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Film's 'New Barbarians.'

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WE are the new barbarians of world cinema,'' proclaims Brazilian director Carlos Diegues. Barbarians unencumbered by the chains of a long movie tradition, nurtured by a rich popular culture, and therefore in a position to address a problem whose solution has so far eluded most filmmakers.

Diegues, director of the international film hit ''Bye-Bye Brazil,'' defines that problem as ''making mass-market films that are also artistically valid and stylistically innovative.''

He feels that few good films are being made anywhere now:''Cinema is caught between Hollywood's empty 'gadget' movies and the contemplative depression of films made by European intellectuals.'' Brazilians will break this bind, he says , ''because we must invent everything. We're not imprisoned by large budgets and studio systems like Hollywood, or by a commitment to high culture and correct ideological lines like Europeans.''

''Soon Brazilian films will be visionary and popular, giving back zest to a cinema in which art and the people won't be enemies.''

Some Brazilian directors would disagree with Diegues's optimistic assessment. But most observers see the country's cinema entering a period of renewal.

They credit this renewal, in part, to the gradual liberalization of the military regime that has ruled Brazil since 1964 - a development known as the apertura (opening, or political liberalization). The limits of apertura are unclear and constantly shifting, and repression still lurks in the background, but there's no doubt that artistic freedom has increased since the process started in 1977-78.

As direct political limitations have faded, however, economic limitations have increased. Brazil's deepening economic crisis makes independent financing difficult to obtain. This leaves Embrafilme, the government-dominated national film corporation, as the major source of funds for most filmmakers.

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