Reality Brazilian Style By Ricardo Cota

in 7th Miami International Film Festival

by Ricardo Cota

Audiences at the Miami International Film Festival were able to see one of the most important phenomena in Brazilian Cinema: the strength of documentary as a genre. Four out of seven Brazilian movies screened in the Festival were visions of reality. Each one concerns real characters, people who reflect different aspects of the country. This tendency to choose documentary as a genre has some purpose. First of all, new technology allows free access to audiovisual means. More than ever, the Utopian commitment of Cinema Novo, “a camera in your hand and an idea in your head”, expresses the feeling of new Brazilian movie directors. Although it would be better to change it to “a camera in your hand and a documentary in your head”. Another reason for the documentary’s appeal is the budget. Documentaries are cheaper and faster to produce than fiction. The films shown in Miami, for instance, generally focused on one character, using interviews as raw material. Fabulous Fabio (Fábio Fabuloso), directed by Ricardo Bocão, Pedro Cesar and Antonio Ricardo is a tribute to Fabio Gouveia, the famous surfer. Simone Duarte’s En Route to Baghdad pays homage to one of the United Nations’ greatest ambassadors, Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose history as a minister of the U.N. is in many ways a history of the organization itself. Dense Death (Morte Densa) strips away the sensationalist veneer often constructed by media accounts, and presents the plainspoken testimony of eight admitted murderers. The result is a documentary that blurs the line between the audience and the subject in a discomfiting fashion. Finally, Estamira , that won a Documentary Feature Jury Special Prize, is a chilling new documentary from Bus 174 (Ônibus 174) producer Marcos Prado. It is ostensibly about the effect of the Brazilian system on one mental health patient over several years. Remember, Bus 174, directed by Jose Padilha, won the Grand Jury Documentary Award at the 20 th Miami Film Festival. The absence of one exclusive subject points out another aspect of the contemporary Brazilian cinema: its heterogeneity. It is very significant, mainly in terms of a cinema which was always classified by movements such as Chanchada and Cinema Novo, for example.* In opposition to most of the new American documentaries, it focuses on politics, as criticized by Robert Altman’s ground-breaking satirical mini-series Tanner on Tanner, the new Brazilian cinema is plural, rich and influenced by the real thing which comes from different corners of Brazil. Certainly it’s an original way to rediscover a country through the lens of a camera.