Brazils Film Industry Past to Present

“Brazil’s Film Industry: Past to Present”
Within a year of the Lumiere brother’s ‘first experiment’ in Paris in 1896, the cinematography machine appeared in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years later, the capital boasted 22 cinema houses and the first Brazilian feature film, Os Estranguladores (“The Stranglers”) by Antonio Leal, had been screened. From then on Brazil’s film industry made continuous progress and, although it has never been large, its output over the years has attracted international attention. In 1930, still the era of the silent movie in Brazil, Mario Peixoto’s film, Limite was made. Limite is a surrealist work dealing with the conflicts raised by the human condition and how life conspires to prevent total fulfillment. It was considered a landmark film in the Brazilian cinema history. the great Soviet director Sergie Eisenstein called the film “an extremely beautiful film which one should submit oneself to right from the very first moments, as to the agonizing chords of a synthetic and pure language of cinema ( Johnson et al. 309).
In 1993 Cinedia produced Alo, Alo, Carnival (“The Voice of the Carnival”), the first film with Carmen Miranda. This film ushered in the ‘chanchada’ which dominated Brazilian cinema for many years. While the chanchada remained popular for several decades, with hundreds of examples, it slowly declined into vulgarity, and became the ‘pornochanchada’ by the 1970’s. The chanchada, though popular, was not popular enough to beat out the foreign films (now dubbed in Portuguese), still dominating Brazilian markets. It also left the giant taste of Brazil’s tropical stereotypes in the mouths of the world: “the image of Brazil, for many Brazilians, is a bewildering potpourri of piranha infested waters, samba and romance, carnival and coffee, Black Orpheus and Carmen Miranda (Johnson et al. 351).
By the end of the 1940’s Brazilian film making was becoming an industry. The Vera Cruz Film Company was created in San Paolo with the goal of producing films of international quality. It hired technicians from abroad and brought back from Europe, Alberto Cavalcanti, a Brazilian filmmaker with an international reputation to head the company. Vera Cruz produced some important films before it closed in 1954, among them the epic O Cangaceiro, which one two awards at the 1953 Cannes film festival, including “Best Adventure Film.” O Cangaceiro is one of the most famous films in the history of Brazilian cinema and one of the few to have successfully reached a foreign public (Johnson et al. 277).
In the 1950’s, Brazilian cinema radically changed the way it made films. In his 1955 film, Rio 40 Graus (“Rio 40 Degrees”), director Nelson Pareira dos Santos employed the filmaking techniques of Italian non realism by using ordinary people as his actors and by going into the streets to shoot his low budget film. He would become one of the most important Brazilian filmmakers of all time, and it is he who set the stage for the Brazilian ‘cinema novo’ (an idea in mind and a camera in the hands) movement (Johnson, Cinema Novo 166). By 1962 ‘cinema novo’ had established a new concept in Brazilian filmaking. The ‘cinema novo’ film’s dealt with themes related to acute national problems, from conflicts in rural areas to human problems in the large cities, as well as film versions of important Brazilian novels. At the end of the 1960’s, the Tropicalist movement had taken hold of the art scenes in Brazil which meant that cinema came under its spell. It emphasized the need to transform all foreign influences into a national product. The most representative film of this movement was Macunaima, by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade. It was a metaphorical analysis of the Brazilian character as shown in the story of a native Indian who leaves the Amazon jungle and goes to the big city.
Working at the same time as the Tropicalists were the ‘cinema marginal’ movement. This was another group of directors that emerged in San Paolo and Rio de Janeiro who also made low cost films. The group produced film’s with theme’s that referred to a marginal society. Their films were considered ‘difficult’. In 1969 the government film agency, Embrafilme was created. They were responsible for the co-production, financing, and distribution of a large percentage of films