Originally published as part of a weekly quarantine column at Cinema Tropical in May 2020.
When Mary Jane Marcasiano and I were discussing the perception of a distinct “generation” in recent Brazilian cinema as a framework for Veredas – A Generation of Brazilian Filmmakes — an 18-film series that took place at Film at Lincoln Center in December of 2019, and which now inspires the second installment of the Cinema Tropical Collection, bringing three of the films to VOD — we mapped out some of the material and conjunctural specificities that made these films different from the ones that came before.
The diversity of this production resulted from a complex constellation of factors, including the availability of screening-quality digital video, the expansion of the web of public universities to different parts of the country, the support of regional funds, the popularization of file-sharing which disentangled cinephilia from its traditional gatekeepers, the flexibilization of crews and production structures, the interaction with a new generation of film critics whose work was published online, and the embrace by the festival circuit of films that did not adhere to pre-existing models.
Our choice was to start with Adirley Queirós’ massively influential debut, Is the City Only One? / A Cidade É Uma Só? (2011), which is now available in the Cinema Tropical Collection. But Queirós’ film was not an exceptional event; it both derived from and problematized a first wave of films already made within these specific conditions, which included Alexandre Veras’ As Vilas Volantes: O Verbo Contra o Vento (2005), Bruno Safadi’s My Name is Dindi (Meu Nome é Dindi, 2008), Felipe Bragança’s and Marina Meliande’s The Escape of the Monkey Woman (A Fuga da Mulher Gorila, 2009) and, above all, a film made by a collective from Fortaleza, Ceará, called Road to Ythaca (Estrada para Ythaca, 2010), which is finally available on Youtube with English subtitles.
Directed by Guto Parente, Luiz Pretti, Ricardo Pretti, and Pedro Diogenes, who were part of the now-defunct collective Alumbramento, Road to Ythaca is an affirmation of possibility. Made without a budget and with no traditional crew hierarchy (the four directors are also responsible for the production, the script, the editing, the sound, the cinematography, and they play the lead roles themselves), the film won the main award at Mostra de Tiradentes that year – a festival primarily dedicated to first and second features. The award was followed by screenings at international festivals such as BAFICI and Viennale, solidifying the path in Brazil for what scholar Tom Gunning has defined as a “minor cinema.”
The film pushes narrative toward rarefaction, using its production limitation as style (the preponderance of tableaux compositions is both a formal pattern and a necessity, since the people behind the camera also had to be in front of it for most of the film), creating a positive friction between the history of Brazilian cinema (Glauber Rocha in Wind from the East; the nonchalant attitude of cinema marginal; the road movie format of Walter Salles’ Central Station and Carlos Diegues’ Bye Bye Brazil) and the aspirations of a global cinephilia (João César Monteiro, Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, Lisandro Alonso, Pedro Costa, etc). Road to Ythaca is not necessarily the most well-rounded film made by its four directors, who have worked both together and separately since then, but the energy and fun of its DIY precariousness remains a paradigmatic moment for Brazilian cinema, encouraging it to pursue myriad forms and shapes in the years that followed.