Originally published as part of a weekly quarantine column at Cinema Tropical in July 2020.
For the past few months, Cinemateca Brasileira—the largest moving image archive in Latin America—made international headlines for unfortunate reasons: due to a combination of bureaucracy and lack of commitment by the Bolsonaro government, the public institution had not received from the federal government any fraction of its 2020 budget. The employees of the institution were left adrift during a worldwide pandemic, and news outlets have repeatedly covered impending cuts to the institution’s electricity for lack of payment, threatening the physical integrity of its vast archive.
The timeline of the situation is too complex to be fully covered in this article, but I recommend reading the comprehensive resources put together (in English, Portuguese, and Spanish) by Arturita. While part of the struggle for the survival of Cinemateca Brasileira is best fought institutionally, there is currently a campaign—which ends tomorrow—to raise an emergency fund to cover the basic needs of the employees of the archive. As I type this, they have raised R$120,000 (around $22,000 USD), and are a little under RS$80,000.00 away from their goal.
The treasures of Cinemateca Brasileira are too many to cover, but Arturita has published a very interesting list of highlights compiled by film scholar João Luiz Vieira, which includes the discovery of two films by Fritz Lang – Four Around a Woman (Die vier um die frau, 1921) and The Wandering Image (Das wandernde Bild, 1920) – until then considered lost. The institution has been involved with a variety of projects from preservation to exhibition, as well as hosting the papers of names such as Paulo Emílio Sales Gomes, Glauber Rocha, Thomaz Farkas, Jean-Claude Bernardet, and Pedro Lima.
In the more recent past, the Cinemateca Brasileira started a restoration project that recovered important titles for circulation. The Joaquim Pedro de Andrade collection recently released on blu-ray by Kino Lorber was one of many restoration projects helmed by the institution, which have achieved an interesting balance between more visible works – such as Andrade’s filmography – and others that were then more obscure, and that are now back in circulation, providing opportunities for discoveries and critical reassessments.
It is the case of the extraordinary short film Lacrimosa (1970), by Aloysio Raulino and Luna Alkalay, which is one of the many titles with English captions in the official YouTube channel that compiles Raulino’s work. Better-known for his work as a cinematographer in films such as Andrea Tonacci’s monumental Hills of Disorder (Serras da Desordem, 2006), Tiago Mata Machado’s The Residents (Os Residentes, 2010), and João Batista de Andrade’s O Homem que Virou Suco (1980), Raulino has a vast body of work as a director that spans five decades, and that, for its unorthodox variety, poses a series of challenges to hegemonic historiography. A documentary shot in and around the then-recently inaugurated Marginal Tietê—a highway that now provides one of the main accesses to the city of São Paulo—Lacrimosa creates a highly original intersection between Third Cinema and the Structuralist film, revealing surprising connections between Ozualdo Candeias’ The Margin (A Margem, 1967), Fernardo Birri’s Tire Dié (1960), and Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967).