today.

23. Bulbul, 2007 apud DE; Vianna, 2014

24. Noeldos Santos Carvalho,. “O Produtor e o cineasta Zózimo Bulbul – o inventor do Cinema Negro Brasileiro”. Revista Crioula, São Paulo, n. 12, nov. 2012, p. 19.

25. The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou is the largest African film festival. It’s a biennial event held at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, where the headquarters are located.

26. Bulbul, 2007 apud, DE; Vianna, 2014

27. Established by the Law nº 11.096, officialized in January 13, 2005, the Programa Universidade Para Todos (PROUNI, University for All) offers scholarships for students who have enrolled in private universities, since in Brazil only the State and Federal universities are tuition-free. The program, which also sponsors students interested in further specialization, is funded through a system of tax-exemption organized by the national government.

AUGUSTO, Heitor. Past,Present and Future: Cinema, Black Cinema and Short Films. In: Catálogo do 20o FestivalInternacional de Curtas de Belo Horizonte, Belo Horizonte, Fundação Clóvis Salgado, 2018. 

CARVALHO, Noel dosSantos. Cinema e representação racial: o cinema negro de Zózimo Bulbul. São Paulo, 2006. Tese (Doutorado) – Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas.Universidade de São Paulo. São Paulo, 2006. 

_____. O Produtor e o cineasta Zózimo Bulbul – o inventor do Cinema Negro Brasileiro. Revista Crioula, São Paulo, n. 12, nov. 2012.  

DE Jefferson e VIANNA, Biza. Zózimo Bulbul: uma alma carioca. Rio de Janeiro: Centro Afro Carioca de Cinema, 2014. 

NASCIMENTO, Beatriz. O conceito de quilombo ea resistência afro-brasileira. In: Nascimento, Elisa Larkin (Org.). Cultura emmovimento: matrizes africanas e ativismo negro no Brasil. São Paulo: Selo Negro,2008. p. 71 -91. 

SELONK, Patrícia. Distribuição Cinematográfica no Brasil e suasRepercussões. Pontifícia Universidade do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, 2004.  

VELASCO, Suzana. Sob a luz tropical: racismo e padrões de cor da indústria fotográfica no Brasil. Revista Zum, São Paulo: Instituto xMoreira Salles (IMS), n. 10, 2016. Disponível em:< https://revistazum.com.br/revista-zum-10/racismo-padroes-industria-brasil/> Acesso em 14/03/2020
  1. Universal Exhibition or the World’s Fair were large events designed to showcase international achievements that were very important in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Terra Encantada was shot during the Independence Centenary International Exposition, held from 1922 to 1923 in Rio de Janeiro.
  2. Chanchada was the term given to the Brazilian popular musical comedies of the 1940s and 1950s by critics of the time. These critics considered these films to be simply bad copies of Hollywood features of the same genre. Atlântida was the most famous, but not the only, studio to produce chanchadas.
  3. I’m referring here to Christensen’s films Rei Pelé (1961), a biopic, and Cronica da Cidade Amada (1964), a widescreen film that can currently only be seen in a horribly cropped digital copy taken from a VHS tape.

In 2007, I worked as a cataloguer at the Cinemateca Brasileira, Brazil's largest film archive.  A major part of the job was analyzing materials that had recently been donated to the archive and it was not uncommon to run into large collections of 16mm films, still kept in Kodak and Ansco film boxes, complete with nicely handwritten notes displaying what they contained. Despite the quantity of home movies that arrived at the archive, prior to this moment I had rarely heard or read about Brazilian home movies and amateur films. After having the opportunity to view some of these films, I quickly became fascinated with them. It was surprising to me that they provided a chance to see life in Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s from a different point of view, meaning not only a glimpse into the lives of amateur filmmakers and their common aesthetics — trembling cameras, faces directly gazing into the camera, jump cuts and discontinuity — but also images of city life that were made from an unofficial perspective. Despite the fact that home movies of this period were produced by bourgeois families, they remain extremely valuable historical documents because they provide us with a closer look at elements that went beyond the middle class home, such as images of  historical events, people enjoying leisure time and living within public spaces. In my young cataloguer’s mind, it was obvious that this topic needed further research.
My first encounter with home movies became the starting point of a long path of research that began with a project that focused on the collection of home movies that are deposited at Cinemateca Brasileira. Working on this collection resulted in my dissertation, "Filmes domésticos, uma abordagem a partir da Cinemateca Brasileira”, the research for which was undertaken at the Federal University of São Carlos. My goal in this project was to build further knowledge about this collection of home movies and to bring more visibility to what was an emerging field in Brazilian film historiography. My research focused on establishing the historical roots underlying the arrival of amateur film equipment in Brazil. Later, my aforementioned path of research led me towards learning about the amateur cinema clubs and festivals throughout the 1920s and 1950s that formed in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. As Brazilian home movies remain a field with numerous research possibilities, I am currently studying one of the most important film festivals of the 1960s, the "Festival de Cinema Amador JB/Mesbla" organized by the Jornal do Brasil newspaper, which screened the first short films of filmmakers such as Rogério Sganzerla, Andrea Tonacci, Neville D'Almeida, and many other important filmmakers, editors, producers, actresses and actors who were amongst its participants.
I begin with this personal note because more than ten years ago, home movies and amateur films were not a common topic of discussion among those working in the fields of audiovisual preservation and academia in Brazil. But since then, many “Home Movie Day” events have been organized in film archives and festivals across the country. As a field of research in Brazil, the history of domestic filmmaking once mainly relied on foreign references, but over the past few decades numerous dissertations and theses have been written about the national history of home movies. In this regard, I wish to highlight the recent publication of the book Cinema doméstico brasileiro (1920-1965) by researcher and professor Thaís Blank, a pioneer work within our field. Blank’s work focuses on a wide-ranging field of research that begins with  examining the historical roots of home movies and its different genres, taking different collections deposited in Brazilian archives as primary sources. The book provides close investigation of films and contains thorough archival research. The author delineates the process of patrimonialization of domestic cinema and the increasing interest held by national and regional archives in preserving an area of film production (home and amateur movies) that allows different perspectives regarding film history and a deeper understanding of local and regional histories.
The last part of Blank's book is dedicated to the migration of raw material in home movies from their original state to their incorporation into documentary films. The archival fever that has overtaken contemporary cinema has also given a new centrality to home movies and amateur films, materials often used in weaving a personal and experimental cinema. Here I mention some Brazilian short and feature films derived from a much more extensive list that prominently utilize or incorporate home movies:
Supermemórias (Danilo Carvalho, 2013), an experimental film using Super 8mm film from the city of Fortaleza that has been screened in numerous film festivals and has received academic attention.
Já Visto, Jamais Visto (Andrea Tonacci, 2013), an intricate montage film made with Andrea Tonacci’s personal archive and "left overs" from his lifelong career in filmmaking.
Extratos (Sinai Sganzerla, 2019), a short-film made with 16mm footage shot by Rogério Sganzerla and Helena Ignez (the director’s parents as well as the major figures of Brazilian underground experimental filmmaking in the late 60s and 70s) during their years in exile, as they escaped the Brazilian dictatorship installed in 1964.
Fartura (Yasmin Thayná, 2019), a collage film with photographs and home videos of  Black families and their affective bonding through the sharing of food and common festivities.
Academic research and contemporary cinema has evidently played a pivotal role in the discovery of home movies as a valuable source for history and artistic creation. What also stands as one of the most important conquests of the field is the launch of LUPA - Laboratório Universitário de Preservação Audiovisual, a university film archive dedicated to film preservation education and collecting amateur films from the State of Rio de Janeiro. Part of the Department of Cinema and Video Studies of UFF - Universidade Federal Fluminense, one of the only films schools in the country with a mandatory course on film preservation integrated in the curriculum, LUPA began operating in 2017. Guided by the energy of coordinator Rafael de Luna Freire, film preservationist and professor of the same department, the initial LUPA project nurtured the desire to create a space where the work of researchers and film preservationists could walk hand in hand, shortening the gap between universities and film archives.
Another one of LUPA’s foremost prerogatives is to contribute to the preservation of those film materials that still receive little attention from film archives: amateur films and the wide array of orphan films from the state of Rio de Janeiro. As the concept indicates, orphan films are those which do not possess a clear status of authorship or legal right holdings. They can also be understood as film materials that don't belong in the traditional cinematic dispositif (a narrative feature screened in a movie theater), as they have different functionalities: educational, scientific, nostalgic, along with the myriad other forms of appreciation the moving image can assume. What I’ve learned from my experience with these kinds of materials is that, rather frequently, people are not aware of the historical research value they hold and are unsure where to take these artifacts when practical help in film conservation is needed. As the only film archive dedicated to this kind of production in Rio de Janeiro, LUPA soon received its first donation: The J. Nunes Collection. The J. Nunes Collection holds nine reels of 9.5mm film shot in the 1930s and 1940s. Digitized at the laboratory of Cinemateca Brasileira, these images are now available on LUPA's website.
The J. Nunes Collection gives us an interesting look at amateur film culture and how the production and consumption of moving images worked in the 1930s and 1940s. During this time period, amateur films were often produced by Pathé and many portrayed quotidian life in the streets. The images within the J. Nunes Collection provide insights into how leisure time was enjoyed by a middle-class family in Rio de Janeiro: bullfights, religious festivities, trips to the country and a day at the beach. Carnaval was definitely the favorite pastime of this particular family. The films dedicated to this national festivity also show different forms of capturing the extremely popular celebration, each one with a particular aesthetics.
Pathé Baby apresenta: O Carnaval de 1936 was most likely made by hired professionals who sold images to Pathé or produced films exclusively in the 9.5mm format. The film is introduced with steady titles (“Pathé Baby presents”) and serves as news coverage of the parades and street festivities taking place on the Avenida Rio Branco. The corsos,1 with people parading in cars (at the time a very important indicator of social status), the "ranchos”2 and the "sociedades carnavalescas"3, which paraded with large, ornamented cars and gentlemen riding horses: all these can be seen in the six minute reel. These professional reels were sold by Pathé, the French giant that served as the main supplier in feeding a demand for cinematic home viewing in Brazil, while also offering film projectors and accessories. Pathé maintained a consumer market the company had inaugurated in 1912 with the 28mm Pathé-KOK system, known as "Cinematographe du Salon", or “cinema in the living room”. In 1913 this French system was already sold in Rio de Janeiro by Companhia Cinematographica Brasileira. In 1922, Pathé launched its most successful system for domestic cinema, the 9.5mm Pathé-Baby, and in September of 1923 the company established the Societé Franco-Bresilienne du Pathé-Baby, a branch for the Brazilian market. Two months later, the company was permitted by Brazilian authorities to start its commercial activities in Rio de Janeiro. Understanding that the history and preservation of film technology and equipment is a crucial aspect of film history, LUPA has acquired and organized a collection of film cameras and equipment, part of which have been made available to different exhibitions.
In O Carnaval de 1936 and Tourada, Festa da Igreja da Penha e Carnaval, images of carnaval are captured by amateur hands, noticeable through the shots in which the camera comes in close proximity to the dressed up “foliões".4 Even though some of the locations in these films are the same as those that were captured in the more professional cinematic productions of Rio, here we find a rarer depiction of these areas, with spontaneous street celebrations, followed by the adults and children of the Nunes family playing and singing while dressed up as Chinese dancers. The beauty and the energy of the crowded streets, the body movements, the joy of a group of children; this spontaneity gives the spectator a very intense feeling of the cultural and existential meaning of carnaval, a feeling of rare translation. Expressions of joy can also be found in the core images of Festa da Penha, a religious celebration in a traditional neighborhood of Zona Norte, and in the scenes of the bathers in Balneário da Urca. The film displays a day spent at the beach and views of the Urca Casino and the Sugar Loaf, both famous sites for tourists. In a different film, Amador J.Nunes saúda todos os amigos e presentes, amateur dexterity can be seen in nicely shot intertitles, as the film begins as a sort of reflexive home movie: a woman holds an amateur 16mm camera and points it directly at the main camera which is shooting.  This reflexive gesture denotes the popular interest in cameras and in the act of filming itself, and we understand from the film that amateurism is about the sheer love of image making and the subjective cinematic experience.
The process of safekeeping these images and making them accessible are gestures of extreme importance towards building the perception that home movies and amateur films are vital materials to be studied and preserved. As a regional film archive, LUPA has amassed different collections in the past few years, including important personal archives such as documentation regarding Carlos Fonseca, film critic and producer with a long career in cultural management at institutions such as Instituto Nacional de Cinema (INC), as well as the materials of many other amateur filmmakers and collectors.  These new collections have been revised and organized by students, and the documentation is made available through LUPA's website even while the cataloguing work is still in process, making LUPA an indispensable space for practice and experimentation with strategies for granting access to archival collections. Decentralizing preservation efforts is an urgent issue in Brazil and LUPA is an example of how we can observe that home movies and amateur films are important sources for local histories. The maturation of what was a new field of study ten years ago is a cause for celebration, as amateur and orphan films solidify their place as one of the central initiatives in contemporary film preservation.

1. A parade of cars, very common in Carnaval celebrations of the first decades of the 20th century.  

2. A group of costumed Carnaval goers playing musical instruments, singing and celebrating in the streets.  

3. Associations dedicated to promoting parades and competitions during Carnaval. Some researchers indicate that they were the inspiration for the Samba schools.

4. Foliões are people who participate in the Carnaval parties.
1. Attraction and Retraction
Usually, we would begin an analysis of black representation in Brazilian cinema by listing a group of films associated with the Cinema Novo movement: Aruanda (Linduarte Noronha, 1960), The Turning Wind (Barravento, Glauber Rocha, 1962), Five Times Favela (Cinco vezes favela, Carlos Diegues, Leon Hirszman, Marcos Farias, Miguel Borges and Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, 1962), Bahia of All Saints (Bahia de todos os santos, Trigueirinho Neto, 1961), The Big Market (A grande feira, Roberto Pires, 1961), Ganga Zumba (Carlos Diegues, 1964). One can disrupt this corpus by offering an expanded view, mentioning two films that do not adhere to the stereotypical, paternalistic or submissive portrayals of black people often found throughout Brazilian cinema. Closer to the filmic language of Cinema Novo, we have Compasso de Espera (Marking Time, Antunes Filho, 1972). Compasso is linked to the movement's second phase where urban themes and the contradictions of the middle class are present in films such as The Dare (O Desafio, Paulo César Saraceni, 1965) and Bebel, Advertisement Girl (Bebel, garota propaganda, Maurice Capovilla, 1968). Soul in the Eye (Alma no Olho, Zózimo Bulbul, 1973), on the other hand, the first film by black filmmaker Zózimo Bulbul (made with leftover film stock from Compasso de Espera), distances itself from the Cinema Novo films, finding its strength in John Coltrane’s jazz and performance elements. Zózimo Bulbul stars in Compasso and directs Soul, so these films form a diptych via an umbilical relationship. Inspired by Eldridge Cleaver’s book Soul on Ice (1968),1 Soul in the Eye is Bulbul’s seminal work. It was made in the context of Cinema Novo but marks itself right from the start with an ambiguous distancing, an oscillation which would accompany the filmmaker throughout his oeuvre, both aesthetically and politically. Consequently, the films of Antunes Filho and Bulbul are simultaneously close and distant from the priorities that the Cinema Novo movement had delineated in the 1960s.
Despite eventual criticism towards black representation in the films of the Cinema Novo movement, Noel dos Santos Carvalho points out that the movement marked an important change of attitude in that respect:
Cinema Novo put black people front and center, away from the stereotypes spread in the past by the chanchadas, the films of the Vera Cruz Company and such. Its anti-racism was based on: 1) condemning racial stereotypes; 2) ignoring the concept of race in favor of the generalistic concept of people; 3) dealing with aspects of black history, religiosity and culture. (...) However, we want to emphasize the change of attitude, the disruption represented by a group of films that took black people away from stereotypical roles and made them the protagonists of their own stories.2
Applying cinema as a tool for thought and anti-racist political practice marks the common ground among Cinema Novo films. However, when considering the form and approach of the films, particularly those associated with black matters, Bulbul’s films appear distant from the Cinema Novo movement. In 1982, amid obscure transactions by Embrafilme,3 Bulbul harshly criticized Carlos Diegues and Walter Lima Jr., and even turned down an offer to work on King Chico (Chico Rei, Walter Lima Jr., 1985), because he considered it “historically abhorrent”, and “mild”, made to be shown “on Globo”.4 He opposed the film’s representation of black people but also the kind of filmic experience it provided, which to Zózimo was innocuous and lacking invention.
The plot thickens. Years later, in the epigraph of his first feature film, Abolition (Abolição, 1988), Bulbul inserts a dedication to two members of the Cinema Novo movement, Glauber Rocha and Leon Hirszman. It was a controversial move because, upon returning to Brazil after a self-imposed exile in Europe,5 it was noticeable how his relationship of attraction-retraction to Cinema Novo remained intact. In fact, today, it seems more accurate to evoke Bulbul as the filmmaker who worked with forms and themes that required an experimental style that no other Cinema Novo filmmaker had the tools to create. This dichotomy offers us a way to determine just how much of an alien Abolition is, be it in relation to Brazilian documentaries, to Cinema Novo or even to Bulbul’s own oeuvre. When considering the relations between cinema, Blackness and racism in Brazil, we identify in Abolition a sort of forcefield which indicates that, rather than integrating or not integrating hegemonic movements, Zózimo chose to follow his own path.
2. Atlantic Cinema
Abolition deals with filmic language within a specific technical and aesthetic dimension by extrapolating its documentary values and proposing a singular experience. Abolition is therefore linked to a group of films that deal with the relationship between documentary and fiction. It is organized in registers, interviews, archive footage and staged scenes in order to expose the opportunistic articulation between the historical lie of the abolition of slavery and the lived reality of black people in contemporary Brazil. Today, more than thirty years after its debut, Abolition seems less like “an expanded Alma no Olho”6 and more like an experience which resonates with these formally exploratory documentary and fiction works. It can accordingly be seen as an “Atlantic” film, i.e., a film made to bring forth a cosmos of free associations. Other examples include films such as The Age of Earth (A Idade da Terra, Glauber Rocha, 1980), Twenty Years Later (Cabra Marcado para Morrer, Eduardo Coutinho, 1984), Ôrí (Raquel Gerber, 1989), and The Thread of Memory (O Fio da Memória, Eduardo Coutinho, 1991). Atlantic Cinema is a cinema of crossing, a cinema pervaded by colonial and racial themes that are at the same time direct and indirect, objective and subjective. Atlantic Cinema contains a myriad of signs in movement through historical ages and facts, with a broad and dilated referential, in an audio-logo-visual polyphony embedded in the film’s form.
The film, with its unique approach, was not well-received by black filmmakers, black researchers or the black public — who, frankly, don’t usually have access to movie theaters. In a later essay on Bulbul, Noel dos Santos Carvalho reinforces the perception that Abolition’s experimentalism could not accomplish its intended effect, as it constituted “an inventory of speeches, performances and lectures regarding the abolition of slavery, which in part accounts for its irregular nature, its repetitions and excesses”. Carvalho also points out that “from the perspective of narrative structure, it’s the most didactic of these films, which adds to its irregular nature” and he adds: “Abolition, with a running time of 150 minutes, couldn't find acceptance from the audience. Not even among the black population. It was restricted to a small circle of intellectuals and activists of the black movement”. In his essay “Esboço para uma História do Negro no Cinema Brasileiro"7 Carvalho calls attention to the fact that the crew of the film was composed almost exclusively of black men and women (the exceptions being Miguel Rio Branco with his experimental cinematography and Severino Dadá with his precise editing), noting that “what we see is mediated by the gaze of this crew. So, it’s not only about telling the history of black people in Brazil, but having a black perspective of history”. In both cases, there seems to be a consensus that the eventual qualities of the film are present on a purely symbolic level, i.e., “out” of the film itself, whether due to the initial effort to try and problematize the abolition of slavery from a black gaze, or due to the representation of the ethnic composition of the crew. Ahead, I will propose some ideas based on the internal structure of the film, to affirm it as a major representation of Atlantic Cinema, the group of films that have formed a singular trajectory in Brazilian film.
3. Material and Treatment
In an interview with Peter Hessli in February 1994, American cinematographer Arthur Jafa makes a distinction between material and treatment. Not being able to choose the material with which to work, African diasporic creativity, self-affirmed by finding new uses, appropriates and deeply transforms the materials at hand: “So a lot of our creativity coalesced around the notion of treatment, that is, transforming in some meaningful fashion, given materials. (...)” Unlike photography and painting, in which the image, as a material product, is the point of arrival, the image produced by cinema is merely a point of departure. The equipment and materials needed to make a film are even more inaccessible to black populations, and so when black people appropriate it, it’s noticeable in very subtle ways. Jafa gives this example: John Coltrane taking My Favorite Things away from its original territory and, with a particular treatment, creating openings which were unthinkable until then, “African-American creativity has been shaped by the specific circumstances Black people found themselves in; we weren’t generally able to dictate the materials we were given to work with”. What makes Abolition extremely exceptional is that, unlike Bulbul’s first film, made with leftover film from Compasso de Espera, unlike the Cuban “archive cinema” of Nicolas Landrián and Santiago Álvarez or even Jafa himself, this film seems to be controlled both ways: in the style of its production and approach, there is a complete ownership of the creation and transformation of the material and the treatment. Said material and this treatment, coupled with the choice of a predominately black crew, indicate conscious aesthetic choices. 
Besides all this, Abolition holds its place in the realm of “Atlantic Cinema” for the cosmic quality it possesses. In the film, a linear narrative and a propagandistic representation of reality give way to a field in which Bulbul articulates interviews, archive recordings and photos. Organized in a non-linear way, the film is an ample space without a center, a work in favor of orality, a trancelike sequence of shots, staged interviews, rhythmic editing and local energy. Abolition cannot be simply reduced to a film that features a black gaze on black history, because history for the diasporic is never an ends but a means, a strategy always aimed at the future, for survival in a tough environment. This strategy has one purpose: to make life in the present possible. This seems to me to be he most potent definition of “ancestry”: the ability to tell one’s own history with enough power to break it apart and retell it, to build a singular historicity. So, this is not about an absent or idealized blackness, nor an integrated and coherent resistance movement which unravels in the light of mistakes and conflict. This is about a black man’s gaze encompassed by a black and non-black cosmos which involves him and with which he negotiates his very existence.
Abolition cannot be simply reduced to a film that features a black gaze on black history, because history for the diasporic is never an ends but a means, a strategy always aimed at the future, for survival in a tough environment. This strategy has one purpose: to make life in the present possible. This seems to me to be he most potent definition of “ancestry”: the ability to tell one’s own history with enough power to break it apart and retell it, to build a singular historicity.
4. “What about May 14th, 1888?”
The opening minutes of Abolition are crucial to understanding the way the film moves and develops. An intertitle with an historical marker exemplifies critical irreverence: May 12th, the day before the signing of the Lei Áurea, the documentation of Brazil’s official abolition of slavery. Further ahead, another intertitle: May 14th, 1888. In a text about the film, Bulbul asks: “how was May 14th, 1888?” Playing around with the dates moves the historical axis from the abolition as key event, in favor of relating its causes and consequences to the brutal, incomprehensible present, far from the grasp of history. Every image in the opening of the film is accompanied by the sound of the shutter cracking like a whip. We hear the voices of Clementina de Jesus, Tia Doca and Geraldo Filme singing "Canto I", from the 1982 album O Canto dos Escravos, part of the repertoire of work songs collected by philologist Aires da Mata Machado Filho in the late 1920s, in São João da Chapada, Diamantina, Minas Gerais. The shutter/whip accentuates each change of image — ultimately amassing a collection of photos and paintings that depict the horrors of slavery — in cuts that sometimes follow the rhythm perfectly and other times in a syncopated manner. The association between the shutter and the whip is meant to be in understood critically, signaling new and unexpected ways to think about racial issues in Brazil.
Finally, a third intertitle indicates: May 13th. “Dia de branco” (“day of the white [person]”), a once-common racist saying that was used to refer to the days of the work week in Brazil. A storm hits the city as the Abolition film crew arrives at the Imperial Palace, in Rio de Janeiro, where the shooting will take place. The key grip, a young black man, sets up a light. The lights are for the behind the scenes, there is no interview or any other reason for them. The film then proceeds to show a Congada8 coming into a church with banners. This elliptical manner of free associations, without explicit reason, is a prevalent structural element of the whole film. The variations in rhythm of editing and the interior lighting in the shot indicates a free conception of film form. All of the interviews in the film suggest a dramatic staging, contrary to the historical staging of the signing of the Lei Áurea. The über-fake feeling of this fictional signing of the Lei Áurea conveys to us that the law that freed the slaves was all an act. The purposefully idiotic intonation of actress Camila Amado, playing Princess Isabel, contrasts with the following scene, a long Carnaval parade in the Sambódromo,9 intercut with hilarious shots of the delirious Princess screaming from the balcony of her palace. From the portrayal of the colonial Princess who believed she was playing a key historical role, to the complex expression of Carnaval one hundred years later, an uncertain feeling stands out - something between beauty, discomfort and irony. In the Carnaval of Rio, Black bodies play instruments, dance, sing and work by pushing allegorical vehicles in the procession.10
The sequence of dedications which come soon after is peculiar: “to the master Glauber Rocha”, to Leon Hirszman and "to black filmmaker Hermínio de Oliveira", followed by a mention of the Movimento Negro Unificado (Unified Black Movement) over the images of carnavalgoers leaving the Sambódromo and heading to the Central do Brasil station. This station is where people usually take the train to the Zona Norte and Zona Oeste neighborhoods, as well as to the municipalities in Baixada Fluminense. At this moment in the film, we spot the great samba composer Catoni among the passerbys. We leave the harmonious sounds and dancing bodies of the Carnaval for the Central do Brasil station, and then move into the trains that take the black carnivalgoers to their homes in the Rio suburbs. Cut to a puppet theater show for children which deals directly with racism. Then, shots of the crowded Rio-Niterói ferry feature a synthesizer-heavy soundtrack reminiscent of Krautrock. Black construction workers and shoeshiners, a dog taking a dump, a woman at work, as we go into her house. A baby, a birth certificate dated 1868, and, then we stumble upon an impressive interview with Mr. Manoel, a former slave who, at 120 years of age, gives the following statement: “today we live in bitterness, we didn’t get paid but we had satisfaction. We were satisfied with the food, everyone was satisfied”.
A tone of subtle irony can be detected when we cut from the interview with the grandson of Princess Isabel, João de Orleans e Bragança, to the crew of black technicians with their equipment in hand leaving the Imperial Palace in a hurry. Then, with a single statement, Maria Beatriz do Nascimento dismantles the official truths of the Royal family by demonstrating how the political pact which culminated in the abolition of slavery threw the lives of the black population into precariousness. The passage from a Monarchy to a Republic:11 “black people stopped obeying their masters and started being controlled by the State”.
Joel Rufino sitting on a curb on the idyllic Pedra do Sal, the original stronghold of Rio’s urban samba. Bulbul and his editor, Severino Dadá, make use of an Eisensteinian montage, intercutting the Rufino interview with shots of waves hitting rocks. The sound design allows the urban soundscape and the musical soundtrack to coexist within the interview. Joel Rufino presents Aunt Carmen as a bastion of the Praça Onze, a location in Rio which at the start of the 20th century was known as Little Africa. Writer and actress Thereza Santos makes the assertion, while standing in a storm, that after the abolition the living conditions of black women grew worse.
Abolition, in effect, sets itself far from Cinema Novo by posing a different set of questions. The film relates to Brazilian history by parodying its sociological rules, and its style is similar to that of Frederick Wiseman’s in its use of cinema to apprehend reality by capturing objective information as well as fragmentary and temporary aspects. Such seemingly random displacements accentuate the polyphony and allow for an ambiguous relationship, either emphasizing Bulbul’s very presence, or sharing a space with the spectator, the crew, and the characters. It is not just about black gaze or Bulbul’s gaze; he captures a reality in the film that extrapolates subjectivity, organizing it by fields of action: modulation, intersections, fragments, rhythm and cutting, symbols, posters and words shown on screen.
5. Atlantic Trance
In Abolition, Bulbul allows for sections of the film to modulate through and from subtle changes in themes, signs and elements. One example of this is the samba and the various forms in which it is presented. There are sections in crossing, marked by intersections of the central issue with other “presences”, fragments and details which make it unstable: Native Brazilians, Northeasterners,12 and even white people, aiming at a tridimensional black gaze, i.e., opening up to a cosmological and sociological assimilation that is broader than what white hegemony allows. There is a fragmented and incomplete field intercut by shining presences. This field is marked by a very peculiar use of talking heads, shaped by the interaction of the camera with the interviewee: the theatrically beat-down presence of Benedita da Silva; Lélia Gonzalez talking and gesticulating in the sunlight. The bishop Dom Hélder Câmara providing a critical analysis of beaches overflowing with white bodies while Jards Macalé sings Rio sem tom, a song he wrote to criticize the fact that Tom Jobim had sold a song to Coca-Cola.13 Perhaps due to the influence of orthodox Marxism, Zózimo noticeably devoted very little time to Afro-Brazilian religions, favoring Dom Hélder’s strange interview. Even so, there is a precious interview with Mãe Filhinha, the founder of the IIê Axé Itayle terreiro14, in Cachoeira, Bahia.
Some critics and researchers have commented that Abolition is repetitive. I think this repetition is a necessary asset in the film’s structure, organized by intertwining themes and treatments. There is a trace of repetition which, like the absence of a narrator, can be understood as an aesthetic choice. And, like in The Age of the Earth, the repetition aims to provoke a state of trance, of hallucination. To repeat in order to hallucinate. Repetition brings forth the Atlantic trance. The consensus regarding Glauberian expression as an allegory begets very particular ways of exploring dynamic stasis, the static progression of the dispute between antagonistic forces, which indicates that, when it comes to Brazilian racism, everything is transformed in order to keep the status quo intact. As a complement to that field, there is the written word, posters, watchwords, and intertitles to rectify and break open the shots.
Some critics and researchers have commented that Abolition is repetitive. I think this repetition is a necessary asset in the film’s structure, organized by intertwining themes and treatments. There is a trace of repetition which, like the absence of a narrator, can be understood as an aesthetic choice. And, like in The Age of the Earth, the repetition aims to provoke a state of trance, of hallucination. To repeat in order to hallucinate. Repetition brings forth the Atlantic trance.
A particularly dark moment in the film is that of the anti-interview with anthropologist Gilberto Freyre, author of the classic study Casa Grande & Senzala.15 Unable to speak due to his poor health condition, Freyre is represented by hisson, who limits himself to repeating platitudes from Freyre’s work regarding the value of the “afroblack” element (his words). The camera moves slowly out of the room, as if to indicate an abandonment, which is reinforced by the underexposed cinematography. Other particularly interesting moments: the presence of communist politician Luís Carlos Prestes just twenty minutes into the film indicates a movement towards the unexpected, as it allows for a white political leader to speak in its first few minutes. Black sociologist and journalist Muniz Sodré walks through the corridors of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (I have to note how weird it is to see black people inside a Brazilian university in 1988). Francisco Lucrécio and Correia Leite tell the story of how the Frente Negra16  was founded in the 1930s. The Revolt of the Lash gets a special mention in the interviews of historian Edmar Morel and of the daughter of João Cândido.17 Two repentistas18 sing about the Abolition and the situation of black people in the history of Brazil.The widow of black poet and cultural agitator Solano Trindade complains that her husband’s memory is being erased. Abdias do Nascimento, a playwright, activist and politician, talks about his experience with the Black Experimental Theater.19 Reminiscent of Kanye West, a current icon who has blamed black people for slavery, singer Agnaldo Timóteo insists that first and foremost black people have to change their mentality. Composer Nei Lopes drinks beer while Paulo Moura plays his saxophone, in contrast with the part of São Paulo which is inhabited by people from the Northeast, cornered between misery and the commodification of life itself. Then, Zózimo exposes the violence of the Military Regime on black bodies. Despite the reflexive tone usually attributed to this film, Abolição doesn’t only express the vision of its author. Simultaneously close and away from Bulbul, a cinema with a collective soul is born, in a panel of diffuse presences, always elusive.
6. The Party is Over
The price paid for being black in Brazil is huge. Zózimo Bulbul’s trajectory in Brazilian cinema is linked to a personal effort to conquer his own ground to work in, and to make it possible for a black filmography to arise. The generosity of Bulbul’s Atlantic aesthetics is contrasted at times by a collective tendency to reinforce militant watchwords and the demand for basic rights. When a black person fails to correspond to what minority groups, society and even his brothers and sistas expect of him, his walk is even harder. Just ask Albert Ayler, John Coltrane or Itamar Assumpção. The list of black men and women who were misunderstood by the black movement because they failed to follow what the community considered appropriate is a long one. These black people are usually unlucky. Bulbul’s name is on that list, and so Abolition might have been a huge disappointment to those who followed his work. Either way, the film bets on collective experimentalism as a way to survive, even though it doesn’t end on an optimistic note.
Amid images of streets filled with trash and the luxury of show houses, Grande Otelo calls on the black “taskforce”: “Nothing was ever abolished and today we have it even worse, because now black and white people are slaves.” Next, black street children impress us with their direct, political discourse: “We are still slaves. No work, no healthcare, no education…” The tragic symbolism is exacerbated. These crescendo signals the end is near, just as the mamulengo doll announces: “And thus, ladies and gentlemen, we end our tragicomedy in various acts, without ever reaching the ending! The abolition of slavery in Brazil. Or, to put it bluntly: black people can go fuck themselves.” An intertitle announces the ending: “the party is over”. The camera is pointed at the Central do Brasil station, then moves slowly down behind the grates of Campo de Santana. The last shot is the Central do Brasil station seen from behind iron bars, materializing, with the camera movement, the mutual imprisonment and the thin dialectics of oppression.

1. Published in Brazil in 1971 under the title Alma no Exílio.

2. Carvalho, 2005

3. Embrafilme is the main producer of Brazilian films since the company’s conception in 1969 until its implosion in 1990. Embrafilme provided a certain level of infrastructure and helped forge a new public interest in Brazilian cinema despite the fact that the market was dominated by foreign studios. However, Embrafilme’s practices were also met with criticism from filmmakers who made the accusation that they prioritized certain films while delaying the commercial release of others.

4. Rede Globo is Brazil’s largest TV network and the largest media conglomerate in Latin America.

5. Carvalho, 2005

6. Ibid.

7. Draft for a History of Black People in Brazilian Cinema, translated freely, 2005.

8. A popular street procession with song and dance that reenacts the coronation of a king in Congo.

9. A large construction in Rio de Janeiro where the samba school parades take place during Carnaval.

10. Tall vehicles designed in accordance with the theme of that year’s parade.

11. The Republic was installed on November 15th, 1889.

12. People from the Northeast of Brazil are historically subjected to prejudice from the richer regions of Brazil. Especially the South and Southeast.

13. The song was Águas de Março, which was used with new lyrics in many Coca-Cola TV spots during the 1980s.

14. Terreiros are the houses in which the Candomblé religion is practiced.

15. Published in English under the title The Masters and the Slaves.

16. Frente Negra Brasileira, or Brazilian Black Front, was the first black political party in Brazil.

17. The Revolt of the Lash (Revolta da Chibata) was a naval mutiny which took place in Rio de Janeiro in November, 1910. It was a response to the frequent whipping of black sailors by white naval officers. The Revolt was led by João Cândido Felisberto.

18. Repente is a kind of improvised poetry typical of the Northeast.

19. Teatro Experimental do Negro was a theater company founded in 1944 and ended in 1961.

CARVALHO, Noel dos Santos. “Esboço para uma história do negro no cinema Brasileiro”. In: De, Jeferson. Dogma feijoada, o cinema negro brasileiro. São Paulo: Imprensa Oficial, 2005.

_____. O Produtor e Cineasta Zózimo Bulbul — O Inventor do Cinema Negro Brasileiro. Revista Crioula (USP), v. 12, p. 1-21, 2012.

DAVID, Marcell Carrasco. Abolição: escavações e memórias sobre o Cinema Negro de Zózimo Bulbul. Dissertação de Mestrado, PUC-Rio, 2020.

JAFA, Arthur. “The Notion of Treatment: Black Aesthetics and Film”. In Pearl Bowser, Jane Gaines and Charles Musser (eds.): Oscar Micheaux and His Circle, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001, pp. 11-17.
Menino da Calça Branca (Boy in the White Pants), Sérgio Ricardo’s first movie,1 is a 1962 short film made while the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement was still consolidating itself. The film tells the story of a boy from a favela who receives white pants as a gift, and proud of this symbol of social status, wears his white pants while walking through the city of Rio de Janeiro. Sérgio Ricardo’s first film reveals his desire to call attention to Brazil’s lower social classes, something that will become a common theme throughout his filmography (as noted by Gustavo Menezes de Andrade in his 2017 dissertation). Looking at his career as a whole, this wasn't the first time that an interest in exploring the lives of the lower classes manifested itself. For example, besides working as an actor, Sérgio Ricardo began his career as a musician and composer. In his song “Zelão”, made one year prior to Menino da Calça Branca, he sings about a favela musician who lost his home to a flood.

Multi-talented, Sérgio Ricardo both directs Menino da Calça Branca and composes its soundtrack, on which he explores the sonorities of Bossa Nova using only his voice, guitar and flute. In this article, we aim to highlight the major themes of this short film about a favela child in the city of Rio de Janeiro, analyzing the way the plot develops alongside the music in the film, while also taking into account the larger context of music in Brazilian cinema at that time.

Menino da Calça Branca
is not the first occasion that a Brazilian film showed images of a favela in Rio de Janeiro. For example, there is the case of a lost 1935 film by Humberto Mauro, Favela dos meus amores. But it was Rio, 40 Graus (Rio 100 Degrees F.) by Nelson Pereira dos Santos which would become an important reference for filmmakers of the 1960s who were looking to film in favelas. This 1955 film portrays the lives of five children from the favela in their daily struggle for survival. Nelson Pereira’s film is considered by many researchers, such as Mariarosaria Fabris (2007), as having been influenced by Italian Neorealism in its compassionately humanist way of looking at the lower classes (holding an “ethical posture”, as Cesare Zavattini recommended). The film is similar to the films of the Neorealists that often have sad endings, where characters have no hope for a better future.2

Rio, 40 Graus contains images made in favelas such as Morro do Cabuçu, and we can even see and hear the samba school Unidos da Cabuçu rehearsing in the favela in the film’s final sequence. It is worth mentioning that Nelson Pereira dos Santos decided to edit Menino da Calça Branca for free because he got excited when he saw Sérgio Ricardo’s initial material. In fact, while Sérgio Ricardo was finishing up edits of Menino da Calça Branca, the Centro Popular de Cultura (CPC)3 put together the collective film project titled (Five Times Favela). This work would be composed of five short films by directors of the emerging Brazilian Cinema Novo movement: Leon Hirzsman’s Pedreira de São Diogo, Cacá Diegues’ Escola de Samba, Alegria de viver, Miguel Borges’ Zé da Cachorra, Marcos Farias’ Um favelado and Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s Couro de gato (Cat Skin).4

Sérgio Ricardo said in an interview that Menino da Calça Branca was considered to be included in Cinco Vezes Favela, but it ended up being denied for its “excessive lyricism”.5 He added in the interview that maybe the film didn't have the didacticism intended by the CPC. It is coincidental that, among the five films chosen for Cinco Vezes Favela, Cat Skin is also a story about favela children. As the themes of Menino da Calça Branca and Cat Skin are similar, this article will compare both films, while taking into account their influential predecessor, Nelson Pereira dos Santos’s Rio, 40 Graus.

To begin, what could this accusation of excessive lyricism be referring to in Ricardo’s film? Like Nelson Pereira and Joaquim Pedro, Sérgio Ricardo filmed on location in a favela (the now extinct Macedo Sobrinho). In the first shot of Menino da Calça Branca we see slum shacks with shabby rooftops, and as the opening titles run, we hear the song “Enquanto a tristeza não vem” (“While the Sadness Doesn't Come”). Then a boy appears (played by Zezinho Gama), playing games such as hopscotch and hide-and-go-seek alone and with his friends. No details of the favela setting are spared, as we can see an open-air sewage ditch that runs through an alley. Menino da Calça Branca does not beautify any aspects of favela life.
Perhaps the most clear example of “lyricism” in Menino da Calça Branca is when Sérgio Ricardo’s favela boy eventually goes to “the asphalt”. “The asphalt” (“o asfalto”) is a term used in popular Portuguese language to connote the city below the hills of the favelas, where the alleys are typically unpaved. Unlike the peanut sellers of Rio, 40 Graus or the boys in Cat Skin,6 when the boy in the white pants leaves the favela, he does not do so to work. Instead, he is allowed a purely playful experience on the asphalt. There, in his white pants, he spiritedly imitates the posture of nearby walking adults, proudly displaying his clean garment while doing so.

Despite taking the utmost care to keep them clean, the pants of the young boy become completely muddy, causing him to burst into tears. While it is a very sad moment in the film, it is not nearly as inexorable and tragic as the instances of death in Rio, 40 Graus or Cat Skin. In the first example, there is the death of one of the boys; in the second, a beautiful white cat is taken to be sacrificed. The films of Nelson Pereira and Joaquim Pedro display a harshness, a cruelty from which the oppressed cannot escape. This, in a way, echoes some of the destinies of characters from Italian neo-realist films: the unemployed man of Bicycle Thieves (1948) who loses his bicycle and becomes too ashamed to become a thief in front of his son, or the retired man of Umberto D. (1952) who relocates his lost dog, but still has no solution for his own financial survival. In comparison to these examples, Sérgio Ricardo’s boy from Menino da Calça Branca is spared any great tragedy, though tragedy does exist around him. For example, at the end of the film, the boy cries because of his muddy pants and a drunken Santa Claus (played by Sérgio Ricardo himself) tries to cheer him up. The drunken Santa Claus has traits of a tragic character: he also begins to cry and the boy cheers him up in return. Spared of greater tragedy, the boy has his soiled pants washed by his mother and he goes back to playing in the favela in his old shorts.

It is only at the very end of Menino da Calça Branca that an encounter with “the real” (in the sense of Zavatinni’s neo-realism) takes place. We see the boy holding a revolver in a close-up shot, and there is some apprehension as to whether or not the weapon is real and loaded. He shoots and another boy shoots back. The image freezes the dual to a standstill and the film ends.
How should we interpret this ending? Are they simply playing the common game of “Cops and Robbers” with toy guns? Are the guns in their hands real, and a tragedy bound to occur? Or is the film suggesting with this game between the children that they both have future careers in crime? If we interpret the final scene as such, Sérgio Ricardo’s film ends up feeling much more pessimistic than of Rio, 40 Graus and Cat Skin. His lyricism is pregnant with tragedy. The verse of Sérgio Ricardo’s opening and closing title song says it all: “[Happiness] plays a little while sadness doesn't come”.

It should be taken into account that Rio’s favelas were still not so violent during the time of the early 60s when Menino da Calça Branca was made. There was not a large presence of organized crime and drugs, as this is something that only began to occur in the late 1970s. The violence that we do see in Menino da Calça Branca is that of social violence, a violence of being excluded from society. But the end of Menino da Calça Branca, like Paul Klee's Angelus Novus, looks at the future and anticipates, even if unintentionally, the loss of a romantic vision of the slums that will take place, a romantic vision that can still be observed in these films and in their public reception.

One could also argue that there is a “whitening” of the favela in Menino da Calça Branca because its three main characters (the boy, his mother and the doll repairman) are not black. Even though almost all of the boy's friends in the film’s opening shots are black, none play a major role in the movie’s story. Far from being reproaches belonging to our contemporary time in 2020, this same criticism was made at the time of the film by Ruy Guerra and others (Andrade 2017). However, it can be argued that this was a problem of other early Cinema Novo films, as the boy protagonist in Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s Cat Skin is white as well.7
Music and Rios Favelas in the Years 1955 - 1962
It is important for us to consider how the music composed for Menino da Calça Branca can be contextualized within the larger panorama of Brazilian music of the time. This is all the more interesting because Sérgio Ricardo had already established a career as a musician before turning to a parallel career in cinema. Sérgio Ricardo composed the Menino da Calça Branca soundtrack in the Bossa Nova style that he had been previously exploring.8 However, on the soundtrack he solely chose to include his vocals, the guitar, and flute, which was something quite unusual for soundtracks of the time. More generally, one would have appealed toward orchestration, even if the musical piece had originally been a popular song.

For example, this is what occurred in Nelson Pereira dos Santos’s Rio, 40 Graus. Although the film used Zé Keti's samba “A Voz do Morro” (“The Voice of the Favela”) as its main theme, it was orchestrated by Radamés Gnattali, an experienced musician in orchestration who mostly worked in radio, moving between high-art and popular music fields. According to a 2001 interview with Guerrini Júnior (2009), Nelson Pereira would have preferred a less grandiose use of music, but the “orchestra” was almost a natural imposition, as it was then considered to be the standard for “film music”. As such, despite the fact that Rio, 40 Graus had to be interrupted several times due to financial problems, a lot of money was spent in the production to record an orchestral soundtrack.

Building the soundtrack for Menino da Calça Branca was much different than that of Rio, 40 Graus. Menino da Calça Branca was financed by the director himself, and he chose the short film format as it generally allowed for more experimentation. As such, Ricardo employs a much more minimal soundtrack, utilizing only voice, guitar, and flute. The role of music remains primordial in the film, its presence felt throughout nearly its entire length. 

In Menino da Calça Branca, music is mostly found in the nondiegetic foreground, and speech is reduced to a minimum. In fact, the only time articulate speech occurs in the film is during the previously mentioned scene when drunken Santa Claus and the boy confide in each other. Even so, the speech is that of a drunken character, and therefore it is hard to make out what is being said. The film soundtrack is basically built around two songs, “Enquanto a tristeza não vem” (“While the Sadness Doesn't Come”) and “Menino da calça branca” (“Boy in the White Pants”). “Enquanto a tristeza não vem” can be heard during the film’s opening titles, sung with guitar accompaniment by Sérgio Ricardo, with some additional flute. It then returns in several different arrangements throughout the film. For example, when the song is first used, there is a confluence between the diegetic and nondiegetic spaces of the film: the character played by Sérgio Ricardo whistles the main tune of the song and, shortly afterward, a humming with guitar and flute follows the melodic line on the soundtrack. This variation of the song is also heard when the drunken Santa Claus leaves the white pants as a present for the boy when visiting his home in the middle of the night.
When the boy opens the package and sees the white pants the next morning, we hear another piece of music, “Menino da calça branca”. This music continues over wide shots of Rio de Janeiro´s landscape and favelas. The song lyrics directly connect with the events of the film. In fact, the lyrics of the two songs serve a narrative function9 as the film has no dialogue.

“Menino da calça branca” can be subsequently heard on the soundtrack in varying arrangements. During these later moments, the melody is hummed,10  the song transforming into one without words. It is as if the impact of the earlier sung lyrics have resonated into feelings we can now evoke by only hearing the melody. 

The great turning point in the film’s narrative is also announced by the soundtrack: the boy, out on “the asphalt”, sees a marching band playing with their brass and percussive instruments to an newly arranged version of the first song of the film, “Enquanto a tristeza não vem”. The music here functions as an announcement that the boy’s perfect experience with his white pants will soon come to an end. Shortly after we hear the music, a soccer ball falls in a mud puddle right before him and the mud splashes all over his pants. The brass band music, whose sound had been suddenly silenced (a common Brechtian distancing effect), suddenly returns to mark the eruption of sadness in the boy.
The song “Menino da calça branca” (accompanied by guitar and flute in a minor tone) is hummed again when the boy, angered at the fate of his soiled white pants, rips out an advertisement for the white pants11 from the newspaper, urinates on the newspaper, and throws the now separated advertisement into the wind. The song “Enquanto a tristeza não vem” is then sung by Sérgio Ricardo to close the film. Taking the lyrics into account, it is possible that the song is being used to emphasize the fact that the boy’s happiness and playfulness is just an interlude for the sadness that is to come.

It is also important to highlight, in addition to the general importance of the two previously discussed songs, the great role of the guitar throughout the film soundtrack. Several transition moments that would be conventionally played by an orchestra are made with a percussive pattern on the guitar in Menino da Calça Branca. This reinforces the role of the instrument within the film music, something completely innovative for a score of this period.

Highlighting further comparisons between the music of Menino da Calça Branca and Rio, 40 Graus, it is interesting that both soundtracks are completely based off of one or two songs.12  In the case of Sergio Ricardo’s film, one of the songs is of course “Menino da Calça Branca” and in Nelson Pereira’s film, the previously mentioned samba by Zé Keti, “A Voz do Morro”. In Rio, 40 Graus, “A Voz do Morro” can be heard in the opening titles and functions as the leitmotif of the five favela boys in the film, as well of the favela itself. In almost all of the instances throughout Rio, 40 Graus wherein which “A Voz do Morro” can be heard, Zé Keti’s samba is played in Radamés Gnatalli’s orchestral variation: without lyrics and as nondiegetic music. However, the last time we hear the song in the film, it becomes part of its diegesis, as the music is played and danced to by members of the favela Samba School. It is as if by the films end the samba has returned to its place of origin.

Although Zé Keti’s samba is almost always transfigured into its symphonic format, it is interesting that the film manages to retain its association with the samba musical genre, an association confirmed in its final dance and music sequence. In contrast to this, in the favela shots of Sérgio Ricardo’s film, a samba is twice sung acapella by a (very low) female voice, and the rest of the music is that of Bossa Nova, a genre that was mostly associated with an intellectual urban middle class and which primarily dealt with bourgeois problems. While Bossa Nova typically catered itself to bourgeois life, Sérgio Ricardo was part of a sector of Bossa Nova musicians that aimed to politicize the genre, and his lyrics contain the very social problems displayed within the film, problems the artist was already discussing in his song “Zelão. As for Nelson Pereira dos Santos, his creative partnership with the samba musician Zé Keti continued into Rio Zona Norte (1957), a film about the “theft” of sambas from their original popular composers by sectors of the middle class.13

The problems of musical authenticity in these favela movies are quite complex, even more so if we take into account that most of the musical incursions we have mentioned, such as those in Menino da Calça Branca, are nondiegetic. To problematize the matter further, we could evoke a very influential film of that period, Marcel Camus’s Orfeu negro (Black Orpheus). This 1959 French production was made with an all-black cast, with children as it’s leading characters, and it was shot in a Rio de Janeiro favela. Its musical soundtrack, performed at times diegetically by the main character Orfeu, was based on the 1954 theater play by Vinícius de Moraes, Orfeu da Conceição. In the film, the music was transcribed in arrangements which were closer to the Bossa Nova genre. In a way, this film influenced an entire tradition of utilizing Bossa Nova music within films which were shot in Rio de Janeiro favelas.

In the case of Cat Skin, the music does not stand out as much as it does in Menino da Calça Branca. The music of Cat Skin remains more subtle despite the fact that, similar to Menino da Calça Branca, Cat Skin is a film that predominantly utilizes music rather than the spoken word. However, voice over is featured very early in Cat Skin, and articulated speech can be found in the diegesis at a latter moment, but only as simple words. Cat Skin also bases its soundtrack off Bossa Nova songs, composer Carlos Lyra playing with the accepted conventions of film music by exploring melodic, harmonic and mainly timbristic variations for the musical incursions of the film. Carlos Lyra and his musical partners Nelson de Lins e Barros and Geraldo Vandré were also a part of the Bossa Nova movement alongside Sérgio Ricardo.

The only song heard with lyrics in Cat Skin is “Quem quiser encontrar o amor” (“Who Wants to Find Love”). The song is played during the scene when we can see part of the famous samba school parade in Rio’s Carnival, and it is as if the song were being sung by the parade members themselves. Even so, there is a basic orchestration to the song as it is not played solely with percussive instruments like what typically occurs during the samba parades. This is also the song that marks the central relationship of the protagonist boy Paulinho with the white cat he steels from the backyard of a rich woman. During the first encounter between this rich woman and the boy at an early part of the film, the rich woman, interested in the boy, calls him over to drink juice prepared by her butler. While this encounter between the woman and boy is taking place, the song “Quem quiser encontrar o amor” is played non-diegetically in an instrumental jazz variation. This is interesting because it had become accepted, at least in Brazilian cinema circles of that time, that jazz music was mainly associated with  the bourgeoisie. The same music, orchestrated differently with more stringed instruments, is what we hear in the film’s moving scenes of the boy becoming close to his white cat, struggling with the difficult decision to sell him for pocket change.

The opening and closing song of Cat Skin is “Depois do Carnaval” (“After Carnival”) by Carlos Lyra and Nelson Lins e Barros. In the film’s opening shots, we can see a view of the city of Rio de Janeiro from the favela which reminds us of the opening shots of Rio, 40 Graus. However, in the beginning of Cat Skin, besides the traditional orchestration, the percussive instruments that can be heard during the music of the opening titles linger after the titles are concluded, becoming diegetically represented by shaking tambourines. Thus, we can detect a stronger relationship on display here with the samba of the favelas. It is also interesting that, if some transitions in Menino da Calça Branca were punctuated by Sérgio Ricardo’s percussive guitar pattern, in Cat Skin, percussive instruments both underscore the boy’s “cat hunt”, and later their own persecution by the people from “the asphalt”.
Final considerations
It is thought provoking that both Menino da Calça Branca and Cat Skin do not have the traditional "from the roots" samba at the base of their soundtracks. But the Bossa Nova in both films was perhaps easier for a foreign audience who would have already been familiar with Marcel Camus’s Black Orpheus. Regardless, this type of music has remained a symbol of Brazilian favelas, and by extension, of Brazilian music. However, even Zé Keti’s samba in Rio, 40 Graus is in orchestral form, it is also so distant from “the roots” of samba. Moreover, we can argue that Zé Keti himself already had a great deal of transit on “the asphalt”, composing his sambas while immersed in other influences. This shows us the difficulty of entering into an ontological discussion about what “real” samba is.

In any case, in all three films the directors show a lyrical and humanist look at the lower social classes and put them at the center of the cultural debate. However, it is especially important to have this discussion with Sérgio Ricardo’s Menino da Calça Branca, as this work is usually forgotten in music-related discussions about films of the time that take place in a favela, just as it was left out of the CPC film back in 1962.

1. The film also marks the debut of Dib Lutfi (Sergio Ricardo’s brother) as a cinematographer. Dib will be an essential figure of the Cinema Novo movement, becoming almost synonymous with the technique of hand-held cinematography, mainly employed in important films of the movement such as Entranced Earth (Glauber Rocha, 1967).

2. Zavattini claimed that the filmmaker should represent the lower classes as if he were looking through a hole in the wall. This was not supposed to have a purely voyeuristic goal; instead it was conceived as a means to be able to see the Other in a sympathetic way.

3. An organization linked to the Communist Party at the time.

4. Cat Skin was produced in 1960 and edited in 1961 in France (where the director had been for a small period) and ended up being added to the collective film, exhibited in 1962.

5. Sérgio Ricardo claims this in an interview with Augusto Buonicori made in March 2014 and published in: https://vermelho.org.br/2020/07/25/entrevista-de-augusto-buonicore-com-sergio-ricardo/

6. The boys in Cat Skin catch cats throughout in the city in order to sell them to the fabrication of tambourines.

7. The opening titles indicate that the boys were all residents of the Cantagalo and Pavãozinho favelas. As for the briefly mentioned racial theme, this deserves to be addressed in a separate article.

8. Making a historical analysis of Bossa Nova within the panorama of Brazilian urban popular music, Marcos Napolitano (1999: 171, our translation from Portuguese) observes that, when Bossa Nova appeared around 1959, its musicians inherited “socially rooted aesthetic and ideological formulations”, which comprised, for example, “the recognition of samba as ‘national’ music, leading many of them to propose to renew musical expression without completely breaking with tradition”. After the consecration of the movement in 1959 - 1960, from 1961 on, sectors of the Left realized the potential of Bossa Nova with a young public of students and began to politicize it. Both Carlos Lyra, composer of Cat Skin, and Sérgio Ricardo were part of the so-called “engaged” sector of Bossa Nova (Napolitano 1999).

9. This narrative aspect of the songs will be used by Glauber Rocha in his film Black God, White Devil (1964), in which the nondiegetic songs played by by Sérgio Ricardo (voice and guitar) function as a Greek choir.

10. We have employed the word “hum” here and throughout the article, although perhaps we should more precisely refer to the jazz technique of “scat singing”, which consists of singing without words or employing syllables without logical meaning and improvising. I would like to thank my colleague Alfredo Werney for the information.

11. It is important to call attention to the fact that the child’s interpretation does not reinforce the “angry” side of the revolt, but rather a certain haughtiness and acceptance of what happened.

12. Among 20 musical incursions in the film as a whole, Cíntia Onofre (2011) identifies 13 from “A Voz do Morro” in many rhythmic and melodic variations.

13. On the other hand, Zé Keti was a musician who transited in various social environments, having been invited, for instance, to participate in the famous show Opinião, in the end of 1964, which brought together both traditional popular musicians and artists of the future Tropicália, such as Maria Bethânia. Part of this show appears in the film O desafio (The Dare, 1965), by Paulo César Saraceni.

14. The songs of the play are quite different from traditional samba, though they cannot be considered Bossa Nova either. In any case, the songs from the movie Black Orpheus, especially "A felicidade" and "Manhã de carnaval", were quite associated with the emergence of Bossa Nova. I would like to thank again my colleague Alfredo Werney for this information.

Andrade, Gustavo Menezes de (2017). As populações marginalizadas nos filmes de Sérgio Ricardo. Dissertation (Undergraduation in Comunication – Audiovisual) – Universidade de Brasília.

Buonicori, Augusto. Interview by Augusto Buonicorewith Sérgio Ricardo. Revista Vermelho. Disponível em https://vermelho.org.br/2020/07/25/entrevista-de-augusto-buonicore-com-sergio-ricardo/Acess: 2 Oct. 2020.

Fabris, Mariarosaria (2007). A questão realista no cinema brasileiro: aportes neo-realistas. In: ALCEU, 8 (15), pp. 82 – 94.

Guerrini Júnior, Irineu (2009). A música no cinema brasileiro: os inovadores anos sessenta. São Paulo: Terceira Margem.

Napolitano, Marcos (1999). Do sarau ao comício: inovação musical no Brasil (1959 – 63). In: REVISTA USP (São Paulo), 41, pp. 168-187.

Onofre, Cíntia Campolino de (2011). Nas trilhas de Radamés: a contribuição musical de Radamés Gnattali para o cinema brasileiro. PhD Dissertation – Universidade Estadual de Campinas, 2011.
O primeiro filme de Sérgio Ricardo, o curta-metragem Menino da calça branca (1962),1 foi realizado quando o grupo do Cinema Novo brasileiro ainda tomava suas rédeas. A partir da história de um menino de favela que recebe uma calça branca de presente e, orgulhoso pelo símbolo de status social, passeia com ela pela cidade, o filme já revela o interesse de Sérgio Ricardo pelos menos favorecidos, algo que permeará toda a sua obra fílmica (como observado por Gustavo Menezes de Andrade em sua monografia de 2017). Mas, se considerarmos a carreira dele como um todo, não era a primeira vez em que esse interesse se manifestava. Além de ter trabalhado como ator, Sérgio Ricardo começou como músico e compositor, e sua música “Zelão, do ano anterior ao filme, tinha como tema um músico, morador de favela, que perde sua casa numa enchente

Colocando seus multi-talentos no seu filme de estreia, a música de Menino da calça branca foi feita também por Sérgio Ricardo, explorando a Bossa Nova com apenas voz, violão e flauta. O que nos propomos a fazer aqui é uma reflexão sobre a temática geral desse curta-metragem (a vida de uma criança de favela da cidade do Rio de Janeiro) e seu desenvolvimento junto à música do filme, considerando como isso tudo se situa dentro do contexto da música no cinema brasileiro da época.

Não era a primeira vez que um filme mostrava imagens de uma favela carioca. Há a referência de Favela de meus amores, filme de 1935 de Humberto Mauro, embora, por ser um filme perdido, não tenhamos como avaliar diretamente suas imagens e sons. Mas uma referência importante da representação da favela para os cineastas dos anos 1960 foi certamente Rio 40 graus, de Nelson Pereira dos Santos, de 1955, filme que retrata o cotidiano de cinco crianças da favela em sua luta pela sobrevivência diária.

O filme de Nelson Pereira foi considerado por vários pesquisadores, como Mariarosaria Fabris (2007), como tendo recebido aportes do Neorrealismo italiano em seu modo humanista de olhar os desfavorecidos (a importância da postura ética, como defendia Cesare Zavattini2), cujas histórias muitas vezes tinham desfechos tristes ou falta de perspectivas. 

Rio, 40 Graus tem imagens feitas em favelas, como no Morro do Cabuçu, e vemos até um ensaio da escola de samba Unidos da Cabuçu na quadra do morro, na sequência final. É digno de nota que Nelson Pereira dos Santos decidiu fazer a montagem de Menino da calça branca sem cobrar nada, ao ficar entusiasmado com o material de Sérgio Ricardo.

Na verdade, na mesma época em que Sérgio Ricardo terminava a montagem de seu curta-metragem o Centro Popular de Cultura (CPC), órgão da época ligado ao Partido Comunista, tinha o projeto de realização de um filme coletivo Cinco vezes Favela. Dele, fizeram parte cinco curtas-metragens de diretores que iriam constituir o chamado Cinema Novo brasileiro: Leon Hirzsman (com Pedreira de São Diogo), Cacá Diegues (Escola de Samba, Alegria de Viver), Miguel Borges (Zé da Cachorra), Marcos Farias (Um favelado) e Joaquim Pedro de Andrade (Couro de gato.)3

Sérgio Ricardo contou em entrevista que seu filme também foi cogitado para compor o coletivo do CPC, mas acabou preterido por “excesso de lirismo”. Acrescentou que talvez o filme não tivesse o didatismo que o CPC pretendesse.4 É curioso que, dentre os cinco filmes escolhidos, Couro de gato também tratasse de crianças e é por isso que faremos considerações sobre ele em comparação com o Menino da calça branca, além de nos referirmos ao importante longa-metragem predecessor de Nelson Pereira dos Santos.

A que corresponderia essa acusação de excesso de lirismo quanto a Menino da calça branca? Assim como Nelson Pereira e Joaquim Pedro, Sérgio Ricardo filmou em locação numa favela (no seu caso, a Macedo Sobrinho, hoje extinta). No primeiro plano do filme, vemos os barracos, com seus tetos mal-ajambrados, e, na entrada dos créditos, passamos a ouvir a canção “Enquanto a tristeza não vem”. A seguir, vemos o protagonista, o menino interpretado por Zezinho Gama, em suas brincadeiras solitárias ou com amigos. Não são poupados detalhes realistas, como a vala de esgoto a céu aberto que corre numa das vielas. Não há maquiagem da favela.

Talvez o maior problema para essa crítica de “lirismo” seja a de que o menino favelado de Sérgio Ricardo, quando se dirige ao asfalto,5 não o faz para trabalhar, diferentemente dos vendedores de amendoim de Rio 40 graus ou, em Couro de gato, dos meninos que caçam gatos na cidade para poder vendê-los na favela para a fabricação dos tamborins das escolas de samba. Ao menino da calça branca é permitida no asfalto uma experiência puramente lúdica, fora do mundo do trabalho, em que, vestido com sua calça branca, imita o andar de adultos, exibindo, orgulhoso, sua peça de vestuário.

Além disso, o fato de, apesar de todos os cuidados, ter sua calça enlameada, embora faça o menino ir às lágrimas, não é algo tão inexorável e trágico quanto a morte presente em Rio, 40 graus e Couro de gato: no primeiro, a morte de um dos meninos; no segundo, do lindo gatinho branco levado ao sacrifício. Há uma dureza, uma crueldade da qual os oprimidos não têm como fugir, nos filmes de Nelson Pereira e Joaquim Pedro, que, de certa forma, ecoa alguns destinos de personagens de filmes neorrealistas italianos: o desempregado que perde sua bicicleta e passa a vergonha de ser considerado ladrão na frente do filho em Ladrões de bicicleta (1948), ou o aposentado que recupera seu cachorro, mas continua sem solução para a sua sobrevivência financeira em Umberto D (1952), ambos de Vittorio de Sica. O menino de Sérgio Ricardo também é poupado de uma maior dimensão trágica, embora ela não esteja ausente. Por exemplo, no final do filme, chorando por causa da calça enlameada, o menino é consolado por um Papai Noel bêbado (interpretado pelo próprio Sérgio Ricardo). Este, por sua vez, com traços de personagem trágico, também chora e é consolado pelo menino. Mas, como o menino é poupado de grandes tragédias no filme, a calça é lavada pela mãe e ele volta a brincar no morro com sua velha bermuda remendada.

É aqui que acontece um encontro com “o real” (no sentido do neorrealismo de Zavattini) no filme de Sérgio Ricardo: vemos o menino segurar um revólver em primeiro plano, o que já nos causa apreensão se seria uma arma de verdade, se estaria carregada. Ele atira e outro menino atira de volta, a imagem congela, o filme acaba. 
O que teria acontecido? Uma brincadeira comum entre meninos de “polícia e ladrão”, uma tragédia naquele momento ou o prenúncio de um futuro no crime? Se olharmos por esse viés, o filme de Ricardo acaba sendo bem mais pessimista que os de Nelson Pereira e Joaquim Pedro. Um lirismo prenhe de trágico. É como diz o verso da canção de Sérgio Ricardo dos créditos do filme e repetida ao final: “Brinca um pouquinho enquanto a tristeza não vem.”

É preciso levar em conta que, na época do filme, início dos anos 1960, as favelas cariocas ainda não eram tão violentas, ainda não tinham concentrado grande parte do crime organizado do tráfico de drogas, algo que começa a ocorrer a partir do fim dos anos 1970. O que havia ali era a violência social contra os excluídos. Mas o final do Menino da calça branca, tal como o Angelus Novus de Paul Klee, olha também para o futuro e antecipa, mesmo que não intencionalmente, a perda de uma visão romantizada das favelas que ainda se nota nesses filmes e em sua recepção pelo público.

Pode-se também argumentar o “branqueamento” da favela do Menino da calça branca, talvez, porque seus três personagens principais, o menino, sua mãe e o reparador de bonecas (o mesmo Papai Noel bêbado) não são negros. Embora, desde os primeiros planos do filme, percebamos que quase todos os amiguinhos do menino protagonista sejam negros, nenhum exerce grande papel na história do filme. Longe de serem reprovações pertencentes apenas ao nosso tempo dos anos 2020, essa mesma crítica foi feita na época por Ruy Guerra e outros (ANDRADE, 2017). No entanto, pode-se argumentar que tampouco é negro o menino que se firma como protagonista em Couro de gato, de Joaquim Pedro de Andrade.6
Música e Favela Carioca nos Anos 1955 - 1962
É importante considerar como Menino da calça branca pode ser posicionado dentro de um panorama maior da música brasileira, ainda mais porque Sérgio Ricardo, antes de se voltar para o cinema com este filme, já tinha uma carreira assentada no meio musical. Sérgio Ricardo compôs a música do filme no estilo da Bossa Nova que então explorava7 e escolhe deixá-la apenas acompanhada por violão e flauta, algo bastante incomum na trilha musical de cinema da época, quando se optava geralmente por se fazer uma orquestração, mesmo quando se tratava de canções populares. 

Por exemplo, é como procedeu Nelson Pereira dos Santos quanto à música de Rio, 40 graus. Embora o diretor tenha usado como tema principal do filme o samba de Zé Keti, “A voz do morro”, ele foi orquestrado por Radamés Gnattali, músico bastante experiente em orquestração por seu trabalho na rádio e acostumado com o trânsito entre erudito e popular. Segundo o que depreendemos de uma entrevista de 2001 de Nelson a Guerrini Júnior (2009), o cineasta teria preferido um uso de música menos grandioso, mas a “orquestra” era quase que uma imposição natural daquilo que se aceitava na época como “música de cinema” e, portanto, mesmo num filme que precisou ser interrompido diversas vezes por problemas financeiros, gastou-se bastante dinheiro para a gravação da música.

No caso do filme de Sérgio Ricardo, sendo financiado pelo próprio diretor e, sendo o curta-metragem em si um formato mais livre e propenso a experimentações, ele recebe essa trilha musical mais “enxuta” de voz, violão e flauta, sem tratamento orquestral. Mesmo assim, o papel da música é primordial no curta. Além de sua presença em quase toda a extensão do filme, em sua maior parte como música extradiegética (não justificada no mundo narrativo) em primeiro plano sonoro, o elemento da fala é reduzido ao mínimo: o único momento de fala articulada é quando o personagem do Papai Noel, bêbado, tenta consolar o menino. Ainda assim, é uma fala pouco clara de um personagem embriagado.

O filme é basicamente construído em torno de duas canções principais, “Enquanto a tristeza não vem” e “Menino da calça branca”. A primeira está na forma cantada (por Sérgio Ricardo), com acompanhamento de violão (do próprio Sérgio) e flauta, nos créditos do filme e voltará em diversos arranjos no filme. Em sua primeira parte, por exemplo, há toda uma confluência entre os espaços diegético (justificado no mundo narrativo do filme) e extradiegético: o personagem do reparador de bonecas assobia o tema da canção e, pouco depois, um cantarolar com violão e flauta segue a linha melódica de maneira extradiegética. O cantarolar extradiegético com violão e flauta é novamente ouvido quando o “Papai Noel”, bêbado, deixa o pacote com a calça branca na casa no menino, no meio da noite.
A partir do momento em que o menino abre o pacote e vê a calça branca na manhã seguinte, escutamos outra música: é a canção “Menino da calça branca”, que ouvimos junto a planos gerais da paisagem do Rio de Janeiro e das favelas. A letra da canção faz menção direta aos acontecimentos do filme. De fato, as palavras das duas canções têm uma função extremamente narrativa8 num filme que abdica de diálogos. 

Da mesma maneira que ocorrera com a canção anterior, “Menino da calça branca” volta em arranjo com sua melodia cantarolada em dois momentos seguintes, numa “canção sem palavras”, como se não precisássemos mais das palavras para recordar os sentimentos evocados pela letra.9  

A grande virada narrativa é anunciada também pela música: o menino vê passar uma banda tocando com seus metais e instrumentos percussivos um arranjo de “Enquanto a tristeza não vem”, um anúncio que o seu idílio com a calça branca terá logo um fim. De fato, pouco depois, uma bola de futebol cai numa poça de lama e mancha toda a sua calça. A banda de música, cujo som havia sido subitamente silenciado (num efeito brechtiano, comum no Cinema Moderno), volta repentinamente para marcar a erupção da tristeza no menino.
A canção “Menino da calça branca” é ouvida novamente em sua forma cantarolada, acompanhada por violão e flauta, e em tonalidade menor, quando o menino, num momento de revolta contra o que lhe aconteceu,10  destaca o anúncio da calça branca do jornal, urina no restante dele e joga o anúncio ao vento, num momento libertador de sua tristeza. A canção “Enquanto a tristeza não vem” fecha o filme na sua forma cantada, enfatizando que as brincadeiras infantis do menino são apenas um interlúdio enquanto a tristeza não vem.

Gostaríamos também de destacar, além da importância das duas canções mencionadas, o grande papel do violão na trilha musical como um todo. Vários momentos de transição, que, em filmes convencionais, especialmente longas-metragens da época, seriam feitos por orquestra, são, em Menino da calça branca, feitos com uma levada percussiva no violão, o que reforça a importância do instrumento dentro da música do filme e a inovação que isso representava como trilha musical.

Relacionando a música de Menino da calça branca com a de Rio 40 graus, é interessante que a do longa-metragem de Nelson Pereira dos Santos, assim como a música do curta de Sérgio Ricardo, tem toda a sua base numa canção,11 o já mencionado samba de Zé Keti, “A voz do morro”. Ele é ouvido já nos créditos do filme e pode ser considerado como leitmotiv tanto dos cinco meninos da favela, quanto da favela em si. 

Em quase todas as incursões musicais, o samba de Zé Keti está na versão orquestral de Radamés Gnatalli e sem a letra, como música extradiegética. No entanto, na última vez, podemos ouvi-lo diegeticamente na quadra do morro. É como se o samba fosse devolvido ao seu lugar de origem ao final do filme.

Embora o samba de Zé Keti esteja quase sempre no filme transfigurado no seu formato sinfônico, é interessante que, ainda assim, temos a associação – confirmada na sequência final –, ao gênero musical do samba, enquanto que, no filme de Sérgio Ricardo, ainda que ouçamos duas vezes um samba cantado a capella por voz feminina diegeticamente (em volume muito menos intenso) em planos da favela, o que predomina é a música de Bossa Nova, gênero que era muito associado a uma música de classe média urbana intelectual, relacionada a problemas burgueses. No entanto, como já mencionado, Sérgio Ricardo fez parte de uma corrente da Bossa Nova que buscou politizar a música e sua letra traz em si os problemas sociais mostrados pelo filme, algo com que o artista já se preocupava em sua canção “Zelão”. Já o diretor Nelson Pereira dos Santos persistiu na parceria com o sambista Zé Keti, num filme que tem o compositor de samba e o roubo de sambas como tema, Rio Zona Norte (1957).12

A questão da autenticidade da música e gêneros musicais em filmes de favela é bastante complexa, ainda mais se levarmos em conta que estão no nível extradiegético, como é o caso da música de Sérgio Ricardo em Menino da calça branca. Poderíamos evocar ainda um filme muito influente da época, realizado numa favela do Rio de Janeiro e com elenco todo negro, tendo crianças também como personagens importantes: Orfeu Negro. É uma produção francesa de 1959, dirigida por Marcel Camus, cuja trilha musical, muitas vezes diegética e executada pelo personagem Orfeu, foi baseada na da peça Orfeu da Conceição de Vinícius de Moraes de 195413 e transcrita para o filme em arranjos mais próximos da Bossa Nova. Ou seja, de certo modo, esse filme influencia uma tradição de se associar música no estilo Bossa Nova a filmes de favelas cariocas.

Quanto a Couro de gato, as músicas estão incluídas de forma mais orgânica com as imagens, no sentido de não se destacarem tanto quanto em Rio 40 graus e, principalmente, em Menino da calça branca. Isso ocorre mesmo que, como no filme de Sérgio Ricardo, a música seja o principal elemento sonoro de Couro de gato (em relação ao elemento falado, a voz over é ouvida de forma bastante econômica no início do filme e há apenas dois momentos de voz articulada na diegese, mesmo assim, apenas na forma de palavras), sendo o filme baseado também em canções da Bossa Nova. Jogando com as convenções aceitas de música no cinema, o compositor Carlos Lyra explora variações melódicas, harmônicas e principalmente timbrísticas para as incursões musicais no filme. Assim como Sérgio Ricardo, Carlos Lyra e seus parceiros nas canções do filme, Nelson de Lins e Barros e Geraldo Vandré, vinham da Bossa Nova.

A única canção ouvida com letra em Couro de gato é “Quem quiser encontrar o amor” (de Carlos Lyra e Geraldo Vandré), em imagens de desfile de escola de samba, como se estivesse sendo cantada diegeticamente por aquele coletivo. Mesmo assim, há uma orquestração de base. Essa é a música que marca toda a relação do menino protagonista Paulinho (nome do intérprete nos créditos) com o gato branco, que ele rouba do quintal de uma mulher rica. A mulher se interessa pelo menino, chama-o para tomar suco e, em todos esses momentos, a canção é ouvida numa variação instrumental jazzística, numa associação convencional já aceita no cinema brasileiro da música de jazz com a burguesia. Essa mesma música, numa orquestração mais vistosa, é a que ouvimos nas cenas mais líricas da relação de amizade do menino com o gato branco, já em sua posse na favela, e sua difícil decisão de ter que vendê-lo para o abate.

Já a canção nas primeiras imagens do filme é “Depois do Carnaval” (de Carlos Lyra e Nelson Lins e Barros), em planos da vista da cidade a partir da favela, que lembram os planos de abertura de Rio 40 graus, sendo também ela a música que fecha o filme. No entanto, nesse início de filme, para além da orquestração tradicional, há a permanência dos instrumentos percussivos que soavam na música dos créditos e que são representados diegeticamente, pouco depois, pelos tamborins, fazendo uma relação maior com o samba das favelas. É interessante também que, se a levada de violão de Sérgio Ricardo pontuava algumas transições em Menino da calça branca, em Couro de gato, a percussão serve como som característico da “caçada” dos meninos aos gatos e, depois, da perseguição das pessoas do asfalto aos meninos.
Considerações Finais
É curioso que tanto Menino da calça branca e Couro de gato não tenham o samba tradicional “de raiz” na base de sua trilha musical, mas sim, a Bossa Nova, que, talvez para um público estrangeiro – e levando em conta todo o sucesso de Orfeu Negro de Marcel Camus –, tenha ficado como símbolo de favela e, por extensão, de música brasileira. No entanto, mesmo o samba de Zé Keti em Rio 40 graus está em formato orquestral, distante também do “samba de raiz”. Além de tudo, é de se argumentar que o próprio sambista Zé Keti tinha um grande trânsito no “asfalto”, fazendo um samba já imerso em outras influências, o que mostra a dificuldade de se entrar numa discussão ontológica sobre o que seria um verdadeiro samba. 

De todo modo, todos os três filmes mostram um olhar cheio de lirismo dos seus diretores para os desfavorecidos, colocando-os no centro do debate cultural. Chamamos a atenção para a importância de considerarmos o filme de Sérgio Ricardo Menino da calça branca na discussão sobre filmes da época passados em favela, já que ele costuma ser esquecido, tal como foi deixado de fora do filme coletivo do CPC.

1. O filme também marca a estreia de Dib Lutfi (irmão de Sérgio Ricardo) como fotógrafo de cinema. Dib será um nome essencial para o Cinema Novo, virando quase que sinônimo de “câmera na mão” em filmes importantes do movimento, como Terra em transe (Glauber Rocha, 1967).

2. Zavattini defendia que o cineasta deveria proceder à representação das classes pobres como se ele pudesse olhar por um buraco na parede. Não se trata aqui de um procedimento com objetivos puramente voyeurísticos, mas sim como um meio para enxergar o Outro de modo compassivo e humano.

3. Couro de gato foi produzido em 1960, montado em 1961 na França (para onde o diretor havia ido para um estágio) e acabou sendo adicionado ao filme coletivo, exibido em 1962.

4. Na entrevista de Sérgio Ricardo a Augusto Buonicori, realizada em março de 2014 e publicada em https://vermelho.org.br/2020/07/25/entrevista-de-augusto-buonicore-com-sergio-ricardo/

5. “O asfalto” é, na linguagem popular, a referência às ruas pavimentadas da cidade, em oposição à favela.

6. Os créditos indicam que os meninos do filme eram moradores dos morros do Cantagalo e do Pavãozinho. O tema racial, aqui brevemente mencionado, mereceria ser tratado em outro artigo.

7. Fazendo uma análise histórica da Bossa Nova dentro do panorama da música popular urbana brasileira, Marcos Napolitano (1999, p.171) observa que, ao surgir por volta de 1959, os artífices da Bossa Nova herdaram “formulações estéticas e ideológicas socialmente enraizadas”, que se traduzia, por exemplo, “no reconhecimento do samba como música ‘nacional’, fazendo com que muitos deles se propusessem a renovar a expressão musical sem romper totalmente com a tradição.” Após a consagração do movimento em 1959 – 1960, a partir de 1961, setores da esquerda perceberam o potencial da Bossa Nova junto ao público estudantil e começaram a politizá-la. Tanto Carlos Lyra, compositor de Couro de gato, quanto Sérgio Ricardo fizeram parte dessa corrente “engajada” da Bossa Nova (NAPOLITANO, 1999).

8. Esse aspecto narrativo das canções será aproveitado por Glauber Rocha em seu filme da mesma época, Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (1964), com canções de voz e violão de Sérgio Ricardo extradiegéticas funcionando como um coro grego.

9. Usamos aqui e ao longo do artigo a palavra “cantarolar”, embora talvez o mais preciso fosse se referir à técnica jazzística do “scat singing”, que consiste em cantar improvisando, sem palavras ou com sílabas sem sentido lógico. Agradeço ao colega Alfredo Werney pela informação.

10. Chamamos a atenção de que a interpretação da criança não reforça o lado “raivoso” da revolta, mas sim uma certa altivez e aceitação do ocorrido.

11. Cíntia Onofre (2011) contabiliza, entre 20 incursões musicais do filme como um todo, 13 são da “Voz do morro” em diversas variações rítmicas e melódicas.

12. Por outro lado, Zé Keti era um músico que transitava em diversos meios, tendo sido convidado a participar do famoso show Opinião, no final de 1964, que reuniu tanto músicos populares mais tradicionais quanto artistas da futura Tropicália, como Maria Bethânia. Parte deste show aparece no filme O desafio (1965), de Paulo César Saraceni.

13. Já havia nela canções bem diferentes do samba tradicional, embora tampouco sejam consideradas Bossa Nova. De todo modo, as canções do filme Orfeu Negro, principalmente “A felicidade” e “Manhã de carnaval”, foram bastante associadas ao surgimento da Bossa. Agradeço todas essas informações ao colega Alfredo Werney.

Andrade, Gustavo Menezes de (2017). As populações marginalizadas nos filmes de Sérgio Ricardo. Dissertation (Undergraduation in Comunication – Audiovisual) – Universidade de Brasília.

Buonicori, Augusto. Interview by Augusto Buonicorewith Sérgio Ricardo. Revista Vermelho. Disponível em https://vermelho.org.br/2020/07/25/entrevista-de-augusto-buonicore-com-sergio-ricardo/Acess: 2 Oct. 2020.

Fabris, Mariarosaria (2007). A questão realista no cinema brasileiro: aportes neo-realistas. In: ALCEU, 8 (15), pp. 82 – 94.

Guerrini Júnior, Irineu (2009). A música no cinema brasileiro: os inovadores anos sessenta. São Paulo: Terceira Margem.

Napolitano, Marcos (1999). Do sarau ao comício: inovação musical no Brasil (1959 – 63). In: REVISTA USP (São Paulo), 41, pp. 168-187.

Onofre, Cíntia Campolino de (2011). Nas trilhas de Radamés: a contribuição musical de Radamés Gnattali para o cinema brasileiro. PhD Dissertation – Universidade Estadual de Campinas, 2011.
Introducing Menino da calça branca and Esse mundo é meu 
Sérgio Ricardo’s debut short film Menino da calça branca (1962) and his first feature-length film Esse mundo é meu (1964) can together be thought of as sensorial film experiences1 for their unusual combination of elaborate soundtracks and experimental cinematography. Despite their striking audiovisual configuration, the two films remain underseen and under evaluated. Looking back at them with recurrent questions about how to disarticulate inequality and discrimination in audiovisual form brings forth suggestive material. 

Bossa Nova and Cinema Novo composer, singer, actor, and film director Sérgio Ricardo (whose actual name was João Lutfi) wrote and directed Menino da calça branca and Esse mundo é meu. Truly a multifaceted artist, he composed the music for both films and acted in them as well. The films were shot on location in neighboring favelas; the short in Macedo Sobrinho, and the feature in Catacumba. These favelas used to be in proximity to Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and Humaitá, areas in the affluent neighborhoods of Southern Rio de Janeiro. In the late 1960s, only a few years after the films were shot, both communities were transferred to faraway places with weak infrastructure as part of a government “cleansing” urban policy. Today, the two films offer rare visual documentation of a time when the neighborhood had more diverse populations.

Sérgio Ricardo collaborated on these films with his younger brother, the cinematographer Dib Lutfi.2 At the time, Lutfi worked as a cameraman for TV Rio. He became well known in Brazil and abroad for his technical and creative ability with handheld 35mm film cameras. Lutfi started as an amateur photographer, and then worked with the heavy studio television cameras of the time, which stood on large rolling tripod-carts. After working with this heavy equipment, Lutfi would leave behind the studio work to experiment with lighter equipment that allowed him to create unexpectedly beautiful 35 mm handheld camera movements, such as the ones that can be seen in Esse mundo é meu.3

The way that sound and music interplay in Menino da calça branca and Esse mundo é meu makes them stand out from other works of their period. Indeed, a common element between Menino da calça branca and Esse mundo é meu is the sparse dialogue throughout both films. Another notable element in the sound design of Menino da calça branca and Esse mundo é meu is their use of music not as background sound, but as narrative commentary. This approach does connect the films with other works of their time, such as Glauber Rocha’s Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (1964), a film for which Sérgio Ricardo composed and sang on the soundtrack (Rocha writing the lyrics himself).4 Moreover, the editing of both films avoids the classic configuration of synchronic sounds and images.

The production teams behind Menino da calça branca and Esse mundo é meu included participants of the intense artistic atmosphere from the early 1960s, suggesting that even though he was just starting his career in film, Ricardo took part, and in a way, marked an unusual intersection between Bossa Nova and Cinema Novo.5 Modern film pioneer Nelson Pereira dos Santos edited the short while working on Glauber Rocha’s first feature, Barravento (1962). Barravento and Menino da calça branca were both exhibited in the First Bahia Film Festival, an event that gathered the effervescent film community of the time.6 The Mozambique-born Cinema Novo director Ruy Guerra edited Esse mundo é meu.7 Guerra was part of the CPC (Centro Popular de Cultura), the cultural arm of the National Student Union that produced Cinco Vezes Favela (1962), a collection of short films that featured some members of the burgeoning Cinema Novo movement as directors. CPC did not accept Ricardo’s film to be a part of the collection, citing issues with its poetic and lyrical qualities that were not in line with their more revolutionary artistic efforts.
Scene Analysis of Menino da calça branca
Menino da calça branca tells the story of a boy who has a friendship with a local doll repairer (played by Sérgio Ricardo). The artisan has an undeclared crush on the boy’s mother, who is single and making her living as a laundry woman. He tenderly sculpts the face of a puppet to resemble that of the boy’s mother, and grants the boy’s one true wish by giving him a pair of white pants as a Christmas present.
The shoeless and shirtless white favela boy in shorts playfully somersaults in the grass until, in an upside-down position, he stops and sees the object of his desire between his open legs – a pair of white pants on a passant man (interpreted by cartoonist Ziraldo8). This peasant man is presented through the boy’s upside-down POV. Cinematographer Dib Lutfi then pans to the sky, only to retrieve the boy on his feet by Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, following after the man in white pants. The vibration of a guitar cord emphasizes the spatial transition provoked by the pan shot. No music is used in this scene, but the unobtrusive noise of the streets can be heard on the soundtrack in an attempt to add a deeper layer of expression to the image.
In Menino da calça branca, white pants signal a dream of growing up and being fully included. It is clear that the young boy desires inclusion because, for instance, he mimics a perfectly synchronized diegetic marching band. However, we learn by the films end that white pants were inadequate for the boys daily playful life in a muddy environment, signalizing the impossibility of this naïve and depoliticized dream.
Scene Analysis of Esse mundo é meu
Esse mundo é meu is a particularly bold work for its willingness to confront cultural taboos. The film begins with a solemn Afro-Brazilian religious hymn. It depicts sexual pleasure. It portrays an illegal non-professional abortion (which was highly controversial at the time, and still would be today). It legitimizes the disrespect for a priest in a largely Catholic country, and it advocates for working class unionization. Bringing such a leftist agenda to a film was possible in Brazil in the pre-military dictatorship era, but after 1968 it was forbidden.
The opening sequence of Esse mundo é meu establishes the outside favela landscape with a series of long whirling shots, including many zoom-ins and pans. On the soundtrack, an orchestrated version of an Umbanda Afro-Brazilian hymn begins the film in a peculiarly solemn way, signaling an engaged attempt to bridge the gap between popular and erudite culture through syncretic non-Christian religion.9 

Differences between Menino da calça branca and Esse mundo é meu are the likely result of Ricardo’s attempt to incorporate some of the criticisms the short initially received for having an only white cast and for not being political enough. In parallel editing style, Esse mundo é meu tells the story of two protagonists, a white steel worker named Pedro played by Sérgio Ricardo, and a black shoe shiner named Toninho played by Antonio Pitanga. The steel worker does not have enough money to marry his beloved girlfriend Luzia. Scenes of work inside an actual small factory with diegetic noise music are one of the elements that make this film particularly distinctive.10 
The credit sequence gives way to the introduction of Toninho, played by Antonio Pitanga. As Toninho wanders through a crowd of daily commuters on their way to work, Ricardo sings their names: “Bento, Zé, Tulão, Benedito…”. The purpose of this is to highlight that many people share the same struggles of Toninho. The song is followed by a voice-over dialogue between two secondary characters who have yet to be introduced, Toninho’s love Zuleica and her more affluent (because he owns a bike) boyfriend. From there, the film moves to the factory. Over images of daily work, a dialogue commences between the second couple, Pedro and Luzia. They discuss commemorating Luzia’s birthday by visiting all the places throughout Rio that she loves.
Both Pedro and Luzia are in love, but due to a shortage of money, they cannot afford getting formally married. Despite Pedro’s visible sadness over their situation, the couple decides to take a lovely journey through a park to commemorate Luzia’s birthday. They ride a carrousel and a Ferris wheel. While on the Ferris wheel, Sergio Ricardo’s melancholic song “A fábrica” [The factory] plays on the soundtrack, the lyrics stating, “How can a woman live with a man who doesn’t have a cent?”. In this scene, the music counteracts the romantic atmosphere. Stunning shots of Pedro and Luzia circling through the air on this Ferris wheel mark the couple’s sensual affection. The camera flows with the motion of the Ferris wheel as if to suggest vertigo, love and sensuality. Placed in the seat above the couple, it moves between their bodies, the sky, and other surrounding seats. Luzia moves into Pedro’s shack, she lies down, he starts to take her clothes off. A medium shot avoids showing whole bodies. The camera fixes on her face as she gets aroused. 

Even though Luzia initially was the one to propose having kids, when she actually gets pregnant their lack of financial conditions motivates her decision to go through an illegal non-professional abortion. This in turn leads to her death. Pedro, now a resentful widower, leads a workers’ strike for better wages. By talking about abortion, still one of the main causes of female death in Brazil, Esse mundo é meu violates another persistent taboo. Also, it is important to note that this female character detains agency, albeit her decisions lead to her death.
A black shoeshiner, Toninho, saves money to buy a bike in order to win over Zuleica, the woman he loves. Toninho is left without his savings because his mother used them to pay for his stepfather’s funeral, so he ends up stealing a bike from a priest. Despite robbing this priest, his ending is a happy one. Having won Zuleica over, the new energetic couple embraces and turns around and around in an empty lot. The film celebrates the couple’s affection with an amazing 360 degree tracking shot, capturing their long embrace. Mid-shot, the cameraman begins to move around them in the opposite direction, intensifying the feeling of dazzling encounter. 
Favela Situation Films
In his well-known critique of Cinema Novo, French-Brazilian researcher, professor, and filmmaker Jean Claude Bernardet considered Menino da calça branca mushy (“piegas”).11 Bernardet situated the short among what can be thought of as a wave of favela situation films. He considered Menino da calça branca within his broader notion of marginalism, i.e. films made by middle class filmmakers who chose to approach subjects that were not at the center of their contemporary life. Even though these filmmakers attempted to teach viewers about revolution, Bernardet observed that because they were allied with the bourgeoisie in the so-called national popular alliance, they had to avoid the main structural class conflicts. Instead of focusing on the contradictions of daily working-class life, films approached subjects such as different segments of the lumpen proletariat, favela urban inhabitants, and Northeasterner outlaws from the backlands. In doing so, filmmakers remained alienated from the working classes, despite their best intentions.12

In the early 2000s, Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund's City of God (2002) became part of a transnational wave of what international film festivals were calling favela situation films. Some of these favela films have been immensely popular among viewers and international critics. Others have provoked criticisms for their roles in reinforcing gender, race, and class discriminations. In Brazil, these criticisms have stimulated a debate about how to disarticulate visual expressions of discrimination. Favela films deal with sensitive places and bodies, making discrimination and inequality visible within high-valued public transnational filmic spaces. In doing so, these works provoke multiple sensitive reactions among audiences. 

National governments do not like what they understand to be negative representations of their beloved countries. Strong reactions to Luís Buñuel’s Los olvidados (1950) by the Mexican government, for example, already suggested that making poverty visible to a world-wide audience can incite an explosive reaction from governments. Nelson Pereira dos Santos’s Rio 40 graus (1955) was another work that was censored, this time due to its depiction of favela children struggling to survive. Black Orpheus13 (Marcel Camus, 1959), on the other hand, was a popular success in Brazil and abroad, but its artificial mise-en-scene offended the search of realism and improvisation that drove New Cinemas.

The sentimentality in Sérgio Ricardo’s films might appear to undermine predetermined revolutionary reactions against class and racial discrimination. Nonetheless, both films approach work, women, and religion in ways that were not common at the time. The female characters in Ricardo’s films present a realistic depiction of lower-class women from that period: they face the hardship of an unassisted illegal abortion, or they’re single mothers who have to work hard to support their children. 

Sérgio Ricardo’s initial films enrich our knowledge about the political and aesthetic debates that animated effervescent filmmakers in early 1960s Brazil. The ways in which transmedia references inform musical choices - including an orchestrated Umbanda hymn, a band play, a song from a Chico de Assis play, atmospheric noise – and collaborations by other fellow artists, and filmmakers suggest the potential of thinking about the complex web of art production, and circulation, within the arts community of that period. 

In the two films, sound and image rhyme in unexpected asynchronism in ways which combine sensuality, complex visual movement, silence, noise, and instrumental/sang explanatory lyrics. This audiovisual sensory quality might disarticulate common sense audiovisual class, race, and gender discrimination, and open horizons for change.

1. Elsaesser, T. a. M. H. (2009). Film Theory: An introduction through the senses. London, Routledge

2. Sérgio Ricardo would go on to collaborate with his brother Dib Lutfi on his next two feature length films, Juliana do Amor Perdido (1970) and A Noite do Espantalho (1974). The two brothers collaborated with Glauber Rocha in Terra em transe (1967). Lutfi would go on to work with Eduardo Coutinho, Domingos de Oliveira, Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Walter Lima Jr., among others.

3. Dib Lutfi took Arne Sucksdorff’s 1962-63 film course, which first introduced NAGRA direct sound equipment to filmmakers in Brazil. In 1963-64, besides working on his brother’s films, Lutfi assisted Sucksdorff on his feature Fábula or Mitt hen är Copacabana (1965). The differences between Sucksdorff’s “academic” tripod and lightening and Lutfi’s hand held cinematography and natural lightening techniques are remarkable. The differences suggest the varying ways in which the local appropriation of foreign techniques can result in different aesthetics. Hamburger, E. (2020). "Arne Sucksdorff, professor incômodo no Brasil." https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=7287020 (access 11/15/2020)

4. Glauber Rocha created a cordel style song and asked Sérgio Ricardo to listen to his recordings of popular Northeasterner repentistas, who sing, and play the rabeca in popular markets and other public spaces. Their compositions absorbed ongoing events and figures, mixed with old Iberian structures. While this folk style was familiar to Rocha, Ricardo was introduced to cordel to compose the music. The result is a well-known song that managed to bring popular culture to an experimental film. Xavier 1999 [1997], Carvalho 2011, Debs 2014

5. Leal, H. (2008). O Homem da Montanha, Orlando Senna. Carvalho, M. d. S. S. (2003). A nova onda baiana: Cinema na Bahia 1958-1962. Salvador, Editora da Universidade Federal da Bahia.

6. Although Guerra is credited for editing the film, and not credited for the song, his dense and detailed biography mentions his friendship with Sérgio Ricardo and authorship of the lyrics of the song “Esse mundo é meu”, but does not mention the editing work on Esse mundo é meu. Even though the film is named after the song, only the main chorus from the original song is there. The song would reverberate as it was recorded by Sergio Ricardo in the film’s album, and later by the very popular singer Elis Regina. Borges, V. P. (2017). Ruy Guerra, paixão escancarada. São Paulo, Boitempo.

7. An emblematic example of this dynamic occurred in 2008, with the presence of the Executive Director of the Cinemateca Brasileira at the 3rd annual CineOP. The theme of CineOP that year was National Audiovisual Preservation Policy: Needs and challenges. Throughout the event, the Executive Director took a firm stand on opposing the articulation of other audiovisual heritage institutions with the Ministry of Culture’s representatives, and the creation of the Brazilian Association of Audiovisual Preservation (ABPA).

8. Ziraldo also designed the film’s credits. He also appears in Esse mundo é meu; Visual artist Lygia Pape designed the credits for the feature.

9. This Umbanda hymn says Oxalá / meu pai / Tem pena de nós /Tem dó / A volta do mundo é grande / Seu poder é bem maior (Oxalá/ my father / have pity on us / have mercy /the turning of the world is large /but your power is much larger) Maestro Gaya is credit for the film’s music, therefore this and other orchestrations are his.

10. Esse mundo é meu includes “ Canção do último caminho” from the cordel playAs Aventuras de Ripió Lacraia, written by CPC playwright Chico de Assis. The play is featured in the sound track to indicate that Luzia died: “Neither hunger nor temptation, neither pain nor love, His soul became a little bird, beautiful flight took off, He went far away on his way, He went to heaven to fly there.” (p. 17) https://issuu.com/todoteatrocarioca/docs/as_aventuras_de_ripi___lacraia_-_19 (acess 11/15/2020).

11. Bernardet, J. C. (2007 [1967]). Brasil em tempo de cinema, São Paulo.

12. See for example Cardenuto, R. (2008). Discursos de intervenção: o cinema de propaganda ideológica para o CPC e o ipês às vésperas do golpe de 1964. PPGMPA. São Paulo, Universidade de São Paulo. Mestrado. , Cardenuto, R. (2014). O cinema político de Leon Hirzsman (1976-1983): Engajamento e resistência durante o regime militar brasileiroibid. Doutorado.

13. Based on an original play by Brazilian poet, and diplomat Vinícius de Moraes.
Sadness lives in the favela
Sometimes it wanders around
Then, happiness
Who was longing, smiles
And plays a little 
While the sadness does not come

(verses from the song "Enquanto a tristeza não vem", by Sérgio Ricardo)

"Esse mundo é meu" is one of the most famous songs in Sérgio Ricardo's repertoire. Composed during the first half of the 1960s in partnership with filmmaker Ruy Guerra, its lyrics are a fighting call for human dignity. The historical context of the song is crossed with the utopian enthusiasm of the time, when the political revolution pervaded the Brazilian cultural field. "Esse mundo é meu" emerged as music that translated the growing spirit of rebellion against dominative social structures. Through the intensity of samba, and with a rhythm contagious to bodies and minds, Sérgio Ricardo's song sought to enunciate the epic dimension of a people who above all wished to achieve their liberation. The first few verses of the song denounce the violence of a society marked by authoritarian deformation. A nameless lyricist, who was a reflection of the historically massacred popular voice, reveals the tragic situation of their existence: " I was a slave in the kingdom and I am / a slave in the world where I am / but in chains no one can love". As a prisoner, submissive to hierarchical structures of power, the human being hasn’t got a chance of being happy. The appeals made by the lyrical self to magical entities, with their "mandingas" and their requests for help to Ogum, the orixá of war, do not result in the desired emancipation. Although it is an essential part of the country's identity, especially popular culture, Afro-Brazilian religiosity fails as an instrument to transform the world's disorders.  

Faced with spiritual beliefs which do not solve dilemmas, faced with the "holy warrior of the forest / (...) [who] does not come," there is only one possible way for the lyricist to fight oppression: men and women must take history into their own hands, take the reins of the future, and become active subjects of their own liberation. As the lyrics of the song announce, it is necessary to "fight". If the statement that the world belongs to human beings is true, as stated countless times in the chorus, then it is solely up to them to transform it. In the strength of his sonorous gesture, of his call to rebellion, Sérgio Ricardo's song is structured as revolutionary pedagogy. By exposing the violence of society, from a dialogue with the musical heritage of popular origin, the lyrics of "Esse mundo é meu" (“This world is mine”) show that political resistance lies mainly in the hands and actions of the oppressed classes themselves. In the few verses of the song, hope lies in human beings, and not the supernatural, as the driving force for the transformation of existence.
A committed artist and intellectual, of a generation that took on the creative craft as an unavoidable commitment to struggle, Sérgio Ricardo provides a humanist philosophy in "Esse mundo é meu” that would set the tone of his creative path through life. Becoming a kind of manifesto, the song was covered by artists such as Nara Leão and Elis Regina. "Esse mundo é meu” contains the essence of an artistic project that Sérgio Ricardo would continue until 2020, when he died at the age of 88. In "Esse mundo é meu" we find the synthesis of a political posture, of a Marxist affiliation, that would structurally influence the works he would make over the course of decades. In his multifaceted artistic output - music, films and paintings - his critical analyses of the country, as well as his aesthetic practices, were almost always formulated with the creative and poetic considerations of the popular class as a starting point. Positioning the cultural wealth, lyricism and dilemmas of the people at the center of his creations, in what he believed to be a commitment of the militant intellectual to the oppressed, Ricardo constantly returned to his revolutionary foundational pedagogy, newly elaborating the bet on human action as a possible path to happiness. In Sérgio Ricardo's works, the people resurface continuously in the form of tragedy and liberation. If on one hand their existence is precarious, marked by misery and violence, on the other hand they possess the energy capable of operating real transformations in the world. The creative essence of Ricardo is in the oscillation between death and life, between limiting social domination and the desire to break free from these chains. His work critically exposes (and explains) oppression, but also longs for (and manifests) its overcoming.

Although Sérgio Ricardo's revolutionary pedagogy is recurrent in his songs, such as "Enquanto a tristeza não vem" and "A fábrica," it seems to me it was in filmmaking, especially that of the fictional genre, that he was able to more fully exercise the didactics behind his commitment to the popular class. In making films in which he used his own songs as lyrical and political commentaries, Ricardo found a place of creation that allowed him to broaden his readings around the dramas faced by the oppressed. The dilemmas and desires of the people, present in the verses of his songs, deepened as critical dramaturgy through his cinematographic creations. This bold narrative, built on the encounter between engaged sound work and imagery of social tragedy, are present as early as the first film he directed. Under the direct influence of Nelson Pereira dos Santos's realistic cinema, especially from Rio, 40 Graus (1954) and Rio, Zona Norte (1957), the short film Menino da Calça Branca (1962) revolves around a favela child who lives under extreme conditions of hardship. In a marginalized geographic space in Rio de Janeiro, a hill which lacks even basic sanitation, a nameless boy who lives with his mother in a small wooden shack dreams of owning a pair of beautiful white pants. In a country of authoritarian heritage like Brazil, where the value of the citizen is measured by his material possessions, such desire is not insignificant. The eager prospect of getting a new outfit, the same one used by a gallant man who strolls through beautiful areas of Rio de Janeiro, goes beyond simple vanity. In the boy's mind, this object of desire may allow him to achieve respect and a place in the world that is not available to him due to his miserable condition.
In Menino da calça branca, signature aspects of Sérgio Ricardo's cinema manifest themselves. From a mise en scène tributary of neorealism, in which the narrative develops in real locations of social exclusion, the film presents not only the perverse effects of oppression on the popular class, but also a lyrical dimension in which glimpses of happiness can be found in the child's dream for a new outfit. Present in the short film as a reflection of the people, as a means of learning about segregationist Brazil, the drama of misery and the desire for happiness would reappear sometime later in Sérgio Ricardo's filmography, more precisely between 1963 and 1964, when he began to direct a new film. In what would be his first feature film where a clear creative convergence with the Cinema Novo movement can be perceived, Sérgio Ricardo would return to the central components of his revolutionary pedagogy, this time giving it greater tragic force. With a narrative that serves as a call to struggle, of summoning the human being to break with the shackles of history, it seems no coincidence that Sérgio Ricardo's new film was titled Esse mundo é meu (This World is Mine), the same name as the song in which he had expressed the general principles of his political philosophy. In this work, made under the effect of utopian euphoria, still at a historical moment in which it seemed possible to emancipate Brazil, music and cinema come together as an act of rebellion against the deleterious state of things.
In the film Esse mundo é meu, Sérgio Ricardo's camera once again enters the geographic space of a Rio favela, this time to tell two stories revolving around the dramas of the popular class. Through parallel plots that never cross but complement each other as a diagnosis of social misery, the feature film critically reveals the daily tragedy experienced by the Brazilian people. In one of the plots, the protagonist is Toninho. A black boy who lives in a depleted shack, the main breadwinner of his mother and sick stepfather, Toninho works as a shoeshine in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Despite the hard limitations that his difficult life impose on him, Toninho is a dreamer. Similar to the child of Menino da Calça Branca, who also lives in a situation of material poverty, Toninho projects that if he could obtain a common consumer good, he would have the possibility of being happy. Gathering money day by day, little by little, he wants to buy a bicycle to win over Zuleica, a young woman who doesn't date boys who can only walk as their means of transportation. Guaranteeing social status for those who have nothing, a simple bicycle becomes the epicenter of Toninho’s desire to break free from his dire situation. While kneeling on the ground shining shoes in a subordinate position to his clients, the character gets lost in daydreams in which he imagines being on two wheels next to his beloved Zuleica. In Toninho's narrative, the desire of the people emerges as a promise, a glimpse of happiness reserved for the future. Although Esse mundo é meu can be criticized for portraying Zuleica as a stereotype of the futile woman, the film never stumbles into a political moralism that considers the particular desires of the people less important. In Sérgio Ricardo's feature film, the popular class dreams of revolution, but also of conquering the challenge to own a bicycle.

It is particularly in the second plot, with tragic dimensions, where revolutionary desire lies most. Unlike Toninho's narrative, where the happiness of being in a relationship emerges as projection, Pedro's story begins with joy. Pedro is a white man working in a small steel plant, and his narrative begins with the happy celebrations of his conjugal life next to Luzia. During a walk through Rio de Janeiro, where they go to the theater, the amusement park and the beach, the two celebrate the fact that they will live together in a shack located in the favela. The atmosphere of contentment, however, lasts for a short duration. Despite their passion, the couple faces severe financial difficulties that culminate in terrible consequences. With no expectations for the future, and faced with Pedro's failure to achieve a salary increase with his boss, Luzia decides to abort a newly-discovered pregnancy. For Luzia, there is no sense in bringing a child into the world who will go hungry. In the midst of a mise en scène that borrows stylistic elements of horror, Luzia undergoes an illegal abortion, a high-risk operation carried out inside a dirty and unhealthy shack. Pierced by twisted sewing needles during a violent storm that suddenly hits the area, the character meets an agonizing death. In Esse mundo é meu, Luzia's tragedy synthesizes the social misery faced by the Brazilian popular class. Were it not for the situation of misery, were it not for the poverty imposed by the powerful, she would probably be alive next to her son. Slaves in the world they are living in, and chained by oppression, these people have no chance of being happy. This political pedagogy, the essence of Sérgio Ricardo's art, is found in several passages of the feature film. It is present in a melancholic speech by Pedro, in which the people's joy is compared to the ephemeral taste of cotton candy, and it reappears in the sequence in which the couple rides a Ferris wheel, a moment in which the fun is ruined by the sadness chanted in the song "A fábrica". In the second plot of Esse mundo é meu, the message is evident: in an unjust society that is socially divided, the people are closer to tragedy than to happiness.

Because of this, the dual narratives are necessary. In Esse Mundo é Meu, the death of Luzia not only provokes critical reflection about the terrible effects of oppression, but it is also the last straw that impels Pedro to revolt against the patronal class. Although the call to struggle was already being hinted at throughout the course of the film, especially when the narrative is invaded by fragments of the 1963 play As aventuras de Ripió Lacraia (The Adventures of Ripió Lacraia), the effective act of insurrection only materializes after Luzia's disappearance. In Sérgio Ricardo's revolutionary pedagogy, popular tragedy and political resistance coexist, the former becoming the cause for the emergence of the latter. The sequence that closes Esse mundo é meu, a virtuous swirl of the camera capturing Toninho's joy in Zuleica's arms, seems to indicate a possible restitution of happiness, an allegory of a utopian future. But this future will only come if the workers, summoned by Pedro, really take possession of their future by coming together against the patronal class. Between 1963 and 1964, when Sérgio Ricardo placed this revolutionary gesture in his feature film, conducted by the character he plays himself, Ricardo was not alone in the Brazilian cinematographic panorama. This revolt that emerges from tragedy, an ideological consciousness acquired as a result of the pain of the world, is a recurring theme in films like Barravento (1962), by Glauber Rocha, Pedreira de São Diogo (1962), by Leon Hirszman, Ganga Zumba (1963-64), by Carlos Diegues, or Os Fuzis (1963), by Ruy Guerra. Although Sérgio Ricardo is not considered by popular historiographers to be a member of Cinema Novo, perhaps because his central trajectory is located in the musical field, Esse mundo é meu has an intense dialogue with the political and stylistic universe of this cinematographic movement. It is worth remembering that in 1964 Ricardo would compose the theme song for the film Deus e o diabo na terra do sol with Glauber Rocha, a song where we can find another return to his foundational pedagogy, to the idea that critical learning can lead to changing of social reality. As the lyrics of the song state: if the lesson that the world is wrong, that history belongs to man, is well understood, the next step will be the revolt that will make the "sertão become the sea," that will make the aridity of existence finally become a utopia.

In spite of all the desires formulated in the first films of Cinema Novo, including those made by Sérgio Ricardo, the political transformation would not materialize in Brazil. In the complete opposite of the desired utopia, on the reverse side of the dream, the country would see the implantation of a military dictatorship starting in April 1964, an occupation of power by the far right that would last at least until 1985. Represented on the screens as a revolutionary agent, through a romantic artistic imagery, the popular class would not offer resistance to the coup that imploded the fragile foundations of Brazilian democracy. In a historical context of suppressing freedom, of pulverizing the ideological projects of the left, the directors of Cinema Novo would discover the enormous distance between social reality and the utopian images that had populated their films. In part, what had served as the essence of their creative processes was now an illusion. Through self-criticism, with a certain amount of bitterness, the filmmakers would realize that their portrayal of the people, even constituting denunciations of misery, did little to match the real political condition of the oppressed class. Without escaping populism and revolutionary euphoria, they had projected images on the screens which were more attuned to their desires for engagement than to the complexities and contradictions of the world. Faced with such a fracture, Cinema Novo, in the second half of the 1960s, would change its thematic axis. In the first years of the dictatorship, taking the representations of the people from the center of the works, the directors would turn mainly to narratives about the failure of their political project, about the melancholy of militants and intellectuals of the left in authoritarian times, as is noticeable in the films O desafio (1965), by Paulo César Saraceni, Terra em transe (1967), by Glauber Rocha, and O bravo guerreiro (1968), by Gustavo Dahl. Curiously, even though directly influenced by Cinema Novo, Sérgio Ricardo would not accompany such thematic displacement, remaining firm in his artistic commitment to the popular class. Even if his cinema never returned to the previous revolutionary triumphalism, now abandoned in the face of the perversities of history, he would remain faithful to the political pedagogy in which the people, in their tragic condition, emerge on the screen as a force of rupture against oppression. Although there is a change of tone in Sérgio Ricardo's following films, a move away from the utopian romanticism that has collapsed, at the same time Ricardo's commitment to the oppressed class is kept alive, with the bet that in it lies the possible power of transformation.

Such permanence is present in Juliana do amor perdido, a film Sérgio Ricardo made in 1970. In his second feature film, Ricardo leaves behind the geographical space of the favela, moving his camera towards the sea. In the interior of an island cut off from the world, where fishing is a means of subsistence for a beach community, the popular class emerges in the beginning of the narrative wrapped by the plastic beauty of a religious ritual. From a mystical ceremony in praise of the deities, composed of songs, drumming and gestures of worship, the local people gather to remove the fish that will serve them as food and merchandise. The ritual, with a sublime tone, derives from the aesthetic magnificence of the mise en scène, and gives prominence to the character who will become the protagonist of the film. A young woman endowed with great beauty, an element of mediation with the mystical plane, Juliana is considered by the town as the ultimate incarnation of holiness. The initial atmosphere of wonder, however, will be short-lived in Sérgio Ricardo's second feature film. Behind the beauty of the ceremony and the beauty of popular worship, there is a terrible violence that contaminates the lives of the islanders. As in Glauber Rocha's 1962 film Barravento, the religious dimension in Juliana do amor perdido serves as a power mechanism for alienating the people and maintaining social hierarchies of oppression. 

What in principle should be synonymous with protection and giving, the supposed divinity existing in Juliana's body is presented in the plot as a political instrument for the containment of popular dissatisfactions. Nourishing faith and devotion around the girl, whose sanctity turns out to be false, her father exercises control over the fishing community, guaranteeing benefits through spurious agreements with an American who owns the island. Unlike Esse mundo é meu, the popular class emerges in Juliana do amor perdido not only as a victim of an unjust society, but also as an agent of domination that turns against their own peers. In a historical context marked by failing utopias, just as Ruy Guerra had done in A queda (1976), the representations of the people, now fractured between suffering and serving the powerful, become more complex. In the world of Juliana do amor perdido, in which the island's village inhabitants are left to alienation, the one who suffers most is Juliana. For being aware of her religious falsehood, for being the object of cult and male erotic voracity, and for not accepting to continue as a plaything in the hands of her own father, the character desires to break with the imprisonment imposed by existence. In Juliana's longing lies the founding political pedagogy of Sérgio Ricardo. Chained by the authoritarian structure of the world, slave to the kingdom of magic and men, the character will not be able to find happiness.

For Juliana, the chance to overcome this imprisonment will be born from an encounter with a train conductor, a man who controls the means of locomotion necessary for her to leave a universe taken by violence and oppression. The passion she begins to feel for Faísca (Spark), whose surname holds in itself the power of rupture, originates not only as sexual desire, but above all as expectation of a future in which she can shake off the enormous weight of being a false saint. In the course of her escape from her new partner's side, Juliana will finally find the chance to experience a life free from the social ties that exist in the fishing community. Like the protagonists of Esse mundo é meu, Toninho who dances next to Zuleica or Pedro who has fun with Luzia in an amusement park, Juliana sees the possible materialization of joy far from the authoritarian machinery of society. If structures of power were not causing the removal of compassion in the world, the popular class could be happy. In a moment of great lyrical intensity, when Faísca and Juliana find themselves alone on a deserted beach, the sea that used to burst as a space of domination, the sea in which the character needed to dress up as a cheating saint, now resurfaces as a metaphorical place of pleasure and rupture. Although the waters no longer contain the revolutionary allegory present in Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (1964), where they emerged as an epic symbol of an entire people in emancipation, they are re-energized in Sérgio Ricardo's film narrative, appearing as a welcoming space for a female in search of liberation. If historical time was still that of pre-1964 utopian romanticism, if the country were not hostage to a military dictatorship in 1970, perhaps Juliana do amor perdido would conclude here. Perhaps, as in the final image of Esse mundo é meu, the narrative would conclude with Juliana and Faísca in the fullness of their happiness, with a mise en scène lyrically evoking the expectation of a libertarian future.

Such an outlook, however, is not held for the couple. After a series of narrative twists and turns, Juliana will again be imprisoned by the fishing community, whose alienation turns into unmeasured violence against this "saint" who should guarantee the protection of the village and not abandon it. Treated as a traitor, imprisoned by fascist religious beliefs, Juliana will face harsh aggressions imposed on her body. During a new attempt to escape, because the burning desire for rupture remains, Juliana will meet her final destiny. In despair, pursued by the men and women of the community, she is run over by the train guided by Faísca, killed precisely by the means of transportation that should offer her the paths to possible redemption. Under the effect of the historical context of the military dictatorship, when Brazilian social contradictions were intensified, Sérgio Ricardo's cinema no longer finds the previous disposition to idealize utopian futures. In authoritarian and militarized times, the artist updates the political pedagogy present in the essence of his creative work. As a result, Juliana do Amor Perdido is a film that teaches us about the mechanisms of oppression that influence the popular class. Another example of the ideological commitment to the oppressed, the feature highlights the revolutionary energy that emanates from the people, the vitality that leads them to persistent attempts to break with the system of domination. However, even if happiness materializes, an overwhelming tragic dimension emerges in the film, a destruction reinforced by prejudices, economic interests and hierarchies of power. The life and death of the popular class, their suffering and the strength of their resistance, founding creative elements of Sergio Ricardo's art, resurface in Juliana's narrative of lost love. Updated, political pedagogy teaches that times are tragic, but that the people, as a social class, continues to contain the desiring power of rupture.

And it is precisely the life and death of the people that re-emerge, with great poetic intensity, in the third feature film directed by Sérgio Ricardo. Based on a script originally written in 1968, but taken to the screen only in 1974, A noite do espantalho (The Night of the Scarecrow) moves the filmmaker's creative process towards another geographic space of exclusion, towards the northeastern sertão. It is there that the popular class faces a life crossed by hunger and submission to the authoritarian forces of colonialism. If until then Sérgio Ricardo's filmography had been dedicated to representations around the sea and the urban favela, localizing in these territories the oscillation between tragedy and the resistance of the oppressed, now his cameras turn to one of the most impoverished regions of the country, a scenario of great material precariousness also present in the central films of Cinema Novo such as Vidas Secas (1963) and Os Fuzis (1963). Continuing the filmmaker's artistic project, expanding it towards the dilemmas found in the interior of the Northeast, A noite do espantalho brings back to the scene, as a new act of engagement, a political pedagogy mediated by the miserable existential condition of the Brazilian people.
Moving to the sertão (hinterland), a choice that is not fortuitous for a militant artist, Sérgio Ricardo would elect the city of Nova Jerusalém (New Jerusalem), located in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, as the setting for his third feature-length film. Nova Jerusalém is a city that was artificially built in 1968 with buildings that attempt to imitate the architecture of ancient Jerusalem described in biblical texts. This location is where the narrative of A noite do espantalho has become known in Brazil, it is a space of Catholic celebration in which recurring staging of The Passion of Christ takes place. Considered the largest open-air theater in the world, an icon of Christian power in Latin America, Nova Jerusalém has become a territory of religious pilgrimage where hundreds of actors and faithful gather annually to stage the suffering faced by Jesus Christ in his final moments of life. However, by placing his film in this symbolic location, of intimate coexistence between kitsch and the sacred, Sergio Ricardo was in no way mobilized by any form of respect for Catholic devotion. Keeping firm in his critical disposition against religious alienation, a position already present in Juliana do Amor Perdido, the artist borrows a locality impregnated by faith without the intention of promoting celebrations, but with the perspective of operating political ruptures in a space that is socially considered as symbolic for the devoted. By filming in Nova Jerusalem, in the same territory where emotional commotion comes from the via crucis and spiritual resurrection, the filmmaker refutes a reenactment of the last days of Christ, replacing it with another tragedy that has nothing to do with the ascetic dimensions of Catholicism. By appropriating the sanctified city, its streets and buildings, the artist removes the original Christian component, putting in its place an anguish directly related to the social reality of the country. In A noite do espantalho, in a movement of materialistic subversion, Jesus is removed from the scene. Contrary to religious expectations, Nova Jerusalém becomes the stage for another passion, that which involves the anguish and suffering of the Brazilian popular class. In Sérgio Ricardo's political theatricality, in his film of engagement, what is on display is The Passion of the Sertanejo People.

In the film A noite do espantalho, the most daring work in Sérgio Ricardo's filmography, the story about the passion that surrounds the oppressed is built through an aesthetic experience endowed with great inventiveness. Taking up what is in the essence of his creative work, a stylistic project composed from convergences with the universe of popular art, in his third feature film Ricardo seeks to establish a poetic encounter with the musicality that comes from the northeastern songbook. If before, in the film Esse mundo é meu, the samba emerged as a cultural expression related to Rio de Janeiro's dilemmas, in dialogue with the music existing in the hills and slums, now, in his new film, Sérgio Ricardo seeks creative approaches with sound roots linked to the sertaneja identity. The battle song, the cordel poetry, the wheel dance and the work songs, among other rhythmic matrices of northeastern origin, cross the narrative totality of A noite do espantalho as an operatic rhapsody that reveals the lyrical dimensions, the tragedy and the acts of survival belonging to the popular class. In the form of a passion of the people, Sérgio Ricardo's political pedagogy, the foundation of his filmmaking, is now invested in a songbook that becomes a thread of critical learning about the structures of oppression that exist in the Brazilian sertão. 

From beginning to end, through sung dialogues, the film borrows traditions of popular musicality, modernizing them in order to narrate the misadventures that involve the oppressed in the interior of the Northeastern region. Like an opera of the people, a cinematographic musical about the adversities of the world, this feature film by Sérgio Ricardo puts on the screen the figure of a singer, an enigmatic scarecrow who is there to tell an episode of suffering and resistance that took place inside a small village in the backlands. Performed by Alceu Valença, who would become a nationally renowned composer and singer, the scarecrow crosses the film as a figure that holds the memory of popular misfortunes, as someone who wishes to share with the viewers his knowledge about the condition lived by the miserable class. Just as in Deus e o diabo na terra do sol, fulfilling a poetic-pedagogical function, the singer finds himself here to teach about the precariousness of existence. In announcing that his story is the fruit of truth and lies, of a fictional vein that comes directly from reality, the scarecrow invites us to become aware of the world, hoping that perhaps some form of "use and good profit" will result from it. It is from the voice of this storyteller, owner of great wisdom, that the narrative linked to the passion of the people of the sertanejo (countryside) sprouts.

In A noite do espantalho, the story presented by the singer reveals the authoritarian power relations existing in the Brazilian Northeast. In the interior of a sertanejo village, in a region severely affected by the dry climate, the popular class lives its days under the aggressive domination of the colonialist elite. A rich landowner who is the ultimate symbol of despotism, the Fragoso Colonel exercises unbridled control over the local population, forcing them to live in an oppressive state of near slavery. Subjected to the demands of power, imprisoned by the servitude imposed on them, the oppressed find themselves enveloped in suffering marked by hunger and material misery. In this universe fractured by social division, where the violence of the Jagunços imposes colonialist authority, the people seek refuge for their daily hardships in religious mysticism. However, as in Juliana do amor perdido, salvation through faith presents itself as something illusory. Despite the promises made by a messianic leader, by this figure so recurrent in the imaginary sertanejo, the miracle of redemption fails. With great frustration, the people watch the wreck of their expectations when the transforming rain does not arrive, anguishing themselves in face of the religious failure that foresaw the end of misery through the waters coming from the sky. 

Faced with spiritual beliefs that do not solve the world's contradictions, acquiring political consciousness about its miserable condition, the town will seek to build an act of resistance against Colonel Fragoso. As is typical in Sérgio Ricardo's cinema, in the essence of his critical pedagogy, the tragic dimension of daily life impels the oppressed to try to break the system of domination. Once again, the foundational ideas behind the song "Esse mundo é meu" (“This world is mine”) manifests itself. To be happy, to achieve their emancipation, the popular class needs to take history into their hands, overcoming forms of alienation that impede transformative political actions. The power coming from the oppressed, however, will also fail as a mechanism of confrontation against the abuses of colonialist power. Even if a political force resides in the people that never extinguishes itself, a desire for freedom that mobilizes its existence, their attempt at resistance will be massacred in the narrative of A noite do espantalho. In the face of insurgencies coming from the miserable, who refuse to leave their lands, Colonel Fragoso orders the annihilation of the rebels. Under the watchful eye of a dragon, symbol of capitalist colonialism in Brazilian lands, a group of jagunços exterminate the sertanejos, putting an end to the rebellion that had been rising. 

As in Sérgio Ricardo's other films, in A noite do espantalho, popular happiness materializes in moments when authoritarian forces are distant. Again, when the expectation of a break with the domination of oppression is drawn, a lyricism crosses the dramatic fabric as a manifestation of the joy coming from the oppressed. Especially in the sequences in which the sertanejos oppose local power, proposing the construction of an autonomous community to the colonialist system, contentment emerges in the form of a liberative power that emanates directly from the people. In A noite do espantalho, Sérgio Ricardo puts the most beautiful utopian images of his filmography on the screen. This materialization of happiness is especially evident in the moments in which the community is transformed into a collectivity, building a new village in resistance to the colonel. With a documentary-esque mise en scène, accompanied by a music of exaltation for the popular communion, the sertanejos come together and collectivize their work instruments with the intention of building the houses where they intend to live. The project of creating new homes is fulfilled from materials such as stirred clay, cut wood and tree leaves. While the mutirão (community) is being developed, something unique happens. For the only time in Sérgio Ricardo's fictional cinema, the film crew manifests itself on screen, capturing with their microphones and cameras the people's libertarian action. In a great communal act, the hands that built the houses and those that register the world share the joy of living without boundaries. The utopian power emerges in the fictional scene, but also behind the scenes, bringing together the act of artistic creation with the communal creation from the popular class. The message, put between the lines of the film, seems clear: were it not for existing power structures, this would be a possible life. In these images of plenitude, the existential bet of Ricardo resides. Unfortunately, as before in Juliana do amor perdido, the authoritarian reaction buries the glimpse of a possible future. In the form of a musical passion, Sérgio Ricardo's political pedagogy manifests itself once again, bringing forth a critical teaching about the world's suffering. 

In A noite do espantalho, however, Ricardo’s political pedagogy becomes more somber due to the real life authoritarian condition found in Brazilian society. In Sérgio Ricardo's third feature film, the mechanisms of oppression do not materialize on the scene solely from the violent actions of villainous characters like Colonel Fragoso or the capitalist colonizing dragon. In the film, through a more complex approach to the authoritarian (de)formations of the country, the Northeastern colonialism emerges as a structural dimension capable of corrupting, even, the spirit of the popular class itself. Distant from the revolutionary purity that resided in Esse mundo é meu, in which the people were represented exclusively as victims of society, in the film A noite do espantalho Sérgio Ricardo makes an effort to show that the sertanejos, in the midst of miserliness, are hostages to a system of domination that recurrently turns them into instruments of violence at the service of the economic elite. As a result of the world's structural breakdowns, a shattering of the popular class emerges in the dramatic fabric. 

In A noite do espantalho, the protagonist of the passion sung by the scarecrow is a man of popular origin who finds himself fractured between two distinct personalities. On the one hand, amidst the disorientation that runs through him, he appears on stage as the cowboy Zé Tulão. Performed by actor Gilson Moura, Tulão becomes the main political leader who stimulates the town to resistance. Owner of great wisdom, holder of conscience about the world, he shares his critical knowledge with the other sertanejos, impelling them to take possession of the colonel's lands as an act of rebellion against the mechanisms of oppression. On the other hand, becoming the dark face of the same man, the protagonist of A noite do espantalho also materializes as the jagunço Zé do Cão. Now played by José Pimentel, Zé do Cão carries the fate of death, representing the colonialist corruption that leads the popular class to become a murder weapon in the hands of the powerful. In his jagunça incarnation, he leads the genocide that exterminates the rebellious village. Fractured in two, crossed by existential instability, the protagonist of the film exists as both the personality of light and darkness. A metaphor of a people imprisoned by colonialist rule, oscillating between libertarian desire and servitude to power, he translates the complex effects of a society perverted by authoritarianism. Although he seeks a rupture like the cowboy Zé Tulão, protecting the transforming power of the popular class, the character cannot escape the authoritarian contamination, becoming also the jagunço Zé do Cão, assassin of his own brothers. The storm experienced by the protagonist will only end with his death, when, to the delight of Colonel Fragoso, one personality ends up annulling the existence of the other. For Maria do Grotão, a woman in love with the two identities of a single man, she finally only mourns for the one who carried the cross of shattering in life. In A noite do espantalho, the sertanejo passion endows the most complex political pedagogy of Sergio Ricardo. The imprisonment of the popular, which prevents him from happiness, is more perverse than appearances dictate. This is the teaching transmitted by the film. Suffering does not come only from hunger, material precariousness, or the tragedy associated with death. It also resides in the oppressive system that contaminates the popular class, making it exist as victim and tormentor at the same time. Even if the joy materializes temporarily in A noite do espantalho, as a lyrical glimpse of a utopian desire, the structural corruption that affects the people annihilates any possibilities of redemption.

In A noite do espantalho, Sérgio Ricardo’s updated political pedagogy also lies in the singular treatment given by him to the universe of the northeastern sertão. Without a shadow of a doubt, the feature film presents an intense dialogue with the cultural imaginary that is present in films of the first phase of Cinema Novo or in literary works written by authors such as Jorge Amado, José Lins do Rêgo and Graciliano Ramos. The passion sung by the scarecrow directly refers to the narrative heritages, especially of realistic bias, which represented the sertanejo condition through typical elements such as religious mysticism, colonialist authoritarianism, the geography of the drought or the miserable situation of the popular class. Becoming heir to committed artistic traditions, focused on denouncing the power hierarchies in the Northeast, A noite do espantalho continues a fictional imaginary that has positioned at the center of its creative processes the class conflict existing in one of the most impoverished regions of Brazil. To this tradition, however, Sérgio Ricardo adds other formal components that turn to the contemporaneity of the 1970s, endowing the sertanejo tragedy with a political and historical actuality. Enjoying great poetic freedom, the filmmaker adds aesthetic elements to the northeastern passion that freely refer to the counter-cultural experiences that were developing in the country in the wake of the persecutions and censorship of the military dictatorship. 

Although Sérgio Ricardo has never been an artist of counterculture, and to defend such a bond would be a mistake, in A noite do espantalho he sought to establish points of contact with the experimentalism coming from the aesthetic vanguards existing during his time. In this sense, the mise en scène of the feature film enhances the filmmaker's political pedagogy by incorporating, into the traditional sertanejo imaginary, film forms beyond the realism that usually represented the suffering of the northeastern popular class. In the film, there are countless moments when this happens. There is the renewal of the popular songbook, the transformation of the jagunços into a gang of stylized bikers, the setting of a Tropicalist colonizing dragon, the representation of the colonist space as a modern bureaucratic apparatus or the materialization of an arena stage as a theatrical locus where Zé Tulão faces his double Zé do Cão. Updated in its aesthetic potency, the mise en scène of A noite do espantalho shows that the sertanejo passion is not something belonging to the past, but an anguish that continues to exist in the historical time of the 1970s. It is, in my opinion, a recurring effort of Sérgio Ricardo's cinematographic creation: to show, from his political pedagogy, that the oscillation between life and death, between tragedy and resistance, remains the existential condition of the oppressed until the authoritarianism of Brazilian society is overcome. Although the years pass, and countless acts of rebellion break out, suffering returns as cyclic violence that affects the life of the people.

In this sense, considering the permanence of popular movements throughout time (creating problems that are still insoluble in the year 2020), it is not surprising that Sérgio Ricardo has returned to the political pedagogy that is at the essence of his artistic creation in his final films. Despite the long hiatus that Ricardo underwent in making fictional cinema, not directing a new film until the decade of 2010, his eventual reencounter with filmmaking marked a resumption of engaged narratives where the representation of the people emerges as a transit between tragedy and resistance. In the short film Pé no chão (2014), but especially in the feature Bandeira de Retalhos (2018), works in which Sérgio Ricardo returns to film in the hills of Rio de Janeiro, pedagogy resurfaces as critical teaching about the disconcerts of contemporary Brazil. Once again, as can be seen in Bandeira de Retalhos's narrative, the lyrical and political power of the people, which materializes as an act of resistance against the expropriation of a favela, culminates in a terrible tragedy that reminds us of the imprisonment of the oppressed to the power structures existing in the country. In spite of the victory against the patrimonialist sanctity, which expels the slum dwellers from their homes in the name of real estate interests, happiness is fractured by the authoritarian violence that contaminates the existence of the popular class. 

Transiting between the hills of Rio de Janeiro, the sea and the hinterland, primordial geographic spaces of the works made by Cinema Novo, Sérgio Ricardo's films manifest the coherence of an engaged artist who maintained, until the end of his life, an ideological position against the mechanisms of oppression present in Brazilian society. Keeping firmly within the ideology forged between the 1950s and 1960s, from which comes the idea that the revolutionary artist is the one who indulges in an organic pact with the popular class, Sérgio Ricardo launched himself into an aesthetic and philosophical commitment marked by readings about the dilemmas faced by the oppressed. In his cinema, which can be seen as representative of cultural Marxism, the people have always emerged as a struggling and suffering collective, as the materialization of a militant gaze that has spread specific representations of national fractures to the world. In accordance with his political thinking, in intimate contact with critical materialism, the artist imbued his work with an cinematic engagement where the popular, manifesting itself on screen, emerged above all as a social class. This is where Sérgio Ricardo's creative essence resided, it was his way of acting and being in the world. Always returning to the primordial questions which informed his thought process, to the lesson that "no one can love in chains", the artist forged a pedagogy that he believed capable of raising political awareness among audience spectators. Seeing Sérgio Ricardo's films allows us to get in touch with a cinema that never gave up its utopian desire, even though it inscribed (and evidenced) the tragedy present in daily life in Brazil. His work was constituted from the encounter between an artist of Marxist heritage and the popular class, his militancy was consolidated alongside the oppressed, and he bet on a pact that attempted to bring about real transformations in the world. For Sérgio Ricardo, from the beginning to the end of his trajectory, the belief that such transformations were possible became the foundation of his process of artistic creation. In this process, he found not only the paths of his cinema, but a humanist philosophy that mobilized his entire existence. There is no possibility for life, the artist would say, without a tireless desire for resistance.

Tristeza mora na favela
Às vezes ela sai por aí
Felicidade então
Que era saudade sorri
Brinca um pouquinho
Enquanto a tristeza não vem

(versos da canção “Enquanto a tristeza não vem”, de Sérgio Ricardo)
“Esse mundo é meu” é uma das canções mais célebres do repertório de Sérgio Ricardo. Composta na primeira metade dos anos 1960, em parceria com o cineasta Ruy Guerra, sua letra é um chamamento à luta em prol da dignidade humana. Em um contexto histórico atravessado pelo entusiasmo utópico, no qual o imaginário da revolução política impregnava organicamente o campo cultural brasileiro, “Esse mundo é meu” surgiu como música a traduzir um espírito crescente de rebeldia contra as estruturas sociais de dominação. Por meio da intensidade sonora do samba, com um ritmo a contagiar corpos e mentes, a canção de Sérgio Ricardo procurava enunciar a dimensão épica de um povo que acima de tudo deseja alcançar sua libertação. À maneira de um ensinamento político, os versos iniciais da música denunciam a violência decorrente de uma sociedade marcada pela deformação autoritária. Um eu-lírico sem nome, expressão da voz popular historicamente massacrada, desvela a situação trágica de seu existir: “Fui escravo no reino e sou / escravo no mundo em que estou / mas acorrentado ninguém pode amar”. Na condição de prisioneiro, submisso às estruturas hierárquicas de poder, o ser humano não encontra a possibilidade de ser feliz. Os apelos lançados pelo eu-lírico às entidades mágicas, com suas “mandingas” e seus pedidos de ajuda ao orixá da guerra Ogum, não resultam na emancipação desejada. Ainda que seja parte essencial da identidade do país, sobretudo da cultura popular, a religiosidade afro-brasileira falha como instrumento transformador das desordens do mundo.

Diante do espiritual que não resolve os dilemas, face ao “santo guerreiro da floresta / (...) [que] não vem”, apresenta-se para o eu-lírico um único caminho possível de combate à opressão: é preciso que os homens e as mulheres tomem a história em suas mãos, que assumam as rédeas do futuro, tornando-se sujeitos ativos de sua própria libertação. Conforme anuncia a letra da canção, faz-se necessário “brigar”. Sendo verdadeira a afirmação de que o mundo pertence ao ser humano, como repete inúmeras vezes o refrão da música, então cabe unicamente a ele transformá-lo. Na força de seu gesto sonoro, de seu chamamento à rebeldia, a canção de Sérgio Ricardo estrutura-se como pedagogia revolucionária. Ao expor a violência encontrada na sociedade, a partir de um diálogo com a herança musical de origem popular, a letra de “Esse mundo é meu” evidencia que a resistência política encontra-se sobretudo nas mãos e nas ações da própria classe oprimida. Nos poucos versos presentes na canção, a aposta reside no ser humano, e não no sobrenatural, como força motriz para a transformação da existência. 
Artista e intelectual engajado, pertencente a uma geração que assumiu o fazer criativo como compromisso incontornável de luta, Sérgio Ricardo imprimiu em “Esse mundo é meu” uma filosofia humanista que conduziria seus passos criativos por toda a vida. Tornando-se uma espécie de manifesto, gravada por nomes como Nara Leão e Elis Regina, sua canção contém a essência de um projeto artístico que ele manteria firme até 2020, quando faleceu aos 88 anos de idade. Em “Esse mundo é meu” encontra-se a síntese de uma postura política, de filiação marxista, que marcaria estruturalmente as obras realizadas durante décadas por Sérgio Ricardo. Em sua arte múltipla – músicas, filmes e pinturas –, as leituras críticas do país, assim como as práticas estéticas, quase sempre foram formuladas a partir de aproximações criativas e poéticas com a classe popular. Posicionando a riqueza cultural, o lirismo e os dilemas do povo no centro de suas criações, no que acreditava ser um compromisso do intelectual militante com os oprimidos, o artista retornou constantemente à sua pedagogia revolucionária fundacional, reelaborando a aposta na ação humana como caminho possível para a felicidade. Nas obras de Sérgio Ricardo, numa roda viva sem fim, o popular ressurge continuamente como tragédia e libertação. Se por um lado o seu existir é precário, marcado pela miséria e pela violência, por outro é nele que está contida a energia capaz de operar transformações reais no mundo. É na oscilação entre morte e vida, entre a dominação social que aprisiona e o desejo de romper com as amarras, que reside a essência criativa do artista. Um projeto de arte que expõe (e explica) criticamente a opressão, mas que também almeja (e manifesta) a sua superação.

Embora a pedagogia revolucionária de Sérgio Ricardo se apresente recorrentemente em suas canções, a exemplo de músicas como “Enquanto a tristeza não vem” e “A fábrica”, parece-me que foi na produção cinematográfica, sobretudo naquela de gênero ficcional, que o artista conseguiu exercitar com maior plenitude a didática por trás de seu compromisso com a classe popular. Na realização de filmes, em obras nas quais utilizou as próprias canções como comentários líricos e políticos, o artista encontrou um lugar de criação que lhe permitiu ampliar as leituras em torno dos dramas enfrentados pelos oprimidos. Os dilemas e os desejos do povo, presentes nos versos das músicas, aprofundaram-se como dramaturgia crítica em sua criação cinematográfica. Tal adensamento narrativo, construído no encontro entre sonoridade engajada e imagens da tragédia social, já aparecia no primeiro filme dirigido por Sérgio Ricardo. Sob influência direta do cinema realista de Nelson Pereira dos Santos, especialmente de Rio, quarenta graus (1954) e Rio, Zona Norte (1957), o curta-metragem Menino da calça branca (1961) gira em torno de uma criança favelada que vive sob condições extremas de penúria. Em um espaço geográfico marginalizado, morro carioca onde não existe sequer saneamento básico, um garoto sem nome, que mora com a mãe em um pequeno barraco de madeira, sonha em conseguir para si uma bonita calça branca. Em um país de herança autoritária como o Brasil, no qual o valor do cidadão é medido pelo tamanho de suas posses materiais, o anseio do personagem nada tem de diminuto. Obter uma nova roupa, a mesma utilizada por um homem galanteador que no filme passeia em locais arborizados do Rio de Janeiro, vai além da simples vaidade. No imaginário do menino, seu objeto de desejo talvez permita alcançar um respeito e um lugar no mundo que não lhe são oferecidos graças à sua condição miserável.
Em Menino da calça branca, manifestam-se aspectos típicos do cinema de Sérgio Ricardo. A partir de uma mise en scène tributária do neorrealismo, em que a narrativa se desenvolve nas locações da real exclusão social, o filme apresenta não apenas os efeitos perversos da opressão sobre a classe popular, mas também uma dimensão lírica na qual o vislumbre de felicidade encontra-se no sonho infantil por uma nova roupa. Presentes no curta-metragem como representação em torno do povo, como aprendizado sobre o Brasil segregacionista, o drama da miséria e o desejo de felicidade reapareceriam algum tempo depois na produção cinematográfica de Sérgio Ricardo, mais precisamente entre 1963 e 1964, quando o artista voltou à direção para realizar um novo filme. Naquele que seria o seu primeiro longa-metragem, no qual percebe-se uma clara convergência criativa com o movimento do Cinema Novo, o artista retornaria aos componentes centrais de sua pedagogia revolucionária, dessa vez conferindo-lhe maior contundência trágica. Contendo uma narrativa de chamamento à luta, de convocação do ser humano para a ruptura com os grilhões da história, não parece coincidência que o novo filme de Sérgio Ricardo tenha sido intitulado justamente Esse mundo é meu, mesmo nome da canção na qual ele manifestara os princípios gerais de sua filosofia política. Nesta obra realizada sob efeito da euforia utópica, ainda em um momento histórico no qual parecia possível um projeto de emancipação para o Brasil, música e cinema se unem como um ato de rebeldia contra o estado deletério das coisas.
No filme Esse mundo é meu, novamente a câmera de Sérgio Ricardo adentra o espaço geográfico da favela carioca, dessa vez para relatar duas narrativas que envolvem os dramas da classe popular. Por meio de tramas paralelas que nunca se cruzam, mas que se complementam como diagnóstico da miséria social, o longa-metragem desvela criticamente a tragédia cotidiana vivida pelo povo brasileiro. Em um dos enredos, o protagonismo pertence a Toninho. Rapaz negro que mora em um barraco depauperado, principal responsável pelo sustento da mãe e do padrasto adoecido, Toninho trabalha como engraxate na cidade do Rio de Janeiro. A despeito da vida difícil, a lhe impor duras limitações, o personagem é um sonhador. Do mesmo modo que a criança de Menino da calça branca, também vivendo uma situação de pobreza material, Toninho projeta sobre um objeto de consumo a possibilidade de ser feliz. Juntando dinheiro dia após dia, migalha por migalha, ele deseja comprar uma bicicleta para conseguir o amor de Zuleica, jovem que não se relaciona com rapazes que andam a pé. Garantia de status social para quem nada possui, uma simples bicicleta se transforma em epicentro dos anseios de ruptura. Enquanto engraxa sapatos, ajoelhado no chão em posição subalterna aos clientes, o personagem se perde em devaneios nos quais sonha estar sobre duas rodas, ao lado da pessoa amada. Na narrativa de Toninho, o desejo do popular emerge como um vir a ser, um vislumbre de felicidade para o futuro. Ainda que Esse mundo é meu possa ser criticado pela composição da personagem Zuleica como estereótipo da mulher fútil, em nenhum momento o filme tropeça em um moralismo político que considera menos importante os anseios particulares do povo. No longa-metragem de Sérgio Ricardo, a classe popular sonha com a revolução, mas também com a conquista de uma bicicleta.

E é no segundo enredo, de dimensões trágicas, que reside o desejo revolucionário. Diferentemente da narrativa de Toninho, na qual a felicidade ao lado da mulher amada surge como projeção, a história de Pedro começa atravessada pela alegria. Rapaz branco, operário em uma pequena metalurgia, o personagem comemora o início de sua vida conjugal ao lado de Luzia. Durante um passeio pelo Rio de Janeiro, no qual vão ao teatro, ao parque de diversões e à praia, os dois celebram o fato de que morarão juntos em um barraco localizado na favela. O clima de contentamento, no entanto, terá um curto tempo de duração. A despeito da paixão, o casal enfrenta severas dificuldades financeiras que culminarão em terríveis consequências. Sem expectativas de futuro, e diante do insucesso de Pedro em conseguir um aumento salarial com seu patrão, Luzia decide interromper uma gravidez recém-descoberta. Para a personagem, não há sentido em trazer para o mundo uma criança que passará fome e estará entregue aos desmandos do poder. Em meio a uma mise en scène que toma de empréstimo elementos estilísticos do gênero de terror, Luzia submete-se a um aborto ilegal, a uma operação de alto risco realizada dentro de um barraco sujo e insalubre. Perfurada por agulhas retorcidas de costura, sob uma tempestade violenta que desaba, a personagem agonizará até a morte. No filme Esse mundo é meu, a tragédia de Luzia sintetiza o esmagamento social enfrentado pela classe popular brasileira. Não fosse a situação de miséria, não fosse a pobreza imposta pelos poderosos, provavelmente ela estaria viva ao lado de seu filho. Escravo no mundo em que está, acorrentado pela opressão, o povo não encontra a possibilidade de ser feliz. Essa pedagogia política, essência da arte de Sérgio Ricardo, encontra-se, aliás, em várias passagens do longa-metragem. Presente em uma fala melancólica de Pedro, na qual a alegria do povo é comparada ao sabor efêmero de um algodão-doce, ela reaparece na sequência em que o casal anda em uma roda-gigante, momento no qual a diversão é atropelada pela tristeza entoada na música “A fábrica”. No segundo enredo de Esse mundo é meu, o recado é evidente: em uma sociedade injusta e mal dividida socialmente, o povo encontra-se mais próximo da tragédia do que da felicidade.

Por conta disso, a ruptura faz-se necessária. Em Esse mundo é meu, a morte de Luzia não provoca apenas um aprendizado crítico sobre os efeitos terríveis da opressão, mas é também a gota d’água que impulsiona Pedro à revolta contra a classe patronal. Ainda que o chamamento à luta já viesse se anunciando no decorrer do filme, sobretudo quando a narrativa é invadida por fragmentos da peça teatral As aventuras de Ripió Lacraia (1963), o ato efetivo de insurreição somente se materializará após consumar-se o desaparecimento de Luzia. Na pedagogia revolucionária de Sérgio Ricardo, tragédia popular e resistência política coexistem, a primeira tornando-se causa para a emergência da segunda. A sequência que encerra Esse mundo é meu, um virtuoso rodopio da câmera a capturar a alegria de Toninho nos braços de Zuleica, parece indicar uma possível restituição da felicidade, uma alegoria de futuro utópico, caso as mãos dos operários, convocadas por Pedro, realmente tomem posse da história e a conduzam a novas perspectivas de vida. Entre os anos de 1963 e 1964, ao imprimir em seu longa-metragem um gesto revolucionário, conduzido pelo personagem que ele mesmo interpreta, Sérgio Ricardo não se encontrava sozinho no panorama cinematográfico brasileiro. Essa revolta que emerge da tragédia, consciência ideológica adquirida em decorrência das dores do mundo, é tema recorrente em filmes como Barravento (1962), de Glauber Rocha, Pedreira de São Diogo (1962), de Leon Hirszman, Ganga Zumba (1963-64), de Carlos Diegues, ou Os fuzis (1963), de Ruy Guerra. Embora Sérgio Ricardo não seja considerado pela historiografia um integrante do Cinema Novo, talvez por sua trajetória central localizar-se no campo musical, Esse mundo é meu dialoga intensamente com o universo político e estilístico desse movimento cinematográfico. Vale lembrar que em 1964 ele comporia com Glauber Rocha a música-tema para o filme Deus e o diabo na terra do sol, canção na qual verifica-se mais um retorno à pedagogia fundacional, à chave do aprendizado crítico para a mudança da realidade social. Conforme enuncia a letra da música: se bem apreendida a lição de que o mundo anda errado, de que a história pertence ao homem, o próximo passo será a revolta que fará o “sertão virar mar”, que fará a aridez do existir transformar-se finalmente em utopia.

A despeito de todos os anseios impressos nos primeiros filmes do Cinema Novo, incluindo aqueles realizados por Sérgio Ricardo, a transformação política não se concretizaria na realidade histórica brasileira. No avesso completo da utopia desejada, no reverso do sonho, o país veria a implantação de uma ditadura civil-militar a partir de abril de 1964, uma ocupação de poder pela extrema direita que duraria pelo menos até o ano de 1985. Representada nas telas como agente revolucionário, por meio de um imaginário artístico romântico, a classe popular não ofereceria resistência ao golpe de Estado que implodiu os frágeis alicerces da democracia brasileira. Em um contexto histórico de supressão da liberdade, de pulverização dos projetos ideológicos da esquerda, os realizadores do Cinema Novo descobririam a enorme distância entre a realidade social e as imagens utópicas que haviam povoado seus filmes. Em parte, aquilo que servira de essência aos seus processos criativos mostrava-se agora uma ilusão. Por meio da autocrítica, com certa dose de amargura, os cineastas perceberiam que suas leituras em torno do povo, mesmo constituindo denúncias à miséria, pouco condiziam com a condição política real da classe oprimida. Sem escapar ao populismo e à euforia revolucionária, eles haviam projetado nas telas um popular mais atinado com seus desejos de engajamento do que com as complexidades e contradições do mundo. Diante de tal fratura, o Cinema Novo, na segunda metade da década de 1960, modificaria seu eixo temático. Nos primeiros anos da ditadura, retirando do centro das obras as representações do povo, os realizadores se voltariam principalmente para narrativas sobre o fracasso de seu projeto político, sobre a melancolia dos militantes e intelectuais de esquerda em tempos autoritários, como é perceptível nos filmes O desafio (1965), de Paulo César Saraceni, Terra em transe (1967), de Glauber Rocha, e O bravo guerreiro (1968), de Gustavo Dahl. Curiosamente, mesmo influenciado de modo direto pelo Cinema Novo, Sérgio Ricardo não acompanharia tal deslocamento temático, mantendo-se firme em seu compromisso artístico com a classe popular. Ainda que seu cinema nunca mais retornasse ao triunfalismo revolucionário anterior, agora abandonado diante das perversidades da história, ele permaneceria fiel à pedagogia política na qual o povo, em sua condição trágica, emerge nas telas como força de ruptura contra a opressão. Embora exista uma mudança de tom nos próximos filmes de Sérgio Ricardo, um afastar-se do romantismo utópico que entrou em colapso, ao mesmo tempo se mantém vivo o compromisso do artista com a classe oprimida, com a aposta de que nela reside uma possível potência de transformação.

Tal permanência se encontra presente em Juliana do amor perdido, filme que Sérgio Ricardo realizou no ano de 1970. Neste que é seu segundo longa-metragem, o artista deixa para trás o espaço geográfico da favela, deslocando suas câmeras rumo ao mar. No interior de uma ilha apartada do mundo, onde a pesca é meio de subsistência para uma comunidade praieira, a classe popular surge nos planos iniciais da narrativa envolta pela beleza plástica de um ritual religioso. A partir de uma cerimônia mística em louvor às divindades, composta por cânticos, batuques e gestos de adoração, a população local se reúne para retirar do mar os peixes que lhe servirão de alimento e de mercadoria. Atravessado por uma tonalidade sublime, decorrente da imponência estética impressa na mise en scène, o ritual confere destaque à personagem que se tornará protagonista do filme. Jovem dotada de grande formosura, elemento de mediação com o plano místico, Juliana é considerada pelo povoado como encarnação máxima da santidade. O clima inicial de maravilhamento, no entanto, terá curta duração no longa-metragem de Sérgio Ricardo. Por trás da beleza existente no cerimonial, beleza do culto popular, desvela-se uma terrível violência que contamina a vida dos moradores da ilha. Como no filme Barravento (1962), de Glauber Rocha, a dimensão religiosa serve como mecanismo de poder para a alienação do povo e a manutenção de hierarquias sociais de opressão. 
Aquilo que em princípio deveria ser sinônimo de proteção e dádiva, a suposta divindade existente no corpo de Juliana, apresenta-se no enredo dramático como um instrumento político para a contenção das insatisfações populares. Alimentando a fé e a devoção em torno da jovem, cuja santidade afinal revela-se falsa, seu pai exerce controle sobre a comunidade pesqueira, garantindo benefícios por meio de acordos espúrios com um norte-americano dono da ilha. Diferentemente de Esse mundo é meu, a classe popular surge em Juliana do amor perdido não apenas como vítima de uma sociedade injusta, mas também como agente de dominação que se volta contra os próprios irmãos. Em um contexto histórico marcado pelo fracasso utópico, tal qual faria Ruy Guerra no filme A queda (1976), tornam-se mais complexas as representações do povo, agora fraturado entre o sofrimento e o servilismo aos poderosos. Em meio à roda-viva do mundo, na qual o povoado da ilha se mantém entregue à alienação, quem mais sofre é Juliana. Consciente de sua falsidade religiosa, coagida a transformar-se em objeto de culto, a personagem deseja romper com o aprisionamento imposto pela existência, não aceitando continuar como joguete nas mãos do próprio pai. Nos anseios de Juliana reside a pedagogia política fundacional de Sérgio Ricardo. Acorrentada pela estrutura autoritária do mundo, escrava do reino da magia e dos homens, a personagem não poderá encontrar a felicidade.

Para Juliana, a chance de sobrepujar o aprisionamento nascerá a partir do encontro com um maquinista de trem, homem que controla o meio de locomoção necessário para que ela abandone um universo tomado por violências e opressões. A paixão que ela passa a sentir por Faísca, cujo apelido guarda em si a potência da ruptura, origina-se não apenas como desejo sexual, mas sobretudo como expectativa de um futuro no qual ela consiga destituir-se do enorme peso de ser uma falsa santa. No decorrer da fuga que empreende ao lado do novo parceiro, entre brincadeiras e gracejos eróticos, Juliana finalmente encontrará a chance de experimentar uma vida livre das amarras sociais existentes na comunidade pesqueira. Como os protagonistas de Esse mundo é meu, o Toninho que dança ao lado de Zuleica ou o Pedro que se diverte com Luzia em um parque de diversões, Juliana vê a materialização da alegria quando distante das maquinarias autoritárias da sociedade. Não fossem as estruturas de poder, causadoras dos descompassos do mundo, a classe popular poderia ser feliz. Em um momento de grande intensidade lírica, quando Faísca e Juliana encontram-se sozinhos em uma praia deserta, o mar que antes rebentava como espaço de dominação, mar no qual a personagem precisava travestir-se de santa trapaceira, ressurge como lugar metafórico de prazer e de ruptura. Ainda que as águas não mais comportem a alegoria revolucionária presente em Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (1964), no qual emergiam como símbolo épico de todo um povo em emancipação, elas reencantam-se na narrativa fílmica de Sérgio Ricardo, surgindo como espaço de acolhimento para um feminino em busca de libertação. Se o tempo histórico ainda fosse o do romantismo utópico pré-1964, se o país não estivesse refém de uma ditadura militar em 1970, talvez Juliana do amor perdido se encerrasse aqui. Talvez, como na imagem final de Esse mundo é meu, a narrativa se concluiria com Juliana e Faísca na plenitude da felicidade, com uma mise en scène lírica a evocar a expectativa de um futuro libertário.

Tal perspectiva, todavia, não está reservada ao casal. Após uma série de reviravoltas narrativas, Juliana será novamente aprisionada pela comunidade pesqueira, cuja alienação transforma-se em violência desmedida contra a “santa” que deveria garantir a proteção do povoado e não abandoná-lo. Tratada como traidora, encarcerada pela crendice religiosa fascista, a personagem enfrentará duras agressões impostas ao seu corpo. Durante uma nova tentativa de fuga, pois o desejo de ruptura permanece aceso, Juliana encontrará seu destino final. Em desespero, perseguida pelos homens e mulheres da comunidade, ela será atropelada pelo trem guiado por Faísca, morta justamente pelo meio de transporte que deveria oferecer-lhe os caminhos para uma possível redenção. Sob efeito de um contexto histórico ditatorial, de acirramento das contradições sociais brasileiras, o cinema de Sérgio Ricardo não mais encontra a disposição anterior para idealizar futuros utópicos. Em tempos autoritários e militarizados, o artista atualiza a pedagogia política presente na essência de seu trabalho criativo. Como parte da obra de Sérgio Ricardo, Juliana do amor perdido resulta em um filme de aprendizado em torno dos mecanismos de opressão que incidem sobre a existência da classe popular. Mais um exemplar do compromisso ideológico com os oprimidos, o longa-metragem ressalta a energia revolucionária que emana do povo, a vitalidade que o leva a tentativas persistentes de ruptura contra o sistema de dominação. No entanto, ainda que se materialize a felicidade, emerge no filme uma dimensão trágica avassaladora, uma destruição reforçada por preconceitos, interesses econômicos e hierarquias de poder. A vida e a morte do popular, seu sofrimento e a força de sua resistência, elementos criativos fundacionais da arte de Sérgio Ricardo, ressurgem na narrativa de Juliana do amor perdido. Atualizada, a pedagogia política ensina que os tempos são trágicos, mas que o povo, como classe social, prossegue contendo a potência desejante da ruptura.

E são justamente a vida e a morte do povo que reemergem, com grande intensidade poética, no terceiro longa-metragem realizado por Sérgio Ricardo. A partir de um roteiro escrito originalmente em 1968, mas levado às telas apenas no ano de 1974, A noite do espantalho desloca o processo criativo do cineasta em direção a outro espaço geográfico de exclusão, rumo ao sertão nordestino onde a classe popular enfrenta uma vida atravessada pela fome e pela submissão às forças autoritárias do coronelismo. Se até então a cinematografia de Sérgio Ricardo havia se dedicado a representações em torno do mar e da favela urbana, localizando nestes territórios a oscilação entre a tragédia e a resistência dos oprimidos, agora as suas câmeras se voltam para uma das regiões mais empobrecidas do país, cenário de grande precariedade material também presente em filmes centrais do Cinema Novo como Vidas Secas (1963) e Os fuzis (1963). Dando continuidade ao projeto artístico do cineasta, expandindo-o em direção aos dilemas encontrados no interior do Nordeste, A noite do espantalho recoloca em cena, como novo ato de engajamento, uma pedagogia política mediada pela condição existencial miserável do povo brasileiro.
Deslocando-se rumo ao sertão, escolha nada fortuita para um artista de cerne militante, Sérgio Ricardo elegeria como cenário para seu terceiro longa-metragem a cidade de Nova Jerusalém, localizada no estado nordestino de Pernambuco. Cidade construída artificialmente no ano de 1968, com edificações que tentam imitar a arquitetura da antiga Jerusalém descrita em textos bíblicos, a locação onde ocorre a narrativa de A noite do espantalho tornou-se conhecida, no Brasil, como espaço de celebração católica no qual realizam-se encenações recorrentes de A paixão de Cristo. Considerada o maior teatro a céu aberto do mundo, um ícone do poder cristão na América Latina, com o passar do tempo Nova Jerusalém foi se transformando em território de peregrinação religiosa no qual, anualmente, centenas de atores e fieis se reúnem com o objetivo de encenar o sofrimento enfrentado por Jesus Cristo em seus últimos momentos de vida. No entanto, ao situar seu filme nesse lugar simbólico, de convivência íntima entre o kitsch e o sagrado, de modo algum Sérgio Ricardo encontrava-se mobilizado por qualquer forma de respeito à devoção católica. Mantendo-se firme em sua disposição crítica contra a alienação religiosa, posicionamento já presente em Juliana do amor perdido, o artista toma de empréstimo uma localidade impregnada pela fé não com o intuito de promover celebrações, mas sim com a perspectiva de operar rupturas políticas em um espaço considerado socialmente como símbolo de devoção. Ao filmar em Nova Jerusalém, no mesmo território em que a comoção emocional advém da via crucis e da ressurreição espiritual, o cineasta refuta uma reencenação dos dias derradeiros de Cristo, substituindo-a por outra tragédia que nada tem a ver com as dimensões ascéticas do catolicismo. Ao se apropriar da cidade santificada, de suas ruas e edificações, o artista destitui o componente originário cristão, colocando em seu lugar uma angústia diretamente relacionada à realidade social do país. Em A noite do espantalho, num movimento de subversão materialista, Jesus é retirado de cena. Contrariando expectativas religiosas, Nova Jerusalém transforma-se em palco de outra paixão, aquela que envolve a angústia e o sofrimento da classe popular brasileira. Na teatralidade política de Sérgio Ricardo, em seu cinema de engajamento, o que se encontra em cartaz é A Paixão do Povo Sertanejo.

No filme A noite do espantalho, obra mais ousada do cinema de Sérgio Ricardo, o relato sobre a paixão que envolve os oprimidos é construído por meio de uma experiência estética dotada de grande inventividade. Retomando aquilo que se encontra na essência de seu trabalho criativo, um projeto estilístico composto a partir de convergências com o universo da arte popular, em seu terceiro longa-metragem o cineasta procura estabelecer um encontro poético com a musicalidade oriunda do cancioneiro nordestino. Se antes, no filme Esse mundo é meu, o samba emergia como expressão cultural relacionada aos dilemas do Rio de Janeiro, em diálogo com a música existente nos morros e favelas, agora, em sua nova película, Sérgio Ricardo busca aproximações criativas com raízes sonoras vinculadas à identidade sertaneja. O duelo cantado, a poesia de cordel, a dança de roda e o canto de trabalho, entre outras matrizes rítmicas de origem nordestina, atravessam a totalidade narrativa de A noite de espantalho como uma rapsódia operística que desvela as dimensões líricas, a tragédia e os atos de sobrevivência pertencentes à classe popular. Na forma de uma paixão do povo, a pedagogia política de Sérgio Ricardo, fundamento de seu fazer cinematográfico, encontra-se agora investida por um cancioneiro que se transforma em fio condutor do aprendizado crítico sobre as estruturas de opressão existentes no sertão brasileiro. 

Do início ao fim, por meio de diálogos cantados, o filme toma de empréstimo tradições da musicalidade popular, modernizando-as com o intuito de narrar as desventuras que envolvem os oprimidos no interior da região nordestina. Ao modo de uma ópera do povo, de um musical cinematográfico acerca das adversidades do mundo, o longa-metragem de Sérgio Ricardo coloca em cena a figura de um cantador, enigmático espantalho que ali se encontra para contar um episódio de sofrimento e de resistência ocorrido dentro de um pequeno povoado sertanejo. Interpretado por Alceu Valença, que futuramente se tornaria compositor e cantor de renome nacional, o espantalho atravessa o filme como figura que detém a memória dos infortúnios populares, como alguém que deseja partilhar com os espectadores seu conhecimento acerca da condição vivida pela classe miserável. Do mesmo modo que em Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (1964), cumprindo uma função poético-pedagógica, o cantador aqui se encontra para propiciar um aprendizado político sobre a precariedade da existência. Ao anunciar que sua história é fruto da verdade e da mentira, de um veio ficcional que provém diretamente da realidade, o espantalho nos convida à conscientização sobre o mundo, esperando que talvez derive daí alguma forma de “uso e [de] bom proveito”. É da voz desse contador de causos, dono de grande sabedoria, que brota a narrativa vinculada à paixão do povo sertanejo.

Em A noite do espantalho, o relato apresentado pelo cantador escancara as relações autoritárias de poder existentes no Nordeste brasileiro. No interior de um povoado sertanejo, em uma região severamente atingida pelo clima seco, a classe popular vive seus dias sob o agressivo domínio da elite coronelista. Rico proprietário de terras, símbolo máximo do despotismo latifundiário, o coronel Fragoso exerce desmedido controle sobre a população local, obrigando-a a viver em um estado opressivo de quase escravidão. Submetidos aos desmandos do poder, aprisionados pela servidão que lhes é imposta, os oprimidos encontram-se envoltos em um sofrimento marcado pela fome e pela miséria material. Nesse universo fraturado pela divisão social, em que a violência dos jagunços impõe a autoridade coronelista, o povo busca no misticismo religioso um refúgio para as agruras do cotidiano. No entanto, como antes no filme Juliana do amor perdido, a salvação pela fé apresenta-se como algo ilusório. A despeito das promessas feitas por um líder messiânico, por essa figura tão recorrente no imaginário sertanejo, o milagre da redenção falha. Com grande frustração, o povo assiste ao naufrágio de suas expectativas quando a chuva transformadora não chega, angustiando-se diante do fracasso religioso que pressagiava o fim da miséria por meio das águas vindas do céu. 

Face ao espiritual que não soluciona as contradições do mundo, adquirindo consciência política acerca de sua condição miserável, o povoado buscará a construção de um ato de resistência contra o coronel Fragoso. Como é típico no cinema de Sérgio Ricardo, na essência de sua pedagogia crítica, a dimensão trágica do cotidiano impulsiona os oprimidos à tentativa de ruptura contra o sistema de dominação. Mais uma vez, manifesta-se o aprendizado fundacional impresso na canção “Esse mundo é meu”. Para ser feliz, para alcançar sua emancipação, a classe popular precisa tomar a história em suas mãos, sobrepujando formas de alienação que impedem ações políticas transformadoras. A potência advinda dos oprimidos, entretanto, também falhará como mecanismo de enfrentamento contra os abusos do poder coronelista. Ainda que resida no povo uma força política que nunca se apaga, um desejo de liberdade que mobiliza seu existir, a tentativa de resistência será massacrada na narrativa de A noite do espantalho. Diante das insurgências advindas dos miseráveis, que se recusam a deixar suas terras, o coronel Fragoso ordena o aniquilamento dos revoltosos. Sob o olhar vigilante de um dragão, símbolo do colonialismo capitalista em terras brasileiras, um grupo de jagunços extermina os sertanejos, dando fim à rebeldia que vinha se erguendo. 

Como nos demais filmes de Sérgio Ricardo, em A noite do espantalho a felicidade popular também se materializa nos momentos em que as forças autoritárias encontram-se distantes. Novamente, quando desenha-se a expectativa de ruptura com o domínio da opressão, um lirismo atravessa o tecido dramático como manifestação da alegria proveniente dos oprimidos. Sobretudo nas sequências em que os sertanejos contrariam o poder local, propondo a construção de uma comunidade autônoma ao sistema coronelista, o contentamento emerge na forma de uma potência libertária que emana diretamente do povo. Em A noite do espantalho, Sérgio Ricardo coloca em cena as imagens utópicas mais belas de sua cinematografia. Tal materialização da felicidade evidencia-se, em especial, nos momentos em que o povoado se transforma em coletividade a erguer um vilarejo em resistência ao coronel. A partir de uma mise en scène documentarizante, acompanhada por uma música de exaltação à comunhão popular, os sertanejos somam seus braços e mãos, coletivizam seus instrumentos de trabalho, com o intuito de construir, em sistema de mutirão, as moradias nas quais pretendem viver. Do barro remexido, da madeira cortada e das folhas de árvores edifica-se o projeto de um novo lar. Enquanto se desenvolve o mutirão, algo singular ocorre. Pela única vez no cinema ficcional de Sérgio Ricardo, a equipe de filmagem manifesta-se em cena, capturando com seus microfones e câmeras o agir libertário do povo. Num grande ato comunal, as mãos que edificam as casas e aquelas que registram o mundo compartilham a alegria de um viver sem amarras. A potência utópica emerge na cena ficcional, mas também nos bastidores da filmagem, congregando a criação artística com a criação advinda do popular. A mensagem, posta nas entrelinhas do filme, parece clara: não fossem as estruturas de poder, esta seria a vida possível. Reside, nessas imagens de plenitude, a aposta existencial do artista. Infelizmente, como antes em Juliana do amor perdido, a reação autoritária soterra o vislumbre de um futuro possível. Na forma de uma paixão musical, a pedagogia política de Sérgio Ricardo manifesta-se uma vez mais, traçando o aprendizado crítico acerca do sofrimento do mundo. 

Em A noite do espantalho, no entanto, a pedagogia política adquire um adensamento referente às leituras sobre a condição autoritária encontrada na sociedade brasileira. No terceiro longa-metragem de Sérgio Ricardo, os mecanismos de opressão não se materializam em cena unicamente a partir das ações violentas oriundas de personagens vilanescos como o coronel Fragoso ou o dragão colonizador capitalista. No filme, por meio de uma abordagem mais complexa acerca das (de)formações autoritárias do país, o coronelismo nordestino emerge como dimensão estrutural capaz de corromper, inclusive, o espírito da própria classe popular. Distante da pureza revolucionária que residia em Esse mundo é meu, no qual o povo era representado exclusivamente como vítima da sociedade, verifica-se no filme A noite do espantalho um esforço de Sérgio Ricardo em evidenciar que os sertanejos, em meio ao miserabilismo, encontram-se reféns de um sistema de dominação que recorrentemente os transforma em instrumentos de violência a serviço da elite econômica. Emerge no tecido dramático, como resultado dos descompassos estruturais do mundo, um estilhaçamento da classe popular. 

No longa-metragem, o protagonista da paixão cantada pelo espantalho é um homem de origem popular que se encontra fraturado entre duas personalidades distintas. Por um lado, em meio às desorientações que o atravessam, ele surge em cena como o vaqueiro Zé Tulão. Interpretado pelo ator Gilson Moura, Tulão transforma-se na principal liderança política que estimula o povoado à resistência. Dono de grande sabedoria, detentor de consciência sobre o mundo, ele partilha seu conhecimento crítico com os demais sertanejos, impulsionando-os a tomar posse das terras do coronel como ato de rebeldia contra os mecanismos de opressão. Por outro lado, tornando-se a face sombria de um mesmo homem, o protagonista de A noite do espantalho também se materializa como o jagunço Zé do Cão. Agora interpretado por José Pimentel, Zé do Cão carrega a sina da morte, representando a corrupção coronelista que leva a classe popular a converter-se em arma assassina nas mãos dos poderosos. Em sua encarnação jagunça, ele lidera o genocídio que extermina o povoado revoltoso. Fraturado em dois, atravessado pela instabilidade existencial, o protagonista do filme existe ao mesmo tempo como personalidade das luzes e das trevas. Metáfora de um povo aprisionado pelo domínio coronelista, a oscilar entre o desejo libertário e o servilismo ao poder, ele traduz os efeitos complexos de uma sociedade pervertida pelo autoritarismo. Ainda que busque a ruptura como o vaqueiro Zé Tulão, resguardando a potência transformadora da classe popular, o personagem não consegue escapar da contaminação autoritária, convertendo-se também no jagunço Zé do Cão, assassino dos próprios irmãos. A tormenta vivida pelo protagonista só findará com sua morte, quando, para regozijo do coronel Fragoso, uma personalidade acaba anulando a existência da outra. Para Maria do Grotão, mulher apaixonada pelas duas identidades de um homem só, resta o luto por aquele que carregou em vida a cruz do estilhaçamento. Em A noite do espantalho, a paixão sertaneja dota de maior complexidade a pedagogia política de Sérgio Ricardo. O aprisionamento do popular, que lhe impede a felicidade, é mais perverso do que ditam as aparências, eis o ensinamento transmitido pelo filme. O sofrimento não se origina apenas da fome, da precariedade material ou da tragédia associada à morte. Reside, também, no sistema opressivo que contamina a classe popular, fazendo-a existir ao mesmo tempo como vítima e algoz. Mesmo que a alegria se materialize provisoriamente em A noite do espantalho, como vislumbre lírico de um desejo utópico, a corrupção estrutural que incide sobre o povo aniquila possibilidades de redenção.

Em A noite do espantalho, a atualização da pedagogia política também reside no tratamento singular conferido por Sérgio Ricardo ao universo do sertão nordestino. Sem sombra de dúvidas, o longa-metragem apresenta um intenso diálogo com o imaginário cultural que se encontra presente em filmes da primeira fase do Cinema Novo ou em obras literárias escrita por autores como Jorge Amado, José Lins do Rêgo e Graciliano Ramos. A paixão cantada pelo espantalho remete diretamente às heranças narrativas, sobretudo de viés realista, que representaram a condição sertaneja por meio de elementos típicos como o misticismo religioso, o autoritarismo coronelista, a geografia da seca ou a situação miserável da classe popular. Tornando-se herdeira de tradições artísticas engajadas, voltadas para a denúncia das hierarquias de poder no Nordeste, A noite do espantalho dá prosseguimento a um imaginário ficcional que posicionou no centro de seus processos criativos o conflito de classes existente em uma das regiões mais empobrecidas do Brasil. A esta tradição, no entanto, Sérgio Ricardo acrescenta outros componentes formais que se voltam para a contemporaneidade dos anos 1970, dotando a tragédia sertaneja de uma atualidade política e histórica. Usufruindo de grande liberdade poética, fazendo valer sua ousadia, o cineasta adiciona à paixão nordestina elementos estéticos que remetem livremente às experiências contraculturais que vinham se desenvolvendo no país à revelia das perseguições e censuras da ditadura militar. 

Ainda que Sérgio Ricardo nunca tenha sido um artista da contracultura - e defender tal vínculo seria um equívoco -, em A noite do espantalho ele procurou estabelecer pontos de contato com o experimentalismo advindo de vanguardas estéticas existente em sem seu tempo. Nesse sentido, a mise en scène do longa-metragem potencializa a pedagogia política do cineasta ao incorporar, ao imaginário tradicional sertanejo, formas fílmicas para além do realismo que habitualmente representou o sofrimento da classe popular nordestina. No filme, são inúmeros os momentos em que isso ocorre. Há a renovação do cancioneiro popular, a transformação dos jagunços em gangue de motoqueiros estilizados, a colocação em cena de um dragão colonizador tropicalista, a representação do espaço coronelista como aparato burocrático moderno ou a materialização de um palco de arena como lócus teatral onde Zé Tulão enfrenta seu duplo Zé do Cão. Atualizada em sua potência estética, a mise en scène de A noite do espantalho demonstra que a paixão sertaneja não é algo pertencente ao passado, mas sim uma angústia que prossegue existindo no tempo histórico da década de 1970. Trata-se, ao meu ver, de um esforço recorrente da criação cinematográfica de Sérgio Ricardo: evidenciar, a partir de sua pedagogia política, que a oscilação entre vida e morte, entre tragédia e resistência, permanece sendo a condição existencial dos oprimidos enquanto não for superado o autoritarismo da sociedade brasileira. Ainda que passem os anos, e que rebentem inúmeros atos de rebeldia, o sofrimento retorna como violência cíclica que incide sobre a vida do povo.

Nesse sentido, tendo em vista a permanência da paixão popular através dos tempos, como um problema ainda insolúvel no ano de 2020, não espanta que Sérgio Ricardo tenha retornado, em outros filmes, à pedagogia política que se encontra na essência de sua criação artística. Apesar da longa interrupção que atravessou o seu cinema ficcional, uma vez que o artista dirigiria um novo filme de enredo apenas na década de 2010, seu reencontro com a realização cinematográfica marcou, também, uma retomada das narrativas engajadas nas quais a representação do povo emerge como um trânsito entre a tragédia e a resistência. No curta-metragem Pé no chão (2014), mas sobretudo no longa Bandeira de retalhos (2018), obras em que Sérgio Ricardo volta a filmar nos morros cariocas, a pedagogia ressurge como ensinamento crítico sobre os desconcertos do Brasil contemporâneo. Novamente, como é perceptível na narrativa de Bandeira de retalhos, a potência lírica e política do povo, que se materializa como ato de resistência contra a desapropriação de uma favela, culmina em terrível tragédia que rememora o aprisionamento dos oprimidos às estruturas de poder existentes no país. A despeito da vitória contra a sanha patrimonialista, que expulsa os favelados de suas moradias em nome dos interesses imobiliários, a felicidade acaba fraturada pela violência autoritária que contamina a existência da classe popular. 

Transitando entre o morro carioca, o mar e o sertão, espaços geográficos primordiais das obras realizadas pelo Cinema Novo, os filmes de Sérgio Ricardo manifestam a coerência de um artista engajado que manteve, até o fim da vida, um posicionamento ideológico contra os mecanismos de opressão presentes na sociedade brasileira. Mantendo-se firme dentro do ideário forjado entre os anos 1950 e 1960, do qual provém a ideia de que o artista revolucionário é aquele que se entrega a um pacto orgânico com a classe popular, Sérgio Ricardo lançou-se a um compromisso estético e filosófico marcado por leituras acerca dos dilemas enfrentados pelos oprimidos. Em seu cinema, representante do marxismo cultural, o povo sempre emergiu como coletividade em luta e em sofrimento, como materialização de um olhar militante que difundiu para o mundo representações específicas das fraturas nacionais. Em conformidade com seu pensamento político, em íntimo contato com o materialismo crítico, o artista imbuiu-se de um engajamento no qual o popular, manifestando-se nas telas, surgiu sobretudo como classe social. Aí residiu a essência criativa de Sérgio Ricardo, seu modo de agir e de estar no mundo. Sempre retornando à questão primordial de seu pensamento, à lição de que “acorrentado ninguém pode amar”, o artista forjou uma pedagogia que acreditou capaz de conscientizar politicamente os espectadores. Ver seus filmes permite entrar em contato com um cinema que nunca abdicou do desejo utópico, ainda que inscrevesse (e evidenciasse) a tragédia presente no cotidiano brasileiro. Uma obra que se constituiu a partir do encontro entre um artista de herança marxista e a classe popular, cuja militância consolidou-se ao lado dos oprimidos, apostando em um pacto que permitisse, quem sabe, contribuir para a real transformação do mundo. Para Sérgio Ricardo, do início ao fim de sua trajetória, tal crença tornou-se o fundamento do processo artístico de criação. Nela, ele encontrou não somente os caminhos de seu cinema, mas uma filosofia humanista que mobilizou toda a sua existência. Não há vida possível, afirmaria o artista, sem um desejo incansável de resistência.
The Cinemateca Brasileira (CB, or “Brazilian Cinematheque”), the leading audiovisual heritage institution in Brazil, is going through its worst-ever crisis in 2020. As a result, its extensive collection and elaborate technological machinery are threatened, as well as the knowledge that permeates from both. At the beginning of the year, a flood occurred in the Cinemateca’s warehouse, drastically affecting part of the film and equipment collection stored there. Since August 2020, the collection and facilities are without proper technical support; and at this moment of writing, there is no news of an immediate resolution that meets the urgency. Inaction and neglect with the Cinemateca Brasileira are just two examples of the Brazilian government’s perversities, which additionally include the structural dismantling of the public health, education, and cultural systems,1 and the ecocide and genocide of the country’s native and black populations, the latter of which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Cinemateca crisis took on unprecedented proportions in 2020, but its origin came earlier, going through the administrative and political turmoil of 2013 and a fire in early 2016. This article discusses the work carried out at the institution in mid-2016, the challenge of its continuity after the team’s reduction in 2017, the alleged solution with a new management model in 2018, and the 2020 hecatomb.2 This text also presents a few conjectures about the relationship between Brazil’s audiovisual heritage and its audiovisual production industry. The series of crises over the last 74 years, marked by the four fires and the flood, are the broad consequence of what Brasília-based museologist Fabiana Ferreira highlights in her thesis “A Cinemateca Brasileira e as políticas públicas de preservação do acervo audiovisual no Brasil” (2020).3 She claims, “the only stable aspect in public policies for audiovisual preservation is its inconstancy. A succession of disagreements and disarticulations by the political agents responsible for the creation and implementation of policies without a real national governmental project that crosses mandates” (2020, p.109). According to Hernani Heffner, chief curator of the Cinemateca do MAM in Rio de Janeiro, this is not only the biggest crisis in the history of the Cinemateca Brasileira, but also the biggest crisis of Brazilian audiovisual heritage.4

Overview of the Last Two Decades
Brazil is a federal republic of continental dimensions – the fifth-largest in territorial extension. It has 26 states and a federal district. The country has undergone two re-democratization processes, the most recent in 1984 after the end of the military dictatorship. In the 21st century, Brazil has had economic growth, a reduction of social gaps, and extreme-poverty rates. Universities flourished and the audiovisual industry solidified through new federal policies and programs as a result of the investment policies of the Audiovisual Secretariat (SAv) / Ministry of Culture (MinC),5 and the Audiovisual Sector Fund (FSA).6 These investments allowed new professionals to emerge in the film production sector and the consolidation of new film production companies, which, in turn, supplied an increasing number of new films each year. Eventual municipal and state resources for film production were added to the federal ones. However, Laura Bezerra observes that while the government invested in decentralizing cultural production policies, the same did not happen with film preservation (2015). While there were substantial investments in the Cinemateca Brasileira during this period and after the inclusion of the CB in the SAv’s organizational chart, there were also few political discussions about the implementation of policies and actions for the field in a profound way.7 This is a problem that is fundamental for understanding the development of the current crisis. As Fabiana Ferreira diagnosed, “The Cinemateca does not act in the creation and implementation of preservation policies, either by conducting discussions and holding dialogues with the sector or by actively participating in political spaces at the federal level, such as the National Film Council, for example. There was also no structured dialogue with other memory management entities” (2020, p.108). The State’s insufficiency in their management of Brazilian heritage causes profound reverberations, especially affecting the audiovisual production industry which seems to not recognize preservation as a necessary element for their works. Still, the current Cinemateca Brasileira crisis has become yet another argument for the decentralization (and increase) of investments in audiovisual heritage nationwide.8 Brazil has many federal, state, municipal, and private heritage institutions that are not in the spotlight and that also demand urgent actions and resources.

Over the last few decades, there has been constant maturation in the field of audiovisual preservation. For example, the establishment of specific financing programs; the distribution of new publications; the creation and growth of the festival Mostra de Cinema de Ouro Preto (CineOP), where the National Meeting of Archives and Audiovisual Collections takes place;9  the formation of the Brazilian Association for Audiovisual Preservation (ABPA) and the elaboration of the National Plan for Audiovisual Preservation (PNPA).10  Also, there has been a growing number of Preservation-related events each year.
Cinemateca Brasileira – A Brief History
The Cinemateca Brasileira has had several administrative arrangements. It began as a civil society organization and later moved to the public sphere. Its long history includes many setbacks with some positive developments. The writer, essayist, critic, researcher, professor, and activist Paulo Emílio Sales Gomes (1916-1977) is the protagonist in the creation, defense, and management of the Cinemateca Brasileira. Pa