Hello, Helio!

in 63rd Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival

by Anjelika Artyukh

The Forum program is an important part of the Berlinale. The main purpose of this program is to find new names in moviemaking, new unexplored territories, new styles and new tendencies. That’s why more than half the movies shown in this program are debuts. From these debuts FIPRESCI chooses the winner and this year the movie from Brazil Helio Oiticica became the outstanding choice.

The first question for the jury was the question of criterions. What are the characteristics of the best film among the 17 debuts from all over the world? There is always the mistake of judging movies simply by taste, of operating by simplistic formula: “I like it — I don’t”. Perhaps to avoid this mistake it’s important to recall the question asked by Andre Bazin: “What is cinema?” If we slightly correct this question to make it more adequate to our situation: “What is the festival cinema today?” the answer will come easier. This correction is self-evident because today any festival is an alternative scene of movie-distribution which has its own viewer, its own press and its own budget. The most important aspect of all movies shown during festivals (and the Berlinale is no exception) will never be known to the general body of movie goers. These movies, in the best of cases, are viewed and judged only by experts and specialists. That’s why the big prize is so important. It’ll give an opportunity for a movie to break the limits of the festival ghetto, be shown on TV and in movie theaters, become a hit on DVD.

The prize issued by FIPRESCI gives the winner all of these opportunities. That’s why the jury of movie experts highly appreciates the efforts of those movie-directors who are striving to expand movie language, to deepen its impact on the viewers. These efforts are valued especially high when the very idea of the movie and its realization is based on those considerations.

Helio Oiticica is the film ideally suited to these criterions. The documentary uses the technique ‘found-footage’ and is devoted to the life of the legendary Brazilian avant-garde artist of the 60s-70s, Helio Oiticica. The director Cesar Oiticica Filho has been working on this film for 10 years. He is the nephew of the famous artist. But this movie is not the subjective story told by a kinsman about his great relative, based only on the unique archive materials that he has in his possession. This film is a monumental effort to penetrate the enigma of Helio Oiticica’s world view, to interpret his art and his universe. Cesar Oiticica Filho creates a ‘brainscape’ of his famous uncle. Exactly as an uncle had severed all his ties with mimesis and created inside the traditions of constructivism, suprematism and neo-plasticism, the nephew works outside the limits of traditional movie narrative. He uses archive materials and the audio records of Helio Oiticica, telling about his art to create an experimental cinema space devoted to the new artistic movement Tropicalia created by his uncle. The director tells us about inner ties between visual art and samba dance, about the deep interconnectivity between body-art, conceptual art, performance art and cinema.

Oiticica was born in Rio de Janeiro but he grew up in New York where he became acquainted with the modern art. In the process of his evolution Oiticica’s art would include, transform, and internalize such different influences as Asian, European art and Russian avant-garde, creating an outstanding mixture even for the contra-culture of the 60s. But his native Brazilian roots would be always present.

As a real avant-garde artist, Cesar — as his uncle — is formulating new rules of art. For the director there is no art without the invention. He is an engineer of the new artistic universe. His universe is full of Brazilian sexuality and sensuality. It is deeply authentic for his world and artistic views that young couples went inside his cubic sculptures in the gallery to have mind-blowing sex.

The great achievement of this movie is the fact that it opens the window not only into Oiticica’s artistic world but into the whole of Brazilian culture – a gigantic continent, where carnivals are interwoven with visual art and fashion assimilates with sexuality. From my point of view, it’s exactly for these kinds of movies that the Forum section has been created. Inside the official Berlinale this program serves as an alternative vehicle for promoting the cinema that operates as an act of life-creation, the experimental cinema which shows new radical ways for art. Unfortunately these movies are now more and more regularly shown in the Rotterdam Film Festival program that begins one week earlier than the Berlinale and more actively showcases experimental art films. Alas, Berlin increasingly deals only with left-over’s.

Edited by Steven Yates