In this paper I will discuss Brazil and it’s current film industry. I will elucidate its role in the Brazilian economy, and also what part the government deals in the industry itself. Certain Brazilian films will be given as representations towards my theories. Within a year of the Lumiere brother’s ‘first experiment’ in Paris in 1896, the cinematograph machine appeared in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years later, the capital boasted 22 cinema houses and the first Brazilian feature film, The Stranglers by Antonio Leal, had been screened.
From then on Brazil’s film industry made continuous progress and, although it has never been large, its output over the years has attracted international attention. In 1930, still the era of the silent movie in Brazil, Mario Peixoto’s film, Limite was made. Limite is a surrealistic work dealing with the conflicts raised by the human condition and how life conspires to prevent total fulfillment. It was considered a landmark film in the Brazilian cinema history. In 1933 Cinedia produced The Voice of Carnival, the first film with Carmen Miranda.
This film ushered in the ‘chanchada’ which dominated Brazilian cinema for many years. Chanchada’s were the slapstick comedies, generally filled with musical numbers and thoroughly cherished by the public. By the end of the 1940’s Brazilian film making was becoming an industry. The Vera Cruz Film Company was created in Sao Paulo with the goal of producing films of international quality. It hired technicians from abroad and brought back from Europe, Alberto Cavalcanti, a Brazilian filmmaker with an international reputation to head the company.
Vera Cruz produced some important films before it closed in 1954, among them the epic O Cangaceiro which won the “Best Adventure Film” award at Cannes Film Festival in 1953. In the 1950’s, Brazilian cinema radically changed the way it made films. In his 1995 film, Rio 40 Graus, director Nelson Pereira dos Santos employed the filmmaking techniques of Italian non realism by using ordinary people as his actors and by going to the streets to shoot his low budget film.
He would become one of the most important Brazilian filmmakers of all time, and it is he who set the stage for the Brazilian ‘cinema novo’ an idea in mind and a camera in the hands movement. By 1962 ‘cinema novo’ had established a new concept in Brazilian filmmaking. The ‘cinema novo’ film’s dealt with themes related to acute national problems, from conflicts in rural areas to human problems in the large cities, as well as film versions of important Brazilian novels. At the end of the 1960’s, the Tropicalist movement had taken hold of the art scenes in Brazil which meant that cinema came under its spell.
It emphasized the need to transform all foreign influences into a national product. The most representative film of this movement was Macunaima, by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade. It was a metaphorical analysis of the Brazilian character as shown in the story of a native Indian who leaves the Amazon jungle and goes to the big city. Working at the same time as the Tropicalists were the ‘cinema marginal’ movement. This was another group of directors that emerged in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro who also made low cost films. This group produced film’s with theme’s that referred to a marginal society.
Their films were considered ‘difficult’. In 1969 the government film agency, Embrafilme, was created. They were responsible for the co production, financing, and distribution of a large percentage of films in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Embrafilme added a commercial dimension to the film industry and made it possible for it to move on to more ambitious projects. In the 1980’s movies were not well attended. This was due in part to the popularity of the television. Many theatres closed their doors, especially in the interior if the country.
Never the less some important films were made. Many were concerned with political questions. Today many contemporary Brazilian films are being shown on television and in movie theatres all over the world. The Brazilian culture at the moment is a result of a historical process where there was a convergence of three distinct populations. The Indian population that was situated in the land before the Portuguese arrived in 1500, the Africans who were brought by the slave owners, and lastly the immigrants that came to Brazil in the beginning of the 19th century.
Today, Brazil being more conscious of the richness of these three different cultures tries to incentive the film industry by bringing these influences out. A perfect example of this is the film O Quatrilho. O Quatrilho, made in 1996, was one of the five nominees for the 1996 Academy Award for the Best Movie in a Foreign Language. This film takes us into the world of a small colony of Italian Immigrants in the south of Brazil in 1910. The young and serious Angelo is wed to the beautiful and vibrant Teresa but he pays no attention to her at all.
He is firstly preoccupied with making ends meet and then his fortune rather than lavishing on his wife. Another couple arrives at the village where Angelo and Teresa are located. Pierina, Teresa’s cousin, is homely but hard working while Massimo is more worldly and doesn’t disguise the fact that he finds Teresa attractive. Before long both couples have children and they find themselves sharing the same property. The daily routine of working together on the land is arduous but while Angelo busies himself with his business and proves successful at it, Massimo and Teresa are drawn to each other.
After their first amorous encounter they decide to abandon their respective marriages and elope together. The remaining couple, betrayed by their spouses, continue to live under the same roof, despite church pressure that they separate. But little by little they discover that they are in love. As a result of the process of the country’s formation, Brazil has a rich influence for different time periods and ethnicity’s which can clearly be seen in the aforementioned film, O Quatrilho.
With a sudden change of Brazilian cultural laws in the last 2 years, the Brazilian “audio-visual” area’s such as film, television, and radio flourished. The national production of films were stagnant from the 1990’s to 1992 due to the radical cuts in government fiscal and artistic incentives made at the time by the Collor administration. But because of the new demand for more “audio-visual” products in 1993 that all changed. In 1993 when the law to incentive the “audio-visual” was created and then passed by the senate, 2 films were produced.
A year later, 1994, 5 films were made. In 1995 17 films were produced, moving along in 1996 22 films were made. And lastly in 1997 30 films were produced. This increase gives us the conclusion that with the establishment of the new law there was a growth of national films. With this growth the emergence of beautiful filming began. A great example of the growth of national film’s is Central do Brazil, which won the gold bear at the International Film Festival in Berlin and the prize for Best Script at the Sundance Festival.
In this film Dora works in the “Central do Brazil” writing letters for illiterates who desire to correspond with their distant relatives. Ana, one of her customers, dies by getting hit by a car, and against her wishes, Dora receives Ana’s only child Josue. Josue dreams to know his father who has disappeared in the northeast and so he begs Dora to help. Dora, in the end helps Josue to write letters to help find his father. This film is currently being shown in Brazilian theatres and also European and American theatres.
The actual flourishing of the film industry is so intense that one can even measure by the fact that in the beginning of the decade the number of spectators for the Brazilian films were insignificant, summoning up to about 20,000 per year. But gradually, as the films increased so did the spectators. In 1997 one can see how the numbers have jumped to 2 million. Another auspicious fact is the regional diversification of productions, allowing the elimination of the battles between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Although the market is still dominated by foreign films, Brazil has begun to export their film’s.
In 1997 Brazil imported 680 millions of dollars against the 38 millions that were being exported. The Federal Constitution clearly established in the 2 articles 215, and 216 states that the competency of the state guarantee’s the cultural rights. Also access to the cultural source, value and incentivation of the cultural productions and preservations of the national heritage. Especially the ones from the various ethnic groups and trends that encompass the Brazilian society. So the 3 fundamental dimensions of the cultural phenomenon creation, diffusion, and preservation are contemplated in the constitutional text.
This places them under the public responsibilities in collaboration with its society. The country’s cultural area is changing to a more stable structure of organization and financial support. The federal legislation that incentives the culture has 2 powerful laws. Law 8. 313/91, which is the federal law to stimulate the culture, and law 8685/93 which is the audiovisual law. With these two laws the federal government incentives and supports the firms to contribute with a percentage of the taxes to be used in the support of the arts.
As a result of these laws we have the “Revival of the Brazilian Movie”, with an increased income of 80 million ‘reais’ Brazillian currency in 1997. These figures are four times bigger than the 1995 figures. An illustration of this is the ministry of culture that gave 40 awards for film shorts, 15 for scripts, and 15 for the development of the ‘audio-visual’ projects. In 1998, the ministry of culture will center its efforts to increase the market for Brazilian productions of audio visual context.
By doing so, one hopes that this can increase the structure and the implementation of the audio visual industry in Brazil. In conclusion, I believe that the Brazilian film industry was lacking when it first started. Gradually the industry has begun to grow and produce films that are even entertaining foreign audiences, such as O Quatrilho in Europe and the US. Hopefully as the years pass I believe that even though Brazil is a third world country, it is rich enough in culture to bring forth a different quality of films that will reassure the foreign audience and market to give them a chance.