November 1998
Press Release

Cinema Novo
and Beyond

This series is  the result of Steve Seid's trip to Brazil where he was a juror at Videobrasil in São Paulo. The works in "Experimentos Tropicais" are all on video and they are by artists from São Paulo, Rio, Belo Horizonte and Salvador. A large percentage of the works shown are U.S. premières and often they are by artists who have not been screened in the U.S..

Brazilian cinema burst onto international screens in the 1960s and 1970s with something new called Cinema Novo. Reacting against a Hollywood-dominated domestic studio system that produced escapist entertainment, filmmakers such as Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Glauber Rocha, Leon Hirszman, and Carlos Diegues strove to create works that would express an authentic Brazilian voice and identity. The results were both socially and artistically complex, a Brazilian brand of modernism (and in the case of Glauber Rocha, with hindsight we can say postmodernism). Cinema Novo variously incorporated the “tropicalist” indigenous and African-derived traditions, rhythms, and colors of Bahia—the desperately parched but culturally rich Northeast—with the most sophisticated (often witty) analysis of class relations and urban politics.

Like the concurrent French New Wave and neorealism before it, Cinema Novo was the product of critics/theoreticians turned filmmakers, and vice versa. But Carlos Diegues famously said, “We were making political films when the New Wave was still talking about unrequited love.” Moreover, while making art dealing with issues of poverty, social instability, and disenfranchisement, Brazilian filmmakers had to cope with those very frightening realities themselves. The repressive effects of the so-called April Fool’s Day coup of 1964 are reflected both on the screen and in the lives of filmmakers, including Glauber Rocha, who went into exile.

Cinema Novo and Beyond showcases the variety of exuberant, provocative, visually stunning feature films, as well as very important short documentary films of the movement; and it also introduces us to the Udegrudi, the adventurous Underground cinema whose name is a purposeful bastardization of the English word. The series includes films by the next generation of directors, such as Hector Babenco and Bruno Barretto, who adapted the lessons of Cinema Novo to their own creative ends.

Cinema Novo and Beyond: Catalog

The retrospective is accompanied by a 168-page illustrated catalog with essays by Brazilian filmmakers as well as scholars and critics from around the world. ($15, sold at the PFA Box Office and the Museum Store.)

Cinema Novo and Beyond is a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, Brazil, and the Department of Film and Video, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Special thanks to the Consulate General of Brazil in New York for its support. The program was organized by Jytte Jensen with the collaboration of Ismail Xavier and José Carlos Avellar. New prints and subtitling are courtesy of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, Audio-Visual Department; Cinemateca Brasileira; and Riofilme. The exhibition was made possible by a generous contribution by Iara Lee and George Gund III. Additional funding has been provided by Vitae—Apoio a Cultura, Educação e Promoção Social; Transbrasil; Gazeta Mercantil; and the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art. All prints circulated by Cowboy Booking International.

Quotations in our notes from Robert Stam and others are from Brazilian Cinema (Robert Stam and Randal Johnson, ed.) and Jump Cut.

Saturday January 2

Antonio das Mortes 5:00, 8:35

Glauber Rocha (Brazil, 1969)

(O dragão da maldade contra o santo guerreiro). The explosive modernist aesthetic of Cinema Novo crystalized in Glauber Rocha’s Antonio das Mortes. Part samurai, part Sergio Leone, and just as obviously influenced by no one, this is a tale of true desperados: starving peasants and their spiritually desperate exploiters in the parched and punishing sertão. Antonio das Mortes (a character first introduced in Black God, White Devil, see February 13), a hired gun for the landowners, is the most notorious killer of cangaceiros, peasant rebel-bandits in the backlands. The film deals with Antonio’s coming to political consciousness in the face of natives who are claiming squatters’ rights, of the god-struck young woman who is their spiritual leader, and of the corruption and greed of the landowners he works for. In open-air opera and silent shuffling ballet, spoken verse and sung lore, melodrama of the absurd and gritty Western, Rocha transforms native art, mystical traditions, vibrant colors, and the lore of the cangaceiros to his own flamboyant uses to show “the two faces of vengeance—hatred and love.”

• Written by Rocha. Photographed by Alfonso Beato. With Maurício do Valle, Odete Lara, Othon Bastos, Hugo Carvana, Rosa Maria Penna. (95 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Assault on the Pay Train 6:50

Roberto Farias (Brazil, 1962)

(Assalto ao trem pagador). The heist-film genre is dirtied up with a hectic neorealist, class-based grit in Roberto Farias’s first major work, shot in the streets and on the run in chaotically vibrant Rio de Janeiro. Six men bound together by poverty and desperation ambush a pay train, but cannot spend their sudden wealth until suspicion passes. Carelessness, greed, and deceit all threaten the heist’s success, but the true barrier, Farias implies, remains Brazil’s immovable class and racial hierarchy, where the poor, no matter their hidden wealth, remain doomed to die in shacks and sheds. The film’s unpolished technique and periodically amateurish acting, combined with the sheer raw energy of Farias’s vision, helped create one of the first realized embodiments of Cinema Novo’s filmic street theater and its desire to, as Carlos Diegues stated, “give human form to fundamental conflicts, to make the people the center and master of the cinematic instrument.”—J. Sanders

• Written by Farias, Ainor Azevedo, Luiz Carlos Barreto. Photographed by Amleto Daissé. With Eliezer Gomes, Luiza Maranhão, Reginaldo Faria. (90 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Friday January 8

The Given Word 7:30

Anselmo Duarte (Brazil, 1962)

(O pagador de promessas). Winner of the 1962 Palme d’or at Cannes, The Given Word was one of the first films to draw international attention to the new Brazilian cinema. Half angry neorealism, half Buñuelian satire, it centers around a rural peasant, Ze, who carries a massive wooden cross through thirty miles of parched countryside to the city to honor the saint who cured his sick donkey. When he finally collapses at his destination, a church with the saint’s icon, the head priest sneeringly refuses him admittance, claiming that Ze’s pilgrimage is based on pagan idolatry, black magic, and cannot represent “proper” faith. Ze, confused but stubborn, camps out on the church steps with his donkey and his cross, while behind him pimps, poets, policemen, and passersby create a groundswell of opinion, advice, and finally, action. At the end, the inflexibility of the Church (and of Ze’s naive purity) becomes jammed against the film’s pulsating vision of street life, all music, movement, and exuberant, cluttered noise.—J. Sanders

• Written by Duarte, Dias Gomes, based on the play by Gomes. Photographed by Chick Fowle. With Leonardo Vilar, Gloria Menezes, Dionísio Azevedo, Geraldo del Rey. (90 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Porto das Caixas 9:15

Paulo César Saraceni (Brazil, 1963)

A woman married to a cruel, petty railroad worker lures men into her life with the intention of getting one of them to kill her husband—her only way out of the poverty of life in a grimy little backwater. The weapon of choice will be a small ax purchased at the market. In plot, Double Indemnity meets The Postman Always Rings Twice. But in its blanched cinematography and relentless exteriority, Porto das Caixas offers one of Cinema Novo’s clearest expressions of theme: as Glauber Rocha wrote in his seminal essay, “An Aesthetic of Hunger”: “Cinema Novo shows that the normal behavior of the starving is violence; and the violence of the starving is not primitive....Is the woman in Porto das Caixas primitive? From Cinema Novo it should be learned that an aesthetic of violence, before being primitive, is revolutionary. It is the initial moment when the colonizer becomes aware of the colonized.”

• Written by Saraceni. Photographed by Mário Carneiro. With Irma Alvarez, Paulo Padilha, Reginaldo Fario. (75 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Saturday January 9

Land in Anguish 5:00, 8:55

Glauber Rocha (Brazil, 1967)

(Terra em transe/ Earth Entranced). Glauber Rocha’s most controversial film at home and influential film abroad, this is a work of great imagination and beauty, an operatic spectacle that nevertheless conveys a very true sense of the violence and irrationality that characterize political life in a country scarred by underdevelopment. “Although the style is irregular,” Rocha said, “you will see...that the camera is always positioned as in a documentary.” The film, made in the wake of the coup of 1964, takes place in a fictitious country, Eldorado, where a populist governor clashes with a dictatorial leader. The protagonist is a poet-journalist who abandons his elite milieu for radical politics, only to become as disenchanted with his new comrades as he was with the cowardice of the intellectual class. “Saturated with anger, eloquence, personal and collective hysteria, [this] is in no sense a Hollywood film, for it investigates rather than exploits its emotions.” (Robert Stam)

Written by Rocha. Photographed by Luis Carlos Barreto, Dib Lutfi. With Jardel Filho, Paulo Autran, José Lewgoy. (115 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

São Paulo, S/A 7:10

Luiz Sérgio Person (Brazil, 1965)

Cinema Novo in its second wave turned to urban themes and anti-illusionist depictions of the middle-class. São Paulo, S/A, its title a pun—S/A means both “Incorporated” and “Anonymous Society” (Sociedade Anonim)—deals with the alienated labor and loves of Carlos, an upwardly mobile manager in an automotive parts factory. Eventually, Carlos marries, has children, a home—all things he is meant to want, but doesn’t. Lacking, paradoxically, the freedom of marginality afforded their impoverished forbears like Antônio das Mortes or the wife in Porto das Caixas, bourgeois characters are trapped in their success, as Jean-Claude Bernardet writes: “Carlos, who is guided only by the opportunities that society offers him, who chooses neither for himself nor for others, who has neither idea or action with which to oppose the situation, who is capable only of flight, is ripe for fascism.”

• Written by Person. Photographed by Ricardo Aranovich. With Walmor Chagas, Eva Wilma, Otelo Zeloni. (90 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Friday January 15

The Big City 7:30

Carlos Diegues (Brazil, 1966)

Preceded by short:

Looking for Childhood (Aloysio Raulino, Brazil, 1974). (Teremos Infância). Dealing with social questions such as poverty and illiteracy, this film employs new formal strategies to engage the viewer. (13 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, 35mm)

(A grande cidade). Carlos Diegues directed this poetic story of a young girl from the provinces who comes to Rio to search for her fiancé, and finds him a hunted criminal in a city where gangsters are heroes and politicians are the true desperados. The Big City is a kind of modern morality play—one which, for all its poetry, inevitably comes to a violent conclusion. Perhaps the most fascinating character in this tragic fable is Calunga, a cheerful young black man who acts as our guide to Rio and the story—but whose carefree role of mestre de jogo can’t help but implicate him in the tragedy. “Cinema is not the reproduction of reality,” said Cinema Novo co-founder Diegues. “It implies the creation of a parallel, alternative and verisimilar universe. This verisimilitude nourishes itself more on the spirit and ideology of the spectators than on their daily experience.”

• Written by Diegues, Leopoldo Serran. Photographed by Fernando Duarte. With Anecy Rocha, Antònio Pitanga, Leonardo Vilar. (85 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

In the Margin 9:25

Ozualdo Candeias (Brazil, 1967)

(A margem). Ozualdo Candeias has the distinction of being one of the few filmmakers to come to the craft from truck driving! Making his first feature at age forty-five, this self-taught “primitive” impressed his colleagues as the most marginal of the marginal. The film became the first in the Udigrudi (Underground) movement, the marginal Cinema Novo or the revolution within the revolution. Set among the slum dwellers along the banks of São Paulo’s Tietê river—even then, extremely polluted—the film tells two surreally tragic tales of love with few words and a torrent of images. “A margem unpretentiously communicates a feeling of rare poetry and subdued audacity. Its subtle modulation of fantasy and realism recalls the Vigo of L’Atalante... The film literalizes the metaphor of ‘garbage aesthetic,’ eliciting flowers from evil and stealing beauty from squalor.” (Robert Stam)

• Written by Candeias. Photographed by Balarmindo Manccini. With Mário Benvenutti, Valéria Vidal, Bentinho. (96 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Saturday January 16

São Bernardo 5:00, 9:25

Leon Hirszman (Brazil, 1972)

Based on a 1934 novel by Graciliano Ramos (author also of Vidas Secas), and capturing the spare style and penetrating depth of the novel, São Bernardo tells of a man, Paulo, who rises through every venal means imaginable to become master of the same plantation where he was maltreated as a hired hand. He marries an educated woman with leftist leanings for the respectability she will bring him, and proceeds to drive her to an early grave: the master-slave relationship is all he knows. Set in the twenties (impressively recreated here), São Bernardo resonates in any era: some critics saw it as an exposé of the Brazilian economic miracle, like Paulo’s “miracle,” a cruel deception; others, as about the genesis of a fascist. But if not rooted in time, it is a tale very much rooted in place—in the land, and the “properties” of property.

• Written by Hirszman, based on the novel by Graciliano Ramos. Photographed by Lauro Escorel. With Othon Bastos, Isabel Ribeiro, Nildo Parente. (110 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

The Conspirators 7:05

Joaquim Pedro de Andrade (Brazil, 1971)

Preceded by short:

I’m Your Life, Not Your Death (Haroldo Marinho Barbosa, Brazil, 1971). (Eu sua vida, eu não sou morte). Through the relationship and interaction of two men and a woman, the manipulative mechanisms of religion, the institution of family, and the state are exposed. Photographed by João Carlos Horta. (14 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, 16mm)

(Os inconfidentes). The Conspirators addressed the censorship and repression of its moment by setting its story—about repression and failed rebellion—in eighteenth-century Brazil, when it was a Portuguese colony. The film (funded by Italian television) tells of a conspiracy of provincial intellectuals and local bigwigs who, inspired by the revolutions in France and North America, devise heady plans to liberate Brazil. Only one, however, Tiradentes (his name derived from his role in the town, tooth-extractor), is a proponent of mass uprising. Though all are mercilessly imprisoned and interrogated by the regime, Tiradentes will take the fall—and become a national hero with his own holiday. Actual court transcripts and the literature of the period are woven into a screenplay that has a distinctive poetic as well as political cadence. “Brilliantly directed with recurring surrealistic flashes... De Andrade [establishes] the concept, equally valid for contemporaries, that the fate of the nation is decided in prison by the extent to which political wards resist or buckle under torture.” (Variety)

• Written by Andrade, Eduardo Escorel, based on the court papers and the novel Romanceiro do inconfidência by Cecília Meireles. Photographed by Pedro de Morales. With José Walker, Luis Linhares, Paulo César Pereio. (110 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Friday January 22

The Amulet of Ogum 7:00

Nelson Pereira dos Santos (Brazil, 1974)

Preceded by short:

Man’s Best Friend (Tânia Savietto, Brazil, 1982). (O mehor amigo do homem). Although apparently dealing frivolously with a volatile subject, this documentary is a forceful indictment of racial relations in Brazil. (10 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

(O amuleto de Ogum). Dos Santos moved away from the increasing avant-gardism of Cinema Novo with this film made “for the people.” It is a magical thriller—both a gangster film and a celebration of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé as a key element in popular culture. A young man from the impoverished Northeast, Gabriel (played by dos Santos’s son, Ney Sant’ana, an actor in the Pasolini mode), becomes a denizen of Rio’s violent outskirts. Protected from harm by a ritual amulet given him by a Candomblé priest, this bulletproof boy catches the attention of the local crime boss. Gabriel’s odyssey from innocence to underworld, death, and resurrection is told in the form of a popular ballad whose singer announces the film’s magical-realist premise: “I’m going to tell you a story that really happened and which I just invented.” Dos Santos: “The camera is a believer.”

• Written by dos Santos, based on the novel by Francisco Santos. Photographed by Hélio Silva, José Cavalcanti, dos Santos. With Jofre Soares, Ney Sant’Ana, Anecy Rocha, Emmanuel Cavalcanti. (112 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Uirá, An Indian’s Search for God 9:20

Gustavo Dahl (Brazil, 1974)

Preceded by short:

Stone of RIches (Vladimir Carvalho, Brazil, 1975). (A pedra da riqueza). A group of sertanejos from the Sabugi valley decide to give up farming and hope to make money in a very different field of work. Photographed by Manuel Clemente. (15 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

(Uirá, um índio em busca de Deus). A work of “anthropological fiction,” Uirá shows the degradation and destruction of the Brazilian Indian way of life in a story set in 1939 and shot in the Maranhão, a desolate area between the Northeast and the Amazonian forests. In despair over his son’s death at the hands of whites, an Urubu Indian sets off with his family in search of Maíra, the creator of the universe. During the course of his trip, Uirá is harassed and then exploited by his white government protectors until, suspecting that he is indeed a prisoner, he flees to his fate. “Avoiding the twin extremes of racist vilification and noble savage idealization, Uirá treats its native subject with rare respect and dignity, even while it offers a provocative critique of our own civilization and values” (Robert Stam). The Argentine-born Gustavo Dahl was a key figure in Brazilian cinema. Coming at a time when government censorship and repression forced artists to seek outside funding, Uriá was coproduced with Italian television.

• Written by Dahl, based on anthropological studies by Darcy Ribeiro. Photographed by Rogério de Noel. With Erico Vidal, Ana Maria Magalhães, Dahl. (90 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Saturday January 23

Conjugal Warfare 5:00, 8:50

Joaquim Pedro de Andrade (Brazil, 1974)

(Guerra conjugal). A black comedy that would make Buñuel blush, Conjugal Warfare intercuts three stories of what the director calls “romantic psychopathology.” It is set among the “suits” in the mythical coffee-capital of Curitiba, a pastel-and-poison milieu peculiar to the kitsch-bourgeoisie. In one vignette, a lawyer obsessively indulges his erotic fantasies about his clients (he is drawn to girls in flats and women in mourning) until an encounter with an old school chum sets him straight. In another, a sensitive young man finds satisfaction in progressively older women, his passions bordering more on the vampiric than the Freudian. And in the third, an aged married couple’s conjugal rituals give a new twist to the bonds of domesticity. Its eye for dementia (in young and old) makes Conjugal Warfare a bitter and blistering satire on bourgeois values and tastes, but for de Andrade, it all adds up to “the possibility of redemption through excessive sin.”

• Written by Anísio Medeiros, based on the stories of Dalton Trevisan. Photographed by Pedro de Moraes. With Lima Duarte, Carlos Gregorio, Jofre Soares. (93 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands 6:50

Bruno Barreto (Brazil, 1977)

(Dona Flor e seus dois maridos). The return of husbands past to haunt the present with virile humor is a staple of screwball comedy, but Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy never met like this! Bruno Barreto’s ribald comedy, directed when he was only 23 from a Jorge Amado novel, and a smash hit in the States, gave us one of cinema’s true blithe spirits, a man whose dissipation is so complete, so pure, and so free of guilt or compunction, we can only welcome his return from the grave. He is called back by his widow Flor, or rather by her unfulfilled desires in her second marriage, to a devoted pharmacist whose lovemaking is just ho hoãm. The Bahian colors, florid carnival costumes, and palpable flavors (with cooking instructions: bring a pad and pencil) are a thin mask for entrenched social conventions that Dona Flor subversively flaunts in making her uninhibited secret life her reality.

• Based on a novel by Jorge Amado. Photographed by Maurilo Salles. With Sonia Braga, José Wilker, Mauro Mendonça. (106 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Friday January 29

Everything’s Fine 7:00

Arnaldo Jabor (Brazil, 1978)

(Tudo bem). In this absurd comedy, when construction workers remodel the Copacabana apartment of a bourgeois couple, they open a “fourth wall” on the family’s bizarre hermetic existence. The father is a sentimental reactionary whose social world consists of ghostly comrades, thus he need never get out of his pajamas; his wife is likewise involved with a phantom sexual creation. Two maids are at their service, one a prostitute, the other a mystic who suddenly exhibits stigmata. The couple’s two grown kids, boring by comparison, are understandably in search of foreign influences. “A radicalized Night at the Opera,” writes Robert Stam. “How many social contradictions can fit into one room—the room being Brazil—without the room exploding?”

• Written by Jabor, Leopoldo Serran. Photographed by Dib Lutfi. With Paulo Gracindo, Fernanda Montenegro, Zezé Motta. (110 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

All Nudity Shall Be Punished 9:05

Arnaldo Jabor (Brazil, 1973)

(Toda nudez será castigada). A satiric burlesque at the expense of the bourgeoisie (who else?), All Nudity tells of a wealthy widower and his son who have embraced celibacy, each for his own reasons, as it turns out. The man’s scoundrel brother, seeing a challenge here, devilishly introduces him to a blonde chanteuse who works a path to his palatial home. There she reigns in shameless Harlowesque displacement—only to meet and fall hard for the chaste young son. Devastating subversive comedy hits its target—upper-class sexual hypocrisy—and keeps on going. So beware a tragic ending for this naive golddigger who relies on the kindness of strangers. Director Arnaldo Jabor, in a 1981 interview with Judy Stone, relates Brazilian drama to the Portuguese and Spanish picaresque tradition, “...bawdy and self-ironical. So this film is a strong criticism of petty bourgeois hypocrisy: everyone thinking that everything is going to be normal. And then everything is different. Brazil is like that.”

• Written by Jabor, based on the play by Nelson Rodrigues. Photographed by Lauro Escorel. With Paulo Porto, Darlene Glória, Paula Sacks. (102 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Saturday January 30

Bye Bye Brazil 5:00, 9:40

Carlos Diegues (Brazil, 1980)

Brazil à La Strada, this is a tour, more picaresque than picturesque, of the desolate hinterlands with a small troupe of artistes—a magician, Lord Gypsy; his rumba-dancing lover, Salome; and a mute strongman called Swallow. Their accordion-playing protégé (a Jean-Pierre Léaud-like enfant terrible) and his very pregnant wife look to the ragtag troupe as a ticket out of nowhere. But Gypsy and Salome are inexorably drawn to the mysteries of Brazil’s vastness: they imagine themselves one step behind the advance of progress into the Amazon, but still find themselves playing to blank-faced Indians who have the spirit on their minds; or playing against disco-TV, the ubiquitous first outpost of civilization. “I can make the dreams of all Brazilians come true,” Gypsy proclaims as he creates snow out of coconut: optimism in the face of the relentlessly funky is what makes this film so unique, bridging Cinema Novo to “the civilized countries of the world,” snow and all.

• Written by Diegues. Photographed by Lauro Escorel Filho. With José Wilker, Betty Faria, Fábio Junior. (110 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 16mm)

Gaijin 7:05

Tizuka Yamasaki (Brazil, 1980)

Preceded by short:

Should I Kill Them? (Sergio Bianchi, Brazil, 1983). (Mato Eles?). The last Indians of the Mangueirinha reserve are being exterminated with the approval of those who are supposed to protect them. (33 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 16mm)

(Gaijin, caminhos da liberdade). This deeply felt film by a Brazilian woman of Japanese ancestry is based on the experiences of her own grandmother, who came to Brazil at the turn of the century when Japanese were encouraged to join the coffee boom labor force. To comply with the preference for families, a very young Titoe (Kyoko Tsukamoto) marries Yamada, whom she has never met, and the two leave for Brazil. Life on the plantation is close to slavery for the Japanese, Italian, and other immigrant workers, fueling a growing union consciousness. Director Yamasaki wanted her Japanese lead actress to affect the most authentic experience possible, and therefore asked that she arrive in Brazil having done no research, and not speaking the language. The result is a performance of extreme sensitivity in the demanding role of Titoe, who grows from child to adult in the complex world of the “gaijin,” the outsider.

• Written by Jorgé Duran, Yamasaki. Photographed by Edgar Moura. With Kyoko Tsukamoto, Antonio Fagundes, Jiro Kawarasaki, Gianfrancesco Guarnieri. (105 mins, In Japanese and Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Friday February 5

Bahia of All Saints 7:30

Trigueirinho Neto (Brazil, 1961)

(Bahia de todos os santos). The saga of adolescents living on their own as adults was treated as early as 1961 by Triguerinho Neto in this film set in Salvador, Bahia, under the Vargas dictatorship. Tonio has left home, unable to identify with his parents’ community centered around their African-derived religion. But he finds that, as a mulatto, in the outside world he is rejected by whites who see him as black and by blacks who see him as white. Tonio, who prefers the company of marginals who are as indefinable as himself, settles into the protection of a woman old enough to be his mother and befriends local dockworkers who are on strike. Betraying the former to help the latter, he finds himself alone. In his inability to commit, Tonio may be a proletarian version of the rootless character central to early sixties Cinema Novo in such films as São Paulo S/A.

• Written by Neto. Photographed by Guglielmo Lombardo. With Jurandir Pimentel, Arassary de Oliveira, Geraldo del Rey, Lola Brah. (100 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Triste Trópico 9:25

Arthur Omar (Brazil, 1973)

Preceded by short:

The Hatters (Adrian Cooper, Brazil, 1984). (Chapeleiros). This film shot in a hat factory depicts an oppressive industrial production setup where abnormality becomes the norm. (24 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

What starts as a conventional ethnographic documentary, its title taken from Lévi-Strauss’s memoir about Brazil, reveals itself to be anything but conventional, and in fact, a faux documentary. Taking as its subject one Arthur Alvaro de Noronha, a Paris-trained doctor in Brazil, the film reveals the good doctor’s specialty to be the Heart of Darkness. A man who in Paris drank coffee with the Surrealists, in Brazil Dr. Arthur cavorts with witch doctors and cannibals, becoming an indigenous messiah. Working in an active Brazilian avant-garde of the seventies, Omar’s technique not only takes a withering look at the notion of “tropicalism,” but is a devilish undermining of the “witchcraft of cinema itself,” as Robert Stam wrote. “We begin to suspect that we have been the dupes of an immense joke, as if Borges had slyly rewritten Conrad.”

• Written by Omar. Photographed by Iso Malman, José Carlos Avellar. With Othon Bastos. (80 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Saturday February 6

Barren Lives 5:00, 9:10

Nelson Pereira dos Santos (Brazil, 1963)

(Vidas sêcas). Based on a famous novel by Graciliano Ramos, Vidas sêcas is a chronicle of the day-to-day existence of a family of migrants who trek along the drought-ridden dusty roads of the Northeast’s vast sertão, heading to the urban South. They briefly become squatters on a cattle ranch before circumstances force them to move on. And on. Their oppression by landscape and landowners alike is viewed in the stark and simple tones of great tragedy. One has to look to Buñuel’s Land Without Bread for a film as pitiless in its refusal to sentimentalize or romanticize poverty, as uncompromising in its documentation of a culture of hunger and despair. In this setting, bathed as it is parched in light, dos Santos finds a cinematic equivalent for the novel’s empathic approach to point-of-view for the largely inarticulate Fabiano and Vitória and their children—even for their dog, who, says dos Santos, “has her own universe, her own vision.”

• Written by dos Santos, based on the novel by Graciliano Ramos. Photographed by Jose Rosa, Luiz Carlos Barreto. With Atila Iorio, Maria Ribeiro, Orlando Macedo, Jofre Soares. (135 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Aruanda, Viramundo, and Memories of the Cangaço 7:30

Aruanda (Linduarte Noronha, Brazil, 1960). Probably the seminal documentary influence on Cinema Novo, Aruanda concerns a quilombo, a community established by runaway slaves in the nineteenth century in Brazil’s northeastern state of Paraíba. The film’s crude production conditions and sunstruck cinematography seem to be a part of the lives it depicts—the dry poverty of the cotton culture—and for this it was a significant moment in Cinema Novo’s “aesthetics of hunger.” Photographed by Rucker Vieira. (20 mins)

Viramundo (Geraldo Sarno, Brazil, 1964). A classic example of a direct-cinema documentary, Viramundo focuses on the mass migration of unskilled poor people from the rural zones of the Brazilian Northeast to São Paulo. The film itself investigates and questions; it “advances like a dialogue,” as José Carlos Avellar writes, the camera “reacting as a person: participating in the conversation, cutting a sentence in the middle if the emotional reaction to what is said so requires, and placing one statement beside another in order to complement or contradict it, just as one might do in conversation.” (34 mins)

Memories of the Cangaço (Paulo Gil Soares, Brazil, 1965). (Memória do Cangaço). The cangaço was a movement of armed rebel-bandits in the backlands of the Brazilian Northeast in the 1930s. In Soares’s film, the story of the most famous cangaçeiro, Limpiao, is told through song, legend, and documentary interviews. (30 mins)

• (Total running time: 84 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Friday February 12

The Red Light Bandit 7:30

Rogério Sganzerla (Brazil, 1968)

(O bandido da luz vermelha). A famous Underground film about the underworld—thieves, addicts, smugglers, con artists, and artists—The Red Light Bandit is a genre-bending B-film homage à la Breathless, or “a western about the Third World,” in the director’s words. The protagonist is a Pierrot le Fou-like urban hustler who steals from (also kills) the rich and, despite his newspaper sobriquet Zorro of the Poor, leads an extravagant high life among the marginals of his choice. While eluding a police dragnet, he does it his way. And so does the film’s 23-year-old director, film critic and cinephile Rogério Sganzerla, who is as wickedly unsentimental as his protagonist and twice as crafty. A layered soundtrack, offscreen narration that doesn’t jibe with the images, a pastiche of tropical-pop references, and a taste for bad taste—as Robert Stam notes, when a subtitle announces “My last bomb,” we don’t know if it will be hurled by protagonist or director.

• Written by Sganzerla. Photographed by Peter Overbeck. With Paulo Villaça, Helena Ignez, Luiz Linhares, Pagano Sobrinho. (92 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

The Guns 9:20

Ruy Guerra (Brazil, 1964)

(Os fuzis). Mozambique-born Ruy Guerra learned filmmaking in Paris. His film The Guns is possibly the most explosive political film of Cinema Novo and the most purely Marxist. The setting is the Northeast, where starving migrants led by a beato worship an ox and pray for rain. Five soldiers are brought in to protect the harvest, destined to be trucked to the city, from these hungry souls. One of the truck drivers, Gaucho, becomes enraged at the pilgrims’ apathy and commits a decisive act of defiance, suicidal but ultimately futile: “the violence of liberation” only succeeds if it puts food into the mouths of the liberated. Thus it is the ox whose death is called for. “The power of the film lies indeed in its objectivity. Far from being urged to admire or champion the peasants, we are, like Gaucho, enraged by their religious credulity...while the soldiers emerge, no less than the townspeople, as the corrupted victims of a system.” (Nigel Andrews)

• Written by Guerra, from a story by Guerra, Miguel Torres, et al. Photographed by Ricardo Aronovich. With Atila Iório, Nélson Xavier, Maria Gladys, Leonides Bayer. (110 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Saturday February 13

Black God, White Devil 5:00, 9:10

Glauber Rocha (Brazil, 1963)

Followed by short:

At Midnight with Glauber (Ivan Cardoso, Brazil, 1997). (A mela noite com Glauber). A conversation between Glauber Rocha, Helio Oiticica, and the director—with star appearances from José Mojica Marins and Paco Rabal. Quotes aggressively collide with images by Rocha, and this montage itself becomes a dialogue about cinema. Photographed by Haroldo de Campos. (16 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color/B&W, 35mm)

(Deus e o diabo na terra do sol). “Black God, White Devil is the most beautiful thing I have seen in more than a decade, filled with a savage poetry.”— Luis Buñuel

With its roots in the legends and folk traditions of northeastern Brazil, Black God, White Devil is an epic exorcism of the violence and hunger-fed cultural derangements that have scarred that barren region for centuries. In near-hallucinatory images of astonishing power, and based in part on actual incidents, Rocha depicts the saga of two peasants, Manuel and Rosa, and a charismatic black beato, or messianic priest, whose authority threatens that of the Catholic Church and local landowners. Antonio das Mortes is hired to eliminate the “black god”; in an interesting twist, the job is done for him. When the priest’s hunger-crazed followers are led to a massacre at the hands of government troops, Manuel and Rosa, the sole survivors, find a new leader in the cangaceiro Corisco, heroic bandit-champion of the oppressed. And so the loop closes: Corisco, the “white devil,” will be Antonio das Mortes’s next victim.

• Written by Rocha, Walter Lima Junior, Paulo Gil Soares. Photographed by Waldemar Lima. With Geraldo del Ray, Yoná Magalháes, Othon Bastos, Lidio Sylva. (120 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

The Angel Is Born 7:30

Júlio Bressane (Brazil, 1969)

(O anjo nasceu). Like The Red Light Bandit, a classic from the Udigrudi or Underground movement. The Angel Is Born follows two wastrels, the white Santamaria, mystical and violent, and his more naive black partner-in-crime, Urtiga. They wreak havoc in Rio while awaiting Santamaria’s avenging angel. But redemption is for another kind of movie: The Angel Is Born is as far from the sociology of realism—even from Cinema Novo—as can be, both in style and moral stance. “The film itself represents a cool and tranquil kind of criminality, an audio-visual assault and battery...a nihilistic gesture directed against the hypocritical discourse of power” (Robert Stam). “A savage and bewitching film” (NFT, London).

• Written by Bressane. Photographed by Thiago Veloso. With Hugo Carvana, Milton Gonçalves, Norma Bengell, Carlos Guimar. (82 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)

Friday February 19

Memories of Helen 7:30

David Neves (Brazil, 1969)

(Memoria de Helena). The first feature of filmmaker and critic David Neves, an influential voice in Brazilian cinema, Memories of Helen is “precise, literate, intensely romantic... Two girls—Rosa and Helena—grow up together in an old town in Minas Gerais. Their story is framed by home movies that Rosa took and later shows to her boyfriend in Rio. The home movies, like faded family snapshots, provide an objective commentary on Helena’s snugly enclosed world (peopled by cats, her faithful nurse, a deep attachment to Rosa) that is smashed open by a rich, spoiled young man who takes her up and then leaves. The two girls are beautifully characterized, the photography exquisite; the film itself is spellbinding.” (Michael Webb, AFI) “Memories of Helen is primarily an exploration of one woman’s mind... Helen is a character full of fascinating complexities, partially liberated, partially the victim of romantic innocence. [This] story of a profound friendship between two women [is] reminiscent of Bergman’s Persona.” (Steve Mamber, Filmex ’71)

• Written by Neves, P. E. Sales Gomes. Photographed by David Drew Zingg. With Rosa Maria Penna, Adriana Prieto, Arduino Colasanti, Humberto Mauro. (81 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color/B&W, 35mm)

Iracema 9:05

Jorge Bodanzky (Brazil, 1975)

Iracema (an anagram for America) is a 14-year-old Indian girl who leaves her Amazon village to find out what life is like in the big city of Belem. There she survives by prostitution until she meets a truck driver on the Trans-Amazon Highway route who takes her on the road. The highway symbolizes the “new” Brazil of fantastic wealth and mobility, but for Iracema the journey leads straight back to the same life of resignation. Her abuse and humiliation mirror the ruthless destruction of the Brazilian landscape, the beauty and squalor of which is captured in Jorge Bodanzky’s color camerawork. With riveting performances by the two leads, Bodanzky’s semidocumentary approach to fiction ran counter to the dialectic/operatic approach of Glauber Rocha and the main Cinema Novo directors, but was no less revolutionary. Iracema shows the Brazil of the developing outback in images so graphic that the film was banned from release.

• Written by Bodanzky, Orlando Senna. Photographed by Bodanzky. With Edna de Cássia, Paulo César Pereio. (90 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Saturday February 20

Macunaíma 5:00, 8:30

Joaquim Pedro de Andrade (Brazil, 1969)

Cinema Novo’s “Tropicalist” period had nothing to do with Carmen Miranda, everything to do with the delights and depths of indigenous forms of expression, richly reworked in a modernist sensibility. Macunaíma is the definitive Afro-Brazilian picaresque, an equatorial Candide that “in its jocose examination of the Brazilian psyche fuses symbols, satire, and free fantasy...into a unified fictional universe.” (Randal Johnson) Based on a 1929 novel by Mario de Andrade, it tells of a fifty-year-old black newborn who turns white and journeys to the city where, among other adventures, he lives with a beautiful, troubled urban guerrilla and singlehandedly wrestles with capitalist cannibalism (and, implied, with the repression of the post-coup regime). A film that endlessly rewards, but doesn’t require, analysis, Macunaíma was Cinema Novo’s breakthrough commercial film, called in the New York Times, “One of the major works of cinema in this decade. The acting, color, and mise-en-scene are nearly perfect. The sense of life is complex and profound.”

• Written by de Andrade, based on the novel by Mario de Andrade. Photographed by Guido Cosulich. With Grande Otelo, Paulo Jose, Milton Gonçalves, Rodolfo Arena. (108 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Our Indians 7:05

Sylvio Back (Brazil, 1995)

(Yndio do Brasil). “The only good Indian is a filmed Indian”: this observation by the American documentarian Richard Leacock is offered as a motto and leitmotif for Our Indians, a collage of hundreds of films from Brazil and other countries that show how the cinema has portrayed Brazilian Indians since they were first filmed in 1912—alternately religious and militaristic, cruel and magical, idealized and vilified. Shown at Rotterdam Film Festival ’96.

• Written by Back. Photographed by Lider, Cinema Arts. (70 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Friday February 26

The Hour of the Star 7:30

Suzana Amaral (Brazil, 1985)

(A hora da estrela). This story of poverty and destiny, adapted from the novel by Clarice Lispector, was the first feature film from fifty-two-year-old director and mother of nine Suzana Amaral. In a brilliantly plain performance that begs comparison to Giulietta Masina, Marcélia Cartaxo plays an unexpectedly memorable heroine: Macabea, a grubby 19-year-old eking out a living on the margins of São Paulo. When she’s not working or dining on hot dogs and Coca-Cola, Macabea loses herself in vaguely romantic fantasies; although she’s hopelessly ill-groomed, she manages an almost random romance with the callous Olimpico, who berates her for her ignorance even though he poorly conceals his own. It’s true, Macabea is impossibly naive; everything she knows she learned from Time Radio Station, a 24-hour broadcast that dispenses irrelevant trivia between announcements of the hour. The radio is a constant background presence, ticking off the minutes until Macabea meets her fate—which proves to be both a climax of movie-made fantasy and a reminder of heartbreaking reality.—Juliet Clarke

• Written by Amaral, Alfredo Oroz, based on the novel by Clarice Lispector. Photographed by Edgar Moura. With Marcélia Cartaxo, José Dumont, Tamara Taxman. (96 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Pixote 9:20

Hector Babenco (Brazil, 1981)

Pixote is a powerful portrait of innocence and corruption, a mixture of social realism and mythic elements. Its vivid depiction of abandoned children in Brazil resonates with an even more tragic situation that exists today. Its outlaw-hero is a ten-year-old boy from the slums of São Paulo who is loose in the Rio underworld, on the lam from the savagery of police and their “reform” schools. Preying off other people, these homeless youths are by turns exploited and taken in by older thieves, prostitutes, and pimps (here, mostly played by nonprofessional actors, as is Pixote himself). “Babenco portrays the struggle for survival in its harshest terms, while evoking moments of exquisite tenderness, selfless love, honor, loyalty, and moral strength. Most astounding is his powerful sense of the absurd. He is able to draw attention to the ridiculous and the mad in the most tragic of circumstances.” (George Csicsery, Film Quarterly)

• Written by Babenco, Jorge Duran, from the novel Infancia dos Mortos by Jose Louzeiro. Photographed by Rodolfo Sanches. With Fernando Ramos da Silva, Marília Pera, Jorge Juliao, Gilberto Moura. (127 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)

Experimentos Tropicais: Recent Video from Brazil

Six Wednesdays in January and February

Brazil itself is a grand experiment of fantastical places, complex histories, and spirited cultures. Out of this continually ripening country has come art of lively and formidable proportion. Less known than Brazil’s lush music, literature, and film is its bounty of new media art. Distinguished by the markings of this profuse culture, these videoworks are anything but provincial, for they also look beyond Brazil for inspiration, assimilating contemporary concerns and aesthetic strategies from abroad. Experimentos Tropicais surveys the current state of Brazilian media arts, drawing upon an intriguing and zestful body of works, many of them presented in their U.S. premieres. From compact poetic recitations to innovative indigenous ethnography; from lyrical essayistic explorations to life-affirming visions of culture—Experimentos Tropicais offers the chance to view the rich diversity of Brazil’s media artists.

For one evening, we cross borders to introduce an important Argentinian artist, Marcello Mercado, with the premiere of The Warm Place, the First Prize-winner at this year’s Videobrasil.

—Steve Seid

We would like to thank the staff of Videobrasil, a bi-annual festival based in São Paulo, for being such gracious hosts at their most recent event. This series could not have occured without them. Also special thanks to: Solange Farkas, Marcia Antabi, Eder Santos, and Sandra Kogut for their generous advice and assistance.

Wednesday January 13

Portraits: People in Places 7:30

Works by Marcia Antabi, Roberto Berliner, Marcondes Dourado, Sandra Kogut, Lucila Meirelles, Eder Santos

Portraiture is often as much about the setting as it is about its frontal subject. Here, six artists bring us provocative portraits placed in a setting called Brazil. Roberto Berliner’s One Is Fit for What One Is Born (A pessoa é para o que nasce) (1998, 6 mins) evokes the surprising wit and wisdom of three blind sisters who sing for their survival on the streets of Paraíba. Painful memories surge forward as Rio-based Marcia Antabi taunts the silence in Hanah (Under the Skin) (Sob a pele) (1997, 8 mins), a dreamlike work linking the artist to her grandmother’s troubled past. Marcondes Dourado’s Ogodô Ano 2000 (1996, 12 mins) transforms Carnival in Salvador into a fleshy procession of images that sensually undulate like desire itself. Using translucent layering, Lucila Meirelles’s Blind Oliveira in His Deserted Sight (Cego Oliveira no sertão do seu olhar) (1998, 17:20 mins) conveys the hazy world of a partially sighted fiddler from the sertão. Sandra Kogut’s Here and There (Lá e cá) (1995, 25 mins) is a piquant narrative about a lively working-class woman contemplating a move to the upscale Zona Sul in Rio. Combining documentary-style camera with spicy dramatic stagings, this work beautifully explores her old neighborhood with all its seductive vitality. Interspersed with the above tapes will be episodes from Eder Santos’s Geography of Shadows (Geografia de sombras) (1998, 7 segments, approx. 13 mins), magical tone-poems about cityscapes and their occupants.—Steve Seid

• (Total running time: 70 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, Video, From the artists, Electronic Arts Intermix)

Wednesday January 20

Candomblé and Healing

Odô Yá! Life with AIDS 7:30

Tânia Cypriano (Brazil/U.S., 1997)

Preceded by:

Ex-Voto (Tânia Cypriano, 1990), in which the artist offers up thanks to Nossa Senhora da Aparecida, Patron Saint of Brazil, in gratitude for saving her from a childhood accident. (7 mins) Brooklyn Bridge (Marcia Antabi, 1998) finds the artist contemplating the gravity of culture as she prepares to depart one for another. (7 mins)

The nurturing and magnanimous gods of Candomblé, the Orixás, cast sexuality as a pleasurable and vital act. And because many of the Orixas are ambiguously gendered, this syncretic worship has come to embrace a wide swathe of sexual expressions. Nowhere has this embrace been more evident than in Candomblé’s spirited response to AIDS. Cypriano’s zestful documentary Odô Yá! focuses on the religion’s efforts to cope with the epidemic, taking us to houses of worship, neighborhood programs like Rio’s Odô Yá!, and black pride associations the likes of Ile Aye and Olodum. Throughout the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Bahia, Candomblé activists have rallied around the often marginalized victims of AIDS, bringing them education, pride, and perhaps their greatest shared resource, axé, the power of life. (58 mins)—Steve Seid

• (Total running time: 72 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles and narration, 3/4” video, From the artists, Viva Pictures)

Wednesday February 3

The Artful Ethnography of Vincent Carelli 7:30

Meeting Ancestors, We Gather As a Family and Signs Don’t Speak

Preceded by:

Morayngava (Regina Müller, Virginia Valadão, Brazil, 1997). The Asurini people describe the contradictions inherent in the use of video to collect cultural images. (17 mins)

In Vincent Carelli’s uniquely sumptuous and dramatic ethnography, we witness Amazonian peoples confronting their own ethnicity through video’s alluring ability to represent it. Indigenous Brazilians have invested this visual technology with the properties of a tool, a weapon, and a mask. In Meeting Ancestors (A arca dos Zo’é) (1993, 21 mins), a wondrous cultural exchange occurs when Chief Wai-Wai of the Waiãpi views footage of the Zo’é, a tribe sharing a similar language, and then crosses the “Big River” for a visit. We Gather As a Family (Eu já fui seu irmão) (1993, 32 mins) finds the chief of the Parakatêjê musing over the erosion of cultural integrity and, through an exchange with the more traditional Krahô, becoming inspired to reinvigorate tribal rites. Three years later, we again visit the Waiãpi, now engaged in a struggle to repel the encroachment of prospectors in their land: Signs Don’t Speak (with Dominique Gallois, 1996, 27 mins) uses storytelling as well as documentary footage to illustrate their ironic efforts to survey their own territory. Now with distinct borders, the Waiãpi ponder the limits of culture.—Steve Seid

Vincent Carelli’s videoworks represent the remarkable efforts of the Centro de Trabalho Indigenista, a group that brings video to indigenous people to aid in their fight to preserve endangered cultures.

• (Total running time: 97 mins, In Portuguese and indigenous languages with English subtitles, Color, 3/4” video, From Video Data Bank)

Wednesday February 10

The Boys from Belo 7:30

André Amparo, Lucas Bambozzi, Kiko Mollica, Marcus Nascimento, Pedro & Paulo Vilela, Eder Santos, and Aggêo Simões

The thriving city of Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais has bred a particular sensibility, one which could be best described as poetic; at least that is how it appears from here. The artists of this region, who work in close proximity both intellectually and aesthetically, have amassed a body of video remarkable for its lyricism, scrupulous craft, and fondness for pictorial poignancy. Many of these works could be reductively designated as video-poems, however it is rare that they stop at mere illustration, reaching instead for emotional and cerebral tonalities. Lucas Bambozzi’s That Is A Place I Do Not Know (Ali é um lugar que não conheco) (1996, 6 mins) is a beaming video-poem about unattainable places and the allure of intangible desire. Eder Santos’s Tumitinhas (1998, 4:47 mins) interprets a poem by Sandra Penna in which she subverts the double-edged children’s song translated as “youhadme.” Kiko Mollica pays tribute to the passing of his much-revered grandmother in Granny Rita (1996, 6:18 mins), combining affectionate portraiture and words once exchanged. Marcus Nascimento refines his compact poetics in Videohaiku (with Aggêo Simões, 1998, 5:58 mins), a series of sensorial observations embedded in painterly video textures. In André Amparo’s Bottom of the Sea (O fundo do mar) (1998, 2:43 mins) reflections on dryness are awash in a boundless flood.—Steve Seid

Also to be screened:

Otto (Lucas Bambozzi, 1998, 20 mins). The Toys (Os brinquedos) (Kiko Mollica, 1997, 1 mins). Video Chronicles (Kiko Mollica, 1995-97, 3:30 mins). Vídeo Cabeça (Kiko Mollica, 1997, 40 sec). Memória (Marcus Nascimento, 1998, 2:15 mins). Janaúba (Eder Santos, 1994, 17 mins). Un Ponce de Dor (Pedro and Paulo Vilela, 1998, 1 min).

• (Approximate running time: 70 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 3/4” video, From the artists). Special thanks to Eder Santos, Kiko Mollica, and the people at EMVIDEO.

Wednesday February 17

Recent Works by Carlos Nader 7:30

Trovoada, Carlos Nader, The End of the Journey

One of Brazil’s most prominent video artists, Carlos Nader is something of an ineffable essayist. Best known for 1992’s exuberant Beijoquerio: Portrait of a Serial Kisser (screened several times at PFA), Nader has numerous works remarkable for their diverse, lyrical explorations and visual stylizations. Perhaps his most deceptive video piece is The End of the Journey (O fim da viagem) (1996, 30:35 mins), an uncanny road “movie” about labor and love, masquerading as a television documentary. Following the routine trip of a truck driver delivering hogs, Nader subtly highlights the profound connection of the everyday to the sustaining cycles of nature. Trovoada (1995, 16:25 mins) and Carlos Nader (1998, 15:30) are formal relatives, relying on gorgeous visual interventions, but then they part company. Where Trovoada looks at the notion of time as a personal sensation, Carlos Nader implodes autobiography by dispersing identity across a complex cultural landscape. Ravishing panoramas intermingle with strange testimony about autonomy, perception, and the thousand and one secrets we conceal. Award-winner at the 12th Videobrasil.—Steve Seid

• (Total running time: 62 mins, plus discussion, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 3/4” video, From the artist)

Wednesday February 24

Marcello Mercado: Argentinian Angst 7:30

Premieres: The Torment Zone, The Edge of Rain, The Warm Place

Marcello Mercado, an intense artist from Cordoba, Argentina, takes history very personally. Unwilling to let the unresolved terrors of Argentina’s historical legacy go gently into the night, Mercado confronts them through his video art with fervor, commitment, and originality. The Torment Zone (La Region del Tormento) (1993, 8:40 mins, In Spanish with English subtitles) is an imaginary visit to a mental hospital where subjugation and enclosure echo other forms of tyranny. Mercado’s twisted drawings act as tour guides to bedlam. In The Edge of Rain (El Borde de la Illuvia) (1995, 42 mins, In English) the Dirty War is addressed obliquely: tales of distress—of vanished people, of stressed fetuses, of butchered cattle—are juxtaposed with images that acknowledge both beauty and disgust. Mercado’s newest work, The Warm Place (El Lugar Tibio) (1998, 36 mins, In English) turns the tyranny of history inward, describing the body’s betrayal as a response to political fragmentation and despair. Constructed in a computer using layers of moving images and precise graphical compositions, Mercado’s uncompromising work is driven by an urgency of vision that could only be called inspired. The imagistic allegory of a country’s amnesia evokes a psychopolitical space where revulsion and compassion vie for dominance. First Place Winner at the 12th Videobrasil.—Steve Seid

• (Total running time: 86 mins, Color, 3/4” video, From the artist)

Send your
comments to