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2009102016401brazilmid2[1]POLITICS, POETICS AND POPULAR EDUCATION IN BRAZILIAN CINEMA, 1962-1979

‘Stronger are the powers of the people’: politics, poetics and popular education in Brazilian cinema, 1962-1979

December 4 (6.30pm – 10pm) 
December 5th and 6th (2pm to 10pm)

At No-w-here, First Floor, 316-318 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 OAG

Full programme and further information: http://www.no-w-here.org.uk/index.php?cat=1&subCat=docdetail&&id=212

The late 1950s and early 1960s were a period of intense social and economic transformation in Brazil. It was also a period of political upheaval, curbed by the 1964 military coup, and one in which the relations between politics, poetics and popular education, the role of the cultural producer, the vanguard-popular-mass culture nexus, were absolutely central to the cultural and political debate.

‘Stronger are the powers of the people’, a programme of films and debates curated and presented by Brazilian philosopher, artist and political activist Rodrigo Nunes, uses Brazilian films from 1962 to 1979 as ‘monuments’ whose animating forces can be put again into play to understand how the problems posed by the period are expressed in the aesthetic and political choices of filmmakers.

In particular, it examines one of the most neglected experiences of that time – the Popular Culture Centres (CPCs) – as a central node of the practical and theoretical articulation of those debates. With this, the programme addresses them not only in their historical situatedness, but above all in relation to those problems that animate artistic and political practice in the present, when so much is made of the intersections between politics, art, and pedagogy, and there is a growing interest in recovering past experiences of this convergence – above all, from the 1960s, and increasingly, from peripheral countries such as Brazil. What can the problems of those years teach us regarding what we are or would like to be doing today? How can the proposals emerging in this field then – Paulo Freire’s pedagogy, Liberation Theology, Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed,tropicalismo, Helio Oiticica’s, Lygia Clark’s and Lygia Pape’s researches, cinema novo – resonate with us today?

The programme includes the rare collective work Five Times Favela, the only CPC-produced film, and the first film for many of that generation’s directors; Glauber Rocha’s internationally acclaimed Land in Anguish and Antonio das Mortes; Ruy Guerra’s The Guns and its sequel, The Fall; and Leon Hirszman’s ABC of the Strike.

Rodrigo Nunes has a PhD in philosophy from Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he prepared a thesis on immanence and philosophy in Foucault and Deleuze with a grant from CAPES – Brazilian government. As an organiser, popular educator and artist, he has been involved in many political initiatives in Latin America and Europe, including the organisation of the first three editions of the World Social Forum. He is a member of the editorial collective of Turbulence (http://www.turbulence.org.uk). His work, as writer and translator, has appeared in such publications as ephemera, Mute, Transform, and he has forthcoming papers in Radical Philosophy and Third Text.

This project is supported by Raven Row, the Brazilian embassy in London, and No.w.here.

Films

Cinco vezes favela (Five times favela), various authors, 1962: The only film the Popular Culture Centre (CPC) brought to completion, it comprises five episodes directed by Miguel Borges, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Caca Diegues, Marcos Farias and Leon Hirszman, and was responsible for a split between the CPC and the cinema novo group. Some of the key figures in the CPC reportedly considered the film both a commercial and a political flop, and filmmakers such as Diegues and Arnaldo Jabor (though not Hirszman) left after decrying a narrow, instrumental conception of the relation between aesthetics and politics. With a cast including many of Augusto Boal’s colleagues from Teatro de Arena (and, most notably, CPC founder Oduvaldo Viana Filho), it captures a group of young filmmakers grappling with the same problems – how to create a form adequate to the specificity of Brazilian content? How to do so in a way that reaches beyond a middle-class audience, and plays a role in the transformation of Brazilian society from below? What is popular culture, and how must the artist deal with it? – while working through a host of influences, from Russian revolutionary cinema to neo-realism. Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s Couro de gato (Catgut) was included in a list of the 100 best shorts of all times selected by the Clermont-Ferrand Festival.

Os Fuzis (The guns), Ruy Guerra, 1964: One of the greatest achievements of the first crop of cinema novo – alongside Nelson Pereira dos Santos’ Vidas secas (Barren lives) and Glauber Rocha’s Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (Black God White Devil) (1964) –, it showcases many of the period’s defining traits: the rural Northeastern setting, the use of location, natural light and non-professional actors. At the same time, in its plot about the existential and moral crises undergone by a group of soldiers sent to a small town to stop the starving victims of the draught from attacking a food warehouse, it provides in arguably the clearest way the keys to reading some of the political limitations of cinema novo at this stage. It won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Festival.

Terra em transe (Land in anguish), Glauber Rocha, 1967: Part roman à clef about the Joao Goulart government and the 1964 military coup, part schematic description of the dynamics of the post-colonial world, part baroque allegory about the destiny of Latin America, part gauntlet thrown at the right and left of post- coup Brazil: one of Rocha’s most celebrated films, it finds the effects of his ‘epic-didactic’ cinema all the more effective because its target is much clearer. A whole generation at a crossroads appears in the vacillations of the main character, his multiple allegiances to social transformation and to his own class, to aesthetics and to politics, to utopia, the heat of the struggle, and his professional situation as a hired pen; the choice for armed struggle, which the film suggests in ambiguous fashion, was already brewing as it was produced. Nominated to the Palme d’Or at Cannes, best film at the Havana Film Festival.

O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro (Antônio das Mortes), Glauber Rocha, 1969: Rocha’s first international co-production, first film in colour, and first using direct sound. He would often refer to it as ‘my western’, but, despite some nods at John Ford and Howard Hawks, it is clear that the oeuvre in question here is above all his own. Like a revision of his two earlier films that relaunches its questions, but also seems to run out of answers, it already points towards some of the procedures (such as the long, semi-improvised takes) that would characterise his work in the exile that immediately follows it. The plot finds Antônio das Mortes, the gunman hired by landowners to kill cangaceiros (highwaymen), brought out of retirement for one last job which, once executed, causes him to question the side on which he has fought over the years. Won best director and a nomination to the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

A Queda (The Fall), Ruy Guerra, 1976: An accident at a construction site, resulting in one death, sets one worker off on a struggle for justice that exposes the mechanisms of exploitation and the class relations of a country that had undergone one decade of fast-paced ‘conservative modernisation’ at the hands of the military. As a sort of sequel to the classic The Guns (1964), following the fate of those characters as they move from enforcers of exploitation to exploited, it offers more than a snapshot of the period: the correspondent time lapses in fiction and reality capture the passage of a chunk of Brazilian history between the two films, and, therefore, also the transformations in cinematographic approaches to the social and political between the two moments. Equally daring in content and form, and in the originality of the adequacy of one to the other, it won the Silver Bear at Berlin.

ABC da greve (ABC of the strike), Leon Hirszman, 1979-91: While preparing the cinema version of groundbreaking 1957 Teatro de Arena play Eles não usam black tie on location in the ABC (the auto industry belt around São Paulo), Hirszman has the opportunity to document the most powerful strikes in over a decade of Brazilian history. The latter would become a catalyst and a convergence point for the opposition to the military regime, intellectuals, artists, returning exiles, eventually leading to the creation of the Worker’s Party – whose biggest leader, Lula, was the president of the metalworkers union who led the strikes. Running into problems with the regime’s censorship because of the material, Hirszman dies in 1987 leaving the film unfinished until 1991, when his two daughters and son eventually release a final cut. The narration and text are provided by Ferreira Gullar, poet, who was president of the CPC at the time of the military coup.

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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