Brazil in Social (Un)Rest: Cinema in a Provisional State

Fabio Andrade
New York University

Volume: “Cinema and Social Conflicts,” Volume 6 (2020)
Digital Object Identifier: 10.21431/Z3D30T
Keywords: , , , ,




On May 12, 2016, Dilma Roussef was temporarily removed from the Brazilian presidency as her impeachment approached its final stages. Her ousting followed protests that gained traction in June 2013 and were rerouted from leftist social demands to the rise of a new organized right, culminating with the election of Jair Bolsonaro, on October 28, 2018. This process has been largely documented by feature films with successful runs on the international circuit, such as O Processo (The Trial, 2018) by Maria Augusta Ramos, which premiered at the Berlinale and won the main prize at Visions du Réel, and Democracia em Vertigem (The Edge of Democracy, 2019) by Petra Costa, which premiered at Sundance and has been distributed worldwide by Netflix, earning a nomination for the Best Documentary Feature category at the Academy Awards in 2020. While these films are responsible for putting a counternarrative to the one filtered by the Brazilian mainstream media in global circulation, highlighting the opportunistic political moves behind the legal facade of the impeachment process, a larger number of lesser-known documentaries cover the same event. Paula Fabiana’s Filme Manifesto – O Golpe de Estado (2017); Renato Tapajós’ Esquerda em Transe (2017); Frédérique Zingaro and Mathilde Bonnassieux’s Brésil: Le Grand Bond en Arrière (2017); Lula Buarque de Holanda’s O Muro (2017); Gustavo Aranda and Vinícius Segalla’s Tchau, Querida (2018); Douglas Duarte’s Excelentíssimos (2018); and Anna Muylaert and Lo Politi’s upcoming Alvorada, among others, add to the center-left portion of the choir, but responses have also come from the right, with works such as Impeachment Brasil – Do Apogeu à Queda, a web documentary released in 2017 by the production company Brasil Paralelo without a credited director, and Impeachment – O Brasil nas Ruas (2018) by Beto Souza and Paulo Moura.1

Although these films directly thematize the impeachment process, a larger group of works released between May 2016 and December 2018 carry this historical moment in the flesh: the films completed during the presidency of Michel Temer­—former vice-president in the Roussef administration, a key articulator of her deposition, and the most unpopular president since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. This period is crammed between the implementation of public policies for education and the arts by the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) administrations with Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) and Roussef (2011-2016), and the truculence of an extreme-right-wing candidate who made a platform out of antagonizing universities, artists, and the public agencies designed to stimulate them. The uncertainty of this transition hit a generation of filmmakers who developed careers from these public initiatives interrupted since January 2019, and whose artistic production ironically peaked under the shadow of Temer, a disgraced politician who started out in the last breath of the military dictatorship and who failed to earn popular legitimacy even as a short-term political substitute.2

While categorizing filmmaking practices by presidential tenure might seem arbitrary in other contexts, it fits historically significant understandings of cinema in Brazil that have made the loaded expression “cinema nacional” (national cinema) a popular synonym of “cinema brasileiro” (Brazilian cinema). In Brazilian National Cinema, Lisa Shaw and Stephanie Dennison examine how a discourse of the national has shaped the country’s film production. The filmmakers’ desire to provide a “mirror image” of the country (although, as made clear by indigenous filmmakers in the past three decades, a highly selective mirror), and the reliance on public funding have made the idea of a “national cinema” particularly fitting to the Brazilian context. While this tradition has at times crossed paths with overdetermined readings of artistic creation through economic and social development­—i.e. Fredric Jameson’s polemical statement that literary allegory is a “Thirdworldish” form—Brazilian cinema is moved by a “primordial desire to place the nation on the big screen,” fostering the critical and scholarly expectation that the films do so.3

The discomfort of this mutual reliance is more pronounced in the case of Michel Temer. As acting president, he promptly dismantled the Ministry of Culture—an unpopular measure which was walked back eleven days later, but was reinstated by Bolsonaro on his very first day in office. In this brief interim, the cast and crew of Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2016) exposed the impeachment process as a coup on the red carpet of the Croisette, which launched the subject into the international mainstream press. This institutional animosity was presently documented on a timeline of milestones on Ancine’s official website, the state office that regulates, funds, and promotes Brazilian cinema: the page stopped being updated in May 2016, as if, to their eyes, “national cinema” had ended in that year’s Festival de Cannes.4

While the impeachment documentaries are umbilically connected to this historical moment, the necessity to arbitrate an end to their narrative arcs sacrifices the mobility of the political process, undermining the ability to push back against a concerted action that was anything but neutral. Conflict is constrained by the inevitability of tragedy. Notwithstanding, three films released in 2017 with comparably successful international trajectories express this provisional occupation of the state with the creative manipulation of genres (the road movie, horror, and sci-fi) through the prism of what David Bordwell has defined—redundantly, but usefully—as “art cinema”: Arábia (Araby) by Affonso Uchôa and João Dumans; As Boas Maneiras (Good Manners) by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra; and Era Uma Vez Brasília (Once There Was Brasilia) by Adirley Queirós. They are not the only films to address the context that informs them, but the different ways they articulate this experience open up possibilities of dissent in a network of circulation (the arthouse circuit) that has come to challenge the very idea of national cinema.5

Counterintuitively, these films use the psychologically-driven and socially reluctant conventions of “art cinema” to express the anxiety of a political interval that both follows and precedes a rupture—a moment of social (un)rest. In musical terminology, a “rest” is the space between two “beats,” an interval which varies in duration, constituting a rhythm, but also allowing the beats to resonate, operating as a structuring absence. If one reads these “beats” as “blows,” or as coups, the “rest” becomes distinct from the apolitical comfort established in Brazilian cinema since the 1990s Retomada, and often prevalent in the arthouse circuit. These films use the silence of the “rest” to reach out beyond the possible, calling the present into action.

 

The Present Memory

A tracking shot shows a teenager (André, played by Murilo Caliari) biking down the hilly roads surrounding the colonial town of Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, to the sound of Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run the Game”—the opening track of his 1965 eponymous album, the only official recording of a career cut short by schizophrenia and depression. The juxtaposition of sound and image in the opening shot of Araby—the third feature by Uchôa, following Mulher à Tarde (Woman in the Afternoon, 2010) and A Vizinhança do Tigre (The Hidden Tiger, 2014), and the directorial debut by Dumans—announces a disjunction that destabilizes a strictly realist correlation between space and time. Ouro Preto, a town with a history of gold mining, baroque Catholic churches, and struggles for the Brazilian independence—as seen in Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s Os Inconfidentes (The Conspirators, 1972)—is confronted with the North American folk songbook. However, “Blues Run the Game” is not quite a protest song, following in the tradition of Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger, but a first-person lament over a life on the road. At the same time, the contrast between the high-definition video and Frank’s echoey voice cutting through analog specks date the shot as a convention in contemporary “art cinema”—a formal sibling of the scooter sequences in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Sud Pralad (Tropical Malady, 2004), the long take of the motorcycles in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Nan Guo Zai Jian, Nan Guo (Goodbye South Goodbye, 1996), and many others that followed. “Wherever I have gone, the blues are all the same,” Clark sings, and the singularity of the landscape counters the conventionality of the shot, multiplied in the transnational “mirror image” of the arthouse world.6

Such a paradigm of creation through serialization is embedded in Bordwell’s notion of art cinema as a mode of practice in which “the authorial code manifests itself as recurrent violations of the classical norm.” “A boy and a bike” might be the arthouse equivalent of Jean-Luc Godard’s “a girl and a gun,” and, in order to perform an authorial deviation from the “art cinema” mode itself, the film first sticks to the norm. The prologue follows art cinema’s defining characteristics: real locations house real problems that get in the way of characters who seem to lack any desire or goal, weaving the story arc towards an open-ended narrative (and what goal could there be after youth demonstrations against a rise in bus fares triggered a conservative national coup?). Between one hand-drawn sketch of the nearby factory and another, André cares for his sick younger brother, Marcos (Marcos Rossingnoli), working around the lack of medicine and milk, left to their own precarious devices by an absent mother and an unmentioned father. At dawn, the older sibling wakes up and boils water on the stove, not for coffee but for steam inhalation, to fight the mineral dust blown into their lungs by the chimneys. When the two talk over breakfast, this latent melancholy evokes the mental image of a dead-end road: “It’s easier to believe in the Devil than in God,” Marcos says. “In the world, it’s all killings, shootings, deaths, and there are no miracles.”7

This structuring absence undermines both the impression of wholeness of the classical Hollywood film and the fragmentary acuteness of radical modernism. For Bordwell, “art cinema” is itself defined by being in between these two other models, and its distinction depends on a devilish play between estrangement and familiarity with these neighboring modes of practice. The adherence to a mode of filmmaking that is “in between” to express a historical moment of “in-betweenness” plays an important part in the film’s political diagnosis. After all, “art cinema” is “a cinema of psychological effects in search of their causes,” and Araby—originally conceived in 2010 as an adaptation of James Joyce’s eponymous dusky short story—uses strategies of displacement and de-temporization to express its own condition: a film conceived in a world that no longer exists, left with the task of speculating a world which might be yet to come.8

In the meantime, the present: a low-key existence shot through door frames, not unlike the hyperrealism of Chantal Akerman or Hou Hsiao-hsien, but allowing for occasional outbursts of stylized, Brechtian stiffness that recall the work of Robert Bresson, or Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. These interferences punctuate the unproblematic fluidity with which the viewer sees the world through André’s eyes, distancing the film from traditional subjectivity. This self-reflexive estrangement is distilled into the narrative—what Bordwell called art cinema’s “domestication of modernist filmmaking,” for how it “softened modernism’s attack on narrative causality by creating mediating structures—‘reality,’ character subjectivity, authorial vision—that allowed a fresh coherence of meaning.” At the same time, the opacity of these coups of mise-en-scène disrupts that reality, promoting a purposeful invasion of the harmonious diegetic world—an attitude that takes other forms in Good Manners and Once There Was Brasília.9

The set-up, however, is designed to fall into place. André’s aunt, Marcia (Glaucia Vandeveld), introduces him to Cristiano (Aristides de Souza), a young man who works at the factory. A few days later, the man falls ill without explanation. Marcia sends André to fetch him some clothes, and he ends up finding a notebook in Cristiano’s bedroom. It is a notebook not unlike his own, but, instead of drawings of the factory from the vantage point of André’s window, its pages hold words of a life unseen.

Twenty minutes into its running time, around the conventional mark of the end of the first act, Araby abandons André’s body altogether, so that his imagination can lend images to Cristiano’s story—or at least what he can infer from these unidentified handwritten pages. The title spreads over the screen and, after that, the narrator will no longer be the protagonist. The telling is separated from the tale, shifting from realist observation to an idealized projection of the picaresque journey of a wandering proletarian traveling between jobs and interacting with whoever he meets on the way. The film becomes Cristiano’s story, as imagined by André.

While the title card separates the prologue from the logos, the mise-en-scène brings the two notebooks together. Cristiano’s evocative voice-over narration is complemented by André’s visual imagination, which takes over the image track. At the same time that the film adheres to the convention of a drifting protagonist who “traces an itinerary, an encyclopedic survey of the film’s world” (to which the notebook is an emotional map), its meta-narrative spine both reaffirms and goes beyond the usual indeterminacy of “art cinema” (“who is telling the story? how is this story being told? why is this story being told this way?” asks Bordwell’s hypothetical spectator) to stage the contradiction that shapes its existence. The directors’ attention to local landscapes, flavors, and stories (it is a film funded by the state of Minas Gerais, after all) is projected into a codified arthouse transnational circuit equipped to absorb that singularity as a manifestation of generic otherness. At the same time, André’s imagination allows the film to create an ambivalent portrait of a dying Third Cinema archetype (the proletarian, or the proletariat itself) on a journey full of false starts and stops, both romantic and disenchanted in tone.10

This manifold story built as a one-sided epistolary narration is every now and then pierced through by history with capital letters. This peculiarity challenges one of Bordwell’s most important ideas about “art cinema,” in how it privileges the individual over the political, so that “social forces become significant insofar as they impinge upon the psychologically sensitive individual.” It’s an exception that Araby, Good Manners and Once There Was Brasília will all share as a yet-unwritten rule. These three films made under and over the instability of a provisional state promote an encounter between the depoliticized transnational format and the preoccupation with the “mirror image” of the national, reversing the polarity of this axiom: it is subjective narration that provides an emotional shortcut to political commentary. Araby is a road movie, indeed, but this trip is made primarily on foot.11

Politics enter the film in varying degrees of articulation. On a formal level, the shift from an arthouse coming-of-age prologue to a self-reflexive class fable follows Jacques Rancière’s idea of arts and politics as a “distribution of the sensible,” for it “establishes at one and the same time something common that is shared and exclusive parts.” Cristiano and André live in the same neighborhood, at the same historical time, but their worlds are not entirely the same. The transit between these two concentric experiences through a found piece of text creates pockets of opacity in what they can and cannot share—a second-hand idealization of an identity of the working class. A message in an ornated bottle. André gets to imagine the affects of a world inhabited by straight, primarily non-white working-class men—a world that neighbors his own, but that is not actually his own. The notebook becomes a prop for inter-class collaboration, at the same time that the words automatically delimit the terms of this temporary agreement.12

The shaded areas of this contract find eloquent expression in music, which Uchôa and Dumans utilize as directorial commentary or as a bonding moment for the characters, who frequently pass around an acoustic guitar. The tension between images and words is again emphasized, as the songs either anticipate or comment retroactively on the action. Whether it is through Maria Betânia singing Noel Rosa’s “Três Apitos” (a blue-collar love story that takes place in a textile factory—quite literally the plot of the second half of the film), or Cristiano’s acoustic rendition of Racionais MCs’ “O Homem na Estrada” (literally “the man on the road,” a summary of the first half), music doubles up the film’s reflexivity on the unreliability of its own constitutive elements. This vacillation between different forms of existence (André’s and Cristiano’s) and vehicles of expression (image, music, and text) creates the kind of opacity Édouard Glissant defined as the moment where “thought of self and thought of other … become obsolete in their duality.” In Araby, protagonism is not something one gets to use, create, or claim; it is part of a shared atmosphere in which everything is relational.13

Formal ambiguity may appear to distance the film from the programmatic focus of the impeachment documentaries, yet there are other moments in which politics find a way out of the film’s fabric and into its text. One of the first people Cristiano meets in his journey is a man called Zé, who everyone else, including the end credits, calls Barreto (José Maria Amorim). Like Homer’s Ulysses, Barreto—a bearded old man with hands marked by vitiligo—spent decades going around the world just to end up in the place he was born. The two names for the same face—Zé and Barreto—highlight the irony of the lifelong journey that leads back home, expressing an ambivalence with both art cinema’s conventional rootless wandering (Michelangelo Antonioni’s Il Grido, 1957; Agnes Varda’s Vagabond, 1985; Theo Angelopoulos’ Landscape in the Mist, 1988) and the “mirror image” of the local: “Today I fish in the same lake I used to play in when I was a kid … the land is the same, but it’s all strange, it’s all different,” he says. Araby is the “mirror image” not of an idealized past, nor of a desolate future, but of the uncanny moment these two experiences can no longer be differentiated.

As the film progresses, this marginal onscreen presence—limited to a two-minute long medium shot—gets loaded with historical significance: Barreto had participated in the São Bernardo do Campo strikes in the early 1980s, and was responsible for unionizing the local farm workers, changing not only their work conditions but also the sweetness of the tangerines Cristiano now gets to pick up. “He said he even met Lula,” a farm worker (Robson Vieira) tells him, after Barreto’s passing. The casual mention of former president Lula—the union leader who rose out of the strikes to become the central character in the country’s political life—redimensions this personal journey as a political allegory. Within the diegesis, Cristiano might seem adrift and disconnected: when Marcia asks him if he will be back in time for a union activity, he brushes it off and says he is not into meetings. However, even if this history of collective organization has grown too pale to spark interest in generations who have benefited from it, it hovers over Cristiano’s life like a ghost—or a guardian angel—a mere two degrees of separation away.

Araby mourns the death of the previous political moment embodied by Barreto, but leaves the door open for its future reincarnation in Cristiano’s archetypal trajectory. Instead of addressing the political present through forensic reconstruction—the vocabulary of the impeachment documentaries—Uchôa and Dumans weave the film with rhymes and repetitions that counter linearity, orchestrating the narrative so that it is both moving forward and constantly pointing back. This productive indecision over narrative time creates a vertiginous mise-en-abyme disguised as biographical successivity, both setting up an open end and splitting historical time open, refusing resolution in a moment of social unrest.

After all, this is the story of a working-class man trapped in a coma according to the imagination of an observant visual narrator, and the delegation of point of view destabilizes the very filmic utterance. When Cristiano’s final monologue speaks of calling his fellow workers to step away from the machines and go drink fresh water, it echoes the viewer’s memory of a recurrent still-life of a factory uniform next to a water-filled Coke bottle first shown right before André discovers the notebook. When he says his blood has turned into “a river of minerals,” the memory of the dust that lands on André’s windowsill and clogs his brother’s lungs ties the prologue and the epilogue together, sharing what first appeared to be exclusive. Instead of providing closure, these rhymes create other possible bouncing boards, intensifying the narrative’s perpetual motion. The lack of narrative resolution expresses a moment in which “the national” faced an unknown future, and the only faithful “mirror image” possible was a portrait of uncertainty.

Writing about Latin American cinema at the turn of the century, Edgardo Dieleke notes that critics like David Oubiña and Ivana Bentes have pointed out how the New Argentine Cinema and the Brazilian 1990s Retomada have demarcated “new areas of the present, while not intervening in it explicatively or allegorically.” Araby uses a different approach in its presentification of memory, pushing the matter-of-factness of the narration into the realm of the allegorical. But as an allegory, too, the film can only pose more questions. Cristiano got to shake hands with Barreto—the man who’d shaken hands with Lula—and was told of his achievements after his death, but how does he feel about them? Is the collective effort of the union tradition only at a provisional “rest,” or has it been substituted by the diffuse passivity of a post-utopian coming-of-age, and the normativity of a romantic relationship? Or is this provisional state more like the drifting boat in Mario Peixoto’s Limite (1931), where the linearity of the historical process gets to be reshuffled, allowing the viewer to experience reality as oxymoronic—a post-apocalyptic future, an unstable present, or the memory of a past still waiting to happen?14

 

The Present Horror

While Araby takes a long road to find the questions that need to be posed, Good Manners exposes the consequences of previous answers through the return of what these answers had repressed. In the opening shot of the film—which won a Special Jury Prize at the Locarno Film Festival—Clara (Isabél Zuaa), a black woman with her hair cut close to the scalp, awaits behind two consecutive glass partitions. The glass, both transparent and solid, is what separates her from a job interview, and also from Rui Poças’ camera. These partitions establish a different kind of aesthetics that separates employees and employers, like two elevators distinguished by signs: “social” and “serviço” (service)—loaded euphemisms in the last country to officially abolish slavery, granting it an afterlife in the figure of the maid. Glass walls are convenient. They create separation without ever blocking the view.

To those not yet familiar with the work of Dutra and Rojas­—who first reached notoriety with the short film Um Ramo (A Branch, 2007), winner of the Découverte Kodak award in that year’s Critic’s Week at Cannes—this opening shot situates the film in realist territory, showing the 58 seconds it takes Clara to speak through the intercom, be allowed in, make it past the glass doors and walk to the “serviço” elevator. The mise-en-scène echoes the writings of André Bazin, who Bordwell calls the first “art cinema” critic, “not only because he praised a loose, accidental narrative structure that resembled life but also because he pin-pointed privileged stylistic devices for representing a realistic continuum of space and time.” Yet, to those already familiar with Trabalhar Cansa (Hard Labor, 2011), Quando Eu Era Vivo (When I Was Alive, 2014, directed by Dutra), or Sinfonia da Necrópole (Necropolis Symphony, 2014, directed by Rojas), Bazinian realism reads as anything but natural: this is the opening of a horror film.15

In the world of Good Manners, the realism of “art cinema” offers a privileged form of dramatic tension that gives access to a nightmarish reality. Diligently following Clara’s protagonism, the camera captures the distance between objects, and the time it takes to get from one point to another … but what choreography does that entail when this walk is interrupted by invisible separations? Once Clara is let in and gets to see her soon-to-be new workspace for the first time, the clearness of the glass door leads to an apartment so meticulously decorated it looks like a film set, with ivory cow skulls hanging over a stylish arabesque wallpaper, and the cutout São Paulo skyline glowing under an artificial sun, like the cardboard sunset in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948). It is a home in the image of its owner: Ana (Marjorie Estiano), a white expecting young mother who has moved from her family’s farm to the big city and surrounded herself with all sorts of luxury, creating a neoliberal mythology of the self. Clara is about to become her new luxurious article. Hired as a babysitter, she is quickly enlisted to fill other roles: maid, personal assistant, interior designer, wall painter, drinking buddy, lover and, eventually, a mother to Ana’s son. As in Araby, this is a world where real people face real problems, but the neoliberal magic trick that makes these problems seem invisible penetrates the real with the fantastic.

This brief summary is enough to frame the film as an epic allegory in which a relationship between two women encapsulates historical tensions: the domination imposed by heteronormative patriarchy; the fallacy of racial democracy; the cordiality that covers up classist violence; Gilberto Freyre’s “mirror image” of Brazil as an idealized story of miscegenation; Western colonialism through neoliberalism; and even André Singer’s definition of the Lula years as a contradictory form of politics, the “Lulismo.” But the epic is taken one step closer to reality. With side characters named after prominent politicians (Aécio, the ex-boyfriend, recalls Aécio Neves, the politician who started Roussef’s impeachment process; the obstetrician, Ciro, Lula’s minister and eternal presidential candidate Ciro Gomes), and a plot punctuated with elements that evoke the infamous “bancada BBB” (the conservative coalition who lobbies for the cattle industry, the weapon industry, and the Christian doctrine—the Bull, the Bullet, and the Bible), Good Manners is also a political satire. As in Araby, the apolitical “art cinema” is politicized from within.16

Ana, however, is not merely standing in for a generic ruling class, following the tradition of social realism. She embodies a relatively new player in Brazilian society, carrying the newfound status of rural oligarchy via high-tech agribusiness. While this social phenomenon has generated popular new genres in Brazilian music, such as the “sertanejo universitário” and the “feminejo,” its presence on film and television is still barely noticeable. Good Manners explores the affective world that surrounds her with specific accents, gestures, costumes, props, and devices, from the kitschy LED fireplace to the “sertanejo” workout videos she dancercises to.17

The paradox of a high-tech rural identity contaminates the film, flattening the mise-en-scène into a collage where artifice coexists with the real, and social life is haunted by a fantastic unreality. While Araby articulated the experience of living in a provisional state through the destabilization of the narrative utterance, Good Manners establishes a very specific sense of narration (Clara is a clear protagonist, and the viewer sees this new world through her eyes), place (it is undoubtedly a São Paulo film, including transitional shots that show some of the city’s better-known postcards) and time (Ana could not have existed in any other period of the country’s history, as the 2009 hits she dances to at home so eloquently put). But this precision is infused with both a regressive doll-house-like uncanniness and a futuristic polish, making clarity complicated: Clara will be replaced as sole protagonist in the second half of the film; São Paulo looks somewhat like a studio; and the 2009 radio hits contrast with the sci-fi gadgetry that blasts them, extending the shelf life of pop songs into fantasy. Singer’s definition of the “Lulismo” as “preservation and change, reproduction and overcoming, disappointment and hope all in one movement” finds a visual embodiment in the film’s temporal aesthetic paradox. The form stages the social conflict that pushes the drama.

But this elaborate treatment of surfaces hides that something altogether different, but not unrelated, happens underneath. It is, after all, a film about a gestational period—one that predates the narrative and pushes the characters toward the future. This new life develops just out of sight, to the melody of a music box passed from generation to generation. And while the baby seems to be growing perfectly healthy, Ana does not. The doctor tells her to completely cut out meat, giving Clara the new task of controlling her boss’s diet. Little by little, these new functions take more of the protagonist’s time, staging a process of contemporary class war that sociologist Jessé Souza calls “patrimony of availability”: by buying the time from the underprivileged, the dominant class pays for a double-maintenance of their own status, making sure not only that their social position will be preserved (instead of spending their own time with new chores, they pay someone else to do that for them), but also that the underprivileged will not move up the social ladder (the time they could spend creating a new future for themselves has just been purchased by someone else).18

Yet the promiscuity that dictates the Brazilian social contract does not eliminate the need for pleasure. The one night Clara decides to go out on her own to a nearby bar, she comes back to find Ana sniffing like an animal around the meatless fridge, in a somnambulistic state. When the two lock eyes, the boss walks up to the maid and seduces her, sealing the exploitative pact with a bite disguised as a kiss. Ana wakes up feeling better the following morning, with no recollection of the previous night, and no aftertaste of Clara’s blood.

From a realist observation of class dynamics to a fantasy of racialized, sexualized, and gendered complicity, Good Manners escalates into a thriller, while Clara tries to uncover the mystery that plagues her new “home.” After the two women have sex for the first time, Ana wakes up in the middle of the night. Her eyes are bright yellow, recalling the racialized double-consciousness in Michael Jackson’s and Joe Landis’ video for “Thriller” (1983). Clara follows her to a park and, from a distance, watches Ana twist the neck of a cat and eat its flesh. The next day, she will see how happy her boss has become after obliviously breaking her diet in such an unusual way. From that moment on, the maid starts dripping some of her own blood in the pasta sauce, and sees her lover and the baby—their baby—grow happier and stronger.19

In this pact between a self-sacrificing exploited class and a perpetrator in denial, Good Manners forges an image for the unknown future in their monstrous offspring: a werewolf child. Generated by an unconventional alliance between two women of different races, different classes, and different positions in the same economic relationship, the monster carries a subversive potential of rewriting history through narrative impurity, infiltrating the “art cinema” mode with the displacement of traditional genres. After the gory childbirth bursts opens the stitches of the Brazilian social contract, a musical interlude skips a few years to show Clara raising the child in her colorful shack after Ana’s death. The contradictory legacy of the Lula years is embodied by Joel (Miguel Lobo), a puppy-eyed white boy raised on a strictly vegetarian diet who needs to be chained by his black mother to the walls of a lovingly decorated dungeon when the moon is full. “Art cinema” is bastardized as social horror.

In the second half of the film, Dutra and Rojas create a post-racial daydream perversely held together by the iconography of slavery, where an Ikea-style child’s bedroom coexists with rough metal chains bolted to a cement panic room tucked behind heavy metal doors, like the hostage den in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Hebi no Michi (Serpent’s Path, 1998). The two—mother and son, but also present and past, care and violence, love and theft, black and white—seem to live in perfect harmony, in close contact with their wealthier neighbors, enacting the dream of the ethnically diverse family that is part of the foundational mythology of peaceful coexistence in Brazil. But Good Manners is not as interested in the picture-perfect representation of a utopian intersectional reverie as it is in the violence required to maintain it. When the moon is full, Joel’s white skin is covered by thick black hair—an actualization of his unspoken origin that Clara diligently shaves off before he leaves the house in the morning. On the one hand, this ritualization of white passing enacts what Nicole Fleetwood calls the “troubling affect of blackness” in visual culture, as the werewolf boy disrupts the indexicality of the realist contract with special effects and CGI. On the other, the mother-and-son ritual perpetuates the exploitative labor structure between Ana and Clara, now attached to black motherhood, as she raises Joel as a white-passing boy who will eventually turn against her nurturing and protection in a racist society. The social ascension promoted by the “Lulismo” generates a new kind of social conflict, which here takes place within the household: a revenge against equality.20

The film then performs a maneuver not unlike Araby: while the first 68 minutes are heavily anchored in Clara’s subjectivity, the second half moves towards Joel, as if the narrative and political roles that animated the origin story unfolded literally as a new form of life, a new protagonism—a monstrous class whose affects remain mysterious, but that won’t go on for long without reclaiming its repressed foundational violence. As in Araby, this bifurcation has political repercussions, but, instead of the dispersion of point of view, Dutra and Rojas chronicle this shift in protagonism as linear, sketching the following beat from the vantage point of the rest, reframing the gory love story as a captivity narrative.

For Joel to come of age in a world that insists on a mythology that erases its own violence, he must confront the prison of another fiction: the fairy tale Clara fabricated to provide him with a less-monstrous past. This rupture attacks the transparency of the fictive with self-reflexivity. When Ana tells Clara about the last time she used a gun, which turns out to be the story of how she got pregnant, the two women sit by the fake fireplace—the place of storytelling, which also marks the end of Araby—and Ana’s account is accompanied by hand drawings, mythologizing that origin. This emphasis on the vertiginous opacity of foundational narratives gains an epic quality in another self-reflexive puncture, in the second part: as a school assignment, Joel and his best friend, Maurício (Felipe Kenji), the son of a Hispanic immigrant, reenact the colonization of Brazil in a History class. The white-passing wolf-boy “murders” his indigenous-looking friend in front of the whole classroom, using a cardboard sword. “I … I am your brother,” Mauricio says in awe, while bleeding a red handkerchief; “Forgive me,” Joel says, to the enthusiastic applause of the teacher and their classmates. The rendering of colonization as pantomime at once creates a Brechtian distance and naturalizes the brutality, diluting it as a playful spectacle for the spectators—the classmates, but also the film’s audience.

But the potency of these two scenes is also a matter of form: as an underdeveloped perversion of a Disney blockbuster, Good Manners stages both the colonial domination and the agency of the colonized, which takes the form of what Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes called the Brazilian “creative incapacity of copying.” This formal inadequacy is politicized by the film and subsumed by the elasticity of the “art cinema” mode of practice. As established by Deleuze: “What is opposed to fiction is not the real; it is not the truth which is always that of the masters or colonizers; it is the story-telling function of the poor, in so far as it gives the false the power which makes it into a memory, a legend, a monster.” In Good Manners, this monster is not only Joel, nor the impure relationships that generated him, but the film itself, which hijacks the conventions of “art cinema” and the iconography of Hollywood, and turns it into a real reflection of the false, a “mirror image” of underdevelopment.21

This drive to counter the language of masters or colonizers with the story-telling function of the poor becomes crucial as Joel sets out to re-tell his own legend. In his journey to claim his own grotesque constitution, the boy makes his monstrous, flesh-eating vocation public in another setting that brings representation to the foreground: the school’s “festa junina”—a traditional annual festivity celebrated in rural pantomime, brought from Portugal to Brazil in the colonial period after the Catholic church had erased its pagan roots. In the film, this celebration undresses the rural iconography of the high-tech incarnation embodied by Ana in the first half, institutionalizing its conservative roots through its traditional costumes—whether it is Joel’s gendered hand-drawn mustache, or the teacher playing the moderating role of a priest. When the werewolf can no longer be contained by the boy, Clara uses Ana’s gun to shoot a blood-hungry Joel in the paw, repeating the hand-drawn sequence as the climax of a sacrificial thriller. Their offspring is wounded from birth.

In the horrific realism of Good Manners, the structures of the Brazilian past leak into the present, but the full moon pushes it towards an inevitably different future. Like Araby, the film best expresses the instability of its time in a political appropriation of the open-ended narrative arc, exposing this foundational allegory to an epilogue yet unwritten, which, at the same time, nods to the conventions of horror as a future-forward genre. After Joel attacks one of his classmates in front of the entire community, Clara locks herself with the wounded werewolf-child in their secret room, protecting her son from the angry fake-torch-wielding mob that tries to break in. Costumed as parodies of countryfolk, the unruly crowd restages the third act from James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), as Clara sings Ana’s music-box lullaby to the person to whom she gave life. As the blood-thirsty crowd bangs on their door, the mother frees the wounded creature from the chains she’d bolted to the wall herself, and the two hold hands, knowing that, whatever future it is that awaits outside that door, it is coming for both of them.

 

The Present Apocalypse

The latent brutality of the future travels at variable speed, attacking different communities with disproportional degrees of social legitimacy. For some, the cold dark future has always been here. In Adirley Queirós’ Once There Was Brasília, the instability of the documentary utterance is pushed to the foreground, taking the shape of an interplanetary time-travelling misadventure. The film folds the past and the future into an apocalyptic present to trace the epic narrative of a utopian capital conceived for a country that never really came to be. While, for Jameson, science fiction “renders our present historical by turning it into the past of a fantasized future,” Queirós appropriates the tools of the genre to heighten the experience of the present in order to document an invisibilized past. This excavation reveals the foundational violence of the construction of Brasília and all it represents, suggesting that the institutional collapse of the Temer years is not merely exceptional interval, but the modus operandi.22

Once there was not Brasília: between 1956 and 1960, a cloud of dirt hovered above the Brazilian Central Plateau for forty-one months. It was hard to tell what was underneath the floating red veil which lifted when the machines started working the virgin soil of the cerrado. At times, the silhouette under the cloud looked like an airplane; other times, it resembled a city. Brazil was “the country of the future” and, from the vantage point of the future, there is something Calvino-esque about the entire setting. Yet, at that time, Invisible Cities was still over a decade away from being published. Besides, there was nothing invisible about any of this. Since Juscelino Kubitschek won the presidential election with 36% of votes in 1955—a lean victory enforced by a preliminary military coup, warming up the seats that would soon be occupied by them for more than two decades after João Goulart’s deposition, in 1964, and that they have reclaimed through Bolsonaro—the plane-city had been thoroughly advertised. Its function was to fill that wide empty space in the middle of the continent with decades-old hopes to replace Brazil’s colonial past with the futuristic blueprints designed by Modernist architects Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer. The federal government enlisted people from across the country to build the nationalistic dream, staging the utopia of re-colonizing itself. The dust would eventually settle, and then there would be Brasília, the new capital of Brazil.

Once the construction was barely finished, it became clear that the nation’s foundational problems had been kept untouched. With the new center, came a new periphery—or rather, new satellites, as summarized by Jonas Staal:

The workers were expected to leave after the job was done. They built a model for a Brazil that they could never be part of. In this bizarre project of recolonization, their role within Kubitschek’s re-enactment of history was to play the slaves, once more. And it was in this role that the builders of Brasília became the first residents of the so-called ‘satellite cities’ that had developed from the intended temporary settlements, which the government actually intended to destroy immediately after Brasília was completed.23

Of Brasília’s many satellites, Ceilândia is the biggest and the most exemplary. Located 25 miles outside the capital, it is the result of an official campaign to “eradicate invasions” of the city’s Modernist grid by those hired to “play the slaves.” The “Campanha de Erradicação de Invasões” (CEI) was put in motion in 1970, displacing the workers to its outskirts. Ceilândia carries this perverse origin in its name: “CEI” + “lândia,” the land of the Campaign to Eradicate Invasions. With over 63% of people of color, it is the biggest city in the “administrative area” of Brasília, with a population of over 489,000—the 43rd biggest in the country.24

Already in 1967, at the height of both the military regime and of the Cinema Novo movement, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade documented the birth of Brasília alongside one of its satellite cities—Taguatinga—in the short essay-documentary Brasília – Contradições de uma Cidade Nova (Brasília – Contradictions of a New City). The film establishes an ambivalent dialectic between the clean-cut architecture and the structures of slavery pushed past the wingspan of the airplane-shaped city, combining elegant tracking shots reminiscent of Alain Resnais’ Toute la Mémoire du Monde (1957) with precarious interviews that do not bother to hide the crew or the equipment. In one of them, Andrade talks to an unidentified settler in front of her improvised shack. Made out of colorful wooden planks, the construction anticipates the design of Clara’s and Joel’s home in Good Manners, rooting what appeared to be a stylized poetic liberty in a tradition of creative negotiation with reality. The film counters high Modernism with this other aesthetic potency that remains unnamed, as if waiting for a filmmaker who knows the words required to define it.

Adirley Queirós was six in 1977, when his family migrated from inner Goiás to Ceilândia—in his words, the country’s “first territorial abortion”—after being evicted from the rural property where they lived and worked. He is seven-and-a-half months older than the city itself. While in The Edge of Democracy Petra Costa vocalizes an abstract parallel in the first-person narration between her age and the age of democracy in Brazil, the embodied coincidence of Queirós’ and Ceilândia’s lifetimes returns a concrete perspective to the utopian city. His films see Brasília not as a symbolic location, nor as an ethnographic curiosity, but as a place one inhabits—or, more precisely, a place one has been evicted from.25

With his three features—A Cidade é Uma Só? (Hood Movie: Is the City One Only?, 2011); Branco Sai, Preto Fica (White Out, Black In, 2014); and Once There Was Brasília—Queirós has created a body of work which is not only about Brasília; they are films against Brasília, forcing the capital to acknowledge the satellite city and its population as part of its history, reattaching its severed limbs. “Our potency lies necessarily in the fact that we are Brasília at the same time that we are not,” says Queirós. “Ceilândia is only strong because it is close to Brasília. It keeps both negating and affirming Brasília.” In his memoir, Kubitschek cites the French general Joseph Antoine René Joubert to poeticize the farce of the inclusive ethos behind the construction of the new capital: “one should not cut a knot they can untie.” The satellite populations survive as the historical knot Kubitschek and his successors were not willing to untie, and this systematic severance is literally embodied by the many characters in Queirós’ films played by untrained local actors who have been physically and psychologically mutilated or disabled by police violence (Marquim do Tropa; Shockito; among others). It is a scar that runs deep, for this severance means not only being excluded from a place, but from a national ideal.26

At the same time, Queirós’ affirmation of the strength in not being recalls Gomes’ landmark definition of the construction of identity within underdevelopment as “the rarified dialectic of not being and being someone else.” Excised from Brasília, Ceilândia ends up being synthetically Brazilian, and Queirós’ films, one of the country’s most accurate mirrors. The intersection between cinema and the national is condensed as metonymy, for the utopian capital represents more than a physical location (which is itself surreal enough), requiring an aesthetics that transcends documentation.27

How does one realistically capture the real wounds inflicted by a fictional country? This paradox between reality and fiction accompanies Brasília from its mythological inception. When reminiscing on her first visit to the new capital, Clarice Lispector borrowed Hollywood iconography to describe it as “a city coming out of a Western, with saloons and showdowns.” In his memoir, Kubitschek proudly quotes words attributed to the Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin: “My impression, Mr. President, is that I am landing on a different planet, which is not the Earth.” With its “satellites,” the “plane-city” is the materialization of a fiction; its reality overflows the realist paradigm of “art cinema.”28

In order to capture this experience of place, Queirós uses Rouchian strategies of collaboration to create not really an ethno-fiction but, as he self-reflexively calls it, “an ethnography of fiction.” An Afrofuturistic sci-fi set in an indexical 2016 being prepared for Michel Temer’s “Ponte para o Futuro” (a package of policies whose name translates as “Bridge to the Future”), Once There Was Brasília looks like it has crawled out of a Hollywood scrapyard to question the blind spots of both fiction and documentary through the story-telling desire of the poor. While this description seems similar to Joanna Page’s remarks on how the shantytown sci-fi film set in Estrellas (Stars, Federico León and Marcos Martínez, 2007) challenges “the linear notion of temporality that underpins accounts of a modernity rolled out from Europe to the colonies,” Queirós uses it to reclaim a historical linearity conveniently erased by the Modernist project of Brasília in its theater of self-colonization.29

In Experimental Ethnography, Catherine Russell advocates for the potential of the distorted “mirror-image” afforded by science fiction in ethnographic discourse: “allegory is a means of reinscribing ‘distance’ as a discursive practice that enables the critic to use history as a critical tool; science fiction is the narrativization of that distance in an imaginary form.” In Once There Was Brasília, this narrativization takes the form of what Robert Stam calls as “aesthetics of garbage,” recycling the leftovers of the rich (or the West) to weave “a history based on disjunctive scraps and fragments … emblematic of the fragmentary interwovenness of black life in Brazil.” This scrapyard includes both the high-tech dystopia of James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984)—the type of movie that colonizes/is decolonized by peripheral populations through television and piracy­—Jean Rouch’s practice of “shared anthropology,” and the “art cinema” as both a narrative and temporal model, as well as a mode of practice that has its own network of circulation (the film won a special jury mention at Locarno’s Signs of Life). They are all scraps that the film gets to steal, repurpose, and politicize.30

In Queirós’ previous feature, White Out, Black In, the time-travelling sci-fi genre allowed for a fictional revenge by black populations against the state, culminating with the destruction of the Congress in a series of hand-sketched explosions not unlike the foundational myth sequence in Good Manners. Fiction expressed the desire that reality could not afford to stage. In many ways, Once There Was Brasília feels like a sequel to the previous film. Shot entirely at night, it uses the framework of the genre to tell the story of WA4 (Wellington de Abreu), a prisoner who lives in a planet called Karpenstahll (a made-up word the film translates as Sol Nascente—Rising Sun—the name of another satellite city near Brasilia) and is sent to Earth to murder Juscelino Kubitschek, the president who built the capital. Accidentally, his spaceship takes him to 2016 instead, more precisely the day of Roussef’s impeachment, and he realizes there are more people like him in this equally desolate world that is present-day Brasília.

The clarity of the synopsis misrepresents the instability of the film’s diegesis, which radicalizes the rarefaction of the “art cinema” mode. Instead of focusing on a single protagonist, or even changing it halfway through—like Araby and Good MannersOnce There Was Brasília creates a world in which the very notion of protagonism is at peril, as the characters seem unable to drive the action forward. The hero’s journey is converted into a Beckettian wait, weaving a sci-fi out of a life in slow motion. The poetry of drifting associated with the mode of practice is exposed as a luxury; in this post-apocalyptic present, the state apparatus makes sure everybody stays permanently stuck in the “rest.”

In one of the film’s most striking shots—a single, three-minute take—Marquim (Marquim do Tropa), one of the Ceilândia avengers, is sitting on his wheelchair wearing a welding helmet in the lawn in front of the Congress, which is blocked by the police. The non-diegetic soundtrack plays a selection of speeches by different Congressmen voting for Roussef’s impeachment, which clash with the iconic Modernist buildings where the voting took place. Halfway through this long take, a helicopter flies overhead, and the bright spotlight used either for surveillance or a higher-budget audiovisual production (it’s inevitable to think of the drone shots of the same location in The Edge of Democracy and José Padilha’s Elite Squad 2 – The Enemy Within) projects the shadow of the film’s barebone crew into the scene, next to Marquim. In that moment, the viewer, the crew, and the character share a same space before the state apparatus, which protects the polis from the people. Considering the relentless attacks on cinema by the Bolsonaro administration since he became president in 2019, the shot provides an ominous origin story for the encounter between neoliberal necropolitics and the cultural war set forth by a new global extreme-right that measures its own success on levels of permanent social conflict.

Instead of preserving internal causality, Queirós’ long takes create a kind of eternal return, making the scenes immune to formal rhymes or narrative consequence. For Bordwell, “art cinema defines itself explicitly against the classical narrative mode, and especially against the cause-effect linkage of events.” Queirós creates a collection of sketches whose links have been erased, using the structure of interplanetary time-travelling to sabotage a linear understanding of time, in order to reclaim the causal relations of history. In its opening sequence, Andréia (Andréia Vieira) meets Marquim on an overpass (a bridge to the future?) and tells him about when she was arrested—a kind of internalized narration of backstory that is conventional in “art cinema.” However, the fluidity of the telling is briskly interrupted by a disconnected shot of Andréia standing by herself at a different part of the overpass, which is not situated as flashback, flashforward, memory, dream, or projection, nor reappears as a stylistic trait. About a minute later, another interruption occurs, this time showing the train that passes underneath. Rather than add to the narrative, these shots prevent the plot from moving forward, as if each scene was a document corroded by glitches, a broken record preserved with no metadata to help the viewer situate it in time. The conventional successivity of events is haunted by structures that prevent the hero’s journey from even getting started.31

On paper, WA4’s assigned mission might appear to fit the model of the wandering protagonist, his drifting expanded to an inter-satellite scale. His journey, however, is staged through confinement. Rather than the collection of landscapes provided by the travelogue format, Once There Was Brasília imprisons the camera with the character in the spaceship, documenting his routine as Stanley Kubrick did with the astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). This insistence on laborious repetition reaffirms this impression of living in a provisional state in which time and space have been severed from context, alluding to the violent disorientation that connects the transatlantic slave trade to the satellite cities. In the reverberation of the loud sounds made by that pile of junk flying around the wings of Brasília, Queirós finds a correlative to what Kodwo Eshun, following Toni Morrison and Paul Gilroy, suggested as the black Atlantic’s “real conditions of existential homelessness, alienation, dislocation, and dehumanization that philosophers like Nietzsche would later define as quintessentially modern.”32

In Once There Was Brasília, science fiction creates not only “a significant distortion of the present”—as Eshun points out in relation to Afrofuturism—but a realist correction in the representation of a present which is itself a dystopia. The paranoid indistinction between reality and science fiction staged as a metaphorical threat by the Temer occupation returns as self-parody in the Bolsonaro years: in a diplomacy exam prepared by the government, a hypothetical question asked for ideas on how to protect the Brazilian patrimony in case of an invasion of aliens coming from the planet of Beta Centauri. Reality reclaims science fiction as documentary.33

Near the end of the film, Temer’s voice comes through the speakers of the radio in the protagonist’s vehicle—in fact Queirós’ own Cocorico Monsieur Poulet (Jean Rouch, 1974), a crumbling prop used in both of his previous feature films—making its first public speech after Roussef’s deposition. “The uncertainty is over,” he says, but before he can finish the thought WA4 shoots the voice with intergalactic firecrackers, bursting the car into flames. The political origin of Afrofuturism resonates with the uncertain experience of the Temer years in how it “studies the appeals that black artists, musicians, critics, and writers have made to the future, in moments where any future was made difficult for them to imagine.” At the age of necropolitics, this uncertainty seems to be the only value that gets democratized. The reaction, however, is enacted by those who have always been forced to sleep with an eye open: if the film seems stuck in a “rest,” it is the silence of the preparation before the war.34

In Once There Was Brasília, confrontation remains a promise on the horizon. Once again, this hesitation drives the narrative towards an open end, in keeping with the speculative conventions of science fiction. In its last scene, the film returns to the overpass where it all started. Andréia and Marquim are still there, but now they are joined by WA4. Historical identity bends the rule of space and time; an alliance gets formed. The three keep guard, looking for invisible enemies they know far too well. When the menacing sounds reach a moment of rest, the trio looks at the camera, extending that off-screen conflict while the opacity of their faces inquire the viewer: “We are here. Where are you? And where have you been all along?”

 

Back to the Future

As the years of the Temer occupation have come to a close (at least for now), pushing him even further down into historical obscurity, the open-ended narratives of these three films seem to find an unfortunate closure in the relentless attacks on cinema by the Bolsonaro administration: Ancine, the national film agency, now has over 5,000 thousand projects at a standstill, awaiting funds that have already been approved, or stuck in different stages of a Kafkaesque bureaucracy. Cinemateca Brasileira, the largest film archive in Latin America, has been closed since January 2020, putting the audiovisual history of Brazil at risk. But even before the dystopia of the real, the aesthetic and political power of the rest is on how it sustains the reverberation of the final beat and dissolves the boundaries between questions and answers, inviting the viewer to hear the meaning and the beauty of the echo itself, guarding the possibility that the last blow is also the first beat of a new lively rhythm that is yet to come.35

 

Notes

  1. For more on this topic, see Carlos Alberto Mattos, “O Golpe no Cinema,” Carta Maior, May 17, 2018, https://www.cartamaior.com.br/?/Editoria/Cinema/O-golpe-no-cinema/59/40269 accessed June 13, 2019; and Eduardo Escorel, “Democracia Corrompida,” Piauí, June 2019, https://piaui.folha.uol.com.br/materia/democracia-corrompida/ accessed March 16, 2020.
  2. In 2009, 99% of the resources distributed by Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual—the main federal fund for audiovisual production in Brazil—were still concentrated in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In 2016, that near-exclusivity of (half of) the Southeast had been reduced from 99% to 63%. Official data from “ANCINE destaca descentralização do fomento ao audiovisual em dois importantes eventos do setor,” Agência Nacional do Cinema, August 2017, https://www.ancine.gov.br/pt-br/sala-imprensa/noticias/ancine-destaca-descentraliza-o-do-fomento-ao-audiovisual-em-dois-importantes accessed June 13, 2019. My translation from original Portuguese. According to DataFolha, at the end of Temer’s presidential term, the number of Brazilians who qualified his administration as “good” or “excellent” oscillated between 3-7%. “Após Reprovação Recorde, Temer Encerra Governo com Rejeição em Queda, Diz DataFolha,” Folha de S. Paulo, December 27, 2018, https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2018/12/apos-reprovacao-recorde-temer-encerra-governo-com-rejeicao-em-queda.shtml accessed June 13, 2019. For the current state of Brazilian film production, see Elaine Guerini, “Brazil’s Industry Faces an Uncertain Future,” Screen Daily, February 21, 2020, https://www.screendaily.com/features/brazils-film-industry-faces-an-uncertain-future/5147492.article accessed November 23, 2020.
  3. Lisa Shaw and Stephanie Dennison, Brazilian National Cinema, Routledge, London; New York 2014, p. 3. For “allegory” see Fredric Jameson, “Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,” Social Text 15 (Fall 1986), pp. 65-88 and, for a Brazilian perspective, Ismail Xavier, “Historical Allegory,” in A Companion to Film Theory, Blackwell, Malden; Oxford; Carlton, 2004, pp. 333-62.
  4. Although the timeline was accessible at “Linha do Tempo,” Ancine, undated publication https://www.ancine.gov.br/pt-br/timeline accessed May 14, 2019, it has since then been erased from the website.
  5. In this specific timeframe, Brazilian cinema averaged over 200 feature films per year with at least one theatrical screening in the country. For “art cinema,” see David Bordwell, “The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice,” Film Criticism, Allegheny, Vol. 4, No. 1, Fall 1979, pp. 56-64. The term “occupation” has many antecedents in history, but here it also echoes Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes’ foundational definition of Brazilian cinema as a struggle between the “occupant” (ocupante) and the “occupied” (ocupado), terms he found more fitting to the country’s reality than “colonizer” and “colonized,” for they were more mobile and circumstantial. Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes, “Cinema: Trajectory Within Underdevelopment,” in Brazilian Cinema, Associated University Presses, Rutherford; London, 1982, p. 245.
  6. In its original festival version, starting with its premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), the filmmakers used Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here in the Morning” instead of “Blues Run the Game,” but eventually changed the track for the theatrical release. For a critical account of this original version, see Fábio Andrade, “For the Sake of the Song,” fabioandrade.me, January 31, 2018, https://wp.nyu.edu/fabioandrade/2018/01/31/araby-2017-affonso-uchoa-joao-dumans/ accessed June 14, 2019.
  7. Bordwell, 1979, p. 59.
  8. Bordwell, 1979, p. 58.
  9. Bordwell, 1979, p. 62. For hyperrealism, see Ivone Margulies, Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman’s Hyperrealist Everyday, Duke University Press, Durham, 1996.
  10. Bordwell, 1979, p. 60.
  11. Bordwell, 1979, p. 58.
  12. Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: the Distribution of the Sensible, Continuum, London; New York, 2004, p. 12.
  13. Édouard Glissant, “For Opacity,” in Poetics of Relation, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1997, p. 190.
  14. Edgardo Dieleke, “The Return of the Natural: Landscape, Nature and the Place of Fiction,” in New Argentine and Brazilian Cinema: Reality Effects, edited by Jens Andermann and Álvaro Fernández Bravo, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2013, p. 60. Limite is a 1931 film directed by Mario Peixoto, which has been a source of contention in Brazilian film historiography even during the decades it was considered to be lost. Glauber Rocha called the film “the product of a decadent bourgeois intellectual” both before and after having seen the film. On a Facebook comment from June 2, 2019, film historian Tom Gunning called it “one of the great films of experimental narrative!” In 2016, the Association of Brazilian Film Critics (ABRACCINE) voted it the best Brazilian film of all time. For the full list, see 100 Melhores Filmes Brasileiros, edited by Paulo Henrique Silva, Letramento, Belo Horizonte, 2015.
  15. Bordwell, 1979, p. 59.
  16. Gilberto Freyre, The Master and the Slaves (Casa-Grande and Senzala): A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilization, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1986. André Singer defines the “Lulismo” as a politics of contradiction, of “preservation and change, reproduction and overcoming, disappointment and hope all in one movement” that “did not intend to confront the ruling classes. But by reducing poverty, it did so unintentionally.” For “Lulismo,” read André Singer, Os Sentidos do Lulismo: Reforma Gradual e Pacto Conservador, Companhia das Letras, São Paulo, 2012 (my translation from original Portuguese), and André Singer, “From a Rooseveltian Dream to the Nightmare of Parliamentary Coup,” in The Brazilian Left in the 21st Century: Conflict and Conciliation in Peripheral Capitalism, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2019, pp. 45-68.
  17. “Sertanejo universitário” translates as “college country music,” following the expansion of the grid of public universities during the Lula and Roussef administrations. “Feminejo” is used to describe female country singers who benefited from processes of gendered empowerment, allowing them to break through what has traditionally been a male-dominated genre.
  18. Jessé Souza, A Elite do Atraso: da Escravidão à Lava Jato, Leya, Rio de Janeiro, 2017, e-book. My translation from original Portuguese.
  19. For a reading of “Thriller” as a racialized and sexualized fable that is in many ways applicable to Good Manners, read Peter Childs, “Pop Video: Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and ‘Race’,” in Texts: Contemporary Cultural Texts and Critical Approaches, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2006, pp. 40-8.
  20. Nicole Fleetwood, Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2011, p. 6.
  21. Gomes, 1982, p. 245. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1989, p. 150.
  22. Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions, Verso, London, 2005, p. 345.
  23. Jonas Staal, Nosso Lar, Brasília: Spiritism, Modernism, Architecture = Nosso Lar, Brasília: Espiritismo, Modernismo, Arquitetura, Capacete; Jap Sam Books, Rio de Janeiro; São Paulo, p. 54.
  24. Official data as reprinted by news portal G1, in “Com 489 mil habitantes, Ceilândia seria 43ª cidade mais populosa do país,” G1, January 2016, http://g1.globo.com/distrito-federal/noticia/2016/01/com-489-mil-habitantes-ceilandia-seria-43-cidade-mais-populosa-do-pais.html. Accessed June 14, 2019. For a history of the beginnings of Ceilândia, see Adirley Queirós’ A Cidade É Uma Só? (Hood Movie: Is the City Only One?, 2011).
  25. Interview with Adirley Queirós by Fábio Andrade; Filipe Furtado; Juliano Gomes; Raul Arthuso; Victor Guimarães, “Contradição Permanente,” Cinética, August 2105, republished as “Permanent Contradiction,” fabioandrade.me, January 10, 2019, https://wp.nyu.edu/fabioandrade/2019/01/10/permanent-contradiction-a-conversation-with-adirley-queiros/ accessed June 12, 2019.
  26. Juscelino Kubitschek, Por Que Construí Brasília, Senado Federal, Brasília, 2000, p. 2. My translation from original Portuguese. For a more direct history of how police violence has disabled a large number of Ceilândia’s citizens, see Adirley Queirós’ White Out, Black In.
  27. Uncredited author, “Cineasta premiado mostrou Ceilândia para o Brasil e para o mundo,” Correio Braziliense, March 2015, http://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/app/noticia/cidades/2015/03/27/interna_cidadesdf,477249/cineasta-premiado-mostrou-ceilandia-para-o-brasil-e-para-o-mundo.shtml accessed June 14, 2019. My translation from original Portuguese. Gomes, 1982, p. 245.
  28. Clarice Lispector, A Descoberta do Mundo, Nova Fronteira, Rio de Janeiro, 1984, p. 487. My translation from original Portuguese. Kubitschek, 2000, p. 10.
  29. Adirley Queirós, Otávio Barros, “Adirley Queirós: Direitos Humanos é a Possibilidade de Afeto Entre as Pessoas,” Ponte, October 6, 2018 https://ponte.org/adirley-queiros-direitos-humanos-e-a-possibilidade-de-afeto-entre-as-pessoas/ accessed June 12, 2019. My translation from original Portuguese. Joanna Page, “Polytemporality in Argentine Science Fiction Film: A Critique of the Homogeneous Time of Historicism and Modernity,” Simultaneous Worlds: Global Science Fiction Cinema, edited by Jennifer L. Feeley and Sarah Ann Wells, University of Minnessota Press, Minneapolis, 2015, p. 140.
  30. Catherine Russell, Experimental Ethnography: the Work of Film in the Age of Video, Duke University Press, Durham, 1999, p. 24. Robert Stam, “Palimpsestic Aesthetics: A Meditation on Hybridity and Garbage” in Performing Hybridity, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1999, p. 70.
  31. Bordwell, 1979, 57.
  32. Kodwo Eshun, “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” in CR: The New Centennial Review, Volume 3, no. 2, Summer 2003, p. 288.
  33. Matheus Leão, “Curso do Itamaraty Pergunta como Proceder em Caso de Invasão Alienígena,” G1, July 3, 2019, https://g1.globo.com/politica/blog/matheus-leitao/post/2019/07/03/curso-do-itamaraty-pergunta-como-proceder-em-caso-de-invasao-de-alienigenas.ghtml accessed July 3, 2019. My translation from original Portuguese. Eshun, 2003, p. 290.
  34. Eshun, 2003, 294. For “necropolitics,” read Achilles Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” Public Culture, vol. 15, no. 1, Winter, 2003, 11-40.
  35. Aléxia Souza, “Ancine tem 5 mil projetos parados desde 2018,” CBN, March 4, 2020, https://cbn.globoradio.globo.com/media/audio/293411/ancine-tem-cinco-mil-projetos-parados-desde-2018.htm accessed March 17, 2020. For the Cinemateca Brasileira crisis, see Rafael de Luna, “The current crisis,” Arturita, undated, https://arturita.net/the-current-crisis/ accessed November 23, 2020.