May 10, 2018

Joaquim Pedro de Andrade and Brazil’s Cinema Novo Movement

Screening May 12- 25, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s films are situated within Brazil’s Cinema Novo movement, known for its honest portrayal of life inside the country from the 1950s through the 1970s.

The name Cinema Novo was first ascribed by critics and scholars and there is no overarching style or aesthetic among these works, though most, it can be said, share low budget production, Italian neorealist, French New Wave and literary influences and a distinctly left-wing, anti-colonialist worldview. Some of the movement’s most famous practitioners included Glauber Rocha, who famously said “a camera in the hand, an idea in the head”; Alex Viany; Arnaldo Jabor; Carlos Diegues; David Neves; Leon Hirszman; Mário Carneiro; Paulo César Saranceni; Ruy Guerra; and Nelson Pereira dos Santos, who died last month.

The reign of Cinema Novo is divided into three phases—the first of which included straightforward, typically rural narratives about class conflict, presented in sober terms. Many of the earlier films also celebrated Brazilian nationalism and culture, as with de Andrade’s Garrincha: Hero of the Jungle, a lauded documentary about the famed soccer star.

In the second phase, which began as the country was taken over by a military coup under Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, the films began to adopt a sharper, more critical tone, and some of its filmmakers, including de Andrade and Rocha, were jailed for protesting the regime. de Andrade’s The Conspirators is often read as his response to these events.  

In its third and final phase, Cinema Novo became synonymous with Tropicalism, the musical movement made famous by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, with kitschier, color-saturated results, as evidenced clearly in de Andrade’s Macunaima and Conjugal Warfare, which appealed to a wider audience and brought elements of absurd humor into the mix.

By 1977, the movement had been absorbed by the larger Brazilian film industry, but the Films of Joaquim Pedro de Andrade series can be seen as both the extraordinarily eclectic body of work from a single filmmaker and an important historical record of the Cinema Novo movement’s history as it evolved over the span of two influential decades.