Glauber Rocha - Director

Nationality: Brazilian. Born: Vitoria da Conquista, Bahia, Brazil, 14 March 1938. Education: Studied law, 1959–61. Career: Founder, "Lemanja-Filmes" production company, 1957; directed first feature, Barravento , 1962; went into exile, 1970; directed in Italy, France, and Spain, early 1970s; returned to Brazil, 1976. Died: In Rio de Janeiro, 22 August 1981.

Films as Director:


Um dia na rampa (short) (co-d)


O patio (short); A cruz na praça (short)


Barravento ( The Turning Wind ) (+ co-sc)


Deus e o diablo na terra do sol ( Black God, White Devil ) (+ co-pr, sc)


Amazonas Amazonas (doc) (+ sc); MaranhĂŁo 66 (doc) (+ sc)


Terra em transe ( Land in Anguish ) (+ sc)


Cancer (+ sc) (completed in Cuba, 1973–4)


AntĂ´nio das Mortes ( O dragĂŁo da maldade contra o santo querreiro ) (+ co-pr, sc, art d)


Der leone have sept cabecas ( The Lion Has Seven Heads ) (+ co-sc, co-ed); Cabezas cortadas ( Severed Heads ) (+ sc)


Claro (+ sc)


Di (doc short)


Jorjamado no cinema (doc short)


A idade da terra ( The Age of the Earth ) (+ sc)

Other Films:


A grande feira (d of pr); Menino de engenho (pr)


A grande cidade (co-pr)


By ROCHA: books—

Revisao critica do cinema brasiliero , Rio de Janeiro, 1962.

Revoluçao do cinema novo , Rio de Janeiro, 1981.

Riverao Sussuarana , Rio de Janeiro, 1981.

O seculo do cinema , Rio de Janeiro, 1983.

By ROCHA: articles—

"Un cinéma en transe," in Image et Son (Paris), January 1968.

Interview with M. Delahaye and others, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July 1969.

"Cinema Novo vs. Cultural Colonialism: An Interview with Glauber Rocha," in Cineaste (New York), Summer 1970.

Interview with Gordon Hitchens, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1970.

"Beginning at Zero: Notes on Cinema and Society," in The Drama Review (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Winter 1970.

Interview in Afterimage (London), no. 3, 1971.

"Lumière, magie, action," in Positif (Paris), December 1974.

Interviews in Los años de la conmoción , by Isaac Léon Frías, Mexico City, 1979.

"Humberto Mauro and the Historical Position of Brazilian Cinema," and "Hunger vs. Profit Aesthetic," in Framework (Norwich), Autumn 1979.

"The History of Cinema Novo," in Framework (Norwich), Summer 1980.

"Epistolario: Cartas de Glauber Rocha," in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 101, 1982.

"The Aesthetics of Hunger" and "Down with Populism," in 25 Years of the New Latin American Cinema , edited by Michael Chanan, London, 1983.

" Deus e o diablo na terra do sol ," in Filme Cultura (Rio de Janeiro), January/April 1984.

"Cinema Novo and the Dialectics of Popular Culture," an interview in Cinema and Social Change in Latin America , by Julianne Burton, Austin, Texas, 1986.

"Revisión crítica del cine brasileño," "No al populismo," and "Estética de la violencia," in Hojas de cine: Testimonios y documentos del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano , Mexico City, 1986.

On ROCHA: books—

Gerber, Raquel, editor, Glauber Rocha , Rio de Janeiro, 1977.

Johnson, Randal, and Robert Stam, Brazilian Cinema , New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1982.

Hollyman, Burnes, Glauber Rocha and the Cinema Novo in Brazil: A Study of His Critical Writings and Films , New York, 1983.

Johnson, Randal, Cinema Novo x 5 , Austin, Texas, 1984.

Armes, Roy, Third World Filmmaking and the West , Berkeley, 1987.

Pierre, Sylvie, Glauber Rocha , Paris, 1987.

King, John, Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America , London, 1990.

On ROCHA: articles—

Callenbach, Ernest, "Comparative Anatomy of Folk Myth Films: Robin Hood and Antonio das Mortes ," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1969/70.

"Rocha Issue" of Etudes Cinématographiques (Paris), no. 97–99, 1973.

Gardies, R., "Structural Analysis of a Textual System: Presentation of a Method," in Screen (London), Spring 1974.

Cinema Novo Section of Jump Cut (Chicago), June 1976.

Castoro Cinema (Milan), special section, no. 13, 1977.

Van Wert, W.F., "Ideology in the Third World Cinema: A Study of Ousmane Sembene and Glauber Rocha," in Quarterly Review of Film Studies (Pleasantville, New York), no. 2, 1979.

Bruce, Graham, "Music in Glauber Rocha's Films," in Jump Cut (Berkeley), May 1980.

Armes, Roy, "The Incoherence of Underdevelopment," in Films and Filming (London), November 1981.

Rocha Section of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1981.

Rocha Sections of Cine Cubano (Havana), nos. 100 and 101, 1982.

Rocha Section of Film Cultura (Rio de Janeiro), August/October 1982.

Bernadet, J.-C., and T. Coelho, "Un utopiste flamboyant: Glauber Rocha et L'age de la terre ," in CinémAction (Conde-sur-Noireau), March 1983.

Paranagua, P., "Luis Buñuel et Glauber Rocha," in Positif (Paris), October 1983.

Burton, Julianne, "Modernist Form in Land in Anguish and Memories of Underdevelopment ," in Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), Winter 1984.

Vernaglione, P., "O Cangaceiro do cinema," in Filmcritica (Rome), vol. 37, October 1986.

Gomes, P.E. Sallès, "Glauber Rocha," in Positif (Paris), April 1987.

Film und Fernsehen (Potsdam), special section, vol. 18, December 1990.

Vega, J. "Glauber Rocha: el santo guerro del Cinema Novo," in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 134, 1992.

Scorsese, Martin, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 500, March 1996.

* * *

"A camera in your hand and an idea in your head" was how Glauber Rocha described the minimalist conditions in which the filmmakers of Brazil's Cinema Novo (New Cinema) began. Though the origins of Cinema Novo can be traced to Nelson Pereira dos Santos's movie, Rio 40 Degrees (1955), the "official" starting point for the movement which redefined Brazilian and Latin American film is 1962, when Rocha directed Barravento. Rocha was Cinema Novo 's principle theorist and most flamboyant practitioner, developing many of its key concepts and realizing them on the screen.

The most important element in Rocha's theory of filmmaking was his recurrent insistence on discovering a filmic language of a uniquely Brazilian and Latin American quality, ending the practice endemic to neo-colonies of aping Hollywood and European cinema. This new idiom was to arise out of working directly within the reality of Latin America; thus, in one of his best-known essays, he argued that its core was an aesthetic of hunger and violence: "Hunger is the essence of our society . . . and hunger's most noble cultural manifestation is violence." Rocha was looking for a popular, but not a populist, form of expression, and he felt that this would lead to new acting styles, different ways of using music and color, and innovative forms of montage.

If the base of Rocha's cinema was the traditional culture of Brazil, modern influences were also important. One of these was the Cuban revolution, which offered the example of radical social transformation in Latin America and made possible the birth of a truly Cuban cinematography. Another was the New Wave in France, from whence sprang the concept of the director as "auteur" which so influenced Rocha. Adherents of this concept pioneered the path he traveled from critic to filmmaker. However, Rocha clearly distinguished between the cinema of Europe, which expressed the existential anguish of the developed world, and the epic cinema which he believed more appropriate to articulating the social and economic crises of Latin America. As he pithily polemicized: "We're not interested in neurotics' problems, we're interested in the problems faced by those who are lucid."

After some short films, and relatively extensive experience as a critic, Rocha burst onto the international cinematic scene with Barravento. Although in later years he was to express dissatisfaction with the film, even disclaiming authorship because he had taken it over from another director half-way through the shooting, at the time he called it the "first great denunciation realized in Brazilian cinema." Filmed in a neo-realist style that was characteristic of many Cinema Novo directors—though this was the only instance in which Rocha employed this form—the movie focused on the harsh living conditions of a fishing village. If the work's realism is at odds with Rocha's later theatricality, the film nonetheless contains many of the elements found throughout his oeuvre. For example, the narrative leaps and the fighting which is choreographed as dancing presage the reflexivity of Rocha films that followed. Also present is the dialectic of the traditional and the modern, for while Rocha criticizes the mysticism that is part of the fishing people's underdevelopment, he also shows how their popular culture provides them with a defense against the ravages of capitalism.

The films that came after Barravento are extravagant and operatic, expressive of Rocha's search for a cinematic tropicalism equivalent to the magic realism contained in the work of Latin American writers such as Gabriel García Márquez and Alejo Carpentier. One of the unique formal elements in Rocha's work is the combination of this tropicalism with the self-reflexivity of the New Wave through such strategies as the placing of a film within a film in Land in Anguish and the use of highly stylized violence in Antonio das Mortes. In both of these films he also pricks the audience's critical sense by making the perspective of the works larger than that of their central protagonist, thus cutting back against the very identification that he simultaneously foments in the films. This sort of systematic contradiction is characteristic of Rocha's efforts to realize a dialectical form, and is perhaps most evident in the counter-point he consistently established between image and sound.

Rocha's concern with thematic dialectics is most apparent in his explorations of Brazilian popular culture, which he perceived as representing both a permanent rebellion against oppression and the evasion of social problems. His interest in resolving this contradiction and turning popular culture and myth into a progressive force is portrayed in Black God, White Devil and Antonio das Mortes through the conflict between the cangaceiros , the social bandits of the Brazilian Northeast, and Antonio, the killer hired to eradicate the lawbreakers but who ends up embodying their social ideals. That it is popular—not populist—culture which offers the only possibility for national liberation is made explicit by Rocha in Land in Anguish , where he contrasts traditional values to those of liberal populism, which is shown to lead inevitably to co-option by the bourgeoisie. Rocha's efforts to form a genuinely Brazilian cinema, founded on authentic themes and expressed through an idiom peculiar to Latin America, led him to make beautiful and moving films which continue to speak for his ideals.

—John Mraz

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