Although the short-lived Brazilian cultural movement known as Tropicália is most commonly associated with music and the visual arts, its sense of playfulness and strategies of appropriation have stimulated many of the country’s filmmakers from the 1960s to the present.In this weekend of screenings, we have the rare opportunity to see a number of experimental narrative features from the 1960s and 1970s, each of which developed new perspectives on Brazil in a period of great uncertainty and defined the tropicalist imaginary of the time. The seven-screening programme also highlights contemporary works responding to, restoring or even resisting the legacy of the previous generation.
• Hunger for the Absolute: Land in Anguish at 50 – 9 Nov 2017In 1967, Brazil was already living through a military dictatorship, but Glauber Rocha’s Terra em Transe would unnervingly predict the more punitive turn the regime would take a year later. Looking at populist politics and the inescapable corruption of power in the nation, Land in Anguish revolutionised the filmmaker’s practice. Fifty years after its release, the experience of the film retains the force of its radicality, with its tumultuous separation of sound and image, intense performances from its actors and high operatic drama of Verdi and Carlos Gomes.
This key work of Brazil’s Cinema Novo or ‘new cinema’ movement is screened in dialogue with the world premiere of Eder Santos and Bruce Yonemoto’s Barravento Novo. The short video makes clever correspondences between Antônio Pitanga – a Cinema Novo actor seen here delivering lines from Rocha’s first feature, Barravento 1962 – and his daughter, Camila Pitanga, a well-known actor and filmmaker working today.
• Luxo Lixo – 10 Nov 2017In the 1960s, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro attempted to shine as aspirational beacons of the modern in Brazil, but at the same time were beset by corruption and crime, and harboured their marginal citizens like a guilty secret – luxo (luxury) and lixo (garbage) side by side.
This programme presents two films working with the cult of celebrity in Brazil’s big cities: A Maldição Tropical [Tropical Curse], a short meditation on Portuguese-Brazilian icon Carmen Miranda by way of the development of Rio de Janeiro; and O Bandido da Luz Vermelha, which follows the exploits of an infamous serial burglar in São Paulo’s Boca do Lixo (Mouth of Garbage). Both films adopt strategies of montage that juxtapose the diverse elements of their respective cities, yoking together the contradictions of Brazilian society through allusion, superimposition and fragmentation.
• Taboo and Totem – 11 Nov 2017This screening focuses on the connections between Tropicália and cultural cannibalism, a notion proposed by Oswald de Andrade in his 1928 ‘Manifesto Antropófago,’ and revived in the art and cinema of the late 60s and early 70s. Brazilian artist Arthur Omar’s 1974 ‘anti-documentary’ Triste Trópico parodies anthropological discourse, depicting a doctor’s descent from studying medicine in Paris to practicing cannibalism in Brazil.
In recent years, there has been a rekindled interest in approaching cannibalism as a mode of thought that adopts different perspectives on the world. Developing these insights in his artistic practice, writer and filmmaker Pedro Neves Marques approaches Indigenous knowledges as a means of reconceiving the relationship between humans and their environment.
Considering the centrality of cannibalism to Tropicália, the juxtaposition of these two films also invites consideration about the role of moving images in translating disparate modes of being in the world.
• Living Archives, Asleep in their Forms – 11 Nov 2017Brazilian cinema has always practiced alternative strategies of bringing the past into fresh relations with the present. Artists affiliated with Tropicália often sought out seemingly antiquated materials and myths, ironically emphasising how little Brazilian society had actually progressed. And since the dawn of the digital age, found footage filmmakers have increasingly mined the national archive for lost images, salvaging celluloid threatened by decay and appropriating familiar materials in new ways.This programme features four recent found footage films that give new currency to images at risk of vanishing from the historical record. Several figures of cultural significance who passed before their time can also be seen in these works. In paying tribute to the departed, these works unsurprisingly take on a melancholic tone. But there is a certain joy in the gesture of the found footage filmmaker, too, as expressed in the concept of saudade: longing, sadness, absence, but also the pleasure of being able to experience and express such feelings.