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Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS) Brazilian Cinema Novo Author(s): Randal Johnson Reviewed work(s): Source:

Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS)

Brazilian Cinema Novo Author(s): Randal Johnson Reviewed work(s):

Source: Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 3, No. 2 (1984), pp. 95-106 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS)

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Brazilian

Cinema

Novo1

RANDAL

JOHNSON

University

ofFlorida

Over

passed altered the Brazilian cinematic

things have changed in Brazil. The populist

was

placed

power.

torture,

Accompanying

miracle',

wealth

given

which consumes virtually all ofthe country's to tear asunder the country's social fabric.

well.

summarized

inspired

Violence'.

working

Cinema

two

quite

by

decades

have

since

Novo

scene.

burst

upon

two

of

coup

and profoundly

in

decades,

early

the

many

1960s

dfetat

and

its hold

re-

on

and

and cultural

by

only

a

now

rulers

and

In these

be

a reign

ebb

only

known

of

already

government

1964

military

appears

to

brought

unceremoniously

a military

them,

regime

Brazil's

intensified

in

the

repression

meant

the

a

removed

which

military

1969

was

brutal

classes

losing

of

With

which

repression

the

as the

poorly

the

and which

Glauber

as 'An

began

to

of growth

mid-1970s.

'economic

distributed

in turn,

servicing

has

of

threatens

Rocha

a period

which

from

way

to

the

the

cinema

the

redistribution

to the

upper

100

billion

as

initial

of

classes.

The miracle,

debt,

nightmare,

has

dollar

export

In the

foreign

earnings

of

early

Cinema

also

known

Brazilian

changed

of

the

Aesthetic

1960s,

Novo

concerns

'An

phase

Hunger',

in his Fanonian-

Aesthetic

of

manifesto,

In this manifesto

he wrote:

.

essence

originality

misery

structures

by undermining and destroying them. The most noble cultural manifesta- tion of hunger is violence.

relation

hunger

of

in Latin

America

Herein

cinema.

Our

is not

simply

an alarming

our hunger

symptom;

it

is the

Novo

in

our society.

to

world

lies the tragic originality

is

of Cinema

understood

and our greatest

.

.

.

is that this hunger

is felt but not intellectually

only a culture of hunger can qualitatively

surpass its own

Cinema

The violence

Cinema

Novo

reveals

of a starving

Novo

teaches

that

violence

is normal

behaviour

man is not a sign of a primitive

that

the

aesthetics

of violence

for the starving. .

mentality

are revolutionary

.

.

rather

existence

is confronted

the strength of the culture he exploits. arms, the colonized man remains a slave.2

colonizer

than

primitive.

becomes

with

The

moment

of

the

can

the

of

violence

of

is the

the colonized.

moment

when

the

he

aware

violence

Only when

through

does

not

colonizer

As

understand,

long

as he

horror,

take

up

Although the manifesto

for

Third World liberation, Rocha is speaking not of real violence in a revolutionary

situation, but rather of an aesthetic of violence, a metaphorical

in

from

ways

contradictory formulation of the thrust of early Cinema Novo, but it is none the

far

was

clearly

writing

after

His statement

aligns

the

itself

with

Fanon

coup

of

extreme

and

1964)

the

usage

struggle

which

of violence

was

a situation

(he

military

revolutionary.3

is an admittedly

and in many

96

BULLETIN

OF LATIN

AMERICAN

RESEARCH

less representative. Rocha and Cinema Novo called for an alternative form of cinematic practice which would combat the idealistic illusionism of dominant

cinema and at the same time participate in the struggle for national liberation.

Contrast

that

with

the

situation

of

the

1970s

and 1980s, when, as Robert

Stam has put it, the aesthetic of hunger sometimes seems to have evolved into

an aesthetic

syncratic

with

neutralized

when

The

have

of gluttony?and

can

the

be

perhaps only

from

this

international

of

the

early

Rocha

himself,

evolution?in

evolution?in

marketplace

phase

of

with his highly which

appears

to

Novo.

idio-

films,

in

the

exempted

and

a concern

success

national

political

concerns

Cinema

situation

becomes

even more

complex,

and seemingly

more contradictory,

one realizes that since 1973 the Brazilian government has co-produced or other?

wise financed the most significant national film production, including virtually

all

Rocha.

films

Her

made

The

after

that

date

of

Bye

by Cinema

Brazilian

Brasil,

Novo

cinema,

Gaijin, Pixote, I Love You, and They

Flor

including Glauber

participants,

with

films

current

success

Bye

such

as Dofia

and

Dont

among others, results largely, in fact, from an alliance

or marriage of convenience between Cinema Novo and the authoritarian Brazilian

state.

Two

Husbands,

Wear Black-Tie,

The

current

situation

of

Brazilian

cinema?an

apparent

mercantilistic

atti?

tude supported by the state?does

positions held in the early 1960s. It would be simplistic to speak of cooptation

by

by

commercial success. Rather, the current situation is an outgrowth of a number

of contradictions and paradoxes existing within Cinema Novo from the very

beginning. Despite Rocha's revolutionary statements, a certain distance always existed between the rhetoric and the reality of Cinema Novo. In this paper

I propose to discuss some of these contradictions, examining how Cinema Novo arose and evolved during the 1960s. A movement such as Cinema Novo

cannot be isolated from its historical context, for in many

and is influenced by the political development of Brazilian society, it positions

itself in relation to the historical evolution

By

reexamining Cinema Novo in its various contexts, I in no way mean to belittle the considerable achievements of the movement, which is largely responsible for the best that Brazilian cinema has had to offer during the last twenty years and continues to offer today. In a very real sense, Cinema Novo is synonymous

with Brazilian cinema, and its contradictions are the contradictions of Brazilian

cinema

pates in and reflects ideological

ways it responds to

not

in

that

fact

represent

a radical

became

break with

the

military

regime

or

to

suggest

filmmakers

starstruck

of Brazilian

of

the

period

cinema,

in which

and it partici- it

arose.

debates

as a whole

question

and Brazilian intellectuals

might

be asked

if

it

is valid

in general.

to speak

existing

today. Many historical analyses of the movement have said that Cinema Novo

had

tive

over the last twenty

years, now producing some 100 films per year, four times the annual production of the early 1960s, Cinema Novo directors such as Leon Hirszman, Nelson

Pereira

Jabor,

not

Arnaldo

The

of Cinema

Novo

ceased to exist by 1972, if not earlier. And yet the movement's only collec?

manifesto,

Although

known

as the

'Luz

e Aqdo

Brazilian

cinema

has grown

Manifesto',

was

considerably

published

only

in

dos

Santos,

among

with

others,

their

Carlos

Diegues,

Joaquim

Pedro

de

Andrade,

and

clearly

dominate

Brazilian cinema today. They dominate

films;

they

also

dominate

the

state

cinematic

apparatus

1973.4

only

BRAZILIAN

CINEMA

NOVO

97

(Embrafilme). Leon Hirszman's award-winning 1981 film ElesNao Usam Black-

Tie (They Don't Wear Black-Tie)

Novo

without a bit of self-serving exaggeration,

cinema

from the gadgetry and large budgets of Hollywood and from the high culture and correct ideological lines of European cinema.5 When asked in a recent inter?

in the

early

view if Cinema Novo directors still discussed

are free

was

anew).

of

upon

its

release

has

referred

to

as 'Cinema

and

not

de

novo'

are

the

(Cinema

'new

Novo

Diegues

that

he

international

film

recently

claimed,

and other

cinema

projects

leaders

l e a d e r s

since

they

as they

did

of Brazilian

barbarians'

1960s,

Hirszman

responded:

In a way, some

at the beginning was never quite as intense as people

like

they nor really as separated

before

never were

we have

rifts,

never

stopped

discussing

goes on.

as united

our

films.

There have been the collaboration

thought.

as people

It's

thought,

a bit

personal

the

Beatles:

but

the discussion

really

afterward.6

But then

We can

cess of cinematic activity, but clearly not as a narrowly defined, tightly-knit movement or school.

existing

thus

refer to

Cinema

Novo

today

if seen

as an open-ended

pro?

Cinema

Novo

arose

in

the

late

1950s

and

early

1960s

as part

of

a broad,

heterogeneous movement of cultural transformation that involved theatre,

popular music, and literature, as well as the cinema. It evolved through a num?

ber of discernible phases, each of which corresponds

conjuncture.

Novo

film

congresses

Nanni

of

end

cratization

Brazil's

guise

other

petroleum industry. Vargas committed suicide in 1954,

around

Estado

of political

Vargas

in the

of

to

a specific

1950s,

Sao

sociopolitical

in three

1952

and

Rodolfo

creation

seen

the

The

seeds

industry

was

and

of Cinema

congresses

in

these

Nelson

held

dos

took

in

root

Rio

cinema.7

Novo

increased

was

who

discourse

attempted

in the

de

Janeiro

early

and

especially

Paulo

in

Viany,

for

the

recently

process

through,

of

creation

1953. It

that

filmmakers

such

as Alex

Santos

first

articulated

ideas

The

country

(1937-1945),

the

level

reelected

to

had

only

and the

the

Pereira

national

an independent

of

of

Getulio

Vargas's

of redemo-

activity

1951

among

a state

dramatically

sectors.

and cultural

in

middle

presidency

support

the

a populist

things,

reformer

to mobilize

a

nationalist

revolving

leaving a quasi-socialist,

anti-imperialist

message

for the Brazilian

people.

Despite

Vargas's

death,

the

nationalist

euphoria

he helped

create

continued

Kubits-

chek, promising fifty years of development

plan of economic

presidents in the 1930-64

designated term, partially because of his ability to rally the Brazilian people around a common ideology, known as developmentalism or developmentalist-

nationalism.8

perfect

most

and was

strengthened

with

the election

of Juscelino

remain

in five,

Kubitschek

in 1955.

embarked He was one

legally,

on

an ambitious

of only

throughout

two

his

the

expansion

and industrial

period

to

development.

in

office,

architecture,

ideology.

Brasflia,

with

its

ultramodern

developmentalist

is perhaps

symbol

of Kubitschek's

His

brand

it

of

was

developmentalism,

a means

however,

was

fraught

with

contradiction.

the

system's

tensions.

Although

stability, it was also an effective tool for controlling

of

mobilizing

support

and guaranteeing

social

and political

98

BULLETIN

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RESEARCH

It toyed

industrialization

with

Former

Sao

people's

nationalist

on foreign

investment.

the

Paulo

governor

Janio

sentiments,

but

based

its programme

of

Quadros

succeeded

Kubitschek

in

1961,

but

vice-president,

institutional

crises,

dent

was overthrown

class artists and intellectuals, and

of Brazilian society, a transformation they erroneously thought to be imminent.

increasingly politicized

transformation

military. Goulart's brief administration,

resigned

after

a mere

seven

months

Joan

Left

in office.

who

Quadros

was replaced

disliked

of

policy

by his

by

the

Vargas

a turn

to

by

protege

to

the

Goulart,

was intensely

by

a number

and foreign

such

marked

witnessed

attempted

in domestic

as the presi?

reform.

He

middle-

became

implement

the military

structural

in

such

sought

1964.

as those

to

changes

Within

who

commit

as agrarian

this historical

created

Cinema

their

art to

the

context,

Novo,

After

from

a preparatory

1960

to

period,

from

1955-1960,

in which

the first phase of Cinema

were

Novo

debated

questions' to contribute to the

goes

at every

debate

(dos

Novo

of the Fifth Institutional Act, which inaugurated a period of extremely repres- sive military rule. Although political liberties were restricted and censorship increased, there was still a degree of space available for discussion and debate. During this period, the focus of Cinema Novo shifted from rural to urban Brazil, as film-makers turned their cameras, so to speak, on themselves in an attempt to understand the failure of the Left in 1964 (Saraceni's O Desafio, Rocha's

Terra em Transe,

do Sol).

na Terra

the year

1964,

a period The films of this period

the country's

lumpen,

Guerra's Os Fuzis,

'national

Rocha's

from

level

with

of society.

films

about

Vidas Secas,

attempted

often

depicted

Deus

1964

in rural settings

Santos's

e o Diabo

to 1968,

The second

phase of Cinema

extends

Dahl's O Bravo Guerreiro, dos Santos's Fome de Amor).

A third phase runs from 1968 until around 1972. During this period of extremely harsh military rule, it was difficult for film-makers to express opinions directly, and allegory became the preferred mode of cinematic discourse of what is known as Tropicalism' in Brazilian cinema (Andxade's Macunaima, dos Santos's

Como era gostoso o meu frances, labor'sPindorama). At the same time a burgeon-

ing underground movement challenged Cinema Novo from the Left, saying that it had sold out to commercial interests (Sganzerla's O Bandido da Luz Vermelha, Bressane'sMatou afamiliae foi ao cinema, among others). Stylistic and thematic pluralism under the aegis of Embrafilme has marked the period since 1973.9

Cinema

Novo,

as

part

of

an

ongoing

process

of

cultural

transformation,

of

reflects

phase

Superior which was created a national

ideology of development. Although it would be simplistic to see Cinema Novo

by

of

The initial

the ideological

of

Cinema

Novo

to

a large

contradictions

was

informed

degree

(Higher

by

the

Institute

1955

with

the

Brazilian

by

society

of

the

Studies),

as a whole.

historical

Instituto

a number

of

of

factors

and

de

influenced

formulations

Brazilian

express

purpose

Estudos Brasileiros

Kubitschek

in

formulating

merely as a reflection of the ideology of ISEB?indeed, at times Cinema Novo

films directly or indirectly revealed the contradictions of that ideology?

none

it

is

the

less

important

to

taking

be

aware

place

and

of

the

kinds

of

how

political

Cinema

and ideological

Novo

relates

to

discussions

that

were

them.10

examine

The

including

ISEB

was

composed

of

Helio Jaguaribe,

Candido

intellectuals

of

various

political

persuasions,

Mendes,

Alvaro Vieira Pinto,

Nelson

Werneck

BRAZILIAN

CINEMA

NOVO

99

Sodre,

coincide precisely in the concepts used, they did share a number of fundamental

ideas. First of all, they saw autonomous, national, industrial development as an

absolute value, as an unequestionable means. And perhaps paradoxically,

development

was only after a stage of advanced capitalism

alternative

of

the

It

and

Roland

Corbisier.

Although

members

end

given

on

was

of

the institute

did not

always

to be achieved the

a capitalist

through

of

the

of

a variety

makeup

Institute,

production.

they

spoke

of

was

based

could

mode

achieved

that the question

of

modes

of production

ISEB

be contemplated.

The

members

of

of

Brazil's

formulated

a

nationalist

thesis

based

on

a radical

which

was

caused

by what

they called

relations

of

dependence

to

advanced

of such relations

as an impediment

conceived

the major

contradiction

but rather as the 'Nation'

awareness

the

industrial

to

of

(that

The

saw

imperialism

nalized'

the

industrial bourgeoisie, the urban and rural proletariat, and the productive sector of the middle-class. The 'anti-Nation', or the traditional, retrograde, archaic

sector

productive

in

rather

dichotomy

rural

export

modern,

industrial bourgeoisie The

lines

once

is

non-

landowners,

terms,

the

underdevelopment,

situation',

its

country's

autonomous

Brazilian

which

'Nation's'

'colonial

They

powers.

society

is

rather

force

'Nation',

of

society,

sector

words,

the

reflects

with

sector

economy,

urban,

saw the continuation

They

therefore

not

capital

development.

as being

versus labour,

authentic)

true

than,

not

as

versus

the 'anti-Nation' (that which is alienated from

foreign

contradiction

was

versus

national,

set

forth

because

in these

they

but rather as an internal or 'inter-

sector

of

society,

included

export-import

portions

groups,

the

of

the

proletariat,

national

nation's

development

economy.

but

This

the

one

hand,

a feudal-

are tied,

and,

on

through

the

other,

an

a

progressive

national

capitalist

development.

ISEB

cuts

across

class

class

conflict,

which,

development

historical

for

an

being).

example,

external

society.

as the

determinant

in Brazilian

seen

The

modern,

large

progressive

included

of

sectors

continued

a dualist

by

those

the

middle-class

whose

interests

foreign

vision

an

of

and

lie

certain

not

with

of

the

with,

on

interests

countries,

supposedly

national

other

domination

of

society

whose

dominated

to

oligarchy

industrialized

led

by

a

autonomous

industrial

society

to

dedicated

'Nation'/'anti-Nation'

and

thus

again,

attempts

dichotomy

to

efface

or

postponed

as formulated

ignore

questions

by

of

until

after

full

are conveniently

capitalist

achieved.

The

intellectuals

associated

with

ISEB

felt

that

for

autonomous

national

development to occur, it was necessary for an enlightened intelligentsia to create an authentic, national, critical consciousness ofthe country's underdevelopment and its causes and thereby overcome the country's alienation from its true

historical

liberation. Such liberation would come through what they called a 'bourgeois

revolution', i.e., transformation

selves

I have

as them?

being

and

lead

to

a

process

led

of

by

the

of

social

transformation

intellectuals

bourgeoisie.

and

national

enlightened

national

such

Although

and

progressive

elements

merely summarized some of ISEB's positions, the contradictions of this develop- mentalist ideology are immense. But it is important to note that large sectors of

the Left, including the Brazilian Communist Party, shared, these views, forming

a 'populist

Terra em

Transe (Land

pact',

which

Glauber

1967).

Rocha

so

brilliantly

dissected

in

in Anguish,

100

BULLETIN

OF LATIN

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RESEARCH

'de-

alienation' through a strategy of conscientizacao, or consciousness-raising. It sought, at least during its initial phase, to show the Brazilian people the true

gain

face

a critical consciousness and participate in the struggle for national liberation. As

Rocha

but an evolving complex of films that will ultimately make the public aware of

its own misery.'

major

conflict of Brazilian society as 'colonizer' versus 'colonized', to use Rocha's

words, rather than analyse it in terms of class. The movement was engaged in

a struggle to create an authentic national culture in opposition

of the colonizer. It also tended

a traditional, feudal, backward Brazil tied to imperialist interests with a pro-

ofthe

gressive, modern

In

general

of

the

wrote

Similar

terms,

Cinema

Novo

saw

itself

in

as

the

part

this

that

7s not

to

tended

of

process

they

would

a single

see

the

of

country's

to

in

the

'An

underdevelopment

Aesthetic

of

of

hope

Novo

Hunger',

ISEB,

Cinema

Novo

film

ideologues

Cinema

to the interests

opposing

to

adopt

a dualist

national

vision

of society,

Brazil led by sectors

bourgeoisie.

Cinema Novo's alliance with s