A Revolution of the Imagination

Written by Sasja Koetsier

Brazil’s new cinema has energy, courage, urgency and colour. The recent wave of Afro-Brazilian filmmakers present themselves in the IFFR Perspectives programme Soul in the Eye – a title that pays homage to the movement’s godfather.

“The big revolution of Brazilian cinema today”, scoffs the black Brazilian film student Wineries, “is a film where a guy takes a car and drives it down an avenue shouting ‘Out with Temer’ while drinking a beer.” That car, as much as the ubiquitous aversion for the Brazilian president who was still in office at the time, both signal the character’s privilege. The real political struggle in Quantos eram pra ta? is fought on a daily basis by Wineries and his two friends on campus where they belong to the small group of non-white students.

In this short film, corrupt president Temer’s succession by the openly hateful Bolsonaro might still be unimaginable, but the possibility perhaps exists because the majority of the country’s population consists of Afro-Brazilians who don’t feel represented in politics anyway.

Ready to shake up Brazilian cinema

The lack of political representation is mirrored by the lack of representation in the ‘Brazilian cinema of today’, or at least that part of Brazilian film that reaches the cinemas. Of course films that focus on the lives and loves of black Brazilians are being made, but their makers mostly operate independently from established institutions and national film festivals often overlook them.

In 2017, IFFR included a short film that had until then been ignored in Brazil: Kbela. It is this kind of international attention that has lately aroused awareness at home that a young generation of black filmmakers is ready to shake up Brazilian cinema.



Apart from expanding the political arena, the films presented in Soul in the Eye also dissect aesthetic and narrative conventions. Take the visual essay Kbela, for example. It investigates the negative feelings many black women have about their hair – and ultimately about themselves – with humour and insight. Or BR3, which borrows stylistic elements from music videos and blog posts to relate the experiences of young transgender Brazilians.



Experimentando o vermelho em dilúvio takes the form of a performance in which artist Musa Michele Mattiuzzi, wearing a face mask originally used to silence rebellious slaves, traverses Rio de Janeiro on a pilgrimage to the statue of anti-slavery warrior Zumbi dos Palmares.




In the footsteps of Zózimo Bulbul

Progenitor of this new wave is Zózimo Bulbul, a young actor who was in high demand during the 1960s, the period of Brazil’s Cinema Novo, and a filmmaker in exile during the military dictatorship that held Brazil in its clutches again following a short period of democracy. His short film Alma no olho (1973) inspired the title of this programme, which also showcases his 1988 documentary Abolição about the heritage of slavery in Brazil.



Photo in header: Still: My Friend Fela