Les États généraux du film documentaire 2015 Doc History: Brazil

Doc History: Brazil

This programme is built around the idea of presenting a major film from Brazil’s documentary history heritage and one of the most important examples of contemporary production. The resulting assembly is a meeting of viewpoints by two of the country’s foremost inventors of cinematic form, each experimenting with the techniques of their time. Thomaz Reis and Andrea Tonacci are both engaged in the creation of a cinematographic corpus attentive to mutations in the ways of life among indigenous peoples exposed to modern progress.
Thomaz Reis is acknowledged by numerous anthropologists as one of the first ethnographic filmmakers, starting with his 1916 short film Rituas e festas borôro. This film, like all the rest of his filmography, was made within the framework of a project of national integration motivated by scientific, political and military factors: the Rondon Commission. Thomaz Reis had the responsibility of filming the numerous expeditions led by Field Marshal Rondon, whose goal was to occupy the still unexploited zones of the country. Over thirty years, this mission worked notably on installing telegraph lines in the Amazon region.
Ao Redor do Brasil – Aspectos do interior e das fronteiras brasileiras (1932) was Reis’ first long film and aimed at being the visual expression of this project to forge a powerful modern nation. The film opens with an image of Reis holding his camera, affirming his position as the cineaste: much more than a Major recording on film a military mission, he presents himself here as a “man with a movie camera” bringing an imaginative evocation of his explorations, unique “views” (of landscapes, Indians, animals), to the world’s audiences. The filmic discourse embodies, and is organised around, the positivist ideas of the brand new Brazilian Republic: the process of civilising native peoples, defending the borders and implanting modernity within the Amazonian region. By favouring situations where different indigenous peoples are assimilated, Reis attempts to show that these “good savages” are becoming, more willingly than by force, good Brazilian citizens. With the exception of two shots – one where a man refuses to learn to “eat correctly” and another where a woman manifestly rejects the anthropologists’ attempts to “measure” her – the film dissimulates any act of resistance.
Resistance toward the adoption of “non Indian” ways of life is, on the contrary, the hallmark of the main character in Serras da Desordem, the film by Andrea Tonacci also projected in this programme. Andrea Tonacci is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant filmmakers working in Brazil today. A partisan of marginal cinema, he is known for the way he gives value to the experience of the shoot and for his great respect for the people he films. Tonacci is author of two flagship films of “marginal” Brazilian cinema: Blá,blá,blá (1967) and Bang Bang (1971). After the political criticism expressed in these first films, his commitment via film took place alongside the experiences of autochthonous people. In 1977 he made Conversas do Maranhão, following the natives in their conflict concerning the demarcation lines of indigenous reservations. With Serras da Desordem (2006), by filming the life of Carapiru, Tonacci crafted the reconstruction of a necessarily critical story: Carapiru was a Guajá Indian who survived the massacre of his people in 1977 and started off on an incredible odyssey made up of chance happenings and encounters.
Serras da Desordem represents this story, played by those who lived it, creating an absolutely heterogeneous and lacunal film. The goal is not necessarily to represent events the way they really happened, but to provoke through the film another experience. Carapiru repeats his journey, visiting the places and encountering the families who welcomed him. Life and cinema, past and present, documentary and fiction, reconstitution and archives, black and white and colour, crisscross and enrich each other. From all these interactions, Serras da Desordem ties the knots between Carapiru’s singular experience and the country’s development project.
The film explores the passage of time, the day to day and the ordinary in a way which leads us slowly to an affective perception of situations. Whether among the indigenous or “non-indigenous”, Carapiru maintains an opaque subjectivity, he seems to belong nowhere.

Naara Fontinele

Debate in the presence of Naara Fontinele, member of association Camira.