Introduction

This book presents the first comprehensive critical survey of contemporary Brazilian Cinema to both a Brazilian and an international readership. The period in focus begins in the mid 1990s, when a new Audio-visual Law, promulgated in 1993, started to yield its first results, prompting a boom in film production that became known as the retomada do cinema brasileiro, or the 'rebirth of Brazilian Cinema'.

This cinematic 'renaissance' occurred at an emblematic moment of democratic consolidation in the country. Before it, Brazil had gone through decades of traumas: twenty years of military dictatorship, the illness and death of appointed President Tancredo Neves on the verge of taking office, President Sarney's inflationary years and, finally, the obscurantist disaster of the first President democratically elected after the dictatorship, Fernando Collor de Mello, who took office in 1990 and was impeached for corruption less than two years later, in 1992.

The first two years of the 1990s were certainly among the worst in Brazilian film history. As soon as he was in power, Collor downgraded the Ministry of Culture to a Secretariat and closed down several cultural institutions, including Embrafilme (the Brazilian Film Company), which was already in difficulties but still remained the main support for Brazilian Cinema. In 1992, only two long feature films were released in Brazil. The cinematic revival began during President Itamar Franco's mandate, which completed Collor's term, and was developed during Fernando Henrique Cardoso's two terms as President (1995-02).

The Franco government's first measure to foster film production was the creation of the Brazilian Cinema Rescue Award (Premio Resgate do Cinema Brasileiro), which re-allocated the assets of Embrafilme. In three selections carried out between 1993 and

1994, the Rescue Award was given to a total of ninety projects (25 short, nine medium and 56 full length films), which were completed in quick succession. Thus the bottleneck created by the two years of Collor's government resulted in an accumulation of films produced in the following years. The Rescue Award was followed by the passing of Law no 8685, known as the Audio-visual Law, which adapted pre-existing laws of fiscal incentives to audio-visual projects, thus boosting film production rates.

In six years, from 1994 through 2000, Brazil produced nearly 200 feature-length films, a remarkable figure considering that the whole film industry in the country had been dismantled just prior to that. Moreover, despite the serious problems of film distribution and exhibition, several of the films received an immediate and enthusiastic response from critics and audiences. The first clear sign that the Brazilian cinematic landscape was changing was Carlota Joaquina - princesa do Brasil (Carlota Joaquina - Princess of Brazil, Carla Camurati, 1995), which, even though initially released only in alternative venues, soon attracted over one million viewers.

In 1998, Central do Brasil (Central Station, Walter Salles) received the Golden Bear in Berlin, and its leading actress, Fernanda Montenegro, received the best actress award in the same festival. Central do Brasil achieved enormous success in Brazil, launching the country back on the international scene after an absence that had lasted since the glorious days of Cinema Novo in the 1960s. The film received a long list of awards in Brazil and abroad, including the British Academy Film Award for best foreign film and Oscar nominations for best foreign film and best actress. Its commercial career abroad has also been very successful.

Apart from Central do Brasil, many other recent Brazilian films - such as O que e isso, companheiro? (Four Days in September, Bruno Barreto, 1997), Orfeu (Carlos Diegues, 1999) and Eu, tu, eles (Me You Them, Andrucha Waddington, 2000) - were released worldwide, starting a new market trend set in a wider frame of Latin-American film revivals in the 1990s, which includes Argentina and Mexico as well as Brazil. At the beginning of the Brazilian film revival variety seemed to predominate. Directors ranged from veterans to beginners, resuming old projects or searching for new ideas. Styles moved from the openly commercial to the strictly experimental, in fiction, documentary or mixed films. But after nearly a decade, it is now possible to assert that most of the recent films maintain a strong historical link with Brazilian films of the past and that they share a number of features and tendencies. The aim of this book is to shed a critical light on these new tendencies and historical links.

In June 2000, experts from Brazil and the UK gathered at a conference on contemporary Brazilian Cinema, called 'Brazilian Cinema: roots of the present, perspectives for the future', held in oxford, under my coordination. The conference, accompanied by a Brazilian film retrospective, was sponsored by the Centre for Brazilian Studies, University of Oxford, and the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, in connection with the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of Brazil's discovery by the Portuguese. Several of the chapters of this book originated from papers presented then; the other chapters were commissioned in an effort to cover all the relevant topics.

Contributors include filmmakers, cultural administrators, film scholars and journalists. Some of them, such as filmmaker Carlos Diegues, the former Audio-visual secretary José Álvaro Moisés and the former director of Riofilme José Carlos Avellar, have participated directly in the Brazilian film revival. All the others, including the American and British specialists, possess a long-standing intimacy with Brazilian film history. Authors had total freedom to express their minds, which has resulted in contrasting, often opposing points of view on the same subject. This was not done to generate polemic for its own sake, but to guarantee a space for the variety of readings a film, a movement or a filmmaker can arouse. The engagement apparent in the expression of these different minds also shows how thought-provoking and inspiring new Brazilian Cinema has become.

The consequences of the dismantling process

Part one of this collection deals with film production in Brazil from the mid-1990s onwards. The opening chapter is a detailed account of the so-called 'rebirth of Brazilian Cinema' by José Álvaro Moisés. As a former National Secretary of Cultural Support (1995-98) and National Secretary for Audio-visual Affairs (1999-02) at the Ministry of Culture, Moisés was in a privileged position to describe and analyse the political context behind the cinematic boom, as well as the genesis of the Audio-visual Law, its flaws, advantages and results. Having introduced the film revival, Moisés goes on to present a retrospective account of the dismantling process during the short-lived Collor government. He then explains how the Audio-visual Law led to investments reaching R$ 450 million in the production of 155 feature films between 1995 and 2000. He does not fail to recognize the limits of the law, which, despite its power to boost production, was unable to stimulate the commercialization of the films produced. He also points out problems, such as the excessively open selection system that put experienced directors on the same level as beginners, and the brokers' outrageous fees for fund-raising, which go against the public interest. According to Moisés, these and other problems have been dealt with through more recent legislation and measures. In his conclusion, he supports the continuation of the Audiovisual Law (originally due to expire in 2003), once it has been subjected to the necessary amendments and updating.

In the next chapter, Carlos Diegues' view of the same subject is less optimistic. According to this experienced film director, who was among the founders of Cinema Novo, none of the cycles or periods of cinematic renaissance have managed to establish a definitive film industry in Brazil, and the recent one is also doomed to failure if urgent action is not taken. Diegues believes that the main obstacle to the development of cinema in Brazil lies not in the production but in the distribution of films. if this issue is not properly looked at, he argues, 'at best, the Audio-visual Law can only create the biggest industry in the world of unreleased films.' Other problems affecting cinema in Brazil are, according to him, declining audiences due to economic recession; the lack of ancillary markets; the absence of the State as a mediator and regulator in the film market; and the absence of television from film production and distribution. Diegues concludes by presenting a long list of suggestions aimed at dealing with all these issues.

Part two looks at recent fiction films as an expression of social phenomena. In his chapter, Ismail Xavier, the author of landmark books on the Cinema Novo and modern Brazilian Cinema, starts by drawing a comparison between the national project that animated cinema in the 1960s and the return of national concerns in the 1990s, in films such as Como nascem os anjos (How Angels Are Born, Murilo Salles, 1996), Baile perfumado (Perfumed Ball, Paulo Caldas and Lírio Ferreira, 1997), Central do Brasil, Orfeu (Carlos Diegues, 1999) and Cronicamente inviável (Chronically Unfeasible, Sérgio Bianchi, 1999). In Xavier's view, if the question of national identity remains a vital force in current films, there are also significant differences as the focus shifts from social teleology to individual psychology, from the oppression of the State to that of organized crime, from the social bandit to the cynical criminal, from revolutionary romanticism to pop culture. His analysis leads to the formulation of what he considers the main motifs of Brazilian Cinema in the 1990s: the 'unexpected personal encounter', related to different forms of migration, and the 'resentful character', related to a sense of personal failure. As regards the former, Xavier explains that 'Brazilian films reveal their connection with the contemporary state of sensibility, showing their concern for the human aspects of the compression of space and time inherent in the world of high technology.' Concerning the latter, he points out the 'discomfort shared by a large group of characters who have their minds set in the past and are obsessed by long-lasting plans of revenge.' Xavier goes as far as to see resentment 'as a national diagnosis', a feeling that grows from the lack of political hopes. He concludes by perceiving, in films such as Central do Brasil, a 'figure of redemption' represented by the child, described as a 'moral reservoir that can still generate compassion.'

Approaching many of the films sympathetically analysed by Xavier, Fernao Ramos, in his chapter, adopts a much harder critical position. His goal is to detect a 'bad conscience' caused by representations of Brazil's poor, 'who are lending their voice to the middle class filmmaker.' According to Ramos, 'in many films produced during the revival one can feel this bad conscience shifting away from issues of social fracture to accusations directed at the nation as a whole.' He then proceeds to describe foreign (often Anglo-Saxon) characters that appear in these films as a means 'to provide a point of comparison to the configuration of low self-esteem, to measures of national incompetence.' In his view, Crónicamente inviável, with its bitter criticism of the 'unviable nation', is the ultimate expression of a mechanism meant to provide a 'comfortable viewing stance', when the spectator, together with the filmmaker, is placed outside the 'ignoble universe' presented in the film.

The final chapter in this part of the book provides a complete -ly different view of Crónicamente inviável Joao Luiz Vieira's detailed analysis of the film tries to show that it keeps alive the possibility of radical social transformation through self-reflexive techniques that refuse authority even to the voice-over commentator, with whom audiences usually identify. In Vieira's view, Crónicamente inviável is a 'political film in a depoliticized world', that breaks boundaries between documentary and fiction genres, defies con-formism and 'posits a thematic and stylistic agenda of resistance to the oppressive and exploitative functioning of local and transnational capitalism.'

Part three focuses on the documentary, a growing genre in contemporary Brazilian Cinema. Amir Labaki, the director of the Sao Paulo and Rio International Documentary Film Festival, gives a broad panorama of recent production, connecting it with the documentary tradition in Brazil since the pioneers. In the recent revival, documentary production increased at the same time as boundaries between documentary and fiction genres became fluid. Thus he includes in his overview films that contain both fictional and documentary material, such as O cineasta da selva (The Filmmaker of the Amazon, Aurélio Michiles, 1997), Perfumed Ball and Milagre em Juazeiro (Miracle at Juazeiro, Wolney de Oliveira, 1999). As the author points out, documentaries have been at the root of several fiction films of the revival. For example, Socorro Nobre (Walter Salles, 1996) was a kind of prologue to Central do Brasil, and Noticias de uma guerra particular (News of a Private War, Joao Moreira Salles and Kátia Lund, 1998) is behind O primeiro dia (Midnight, Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, 1999).

Among those entirely devoted to non-fiction film is veteran filmmaker Eduardo Coutinho, to whom a chapter is dedicated by Veronica Ferreira Dias. Not only are his documentaries on Rio favelas (shanty towns) and popular religion among the best of the revival, but Dias embraces the idea, already suggested by JeanClaude Bernardet in the 1980s, that Coutinho is the greatest documentary filmmaker alive in Brazil. This is due, according to the author, to his realist method, which reveals the mechanisms of film production and denounces it 'as a discourse, not a copy or mirror of reality'.

Part four explores the most frequently recurring locations in the films of the revival: the sertao (the arid backlands) and the favela. That these had been favourite locations of Brazilian cinema since the time of Cinema Novo makes comparison between these two historical moments unavoidable. This is indeed the core of Ivana Bentes' chapter, which draws a parallel between recent sertao and favela films and their predecessors. According to Bentes, 'the sertao and the favelas have always been the "other side" of modern and positivist Brazil.' However, what in the 1960s originated an

'aesthetics of hunger' (the title of Glauber Rocha's famous 1965 manifesto) has now been turned into a 'cosmetics of hunger'. It is the shift from the 'camera-in-hand and idea-in-mind' (as a Cinema Novo slogan used to go) to the steadicam, 'a camera that surfs on reality, a narrative that values the beauty and the good quality of the image, and is often dominated by conventional techniques and narratives.' One of the main targets of her critique is the acclaimed Central do Brasil, a film that is rescued by an entirely different approach in the next chapter, on the sertâo in the Brazilian imaginary, by Luiz Zanin Oricchio.

Oricchio's chapter is especially appealing to non-Brazilian readers, for it contains a detailed explanation of how the sertâo came to be such a privileged location in Brazilian cinema from the beginning. His account starts with the Rebellion of Canudos, at the end of the nineteenth century, in the backlands of Bahia state, and the extraordinary report on the several battles written by Euclides da Cunha in the classic book Os sertoes (Rebellion in the Backlands). After analysing the developmentalism and the revolutionary hopes that animated films in the 1960s drawing from the Canudos saga, he proceeds to a passionate analysis of the sertâo films of the 1990s, giving special attention to Sertâo das memorias (Landscapes of Memory, José Araujo, 1997), Baileperfumado, Central do Brasil and Eu, tu, eles. In his conclusion, Oricchio does acknowledge that, in the new films, 'pre-revolutionary fervour has been replaced by the quest for personal happiness' and 'what was once a battlefield has become a stage for cathartic reconciliation or existential redemption.' However, he does not dismiss these films for being depoliticized, arguing that their social standpoint depends on their historical context. In the past, he claims, 'the world was unjust and everyone knew what they were fighting against.' Now, with the hegemony of globalized capital, 'the world is still unjust, but the targets have disappeared into thin air.'

My chapter goes back to the favela and complements the previous chapter on the sertâo. After an historical overview of the favela films up to the present, I proceed to an in-depth analysis of the film O primeiro dia, trying to show how it revisits and updates utopian images of the past. This historical connection becomes explicit in the re-elaboration of Glauber Rocha's prophecy, present in Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (Black God, White Devil, 1964), which says that 'the sertâo will turn into the sea, and the sea into the sertâo.' In Oprimeiro dia, this refrain echoes in the turn of the millennium, when the nines 'turn to zero', configuring an empty utopia, a nostalgia for the time when the sea could mean a revolution. The film leads to the conclusion that utopia remains forbidden to the poor: at the end, the northeastern/favela hero dies on the beach, looking at a sea he will never reach.

Part five focuses on screen adaptations during the revival. Stephanie Dennison, an expert on Brazilian pornochanchadas (soft porn comedies) of the 1970s and 80s, analyses two recent adaptations of Brazil's most famous modern dramatist, Nelson Rodrigues. Traigao (Betrayal, various, 1998) and Gemeas (Twins, Andrucha Waddington, 1999) are a good springboard for her insightful account of all the Rodrigues adaptations in Brazilian Cinema. Her argument is that cinema rodrigueano is a genre in itself that has undergone interesting variations according to the different political moments in Brazil. She claims that the recent adaptations reveal 'the extent to which the cinematic climate has changed' in the country. In contrast to previous Rodrigues films, the new ones contain 'nothing visually nasty, dirty or cheap', and they also avoid 'nudity, sex scenes and scenes of sexual violence', elements that seem to make up the very core of past adaptations. This is because their aim is to produce 'a watchable, well-made, commercially viable cinema' which can convince audiences that Brazilian Cinema is a safe bet.

Maria Esther Maciel analyses Amor & Cia. (Love & Co, Helvecio Ratton, 1998), a singular film and, in her view, a peculiar work of literary adaptation. She explains how a chain of doubts permeates the film from its roots. The authorship of the original text is uncertain: although ascribed to Portuguese naturalist novelist Ega de Queiroz, it remained unsigned and untitled and was published after his death. She argues too that Ratton incorporates in it several elements derived from Brazilian realist novelist Machado de Assis. Apart from the doubts and betrayals at the film's own source, the plot itself is a case of betrayal by a woman who gets involved with her husband's best friend and partner. Traduttore-tra-ditore: betraying the original text, Ratton brings doubt into the character's act of betrayal, and asserts, through stressing ambiguity, the richness of a period drama, at a time when documentary-like fiction seems to be the fashionable trend.

The chapters in Part six show how social history permeates Brazilian film history. Robert Stam, the author of the best known works in English on Brazilian Cinema, focuses on representations of Indians in 100 years of Brazilian film history. Departing from a contemporary example of a TV miniseries A invençao do Brasil ( The Invention of Brazil, Guel Arraes and Jorge Furtado, 2000), set 500 years ago, at the time of Brazil's discovery, his chapter embarks on a retrospective of Brazilian cinema, from the silent period up to contemporary production. In this fascinatingjourney, we meet the 'romantic Indian', the 'documented Indian', the 'modernist Indian', the 'patriotic Indian' and the 'tropicalist Indian', finally returning to the 1990s, when all these types seem to find a place on the screen. Stam's view is that Brazilian Cinema and popular culture 'have both prolonged and critiqued the myths and fictions inherited from Indianismo.' He hopes, however, that in the twenty first century, 'the native Brazilian will emerge to speak in a more full-throated manner, as an integral part of the cultural polyphony which is Brazil.'

Lisa Shaw, who has been developing important research on the Brazilian musical comedies of the 1940s and 50s called chanchadas, analyses the film For all: o trampolim da vitoria (For All, Luiz Carlos Lacerda and Buza Ferraz, 1998) as a legacy of both the chanchada and Hollywood paradigms, with particular reference to the uS war-time musical. Shaw interweaves Brazilian and American (film) histories, which were closely linked in the 1930s and 40s, the time of the Good Neighbour Policy that boosted 'latino' movies, several of them starring the Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda. She then reads For all as a 'nostalgia film' that quotes the chanchada as well as Hollywood musicals, and functions as a pastiche of the musical genre itself.

José Carlos Avellar, a key figure in the Brazilian film revival as the head of Rio's film production and distribution company Riofilme, also embarks on a voyage through Brazilian film history. He uses some of Pasolini's linguistic ideas on cinema to describe 1960s cinema (or Cinema Novo) as equivalent to the 'spoken word', because 'it expressed itself by using the direct and only partially articulated elements of spoken language,' whereas current Brazilian Cinema could be compared to the 'written word', 'as a means of writing down the way of speaking of the 1960s.' For him, cinema in Brazil has undergone a process of 'resensitization' - an expression used by Walter Salles to define the experience of Central do Brasil's main character. 'This process', he explains, 'is to an extent the reunion of the father (the old Cinema Novo?) and the nation. It is a way of understanding Brazil.'

Part seven is an Epilogue containing a chapter by British film theorist and filmmaker Laura Mulvey, who reflects on some of the relevant issues raised in the previous chapters. Mulvey is particularly interested in the ways in which the volume addresses 'questions of history: the history of Brazil since Cinema Novo and the history of Brazilian Cinema itself.' She includes in her reflections a broad parallel between the Brazilian and the British film experience of the 1960s and 70s. At the end of the 60s, military dictatorship interrupted Cinema Novo's revolutionary utopianism, while in the late 70s Thatcherism put an end to the avant-garde film experiments that were taking place in Britain. Mulvey claims that, in the 1980s, 'a gap, a caesura, in aesthetic and political continuity developed that gives a distinct edge to the way that new cinema movements of the 1990s conceived of themselves.' Unlike the British, she continues, 'the cinema of the Brazilian "renaissance" directly raises the relation between a "then" and a "now" and confronts what meanings these cinema histories might have for the present.' She concludes by arguing that new technologies, through which anyone 'with the simple touch of a digital button can stop and think about the complexities of moving images,' can work as 'a telescope into the past' and be a means of negotiating across the 'great divide'.

This closing theoretical piece is not meant to bring discussion of the experience of Brazilian Cinema in the 1990s to an end. True enough, contemporary cinema in Brazil cannot be called a 'renaissance' any longer, for it has established itself on a stable productive basis with regular hits appearing, such as O invasor (The Trespasser, Beto Brant, 2002) and Cidade de Deus (City of God, Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, 2002); indeed, the latter has already reached over 3 million viewers in Brazil. But the rich experience of the 1990s, which re-elaborates a century of Brazilian film history, will certainly bear fruit for many years to come.

Lucia Nagib

January 2003

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