Note from BW of Brazil: Welcome to 2016 and welcome back to Black Women of Brazil! It’s great to know that readers have the interest and are taking the time to visit perhaps the only blog written in English about Brazil specifically with a focus on black women and racial issues. And to start off a brand new year, we have an excellent piece approaching the subject of what can be called ‘Cinema Negro’, or Black Cinema.
As we’ve seen and discussed in past posts, the participation of black women in Brazilian film is almost none, representing only 4.4% of the main casts of Brazilian film releases between 2002 and 2012. A far cry from their representation in Brazil of which they represent half of the country’s female population. But there is some light at the end of this dark tunnel as in the past few years we’ve seen the rise of number of black women short film directors making their presence felt and challenging the Eurocentric aesthetic of Brazilian film making. It’s great to know that our blog has already presented most of the female film directors mentioned in today’s article in previous posts. We will continue to follow their groundbreaking work in the future.
Women playing a leading role in Brazil’s Black Cinema, says researcher
By Isabela Vieira of Agência Brasil
With four crowded sessions at the prestigious Cinema Odeon – including the first capacity for 600 people after renovation of the house, in downtown Rio de Janeiro – the film K’bela, by Yasmin Thainá, is one of the most important representatives of a wave of productions made by black filmmakers who have captured the world in 2015. They are narratives that have black women in the direction, production and as protagonists in a land where they are accustomed to being stereotyped.
Research by the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), done in 2014, already pointed to the under-representation of black women in national cinema. For the professor of the Federal Institute of Rio de Janeiro (IFRJ) and Ph.D in history, Janaína Oliveira, K’bela overcame this logic in 2015.
Coordinator of the Fórum Itinerante de Cinema Negro (Itinerant Forum of Black Cinema or Ficine), a space for training and reflection on the production of black filmmakers, Janaína says K’bela is not alone.
According to the researcher, who in 2015 circulated to festivals in countries like Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Cuba discussing and disseminating these productions, films realized by black Brazilian women filmmakers achieved international quality and are already a reference, though little known at home.
The teacher, who for a few years has worked in partnership with the Pan African Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou (Fespaco), the largest of the entire continent, received Agência Brasil in her apartment in Santa Teresa, to discuss the impact of these Brazilian productions. For her, Cinema Negra (Black Cinema) is a political field of a struggle for representation and deconstruction of stereotypes.
Read the main stretches of the interview:
Agência Brasil: What is Cinema Negra?
Janaína Oliveira: What I’ve been saying, and people get upset, is that you cannot define black cinema. It is a political field, of the struggle for representation, of deconstructing stereotypes, making more complex representations, amplification of representations in various spaces. There are those who defined it, I didn’t. Defining is limiting. Cinema Negro has a whole history that begins in the United States, passes through the diáspora negra (black diaspora), goes through several places. For example, today, in addition to samba, Carnival and futebol, we have the stereotype of violence in the favela present. [The film] Cidade de Deus (City of God) [set in a favela (slum) and with black protagonists] is clearly not Cinema Negro. The issue is: is it no use doing counter-hegemonic images that deconstruct the stereotype in a large movie studio or a major network? It’s difficult.
Agência Brasil: What was your first experience with this format?
Janaína: I’ve always loved cinema and African cinema. The first African film I saw was in the Film Festival of Rio [de Janeiro], Vida sobre a Terra (Life on Earth, 1998), by Abderrahmane Sissako [director, writer and director from Mauritania, author of Timbuktu, a feature film that competed for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2014 and the award at the Cannes Film Festival the same year].
Agência Brasil: Who is producing Cinema Negro in Brazil today?
Janaína: Before it is important to clarify that we are talking about short films, speaking of feature films is another thing, there are very few blacks who’ve made feature-length films of fiction in the new generation, moreover, is the provocation. In this universe where people actually produce – either with the help of edicts, whether in universities – which we have, in films of expression, which reached technical and quality level are the films made by black women. And there are several.
Agência Brasil: Which ones?
Janaína: There are the productions of Renata Martins, who made Aquém das Nuvens and is now doing a phenomenal webseries, Empoderadas (empowered women), which speaks only of black women, there’s Juliana Vicente, who did Cores e botas and Minas do Rap and is producing a film about the (rap group) Racionais MCs. There is Viviane Ferreira, who did Dia de Jerusa, which went to [the festival] Cannes. There is a girl who is in the United States, Eliciana Nascimento, author of O tempo dos Orixás, there’s Everlaine Morais, from (the state of) Sergipe, who made two very good short films and will study cinema in Cuba. And from Tela Preta (Black Screen) [a collective of black filmmakers connected to the Federal University of Recôncavo of Bahia (UFRB)], Larissa Fulana de Tal, who made Lápis de Cor and just released Cinzas. In Rio, the name of the moment is Yasmin Thayná, who’s blowing up with K’bela. A great film in the technical sense and references. Do you want more?
Agência Brasil: So there have been more films with black aesthetic and culture in recent years?
Janaína: Over the past decade we have become accustomed to seeing more blacks on the screens doing something. But it’s occasionally, doing some things. We’re still locked into a universe of stereotype. In which there is not only the hoodlum, the cafetão (pimp), but the lack of complexity of the characters. Love relationships, life’s dilemmas, where are these things? They are not on the screens.
Agência Brasil: What’s new in Brazilian productions that you have taken to festivals?
Janaína: A nice thing is that in this connection to the African continent, we are reawakening debates. In Mozambique, for example, we have the return of the videos on capillary transition (from cabelo alisado – straightened hair – to cabelo crespo – kinky/curly hair, natural) has been helping women and girls from there. These products, especially films available on YouTube, are made by meninas negras brasileiras (black Brazilian girls). It’s almost a solidarity network. The audiovisual has the capability to do that.
Agência Brasil: How can the demand for this content be increased in Brazil?
Janaína: The formation of the education is a key issue. The films need to be seen. But showing films [in movie theaters or television] is not enough, if it were, the problem was solved. People don’t see them because they don’t like them and changing taste takes a long time. While you have a novela (soap opera) awarded like Lado a Lado, on Rede Globo TV [which won the International Emmy in 2013], going on a 6pm, in 50 years the main TV station in the country, you have a series like Sexo e as Negas in prime time with strong commercial divulgation and circulation.
Agência Brasil: But it’s necessary to start stimulating, right?
Janaína: We still live in a context of images that we need to deconstruct. Cinema is an industry, a money industry that builds images that they want to be seen. We have a Hollywood movie standard, that that you expect to see. And this standard repeats the structures of a Eurocentric world where the place of black and white people is very clearly divided. So what you see, in general, are black men and women in subservient situations, never highlighted, always with negative attributes. This is the world of colonization of culture, taste, aesthetics. It’s the same reason the people to say: a coisa está preta (the thing is black) when the situation is negative, why is denegrir (to tarnish/darken) a bad thing? Why is using “a coisa fica preta” (the thing got black) is bad? We did not invent it, we reproduce it and it’s on screen. The cinema that exists is a Eurocentric cinema that determines aesthetic, narrative, rhythm and musical standards. If it’s not, people don’t like it. Successful Brazilian films such as Tropa de Elite, follow this standard.
Agência Brasil: What needs to be done?
Janaína: Form distribution networks of these films. If possible, along with debates. It goes beyond the exhibition. The new images have to come to the classrooms, create adherence. Besides more edicts, more partnerships and state presence, which facilitates the production and circulation.
Source: Agência Brasil