10 essential films of the Cinema Novo movement
Cinema Novo is a monumental movement that gained momentum in Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s. It raised valid objections to the conventions of popular Brazilian cinema of the time, which were mainly inspired by Hollywood epics.
Influenced by the cinematic experiences of the French New Wave and the political power of Italian neorealism, the filmmakers at Cinema Novo set out to create a body of work that would reflect the revolutionary desires of the people.
In his manifesto, The aesthetics of hungerCinema Novo pioneer Glauber Rocha wrote: “Cinema Novo teaches that the aesthetic of violence is revolutionary rather than primitive. The moment of violence is the moment when the colonizer becomes aware of the existence of the colonized. It is only when confronted with violence that the colonizer can understand, through horror, the strength of the culture he is exploiting. As long as he does not take up arms, the colonized remains a slave.
Adding, “Wherever there is a filmmaker ready to film the truth and oppose hypocrisy and the crackdown on intellectual censorship, there will be the living spirit of Cinema Novo.” Wherever there is a filmmaker ready to speak out against commercialism, exploitation, pornography and the tyranny of technology, there is the living spirit of Cinema Novo.
In order to understand the unique sensibilities of this very influential period in the history of world cinema, we take a look at some of the must-have works of the Novo Cinema movement.
10 essential films of the Cinema Novo movement:
Sterile lives (Nelson Pereira dos Santos – 1963)
Based on the eponymous novel by Graciliano Ramos from 1938, Sterile lives is one of the landmark achievements of the Cinema Novo movement. Located in the wasteland of northeastern Brazil, it tells the story of a poor family who endure many hardships to survive.
Thinking back to his upbringing and the environment he grew up in, the director said, “My family comes from humble origins. My father was a tailor and I was the fourth child. My brothers have all had different professional backgrounds. They never thought of literature.
Black god, white devil (Glauber Rocha – 1964)
Another masterpiece from this period, Black god, white devil is a fascinating socio-cultural exploration of the political climate of Brazil in the 1960s. Through the use of subversive violence and shocking images, Rocha launches a symbolic investigation into Brazilian history and mythology.
Rocha fervently believed that his works represented the aspirations of his people: “My Brazilian films belong to a whole period when my generation was full of crazy dreams and hopes. They are full of enthusiasm, faith and activism and were inspired by my great love for Brazil.
Pistols (Ruy Guerra – 1964)
One of the first films that brought international recognition to Brazilian cinema, Pistols is part of the “Golden Trilogy” of the Cinema Novo movement with Sterile lives and Black god, white devil. It was shot in northeastern Brazil instead of the original plan to shoot in Greece.
Pistols showcases impressive stylistic techniques used by Guerra, fueled by visually effective documentary sensibilities. The film swings between two distinct stories, each focusing on the deep hunger of impoverished citizens doing whatever it takes to feed themselves and their families.
Daring (Paulo César Saraceni – 1965)
A masterpiece by one of Brazil’s most influential filmmakers, Daring is an engaging translation of personal and political turmoil. Set under the oppressive regime of a military dictatorship, the film revolves around a journalist who faces political censorship as well as an illicit affair.
Glauber Rocha once said of Saraceni: “Saraceni is an insightful and sensitive filmmaker, one of the few artists of contemporary cinema. He has the gift of photographing the essence of reality. It is Rossellini’s legacy, which Saraceni does not deny, but, on the contrary, recognizes as a stimulating influence.
The bandit of the red light (Rogério Sganzerla – 1968)
Based on the historical figure of João Acácio Pereira da Costa who was an infamous burglar, The bandit of the red light is an interesting exploration of human morality and crime. Unlike Cinema Novo’s affinity for naturalism, Sganzerla uses postmodern techniques to elevate her unique stylizations.
The director said: “I believe that cinema is an inferior art. I don’t even think I would call cinema an “art”, you know? In fact, I like this pulp side of cinema, this almost vulgar side, this popular and visionary side that I have seen a lot in American cinema. So I agree that cinema is an inferior art, and that’s why I make inferior films.
Killed the family and went to the movies (Júlio Bressane – 1969)
A true cult classic, Killed the family and went to the movies is an integral part of Cinema Novo’s history. Featuring several side storylines, this 1969 gem proves just how powerful the spectacle of cinema can be if used correctly.
Bressane’s work continues to influence new generations of artists, including iconic musician Arto Lindsay who said: “Cuidado Madame, which means “Attention Madame”, was a movie made in 1970 by a guy who was really important to me, kind of a mentor when I moved to New York: a Brazilian filmmaker by the name of Júlio Bressane. “
Macunaima (Joaquim Pedro de Andrade – 1969)
Macunaima is a unique blend of comedy and fantasy, following the misadventures of a man who was born to an old woman by a miraculous event. He embarks on a special journey with the body of an adult man but the heart of a silly child.
Discussing his own work, the filmmaker claimed that his projects dealt with the fundamental conflicts of ordinary people in Brazil: “I make films about the problem of life in Brazil, and my understanding of this problem at different times generates types. very different from cinema. “
São Bernardo (Léon Hirszman – 1972)
Adapted from Graciliano Ramos’ novel, this largely forgotten 1972 gem focuses on the life and times of a Brazilian landowner who is consumed with his own ambitions. Starring Othon Bastos in an award-winning performance, the film is a grim reflection on humanity’s inability to be at peace.
Tagged as ‘a true masterpiece’ by Contracampo, São Bernardo is a timeless example of Hirszman’s cinematic genius. The filmmaker died at the age of 49 due to complications from AIDS, but his legacy is preserved through such films as São Bernardo which was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in 2012.
Any nudity will be punished (Arnaldo Jabor – 1973)
A brilliant adaptation of the play by Nelson Rodrigues, Any nudity will be punished follows the life of a wealthy widower and his son. The film won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and is still cited by many as one of the best films of the Cinema Novo movement.
Jabor recalled: “There was strong culturalist pressure on Brazilian cinema. Every time a filmmaker would place the camera, he would think: Straub would put it here, Godard would put it there, Losey would have a dolly, Janice would have a ten-minute dolly, Welles wide-angle lens and put it on the ground … in short, he there was some hesitation about the cinematic language.
Goodbye Brazil (Carlos Diegues – 1979)
A captivating work by one of the most important figures of Brazilian cinema, Goodbye Brazil is a scathing indictment against modernity in which Diegues examines how humanity got lost in its quest for endless progress. He got a nomination for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
“I think there is only one hope for Brazilian cinema: to be Brazilian,” Diegues said in an interview in the mid-90s when talking about what the future holds for aspiring filmmakers who wish. contribute to the heritage of Brazilian cinema. “If he tries to copy or be like world cinema, he will be the loser.”