* From the collection of excellent interviews and reports by Marcelo Pinheiro
Born in 1895, cinema is the youngest of all artistic expressions. Whether through fictional or documentary narratives, the turmoil and glories of the 1960th century were recorded on the big screen through individual actions, but also in collective aesthetic currents that continue to influence filmmakers. A narrative of inventions grouped in movements such as German Expressionism, Italian Neorealism, the French Nouvelle Vague, the New German Cinema and, in Brazil, the Cinema Novo of the XNUMXs.
The long-awaited feature film by Eryk Rocha, which last May, won the Golden Eye, the highest award in the film category Cannes Film Festival documents. In addition to the enchantment that New Cinema aroused in the public and the jury of the French show, the award ceremony for the film was also marked by the protest made by Eryk, son of filmmaker Glauber Rocha, against the then interim government of Michel Temer and the news, announced days before, of the extinction of the Ministry of Culture. Using a forceful speech, in the politicized manner of his father, Eryk stated that the country was experiencing a “tragic moment in its history” and that the extinction of the MinC, later annulled, was a “reflection of the great setback imposed on Brazil”.
In interview with CULTURE! Brazilians, carried out by e-mail, due to international commitments, Eryk Rocha returned to address the political crisis in the country, and made considerations about Cinema Novo. With a daring narrative, built mainly on editing, through collages of scenes and audio excerpts from more than 130 titles, the film is a poetic essay that, without resorting to didacticism, explains and scales the importance of the movement headed by names like Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Ruy Guerra, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Cacá Diegues, Leon Hirszman, Walter Lima Jr and, of course, his father. Establishing connections between predecessors, successors and contemporaries who ran parallel to Cinema Novo, Eryk also attributes the importance of directors such as Mário Peixoto, from Limit, Humberto Mauro, from raw denim, Luiz Sergio Person, from Sao Paulo S/A, Walter Hugo Khouri, from empty night, and Jorge Bodanzky, from Iracema, An Amazon Transa.
In addition to the visual impact of the collages of these and other films, New Cinema is also inscribed as an important source for the understanding of a historical period, due to the amount of unpublished testimonies from some of the most relevant personalities for the country's culture. Below is the entirety of the virtual conversation with Eryk Rocha.
CULTURE!Brasileiros – One of the trumps of New Cinema it is the dispensing of narrative resources that are usual in documentary films, such as the testimonies of people close to the character or who are familiar with the theme and the recurrent use of voiceovers in off-screen. How did that choice come about?
Eryk Rocha – This is not a film that aims to explain Cinema Novo or define it, but which, through it and with it, erupts from a cauldron of voices, affections and poetics. Making this film gave me the challenge of overcoming the anecdotal-historicist aspect and dialoguing with the movement in the present. Create movement within movement. My desire was to look at Cinema Novo as a compulsive creative state of mind that reveals the artist/filmmaker's struggle with their time. New Cinema was built in assembly. It was nine intense months of invention, which included the beautiful work of the editor Renato Vallone. Then we attacked in depth the sound montage masterfully performed by Edson Secco. The editing (sound/visual) is the heart that makes this work pulsate. We use more than 130 different films and archives. This film is born from threads, lines and excerpts. Excerpts from paths, excerpts from dreams, excerpts from songs, excerpts from stories, excerpts from gestures, excerpts from films, interrupted excerpts. This multitude of passages creates a melody, a new dramaturgy. A living body of new senses. As Humberto Mauro said: “Cinema turns into a waterfall…”
How did you research the titles that served as raw material for the film? Were there obstacles to obtaining these images?
It took years of research until we started the assembly process. It is important to say that this work had the fundamental support of the filmmakers' families. The children of Leon Hirszman, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, and living filmmakers such as Nelson Pereira dos Santos and Carlos Diegues, among others. And, of course, also my brothers, Glauber's children. In all this articulation, the work of the film's producer, Diogo Dahl, was fundamental. This is a film that talks about the archeology of memory. We focus mainly on the production of Cinema Novo in the 1960s, which, I think, is the most fruitful decade of the movement. Although there are some exceptions, such as, for example, Humberto Mauro and Mário Peixoto, or at the other end of the 1970s, for example, the Iracema, An Amazon Transa, by Jorge Bodanzky. I saw and reviewed many movies. In addition to them, we also searched on several TV channels, archives in Brazil and around the world, and discovered rare materials, such as those from INA (o National Audiovisual Institute) French. All this hard work was carried out in part with the film's editor, Renato Vallone. During the editing, we also discovered new films and materials that we incorporated into the film's score, and this naturally affected the editing itself, making the structure more complex and enriching the crossing.
In the film, at no point do you explicitly intervene to influence the understanding of what is being seen. In addition to the fact that you are the son of one of the creators of Cinema Novo, I would like you to comment on your relationship with the movement.
Films are born from the guts and the deep need to say something that cannot be left unsaid. I believe that Cinema Novo was born from my desire to investigate the cinematographic, cultural and political history of my country at the intersection of my affective roots. I wanted to understand better and try to illuminate the time in which I live. The Cinema Novo generation wanted to insert cinema and art into a larger project for the country. This confrontation of the citizen/artist with his time was something that always moved me and made me passionate about filmmaking. The film's belief was to launch Cinema Novo in the present, in full motion, and to ask how the artist can today engage in the everyday political processes of his people. Brazil has not yet gone through a basic process of understanding culture and education as strategic forces for its real development. I believe that today we urgently need to free the imagination towards the creation of new political and poetic projects. This reminds me of a speech by cinemanovista Paulo César Saraceni, who, by the way, is in the film: “I want to make a political cinema that is the best poetry”.
Has the film already been seen by some of the characters portrayed in it, such as Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Ruy Guerra and Cacá Diegues? What was their reaction?
The only one of the group who watched the film was Ruy Guerra. By chance, we coincided showings at the Lima Festival, in Peru, and he saw the documentary there (Guerra participated in the Peruvian exhibition with his latest film, Almost Memory). Ruy liked it a lot, he was moved, which resulted in a long and beautiful conversation between us. In a few days, we will have a first session at the Cine Odeon, at the Rio Festival, and all cinemanovistas will be able to see the film. I am excited and very much looking forward to this moment.
The political dimension of Cinema Novo is even more evident in the testimonies of the directors gathered in the documentary. During the Cannes Festival, where the film was victorious, you said that the country is experiencing a new coup d'état. Do you consider that this new context, of conservative retraction, can culminate in a scenario of cultural resistance similar to that created by the cinemanovistas?
Today, the political debate has returned to a crucial place in Brazil. We are living a true political trance, with tragic contours. This high tension in the country inevitably affects the day to day, the body, and leaves sensitivity to the surface. At the same time, I also feel that Brazil is lost, kind of aimless, without very clear perspectives. We took a heavy blow and we are trying to get back on our feet to collectively understand what happened and continue the fight. I think that cinema, as a rich medium of expression, has the power to create memory and to witness these moments. These “states” of the Country will little by little be able to radiate new currents of our cinema, and I think that the tendency is for this to intensify, to deepen, since the unfolding and intensification of political and social struggles are unpredictable. Each era has its forms of expression, and I believe that one of the original forces of the Cinema Novo movement was to create a powerful symbiosis between politics and aesthetics, between form and content, a new grammar. Everything erupts and erupts in this perspective and I was impressed to see how several of these films continue to echo and dialogue viscerally with contemporary Brazil. I think the challenge today is to know how Brazilian cinema will reflect and act in this new process in the country, to know how it will translate Brazil on screen. This worries me, as a director, instigates and provokes me to want to film this very strange historical time that we inhabit, a time of ruins.
Watch the documentary trailer New Cinema
read interview with filmmaker Nelson Pereira dos Santos, published in February 2012, in issue 55 of Brazilians, na occasion of the release of the documentary Music According to Tom Jobim