Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary

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The UCLA Film And Television Archive is presenting a landmark survey of the best of Brazilian documentaries. Besides offering powerful films by Leon Hirszman, João Moreira Salles and Walter Salles, the series will present four films from Brazilian master Eduardo Coutinho, (“Twenty Years Later;”Cabra marcado para morrer”, “Playing (Jogo de cena”,”The End and the Beginning” (O fim e o princípio) tragically murdered earlier this year.

Also featured is the remarkable hybrid road movie “Iracema, uma transa amazônica”) by Jorge Bodanzky and Orlando Senna, as well as a night of music documentaries (“Tropicália” (Dir Marcelo Machado-2012) and “A Night in 67” (Uma noite em 67) (dir: Ricardo Calil, Renato Terra 2010)

This series is MUST SEE CINEMA.

The Portuguese word “cruzamentos” translates literally as “crossings” or “intersections,” but in Brazil, it also refers metaphorically to the mixing of cultures and ethnicities that renders the country so distinctive.  Such cross pollination is also one of the reasons why Brazil has been producing some of the most innovative and captivating documentaries on the globe for the last four decades.  Not only have Brazilian filmmakers such as Eduardo Coutinho, Leon Hirszman, João Moreira Salles and Walter Salles moved freely between documentaries and fiction films, but many of the documentaries themselves also blur the lines between fact and fiction, memory and truth, performance and personality.  Part of the largest survey of Brazilian cinema in North America since the Museum of Modern Art’s defining 1998 series and tour, Cinema Novo and Beyond (also presented in Los Angeles by the Archive), Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary provides an occasion to explore this provocative and engaging cinematic tradition, from founding texts (“Iracema”, 1974; “Twenty Years Later”, 1985) to recent triumphs (“Justice”, 2004; “Santiago”, 2007).  At the same time, it allows an opportunity to examine a country in motion and to contextualize the astonishing economic and cultural transformation that Brazil has witnessed over the past 20 years.

Note:  This series was drawn from the larger touring program, Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary, curated by Chris Stults, associate curator, film/video, Wexner Center for the Arts.  Program notes adapted from notes written by Chris Stults.

Cruzamentos is made possible through the support of UCLA Latin American Institute, UCLA Center for Brazilian Studies, the UCLA Department of Spanish & Portuguese and the UCLA Division of Humanities.

Special thanks to: Randal Johnson, chair, UCLA Department of Spanish & Portuguese; David Arriaza, executive director, Kevin Terraciano, director, UCLA Latin American Institute; Karin Nielsen, director, UCLA Center for Brazilian Studies; David Schaberg, dean, UCLA Division of Humanities; Chris Stults, associate curator, film/video, Wexner Center for the Arts.

Twenty Years Later (Brazil, 1985); The Century (Brazil, 2011)
July 11, 2014 – 7:30 pm
Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary
Twenty Years Later (Cabra marcado para morrer) (Brazil, 1985)
Directed by Eduardo Coutinho.
In 1964, Eduardo Coutinho started work on a feature film about the assassination of a rural militant activist, employing a non-professional cast that included the activist’s widow.  Filming was stopped by Brazil’s military coup when the widow went into hiding and all but one reel of the footage was seized.  Twenty years later, Coutinho tracked down the widow and showed her the surviving images.  The result is one of the defining portraits of Brazil under the dictatorship and announced Coutinho as a major voice in Brazilian cinema.

Produçôes Cinematográficas Mapa. Producer: Eduardo Coutinho. Screenwriter: Eduardo Coutinho. Cinematographer: Edgar Moura (1981), Fernando Duarte (1963). Editor: Eduardo Escorel. Cast: Elizabeth Teixeira. Joao Virginia Silva, Eduardo Coutinho (narration).
35mm, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 119 min.

Preceded by:
The Century (O século) (Brazil, 2011)
Directed by Cinthia Marcelle, Tiago Mata Machado.
The Century is a documentary of a performance and a documentary of an allegory as a century of revolution and conflict is reduced to a compelling abstraction, while remaining concrete and specific. Digital Video, color, 9 min.

July 12, 2014 – 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
ABC of a Strike (Brazil, 1979-90); Intermissions (Brazil, 2004)
Part of:  Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary

ABC of a Strike (ABC da Greve) (Brazil, 1979-90)
Directed by Leon Hirszman.
ABC of a Strike captures the 1979 metal workers’ strikes outside of São Paulo.  The footage sat untouched until after the death of director Leon Hirszman in 1987, by which time the material had a new relevance.  The gripping film captures the union’s battle with the bosses and shows the birth of the region’s Workers’ Party, as well as the emergence of its charismatic leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as “Lula”).
Cinematographer: Adrian Cooper. Editor: Adrian Cooper.
DigiBeta, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 86 min.

Intermissions (Entreatos) (Brazil, 2004)
Directed by: João Moreira Salles.
Given complete access to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a.k.a. “Lula,” during his 2002 run for president, director João Moreira Salles zeroes in on the intimate behind-the-scenes moments of the campaign. From these “intermissions” between big events, Salles provides insight into one of the most fascinating world leaders of our time in a film that ranks alongside The War Room (1993) as one of the most perceptive and candid political documentaries ever.
Producer: Raquel Freire Zangrandi. Cinematographer: Walter Carvalho. Editor: Felipe Lacerda.
DigiBeta, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 117 min.

July 18, 2014 – 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Playing (Jogo de cena); Santiago (2007)
Part of:  Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary

Playing (Jogo de cena) (Brazil, 2007)
Directed by Eduardo Coutinho.
Filmmaker Eduardo Coutinho’s Playing is an exhilarating look at performance, storytelling, the lives of women, the line between fiction and documentary, and so much more.  After an open call for women over the age of 18 “with interesting stories to tell,” Coutinho filmed a handful of respondents recounting dramatic stories of heartbreak, loss and love.  He then asked some of Brazil’s finest actresses recreate the interviews, using the monologues as texts, complicating our responses throughout.
Matizar, VideoFilmes. Producer: Bia Almeida, Raquel Freire Zangrandi. Cinematographer: Jacques Cheuiche. Editor: Jordana Berg. Cast: Marília Pêra, Andrea Beltrão, Fernanda Torres, Aleta Gomes Vieira, Claudiléa Cerqueira de Lemos. 35mm, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 100 min.

Santiago (Brazil, 2007)
Directed by João Moreira Salles.
One of Brazil’s most acclaimed documentaries, Santiago finds director João Moreira Salles returning to a film he abandoned years before after he hears news that its subject, Santiago, his family’s butler, has died.  Re-encountering the extraordinary and complex person of Santiago as well as his own past self in the footage, Salles reconstructs a fascinating portrait of both in a unique character study that inquires into the nature of memory, identity and documentary filmmaking.
Videofilmes Produçoes Artisticas Ltda. Screenwriter: João Moreira Salles. Cast: Santiago, Fernando Alves Pinto (narrator). HDCam, b/w, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 80 min.

July 20, 2014 – 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
The End and the Beginning (Brazil, 2006);
The Earth Giveth, The Earth Taketh Away (Brazil, 2009)
Part of: Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary

The End and the Beginning (O fim e o princípio) (Brazil, 2006)
Directed by Eduardo Coutinho.
In The End and the Beginning, Eduardo Coutinho heads to the small sertão state of Paraíba Brazil with no preconceived ideas other than wanting to film a rural community.  After finding a small town to shoot in, Coutinho settles into a series of lively conversations with the town’s residents.  Coutinho’s reputation as one of cinema’s great interviewers is on ample display as we witness a series of remarkably personal and moving encounters between filmmaker and his subjects.
Screenwriter: Eduardo Coutinho. Cinematographer: Jacques Cheuiche. Editor: Jordana Berg.
DigiBeta, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 110 min.

The Earth Giveth, The Earth Taketh Away (Terra deu, terra come) (Brazil, 2009)
Directed by Rodrigo Siqueria.
Filmmaker Rodrigo Siqueira set out to profile Pedro de Alexina, one of the last guardians of the funeral traditions brought by Africans to the Brazilian mining region of Diamantina in the 18th century, but his ethnographic portrait quickly becomes something else altogether.  As de Alexina spins his tales and legends for Siqueira, he conjures such a vivid world beyond time and space that the very idea of the real seems to slip away. 7 Estrelo Filmes, Tango Zulu Filmes. HDCam, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 88 mins.

July 27, 2014 – 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Iracema (Brazil, 1974); Should I Kill Them? (Brazil, 1983); Isle of Flowers (Brazil, 1989)
Part of: Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary

Iracema (Iracema, uma transa amazônica) (Brazil, 1974)
Directed by Jorge Bodanzky, Orlando Senna.
A landmark of Brazilian cinema, Iracema’s fusion of fiction and documentary remains exhilarating today.  The film follows a young teenager from the Amazon who heads to the big city where she meets a truck driver and embarks on a road trip across the Trans-Amazon Highway, then under construction.  Against the backdrop of this monumental taming of the wilderness, fiction filmmaking becomes inseparably interwoven with documentary in an allegory of Brazilian destiny, progress and identity.
Screenwriter: Orlando Senna. Cinematographer: Jorge Bodanzky, Wolf Gauer, Orlando Senna. Editor: Eva Grundmann. Cast: Edna de Cássia, Paulo César Peréio. 35mm, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 90 min.

Preceded by: Should I Kill Them? (Mato eles?) (Brazil, 1983)
Directed by Sérgio Bianchi.
Should I Kill Them? is a bitterly ironic and parodic short film by Sérgio Bianchi about the “last Indian” and the appropriate response in dealing with him.
Digital Video, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 34 min.

Isle of Flowers (Ilha das Flores) (Brazil, 1989)
Directed by Jorge Furtado.
Quite likely the most famous Brazilian short film, Isle of Flowers is a savage cine-essay that tracks the path of a tomato to the garbage dump, touching upon all manner of social horrors before illustrating how food that isn’t fit for pigs is then given to the poor.
Digital video, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 13 min.

August 3, 2014 – 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
News From a Personal War (Brazil, 1999);
Justice (Brazil, 2004); Socorro Nobre (Brazil, 1996) Socorro Nobre (1996)
Part of: Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary

News From a Personal War (Notícias de uma guerra particular) (Brazil, 1999)
Directed by João Moreira Salles, Kátia Lund, Walter Salles.
From one of the co-directors of City of God (2002), News from a Personal War succinctly lays out the battle between Rio’s police forces and the drug dealers who dominate the slums (favelas).  The filmmakers go beyond the cops’ and the dealers’ points of view to get all sides of the story.  The result is an unusually spellbinding hour that’s harder-hitting and more astonishing than any fiction film could be.
Screenwriter: João Moreira Salles, Kátia Lund. Cinematographer: Geraldo Ribeiro. Editor: Flavio Nuñes, Philippe Bourgogne. DigiBeta, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 56 min.

Justice (Justica) (Brazil, 2004)
Directed by Maria Augusta Ramos.
The winner of six international film festival prizes, director Maria Augusta Ramos’ Justice combines Frederick Wiseman’s cool-headed and clear-eyed portrayals of large institutions or societal systems with the power of a courtroom drama.  Ramos reveals larger issues in contemporary Brazilian society and its power structures by studying the details of several cases and following them through various stages of the country’s court system.
Producer: Niek Koppen, Renee van der Grinten. Screenwriter: Maria Augusta Ramos. Cinematographer: Flávio Zangrandi. Editor: Joana Collier, Virginia Flores, Maria Augusta Ramos, Vivianne Rodrigues de Brito. DigiBeta, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 102 min.

Socorro Nobre (Brazil, 1996)
Directed by Walter Salles.
Maria do Socorro Nobre encounters an article while in prison about the Polish artist Franz Krajcberg (who moved to Brazil after losing his family in the Holocaust) and feels compelled to write him a letter.  Director Walter Salles document their strange and moving correspondence, the letters of which served as the starting point for his next film, Central Station (1998).
Screenwriter: Walter Salles, Franz Krajcberg. Editor: Felipe Lacerda, Walter Salles. Cast: F. Krajcberg, Maria do Socorro Nobre. 35mm, b/w, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 23 min.

August 10, 2014 – 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
The Hills of Disorder (Serras da desordem) (Brazil, 2006)
Part of: Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary
Directed by Andréa Tonacci.
The Hills of Disorder is an adventurous, ambitious dream of a film by Andrea Tonacci, a veteran Cinema Marginal director.  Through a mix of documentary and recreation, Tonacci tells the fascinating tale of Carapiru, an Indian who survived the massacre of his tribe to find himself, essentially, an internal refugee for the next decade.  For this remarkable documentary, Carapiru himself recreates scenes from his life, adding to the poignancy and alienation of his story.
Producer: Andréa Tonacci.  Screenwriter: Andréa Tonacci, Sidney Possuelo, Wellington Soares.  Cast: Carapiru Digital Video, color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 135 mins.

August 15, 2014 – 7:30 pm  Billy Wilder Theater
Tropicália (Brazil, 2012); A Night in 67 (Uma noite em 67) (Brazil, 2010)
Part of: Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary
Tropicália (Brazil, 2012)
Directed by Marcelo Machado. 
Taking the audience on a tour through the sounds, images and history of one of Brazil’s most iconic cultural movements, Tropicália shows the sparks that flew when musicians, artists and filmmakers reclaimed the country’s “cannibalistic” past and fused a diverse range of influences into something uniquely Brazilian and of the moment.  In particular, the film focuses on Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil who became generational lightning rods, eventually jailed and exiled, for their music.
Producer: Paula Cosenza, Denise Gomes. Screenwriter: Vaughn Glover, Marcelo Machado, Di Moretti. Cinematographer: Eduardo Piagge. Editor: Oswaldo Santana. Cast: Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso. HDCam, b/w & color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 87 min.

A Night in 67 (Uma noite em 67) (Brazil, 2010)
Directed by Ricardo Calil, Renato Terra.
Brazil’s music “festivals” of the mid-1960s were boisterous, televised competitions akin to American Idol today.  One such show in 1967 was a particularly raucous affair that sparked a revolution that forever changed Brazilian music.  Captivating archival performances by Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes and Chico Buarque—alongside contemporary interviews from the key players—helps recreate the night when the still-forming Tropicália movement was introduced to the public. DigiBeta, b/w & color, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 85 min.

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About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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