The excellent Cine Festivais invited a large group of critics to submit lists of three short/medium length Brazilian films made between 2010 and 2020 which have had a deep impact on each writer. I have translated the short accompanying text that I wrote about my choices, and you may watch one of the films – André Novais Oliveira\’s Fantasmas (Ghosts, 2010) – below.
Three films in no particular order:
Fantasmas (Ghosts, 2010), André Novais Oliveira;
Sem Título #1: Dance of Leitfosil (Untitled #1: Dance of Leitfosil, 2014), Carlos Adriano;
Ava Yvy Vera – A Terra do Povo do Raio (Ava Yvy Vera – The Land of the Lightning People, 2016), Genito Gomes, Valmir Gonçalves Cabreira, Jhonn Nara Gomes, Jhonaton Gomes, Edina Ximenes, Dulcídio Gomes, Sarah Brites, Joilson Brites.
There is a lot to be said about each of these extraordinary films individually, but I seize the opportunity offered by bringing them together to think about what they reveal as a group, and how they express some of the most singular and special qualities of Brazilian cinema in this period.
In all three films there is a radical unveiling of the avant-champ: the presence of the people behind the camera is stated in its sharp invisibility, whether it is through an in situ narration that reconfigures the scenic space in Ghosts and Ava Yvy Vera – a drawbridge between My Hustler and Deise do tombo, restating the counter-cultural perception of Brazilian daily life as a form of avant-garde – or through the shuffling of the enunciation in the film by Carlos Adriano (and by George Stevens, and by Ginger Rogers, and by Fred Astaire, and by Ana Moura – but above all by Bernardo Vorobow): love is a want to be – and not to have – a bit of the other.
However, this operation becomes radically political in three films in the way they address the audience. Ghosts, Untitled #1: Dance of Leitfosil, and Ava Yvy Vera – The Land of the Lightning People land like echoes from different non-places that question the strange Calvinism of Brazilian spectators who watch Brazilian films (and only the Brazilian films) from the heights of a fiscal spirit: where is the work? Is this even a film? What happened to the crew? Where are the receipts?
It is beautiful that some of the most touching expressions coming out of the deformed experience of meritocratic necro-liberalism that marks Brazilian life in this period are films – and especially not feature length, with all the limitations that imposes on their very circulation – that both disallow and re-avow cinematic forms as forms of life and death. They are films that exist against the logic of labor, and that reaffirm cinema within underdevelopment as a daily practice of reincarnation.