Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, 22 August 1931.
Educated in Mozambique and Portugal.
Attended IDHEC, Paris, 1952–54; Théâtre National
Populaire, 1955; assistant director in Paris, 1956–57; invited to
(unrealized), in Brazil, 1958; remained in Brazil until returning to
Paris, 1967; following independence of Mozambique, returned to help plan
film industry, late 1970s.
Films as Director:
Les Hommes et les autres (+ sc) (short, IDHEC diploma work)
Oros (+ sc) (short, unfinished)
O cavalo de Oxumaire ( The Horse of Oxumaire ) (co-d, + co-sc, unfinished)
Os cafajestes ( The Unscrupulous Ones ) (+ co-sc)
Os fuzis ( The Guns ) (+ co-sc, co-ed)
"Vocabulaire" episode of Loin du Viêt-nam (not included in released version) (+ sc)
Sweet Hunters (+ co-sc)
Os deuses e os mortos ( The Gods and the Dead ) (+ co-sc, co-ed)
A queda ( The Fall ) (co-d, + co-sc, co-music, co-ed)
Mueda, memória e massacre ( Mueda, Memory, and Massacre ) (+ co-ph, ed)
Erendira (+ sc)
Opera do Malandro
Fábula de la bella palomera ( Fable of the Beautiful Pigeon-Fancier )
Me alquilo para sonar
Monsanto (for TV)
Estorvo (+ co-sc)
Souvenir de Paris (Théocary) (asst d); Chiens perdus, sans collier (Delannoy) (asst d)
S.O.S. Noronha (Rouquier) (asst d, role)
Le Tout pour le tout (Dally) (asst d)
Os mendigos (role)
Benito Cereno (Roullet) (role)
Le Maître du temps (Pollet) (role); Le Mur (Roullet) (role)
Les Soleils de l'Ile de Pâques (Kast) (role); O homem das estrelas ( Man and the Stars ) (Barreto) (role)
Aguirre, der Zorn Göttes ( Aguirre, the Wrath of God ) (Herzog) (role)
By GUERRA: articles—
Interview with J.A. Fieschi and J. Narboni, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1967.
Interview with Thomas Elsaesser, in Monogram (London), no. 5, 1974.
Interview with Rui Nogueira, in Image et Son (Paris), December 1974.
"Filmen in Mozambique," interview with F. Sartor, in Film en Televisie (Brussels), May/June 1981.
Interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), June 1983.
Interview with Serge Toubiana, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1983.
Interview with M. Buruiana, in 24 Images (Montréal), Winter 1987.
"Ruy Guerra: sonar con los pies sobre la tierra," an interview with Luciano Castillo, in Cine Cubano (Habana), no. 134, 1992.
On GUERRA: books—
Johnson, Randal, Cinema Novo x 5: Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Film , Austin, Texas, 1984.
On GUERRA: articles—
Mardore, Michel, "Diaphragme à quatre," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1964.
Ciment, Michel, "Le Dieu, le diable et les fusils," in Positif (Paris), May 1967.
Zele, Van, " Os Fuzis ," in Image et Son (Paris), November 1969.
Demeure, Jacques, "Pour un réalisme magique," in Positif (Paris), January 1971.
"Le 'cinema nôvo' brésilien Issue" of Études Cinématographiques (Paris), no. 93–96, 1972.
"Ruy Guerra," in Film Dope (London), March 1981.
Larraz, E., "Une collection hispanique: 'Amours difficiles,"' in Cinemaction , October 1990.
Maslin, Janet, "Director Returns to Garcia Marquez," in New York Times , March 1, 1991.
Lasarte, F., "Marquez og de levende billeder," in Kosmorama , Fall 1991.
* * *
A truly cosmopolitan artist, Ruy Guerra was born in Mozambique of Portuguese settlers, secured his higher education in Lisbon, and studied cinema at the Paris IDHEC. He was one of the leaders of the Brazilian cinema novo with two films that broke new ethical and aesthetic ground, Os cafajestes and Os fuzis. He shot Sweet Hunters in French and in English, and went back to Mozambique after it became independent to organize the newly born cinema industry. After returning he completed a documentary, Mueda, memória e massacre , before going to Mexico to adapt Gabriel García Marquez's Erendira in 1983. Besides writing his own scripts, Guerra is the author of lyrics for Latin American pop songs (sung in particular by Baden Powell), and an actor in his own right (he took on roles in Herzog's Aguirre and in Serge Roullet's adaptation of Benito Cereno ).
The product of a cultural melting pot, Guerra's style is hard to define. Very classical in form (except in the extraordinary Os deuses e os mortes , the epitome of Brazilian tropicalist aesthetics, which featured virtuoso camera movements and sequence shots), his style shows none of the external signs of modernity, such as non-chronological sequences, manipulation of the sound track, or elaborate framing. On the other hand, it displays a very unusual use of rhythm, and makes use of a great variety of tempos in a way that is akin to that found in some Japanese films, such as those of Kurosawa.
Guerra is preoccupied, even obsessed with the theme of frustration and disappointed expectations. Guerra's interest in social issues was evident in his first film, Os cafajestes , about penniless young loafers in Rio who blackmail a girl after having taken photos of her in the nude. Os fuzis , set in the northeast of Brazil, pits a sergeant and four soldiers guarding a harvest destined for town (to profit the landowner mayor) against the covetous desires of hungry peasants. Thirteen years later Guerra shot a sequel, A queda ( The Fall ), with the same actors to show what happened to the characters after a decade spent in the big city.
Os deuses e os mortes presents in grand operatic manner a feud between two families of farmers. This film reveals another aspect of Guerra's personality: a taste for magic and dream, an interest in myths and surrealism. The economic and the psychic are bound together in this difficult and fascinating work. Sweet Hunters , Guerra's most poetic film (with Sterling Hayden, Susan Strasberg, and Stuart Whitman), is set on an island where the three characters act out their obsessions and frustrated desires. Allan, a keen ornithologist, is waiting for the migration of birds, his wife Clea for the arrival of a man who has escaped from a nearby prison, and his sister for her departure.
Given his interest in dreams and legends, Guerra was a logical choice to adapt García Marquez's novella Erendira. The film is set in an imaginary country where a mythical and monstrous grandmother (Irene Pappas) sells her granddaughter as a prostitute. A picaresque tale of economic exploitation, with ironical characters and nightmarish situations, it offers a good synthesis of Guerra's style even if the faithfulness of his adaptation does not allow him to give full vent to his ordinarily richer and more personal inspiration.