Thursday, 1 April 2010

"Making films anyhow": On Glauber Rocha's DIY cinema

Terra em Transe/Entranced Earth (Glauber Rocha, 1967)
Glauber said more: "We are going to make our films anyhow: with handheld cameras, in 16mm if there is no 35mm, improvising in the street to get people's true gestures"; "..a cinema on the basis of whatever means are possible, at low cost and in a short time"; "..a political cinema that intends to inform not by logic, but by poetics."
Making films anyhow. Not making films anyhow. In fact, filming with a hand-held camera revealing its nervous presence in the scene more than the scene itself properly speaking, was not a way of simplifying and impoverishing cinematographic writing, but a creative intervention to make it more complex and rich. Glauber's Earth Entranced (Terra em Transe, 1967) is a good example, the scene improvised, not because it had not been thought through properly beforehand in the screenplay, but because it continued being thought through there in the shooting; the image tremulous; not because of any failure or lack of skill on the part of the photographer, but because at that time reality was being discussed like that in speech, nervous and tremulous.
In fact, this cinema, with an idea in its head and a camera in its hand, enriched the speech of itself. It helped people think of screenplays as a challenge to shooting, of shooting as a response to the challenge of the screenplay, of the camera as a challenge to the eye. It helped people think of cinema as an expression finished, on the screen and, at the same time, unfinished, just in the imagination, part of a process that does not end with the film on the screen; it helped people think of film as a work print, a not yet finished print for the spectator to clean up and bring order to; cinema as an inventor and stimulator of images.
José Carlos Avellar, 'Writing the Speech', FIPRESCI, 2006
The links list offered up today is Film Studies For Free's customary tribute to Glauber Rocha, a political and aesthetic leader of the Cinema Novo movement which emerged in Brazil in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Known above all for the trio of films Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (Black God, White Devil, 1964), Terra em transe (Earth Entranced/Land in Anguish, 1967), and O dragão da maldade contra o santo guerreiro (Antonio das Mortes, 1969), the latter about a legendary gunman hired to kill a group of rebelling peasants, Glauber Rocha's work -- made according to his DIY dictum 'An idea in your head and a camera in hand...' -- has been an inspiration for much cinema in Brazil and elsewhere.

This post is also intended to support and publicise a (for charity) screening of Glauber Rocha's Terra em Transe in London by Latin America House/ on April 8. Do please go along if you can, and find out more about about this important filmmaker's work and about Brazilian cinema, politics and culture more generally.

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