Brazil



THE GLOBALIZATION OF NATIONAL CINEMA

Although the modernization and globalization of Brazilian culture can be traced back to the 1960s, the full effects of globalization would not be noticeable until the 1980s, when the Brazilian "economic miracle" vanished amid the tremors of the Latin American "lost decade," as the 1980s, dominated by neoliberal policies, have been called. While the crisis led to certain political democratization, it also shattered national cinema, unable to cope with the sharp decline in public attendance, the dwindling of state funding, and the television networks. Television was promoted by the military as a magnet for economic development and an apparatus of national security, and it had taken over the entertainment market and become the main shaper of the national imagination. Telenovelas, in fact, became the undisputed form of popular entertainment as well as an exportable commodity and symbol of modern Brazil. Therefore, the crisis was not just economic, but as Randal Johnson argues, it also represented the bankruptcy of the state-supported mode of film production, which, despite some remarkable success during the 1970s, did not lead to the consolidation of a self-sustaining industry ("Rise and Fall," pp. 366–373).

While the transitional government of José Sarney (1985–1989) offered tax incentives for film investment, the neoliberal administration of Fernando Collor de Mello (1990–1992), the first democratically elected president in thirty years, abolished all state film agencies and protectionist measures, which had long ceased to be effective anyway, given that pornography accounted in the 1980s for nearly 70 percent of total production (Johnson, "Rise and Fall," p. 363). However, production fell to a historical low: thirteen films in 1990, three in 1993. The situation improved slightly during Fernando Henrique Cardoso's tenure (1995–2003); the government passed some tax incentives, authorized direct state funding, and reestablished a reduced exhibition quota. Nevertheless, the feeling that "Brazilian cinema is dead," expressed by Arnaldo Jabor (b. 1940) and Hector Babenco (b. 1946), among others, was still in the air.

Is it possible to keep talking of a Brazilian national cinema in the age of economic globalization and postmodern cosmopolitanism? One thing is sure: behind the diverse strategies adopted by filmmakers to withstand the impact of globalization, there is always the trace of the national. The growing disillusionment with national models substituted the social didacticism and epic allegories of Cinema Novo with more intimate and testimonial narratives focusing on the daily life of subaltern and marginal subjects. In this line the following films are notable: de Andrade's O homem que virou suco ; Eles não usam black tie ( They Don't Wear Black Tie , Leon Hirszman, 1981), one of the most powerful films on workers' urban life; Héctor Babenco's Pixote (1981), a semi-documentary denunciation of street children's exploitation and murder; and A hora da estrela ( The Hour of the Star , Suzana Amaral, 1985), which provides a somber depiction of the survival of Northeastern migrants, especially women, in the industrial cities. Cidade oculta ( Hidden City , Chico Botelho, 1986) is a good example of the postmodern pseudo-realism practiced by the Vila Madalena group.

Several women filmmakers contributed to this change. The films of Ana Carolina (b. 1943), Mar de rosas ( Sea of Roses , 1977), Das tripas coração ( Heart and Guts , 1982), and Sonho de valsa ( Dream of a Waltz , 1987), represent a fierce critique of sexist social institutions and a reclamation of women's sexual and social subjectivity from a feminist point of view. Gaijin, caminhos da libertade ( Gaijin, the Roads to Freedom , 1980) by Tizuka Yamasaki (b. 1949) initiated a series of films that explored the history and lives of migrant communities. In Parayba mulher macho ( Parayba, a Strong Woman , 1983) and Patriamada ( Beloved Brazil , 1985), she focused on the social, professional, and sexual struggles of women journalists.

One of the most obvious strategies to confront the effects of globalization is to obtain financial support from abroad, either in the form of coproductions or by securing a film's international distribution. But often, in order to obtain those transnational funds, the filmmaker has to adapt the film to the tastes of a somewhat abstract global audience. Thus Brazilian films are often constrained: they are bilingual or entirely in English; deal with topics, characters, and plots that fit—or at least evoke—Hollywood classic genres; tell a "universal" story in a local context; and play the exoticism card, exploiting the typical and the stereotypical (carnival, music, exotic sex). Guerra tried the formula very early with Eréndira (1982), the best filmic rendition of magical realism and a Brazilian, Mexican, and German coproduction, and Babenco tried it with Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), shot in English. Other examples are the films of Walter Salles Jr. (b. 1956), Terra estrangeira ( Foreign Land , 1995), a Brazilian/Portuguese coproduction, and Estacion central de Brasil ( Central Station , 1998), a national and international success funded by the Sundance Institute and distributed by Sony and Miramax. Bruno Barreto (b. 1955) made Oqueé isso companheiro? ( Four Days in September , 1997), a bilingual political thriller coproduced by Columbia, widely distributed in the United States, and nominated for an Oscar ® , and Bossa Nova (1999), another bilingual film seeking to exploit the global exoticism of Brazilian pop music. Other music-themed works include Diegues's earlier film Veja esta canção ( Rio's Love Songs , 1994), and Orfeu (1999), a remake of the classic Black Orpheus by Marcel Camus (1959), with music by Caetano Veloso and the leading role played by Toni Garrido, a famous rapper.

The success of this globalist strategy did not stop filmmakers from pursuing more local topics, such as the role of intellectuals in Não quero falar sobre isso agora ( I Don't Want to Talk about That Now , Mauro Farias, 1991) and Carlos Reichenbach's Alma corsaria (1993). The resurgence of Northeastern topics appears in Matadeira ( The Machine Gun , Jorge Furtado, 1994) and Guerra de Canudos ( The War of Canudos , Sergio Rezende, 1997), both on the same historical massacre; O sertão das memórias ( Landscape of Memories , José Araújo, 1996); Eu, tu, eles ( Me, You, Them , Andrucha Waddington, 2000), and Abril despedaçado ( Behind the Sun , Walter Salles Jr., 2001). Films addressing urban violence include Ilha das flores ( Island of Flowers , Jorge Furtado, 1989), Boca de lixo ( The Scavengers , Eduardo Coutinho, 1992), Um céu de estrelas ( A Starry Sky , Tata Amaral, 1996), Os matadores ( Belly Up , Beto Brant, 1997), Dos córregos ( Two Streams , Carlos Reichenbach, 1999), Carandiru (Hector Babenco, 2002), Ô nibus 174 Araú Padilha and Felipe Lacerda, 2002), and Madame Satã (Karim Aïnouz, 2002). Among films directly concerned with the effects of globalization is Capitalismo selvagem ( Savage Capitalism , Andre ( Bus 174 , José Klotzel, 1993).

SEE ALSO National Cinema ; Third Cinema

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Ana Del Santo

Abril Trigo



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