Originally published as part of a weekly quarantine column at Cinema Tropical in April 2020.
Roughly a year ago, Cinema Tropical approached me with the idea of co-programming a series of films that presented and represented the energy and diversity of contemporary Brazilian cinema to audiences in New York. Films such as Araby (Arábia, 2017), by Affonso Uchoa and João Dumans; Bacurau (2019), by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles; Invisible Life (A Vida Invisível de Eurídice Gusmão, 2019), by Karim Aïnouz; and the catalog distributed by Cinema Slate have all had unique paths of circulation in North America; yet, they represent only a small fraction of the country’s production, which in 2019 alone amounted to around 300 feature films.
That first conversation led to Veredas – A Generation of Brazilian Filmmakers, a program that I co-programmed with Mary Jane Marcasiano, featuring 18 films from 9 different states (as well as one film shot in different countries in Africa) that took place at Film at Lincoln Center, in December 2019. Today, three of the feature films from that program are reunited as the second slate of the Cinema Tropical Collection, a VOD platform devoted to Latin American cinema: Adirley Queirós’ Is the City Only One? (A Cidade É Uma Só?, 2011); Caetano Gotardo’s Your Bones and Your Eyes (Seus Ossos e Seus Olhos, 2019); and today’s release, In the Heart of the World (No Coração do Mundo, 2019), by Gabriel Martins and Maurilio Martins, which goes live at 5pm.
To celebrate this new landmark for Brazilian cinema in the US, this week’s recommendation is also drawn from Veredas: Julio Bressane’s Bedouin (Beduino, 2016). While generational cleavages can be helpful in organizing a production of continental size, we did not want to neglect the work of directors from previous generations who have been not only influential, but also have stayed in direct conversation with what younger filmmakers have been doing in Brazil. Names such as Julio Bressane, Luiz Rosemberg Filho, Paula Gaitán, Geraldo Sarno, Andrea Tonacci, and many others have become bridges between the present and the history of Brazilian cinema, finding kinship in their radical vocation, often circulating in the same festivals and sharing the same crew members with younger directors.
A key name in modern Brazilian cinema since the 1960s, Bressane has found a home for his later work in TB Produções, which is ran by the much-younger director Bruno Safadi and by Bressane’s daughter, Tande Bressane, and their Vimeo channel includes other full works worth checking out – including two other films by Bressane himself. Like many of his latest features, Bedouin premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, and had a much-belated US premiere at Veredas. Featuring astonishing performances by Alessandra Negrini and Fernando Eiras, the filmis a masterwork of radical cinema, putting the sharp precision developed over five decades devoted to the craft of filmmaking – the decadent cinematography, the endless self-reflexivity, the peculiar register of the actors, the remarkably sparse soundwork – in service of a delightful and paradoxically dense playfulness that the director and the actors keep unfolding, scene after scene.