Carlos Diegues - Director

Nationality: Brazilian. Born: Maceio, state of Alagoas, 19 May 1940. Education: Studied law, Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Family: Married entertainer Nara Leao. Career: Organizer of Metropolitan Union of students, also film critic and poet, early 1960s; directed first feature, Ganga Zumba , 1964; immigrated to France following Brazilian military takeover, late 1960s; directed SĂ©jour for French TV, 1970; returned to Brazil, mid-1970s.

Films as Director:


Fuga (short) (co-d)


Domingo (short)


"Escola de samba, alegria de viver" episode of Cinco vĂŞzes Favela


Ganga Zumba (+ co-adapt)


A 8a. Bienal de SĂŁo Paulo (short)


A grande cidade ( The Big City ) (+ co-sc)


Oito universitários (short)


Os herdeiros ( The Inheritors ; The Heirs )


Quando a Carnaval chegar ( When Carnival Comes )


Joanna Francesa ( Jeanne la française ) (+ sc)


Xica da Silva ( Xica )


Chuvas de verao ( Summer Showers ; A Summer Rain ) (+ sc)


Os filhos do medo ( Les Enfants de la peur ) (TV doc)


Bye Bye Brasil (+ sc)




Un tren para las estrellas


Dias melhores virao (+ sc, pr)


Rio's Love Songs (+ sc)


Tieta do Agreste ( Tieta of Agreste ) (+ co-sc, co-pr)


Orfeu (+ co-sc)

Other Films:


O Circo (Jabor) (ed)


Terra em transe ( Land in Trance ) (Rocha) (assoc pr)


Capitu (Saraceni) (assoc pr)


Prova de Fogo (Altberg) (assoc pr)


Dede Mamata (pr)


By DIEGUES: book—

Palmares: Mito e romance da utopia brasileira , with Everardo Rocha, Rio de Janeiro, 1991.

By DIEGUES: articles—

"Diegues fala de Moreau e Joanna ," interview, in Filme Cultura (Rio de Janeiro), January/February 1973.

"Carlos Diegues: 'cette chose trés simple, aimer le peuple,"' an interview with J. Delmas, in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1978.

Interview with Federico De Cardenas, in Los años de la conmoción , by Isaac León Frías, Mexico City, 1979.

"The Mind of Cinema Novo," an interview with D. Yakir, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1980.

"Le Cinéma nuovo dix ans aprés," an interview with G. Haustrate and D. Rabourdin, in Cinéma (Paris), November 1980.

"Adieu, cinema novo," an interview with P. A. Paranagua, in Positif (Paris), May 1981.

Interview with J. C. Rodrigues, in Filme Cultura (Rio de Janeiro), August/October 1982.

Interview with C. Espinosa Dominguez, in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 104, 1983.

Interview with André Tournès, in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1984.

"Cine: Arte del presente," "Sobre el cinema novo," and "Diez años de cine nacional," in Hojas de cine: Testimonios y Documentos del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano 1 , Mexico City, 1986.

"Choosing between Legend and History," an interview with Coco Fusco, in Cineaste (New York), vol. 15, no. 1, 1986.

"Schizophrenes Land," an interview with R. Braun, in Film und Fernsehen , vol. 18, no. 6, 1990.

Diegues, Carlos, "Le dieu noir et le diable blond et le cinéma novo," in Positif (Paris), June 1994.

On DIEGUES: books—

Johnson, Randal, Cinema Novo x5: Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Film , Austin, Texas, 1984.

Burton, Julianne, editor, Cinema and Social Change in Latin America: Conversations with Filmmakers , Austin, Texas, 1986.

Johnson, Randal, and Robert Stam, editors, Brazilian Cinema , Austin, Texas, 1988.

Xavier, Ismail, Allegories of Underdevelopment: Aesthetics and Politics in Modern Brazilian Cinema , Minneapolis, 1997.

On DIEGUES: articles—

Prédal, R., "Bio-filmographie: Carlos Diegues," in Etudes Cinématographiques (Paris), no. 93–96, 1972.

Johnson, Randal, " Xica de Silva : Sex, Politics, and Culture," in Jump Cut (Berkeley), May 1980.

Trujillo, Marisol, "Tormento y pasiĂłn en Los herederos de Carlos Diegues," in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 100, 1981.

Yakir, Dan, "Braziliant," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1984.

Dossier on Carlos Diegues, in Revue du Cinema (Paris), November 1984.

Osiel, Mark, "Bye Bye Boredom: Brazilian Cinema Comes of Age," in Cineaste (New York), vol 15, no. 1, 1986.

Mosier, John, "Subway to the Stars," in Americas , January/February 1988.

Welch, Cliff, " Quilombo ," in American Historical Review , October 1992.

Breschand, Jean, "Lyon fête ses Lumière," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1995.

* * *

One of the founders of Cinema Novo —the movement that transformed film in Brazil and was a pivotal influence in the New Latin American Cinema—Carlos Diegues is probably the most historically minded of its adherents. Like the other directors of Cinema Novo , Diegues is concerned with making films which are "culturally Brazilian, and impregnated with national and Latin American problems"; and his entrance into the national reality was, as with many other members of this group, through documentary films that put him in direct contact with social problems. Diegues also shares the interest in popular culture that is characteristic of Cinema Novo , although he tends to emphasize the contribution of black culture, which "gave us originality. It's the element that has completely modified Brazil, which otherwise would be a mere cultural colony of Portugal and Spain."

Perhaps that which most differentiates Diegues from his Cinema Novo colleagues is his historical orientation. On the one hand, this can be seen in his insistent return to historical themes. But on the other hand, Diegues's conception of history is complex: he feels that the most important element in cinema is its adecuaciĂłn (fitness) to the time in which it is made. To the degree that a film speaks to the problems and possibilities of the epoch in which it appears, it allows for the sort of "political cinema" Diegues prefers, a cinema with which the audience can interact. It is this perspective that Diegues brings to his perception of his films as corresponding to particular historical contexts.

His first works, Samba School and Ganga Zumba , are products of what Diegues describes as a "fantastic, euphoric period" in which emerged new Brazilian cinema, music, and theater. Samba School was typical of the early works of Cinema Novo , focusing on the popular culture of the slums through an analysis of the alienation represented by the schools of samba. Diegues made the film on a barebones budget and worked at practically all the production tasks, including appearing as an actor. Ganga Zumba was Diegues's first feature. A reconstruction of the Palmares Republic of runaway slaves in Brazil during the seventeenth century, it corresponded to the search for identity in which many Brazilian artists were then engaged. It also represented the first Cinema Novo film to value Afro-Brazilian culture, as well as the beginning of Diegues's interest in bringing black history to the screen: "I tried to make a black film, not a film about blacks," he stated.

The military coup of 1964, and its increasingly repressive legislation during the 1960s, changed the cultural scene profoundly. In film, an "aesthetic of silence" reigned, and Diegues perceives this as his "sick period," during which he made The Heirs and Joanna Francesa as expressions of the depressing tableau presented by the "Danteesque levels" military terrorism reached. The Heirs is a historical work on the period 1930–1964, which allegorically evokes the role of Getulio Vargas (a populist president-dictator who oscillated between fascism and socialism) by following the trajectory of a bourgeois family. Diegues says that his main intention was to "project a precise image of this strange, violent and sentimental, baroque and surrealist, sincere and subtle country called Brazil, whose passion torments me more than anything else in life." In Joanna Francesa , Diegues returned again to analyze the Revolution of 1930, this time in a film he considers a "lament" on the death of a culture and a civilization, which reflected the dolorous days through which Brazil was passing.

The liberalization of military rule led to what Diegues has described as the third phase of Cinema Novo , which he characterizes as "the aesthetic of life." Within this category, he places the two reconstructions, Xica da Silva and Quilombo , which continue the black history of colonial Brazil he began with Ganga Zumba , as well as the popular Bye Bye Brazil. Both Xica da Silva and Quilombo are more mythic than historic, for Diegues believes that "history is always written by the winners," and therefore a real history of blacks is either impossible or depressing. Thus, he focuses on the character of Francisca (Xica), a black slave whom a wealthy Portuguese freed and took as his lover. Little real information exists on this eighteenth-century woman because all mention of her was exorcised by the townspeople, but her love of freedom is an important myth of Brazilian popular culture.

Quilombo was made just two or three years before Brazil was liberated from military rule, and that context allowed Diegues to utilize the story of the runaway slave republic as a metaphor for the building of a utopia. With even less information available about quilombos than existed on Xica, Diegues allowed himself free rein; the result, as he intended, says more about the future than about the past. Xica da Silva was immensely popular in Brazil, but the film which has achieved the most international recognition is Bye Bye Brazil. In this exuberant film "dedicated to Brazilians in the twenty-first century," Diegues returns to Cinema Novo 's insistent concern with popular culture and concludes that the way in which culture is assimilated and re-elaborated is more important than its origin or alleged "purity." This is perhaps one of the more useful lessons Diegues has to teach his fellow filmmakers of Cinema Novo.

—John Mraz

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