About Necropoetics and Black Cinema: Afro-Brazilian directors from the state of Minas Gerais are making history as the new voices of Brazilian film

Capa Cinema Mineiro
Capa Cinema Mineiro

Capa - Cinema Mineiro

Note from BW of Brazil: The topic of today’s post is a theme that this blog has been exploring for some time and I have to say, the deeper you dig into this issue, the more absurd it becomes. I speak of the Brazilian film industry and the hidden face of black cinema that has made such dynamic contributions to it even as most Brazilians have never heard of them. When I pointed out Brazil’s fear of black movies back in 2014, I was just scratching the surface of this subject. That year, I pondered how two black Brazilian women filmmakers could be recognized for their work at one of the most prestigious film events in the world, the Cannes Film Festival, but still be ignored at home. Well, to be quite honest, those articles were just the tip of the iceberg. That’s because when you dig deeper, you a find plethora of talented black filmmakers, some of whom have been honored by numerous  international film festivals. But the only reason that I know about  them is because I want to know about them and I think that my readers may be interested in knowing of their existence. But when will the day come when these films will be shown in theaters across Brazil so that Brazilians themselves, particularly black Brazilians, can discover the wonderful and important stories being told on the big screen by these visionaries that Brazil’s film industry continues to ignore? 

Ela - Rapsodia

About Necropoetics and Black Cinema with a Minas Gerais accent

Minas Gerais black cinema is making history. Despite the transformative power of black narratives in the audiovisual, the tripod racism, machismo and capitalism remains a major obstacle to the effective writing of another story

By Viviane Pistache*

The conciliation between black-theme and black-life in a subject cinema and concomitant black authorship was inaugurated by Zózimo Bulbul with the emblematic short film Alma no Olho (1973), directed by Antunes Filho and starring Zózimo, with the leftovers of the feature length Compasso de Espera (1973). Cinema was always expensive and ours began to lurk, in the gaps, in the flaps that fell from the moviola. Thus black cinema was born with taste of reinvention and reutilization, like feijoada or pastel de angu. Since Zózimo, black cinema has known the difficulties and challenges of producing long films of fiction. After Zózimo Bulbul came the mineiro (Minas Gerais native) Joel Zito Araújo, Jeferson De, the mineiro Glenda Nicácio, and the mineiros André Novais, Gabriel Martins. Yes, one counts on their fingers the number of black directors who have ever made feature length black films of fiction.

Andre Novais Oliveira - Gabriel Martins
Filmmakers André Novais and Gabriel Martins

More than ever we need to talk about the Genesis manifesto of Black Brazilian Cinema or Dogma Feijoada, led by Jeferson De in 2000, which among the seven prerogatives says about the urgency of making films directed and carried out by black people and the abolition of stories and characters coined in stereotypes. But to overcome A Negação do Brasil (Denying Brazil book/documentary) thesis, sagely diagnosed by Joel Zito Araújo in 2000, black filmmakers need access to funding.

Even though they are only a tiny percentage, these narratives have bothered and questioned the status quo, as was seen at the Festival de Brasília in 2017 in the face of the controversy caused by the film Vazante by director Daniele Thomas that amplified the few black voices at the event. As black filmmaker Viviane Ferreira asked: Why did the presence of black people in the 50th edition of the Festival de Brasília cause more discomfort than our historical absence from the distribution circuit of resources, prestige and audiovisual status?

A positive balance of the festival in Brasília was the denunciation of absences, invisibilities and the celebration of the very few young blacks who popped the bubble, such as the Mineiro (Minas Gerais native) Glenda Nicácio who shares the direction of her feature films with Ary Rosa. When making films in the interior of Bahia, thus inventing a “baianeiro” (mix of states Minas Gerais and Bahia) cinema, Glenda brings the debate not only to the black feminist direction, but also updates the discussion of regional inequalities. Cinema has an accent. And this obvious ululation comes to the fore with Minas Gerais black cinema.

Filhas do Vento (2005), the first feature of fiction directed by Joel Zito, from Nanuque, Minas Gerais, inaugurates the subject matter cinema and black authorship with a Mineiro accent. The plot takes place in Lavras Novas, a city near Ouro Preto. It is a story of escape and reconciliation with Minas Gerais roots, a healing attempt of the pains of childhood haunted by the slave and patriarchal past.

André Novais and Gabriel Martins have raised black Minas Gerais cinema to its maximum potential. Gabriel Martins makes in Rapsódia para um homem negro (rhapsody for a black man) (2015) a melodic encounter between the black music of Minas Gerais and the black Minas Gerais cinema. In Belo Horizonte there is a music festival called IMUNE, Instante da Música Mineira Negra. Minas Gerais cinema also lives that IMUNE moment of a cinema that begins with M of movie and movement that takes Minas to the world. André Novais’ films have already been selected at more than 200 festivals in Brazil and around the world such as the Locarno Festival (with Temporada), the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes (with Pouco mais de um mês in 2013 and Quintal in 2015), International Film Festival Rotterdam, FID Marseille, Indie Lisboa, BAFICI, Cartagena Festival, Los Angeles Brazillian Film Festival, Festival de Cinema de Brasília and Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes, winning more than 60 awards, such as the Special Jury Mention in Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes (For Pouco mais de um mês, Special Jury Prize at BAFICI and the awards for Best Film by the Official Jury at the XI Semana dos Realizadores (XI Week of the Directors) of Rio de Janeiro, the XI Panorama Coisa de Cinema de Salvador (XI Panorama Thing of Cinema) of Salvador and the III Olhar de Cinema of Curitiba (for Ela volta na quinta) and awards for Best Feature Film, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction at the 51st Festival de Brasília do Cinema Brasileiro (Brasilia Festival of Brazilian Cinema) (For Temporada). Gabriel Martins is in the 2019 edition of the Rotterdam Festival in the Netherlands for the premiere of his film No Coração do Mundo co-directed with Maurílio Martins.

The feature length Ilha and Temporada and the medium-length Vaga Carne are the three productions with black direction most celebrated in the first two days of the 22nd. Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes, the first big annual window of Brazilian cinema. Each in its own way, thematizes necropolitics and necropoetry. Necropolitics is a concept coined by Cameroonian philosopher and political theorist Achile Mbembe for the policies and institutions that dictate who should live or die. The power to determine life and death by providing the political status of some subjects and denying the political status of others. It tells about intentionality and meticulous rationality in the control and extermination of certain bodies. Such a concept has been fundamental in the debate over all forms of genocide to which the black population has been subjected. And this includes the denial of blackness in cinema.

Hence, the possibility of thinking of necropoetics. The neologism was created by Juliano Gomes in the debate about the film Vaga Carne at the Mostra de Tiradentes. Julian spoke about the relationship between samba, poetry and death as forms of resistance; citing samba musician Nelson Cavaquinho and his intimacy with death to bring lyricism to the harsh survival. And the medium-length Vaga Carne brings the (un)incarnated voice, the entity voice, ethereal body from a place in limbo, in an intermediate state between life and death.

The film Ilha (Island) in turn, has a thing of é doce morrer no mar (it’s sweet to die in the sea) after the torpor that takes the body of a black and masculine body whose life was to swim against the current and against death until embracing it. Ilha has the blue of Moonlight.  And just as the moon embraces the star, it also sheds its light on the skin of the black boys so that the blue of their souls radiates. Ilha brings the latent argument that every black boy needs the sea so that his soul can shine incontestably blue. Thus, every black boy-man deserves an ocean of opportunities to be in the middle of the world and to be able to navigate at least with confidence. Ilha brings several faces of the homem negro (black man) who wears a muscular mask but only needs a good dish of affection and citizenship. In this poetic portrait of black masculinities, Ilha offers us a chance to get out of the black man, phallocentric heteronormative cliché, thus criticizing black hyper-sexuality. Deservedly, Ilha took the awards for best screenplay and best actor for Aldri Anunciação at the Festival de Brasília in 2018. Thus, Glenda Nicácio militates for a regional cinema that celebrates the blackness from the fraternity of the Minas Gerais and Bahia accents with the award-winning Café com Canela (2017) and Ilha (2018).

Temporada brings a powerful chronicle of vida preta (black life) in the periphery that is surrounded by the threat of death in its modern face called epidemics such as dengue, zika, chikungunya, among others. Director André Novais said in the debate on the film in the 22nd. Mostra de Tiradentes that he was once a health worker and the film is a re-reading of the precariousness of the world of work from his own experience. The feature’s protagonist Juliana masterfully incarnated by actress Grace Passô who won the award for best actress at the last festival in Brasília and in Locarno in Italy.  It is a sensitive look at the solidão da mulher negra (loneliness of the black woman) who seeks paths for freedom and solitude. A melodrama that knows how to laugh at exaggeration and the unexpected, that brings oneiric and science fiction to make fantastic realism, that I respectfully asked permission to enter the houses of the periphery to talk about life and death.

Minas Gerais cinema is weaving the poetics of death to stress privileges and debate increasingly threatened access. While revering the Minas ancestry, it satirizes the (im)possible black bet on the liberal rise in the audio-visual.  In this sense, it is worth remembering the impact of the speech of the host Oprah Winfrey in the delivery ceremony of the Golden Globe, when she unmasked the gaps and powers in a discourse on black representation beyond the entertainment industry. Her speech sounded so necessary that quickly Oprah was singled out as a possible panacea to heal the ailments of America’s shattered democracy. Thus, a black woman, who has made a career in the entertainment industry, while denouncing racial and gender inequalities in audiovisual representation, has also occupied a complex role as a compass for an aimless nation. Despite the discomfort of knowing that the garment of the system is a straitjacket with a neoliberal print; within the oppressive margins, it may be possible to consider that Oprah and a group of black artists and directors are helping them to shred some boundaries, coloring gender and race ideological currents of entertainment that are hegemonically white and male.

If on the one hand it is symptomatic of these times the notion that we must adapt to the changing world, and not change the world in which we live; on the other hand, the few black and Mineiro names of the current Brazilian feature film scene call us to look at the roles of political, economic, and social structures to confront the logic of necropoly. Although we are proud of this cinema negro mineiro (black cinema of Minas Gerais) that has a wing in the word; we sought the third bank of the river.

Minas Gerais black cinema is making history. Despite the transformative power of black narratives in the audiovisual, tripod racism, machismo and capitalism remains a major obstacle to the effective writing of another story. Indeed, even if the cultural industry expropriates artistic doing to reduce it to mere commercial products, powerful messages can eventually infiltrate the loopholes of the capitalist machinery and counter the currents that reify racist and sexist values. And since protagonism is not given, it must be taken. This has also been the strategy of black men and women filmmakers of Minas Gerais who have highlighted how racist and macho our production is that insists on the fallacy of accent neutrality.

*Viviane Pistache is a psychologist, screenwriter and film critic. A black woman from Minas Gerais with a obsession of having faith in life

 Source: Revista Fórum

About Marques Travae 3225 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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