Les États généraux du film documentaire 2016 Doc Route: Brazil

Doc Route: Brazil

In Brazil, the effects of a government policy favoring the production, distribution and broadcasting of films are being felt. This policy was particularly established since President Lula’s first term (2002), and its continuity is put in doubt due to recent political events. In 2015, one hundred and twenty-eight Brazilian films were released in movie theaters out of which forty-eight were documentaries. Public investment in documentary is carried out not only through legislation offering tax breaks (which grants the rebate and the exemption of taxes to companies that allocate resources, through sponsoring, coproduction or investment in audiovisual projects), but also through direct fostering programs, supporting projects via public call notices and selections organized and managed by ANCINE (Brazil’s National Film Agency).
Without ignoring the problems that documentaries always face (like difficult access to television), this growth of production represents not only a considerable change but also contributes to a qualitative accumulation of experience. The effects of this can be observed in the experimentation and long term development of some creators (the work of Eduardo Coutinho is emblematic in this sense) as well as in the still nascent development of the democratisation of production facilities and access to filmmaking – we can mention here films produced today in the peripheries of major urban centres and in indigenous villages.
The same government policy has stimulated the unprecedented growth of film festivals in Brazil, some of which are today extremely specialised (festivals devoted to documentary, short films, archive images and preserving Brazil’s film heritage, programmes showcasing creation from the suburbs of big cities, thematic festivals focussed on feminism, queer cinema, etc.). These festivals play a major role in the screening of documentary film and its critical reflection, as access to documentary via theatrical distribution or television broadcast remains extremely limited. Universities also play an important part. We can note today important interaction in different forms between film teaching, communication, production, criticism and film festivals.
The dialogue between criticism (including academic criticism) and film direction feeds independent production, as it can be noted in forums like the Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes and the festival Forumdoc.bh.
The programming presented at Lussas covers some of the principal currents of recent Brazilian documentary. Films by directors and collectives based in the periphery of major urban centres are characterised by their energy and creativity. They can be represented by several films: the two features by Adirley Queirós, a director from Ceilândia (Federal District), Backyard, a short film by André Novais, one of the creators of Filmes de Plástico, from Contagem (state of Minas Gerais) and also The Hidden Tiger by Affonso Uchoa. In these films, the boundary between documentary and fiction is willingly crossed, as if film experimentation could and must break free of formal convention in order show the complexity of life as it was, as it is and also as it might have been.
The Hyperwomen is the result of a collaboration between indigenous director Takumã Kuikuro, film director Leonardo Sette and anthropologist Carlos Fausto. It reveals the richness and the coexistence of different points of view born in filmmaking workshops of which the project Vídeo nas Aldeias (“Video in the Villages”) is an important example. Thanks to this type of collaboration, indigenous cinema is one of the most important novelties in Brazilian cinema. It contributes to a considerable reversal of the historical tendency towards domination, submission and the “objectification” of indigenous peoples in films representing them. The freshness of the film’s direction articulates the representation of traditional ritual (induced by the film but not entirely controlled by it, as in The Hyperwomen), images of daily life (from a completely innovative point of view) and detours via fiction.
The work on archives and reflection on testimony characterises those works that search for a cinematographic approach to the period of military dictatorship (1964-1984). In these films, emphasis is placed on the memory of victims and those involved in the resistance. We see this in different but equally rigorous ways in Retratos de Identificação and The Days with Him. In a country where a policy of “unlimited amnesty” was adopted without the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission, cinema plays, nowadays, an important role in the writing of history. In fact, a National Truth Commission, on a minor scale, was only set up in 2012, during Roussef’s first term, almost thirty years after the return of democracy.
Through new and unique strategies, films like Cold Tropics, Dark Chamber and Housemaids, all directed by filmmakers from Pernambuco (a state located in the North of Brazil), demonstrate the recurrence of another major preoccupation in contemporary film: the effort to draw attention to the complex problem of class relationships in urban Brazil, relationships between the different classes inherited from the colonial era but to which new ingredients have been added. Brazil’s stupefying social inequalities are more and more represented, like in Housemaids, especially in the relationship between filmer and filmed (teenage sons of business directors and “their” housemaids). The importance of these films is not only connected to their subject. Via the tactics of “fake documentary” (Cold Tropics) or an erasure of the filmmaker from the direction (Dark Chamber and Housemaids), they provoke reflection on the status of the image in the contemporary world.
Ressurgentes, a feature-length film that portrays from Brasilia the movements of struggle for political reform, against social and economic exclusion and in favour of changes in urbanisation, which culminated in the demonstrations of June 2013, adds a crucial element of debate to the panorama proposed at Lussas. Here the audience is faced with the editing and narrative organisation of material produced by various demonstrators (including vigorous footage shot by the film’s crew), who do not only use the camera as a recorder of images but as a defence mechanism, a producer of proof (in the face of police repression) and instant testimony of the present (transmitted live over social networks). With their destabilising characteristics, the thousands of hours of “raw material” produced and transmitted in these conditions raise a new challenge for researchers and documentary filmmakers.

Cláudia Mesquita and Christophe Postic, in collaboration with Naara Fontinele

Debates led by Cláudia Mesquita, Naara Fontinele and Christophe Postic.
In the presence of Adirley Queirós.