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New Argentine and Brazilian Cinema


Reality Effects ISBN: 9781137304834 DOI: 10.1057/9781137304834preview Palgrave Macmillan

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New Directions in Latino A merican Cultures A Series Edited by Licia Fiol-Matta & Jos Quiroga
New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone by Raquel Z. Rivera The Famous 41: Sexuality and Social Control in Mexico, 1901 edited by Robert McKee Irwin, Edward J. McCaughan, and Michele Roco Nasser
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Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture & Chicana/o Sexualities edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba, with a foreword by Toms Ybarra Frausto Tongue Ties: Logo-Eroticism in Anglo-Hispanic Literature by Gustavo Perez-Firmat Bilingual Games: Some Literary Investigations edited by Doris Sommer Jose Mart: An Introduction by Oscar Montero New Tendencies in Mexican Art: The 1990s by Rubn Gallo The Masters and the Slaves: Plantation Relations and Mestizaje in American Imaginaries edited by Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond The Letter of Violence: Essays on Narrative, Ethics, and Politics by Idelber Avelar An Intellectual History of the Caribbean by Silvio Torres-Saillant None of the Above: Puerto Ricans in the Global Era edited by Frances Negrn-Muntaner Queer Latino Testimonio, Keith Haring, and Juanito Xtravaganza: Hard Tails by Arnaldo Cruz-Malav The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World edited by Ruth Behar and Luca M. Su rez Violence without Guilt: Ethical Narratives from the Global South by Hermann Herlinghaus Redrawing the Nation: National Identity in Latin/o American Comics by Hctor Fern ndez LHoeste and Juan Poblete Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration: Narratives of Displacement edited by Vanessa Prez Rosario Caviar with Rum: Cuba-USSR and the Post-Soviet Experience edited by Jacqueline Loss and Jos Manuel Prieto Cuban Identity and the Angolan Experience by Christabelle Peters Corporeality in Early Twentieth-Century Latin American Literature: Body Articulations by Bruce Dean Willis

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New Argentine and Brazilian Cinema: Reality Effects edited by Jens Andermann and lvaro Fern ndez Bravo

New Concepts in Latino American Cultures A Series Edited by Licia Fiol-Matta & Jos Quiroga
Ciphers of History: Latin American Readings for a Cultural Age by Enrico Mario Sant Cosmopolitanisms and Latin America: Against the Destiny of Place by Jacqueline Loss Remembering Maternal Bodies: Melancholy in Latina and Latin American Womens Writing by Benigno Trigo The Ethics of Latin American Literary Criticism: Reading Otherwise edited by Erin Graff Zivin Modernity and the Nation in Mexican Representations of Masculinity: From Sensuality to Bloodshed by Hctor Dom nguez-Ruvalcaba White Negritude: Race, Writing, and Brazilian Cultural Identity by Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond Essays in Cuban Intellectual History by Rafael Rojas Mestiz@ Scripts, Digital Migrations, and the Territories of Writing by Dami n Baca Confronting History and Modernity in Mexican Narrative by Elisabeth Guerrero Cuban Women Writers: Imagining a Matria by Madeline C mara Betancourt Cuba in the Special Period: Culture and Ideology in the 1990s edited by Ariana Hernandez-Reguant Carnal Inscriptions: Spanish American Narratives of Corporeal Difference and Disability by Susan Antebi Telling Ruins in Latin America edited by Michael J. Lazzara and Vicky Unruh New Argentine Film: Other Worlds (updated paperback edition of Other Worlds) by Gonzalo Aguilar

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New Argentine and Brazilian Cinema


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Reality Effects

Edited by

Jens Andermann and lvaro Fernndez Bravo

10.1057/9781137304834preview - New Argentine and Brazilian Cinema, Edited by Jens Andermann and lvaro Fernndez Bravo

NEW ARGENTINE AND BRAZILIAN CINEMA

Copyright Jens Andermann and lvaro Fernndez Bravo, 2013. All rights reserved. First published in 2013 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN in the United States a division of St. Martins Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Where this book is distributed in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, this is by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave and Macmillan are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN: 9781137304827 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the Library of Congress. A catalogue record of the book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: March 2013 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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C on ten t s

List of Illustrations Introduction Jens Andermann and lvaro Fernndez Bravo 1 2 Camera lucida Jos Carlos Avellar Footprints: Risks and Challenges of Contemporary Argentine Cinema David Oubia Documentary Cinema and the Return of What Was Andra Frana

vii 1 11

31 43

4 The Return of the Natural: Landscape, Nature and the Place of Fiction Edgardo Dieleke 5 Beyond Reflexivity: Acting and Experience in Contemporary Argentine and Brazilian Cinema Joanna Page

59

73 87

6 The Scene and the Inscription of the Real Csar Guimares 7 Global Periphery: Aesthetic and Cultural Margins in Brazilian Audiovisual Forms Ivana Bentes Exploding Buses: Jos Padilha and the Hijacking of Media Tom Cohen The Carandiru Massacre: Across the Mediatic Spectrum Robert Stam

103

119 139

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vi

CONTENTS

10

Decembers Other Scene: New Argentine Cinema and the Politics of 2001 Jens Andermann In Praise of Difficulty: Notes on Realism and Narration in Contemporary Argentine Cinema Domin Choi

157

11

173

13

The Documentary: Between Reality and Fiction, between First and Third Person 203 Gonzalo Aguilar 217 221

Notes on Contributors Index

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12 The Self as Other: Reality, Archive, and the Witness in Three Contemporary Latin American Films lvaro Fernndez Bravo

185

Il lustr at ions

1.1 3.1 5.1 6.1 8.1 9.1 10.1

11.1 12.1 13.1

Juzo [Behave] (Brazil, 2007), directed by Maria Augusta Ramos, 2008 Serras da Desordem [The Hills of Disorder] (Brazil, 2004), directed by Andrea Tonacci Estrellas [Stars] (Argentina, 2007), directed by Federico Len and Marcos Martnez Moscou [Moscow] (Brazil, 2009), directed by Eduardo Coutino nibus 174 [Bus 174] (Brazil, 2002), directed by Jos Padilha Prisioneiro da Grade de Ferro [Prisoner of the Iron Bars] (Brazil, 2004), directed by Paulo Sacramento Habitacin disponible [Room for Rent] (Argentina, 2004), directed by Eva Poncet, Marcelo Burd and Diego Gachassin El secreto de sus ojos [The Secret in Their Eyes] (Argentina, 2009), directed by Juan Jos Campanella La televisin y yo [TV and Me] (Argentina, 2001), directed by Andrs di Tella M (Argentina, 2007), directed by Nicols Prividera

12 54 75 99 123 149

167 175 197 209

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Introduction
Jens Andermann and lvaro Fernndez Bravo
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In what ways can the resurgence of national cinemas in Latin America, from the mid-1990s onward, be related to the returns of the real, which, all over the world, have been among the most interesting effects of the digitalization of the filmic image that overshadowed the centenary of cinema? Along with Mexico, Brazil and Argentina have been at the forefront of a Latin American film revival that has since spread to formerly minor national cinemas such as Chile, Peru, Colombia, and even Uruguay and Paraguay. As Lcia Nagib points out, a common denominator of many of these revivals or retomadas (literally, beginnings-anew)as the most recent wave of national productions has become known in Brazilhas been the reintroduction of federal subsidies by democratic governments following the end of the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s and the ensuing, continent-wide austerity policies applied under the framework of the so-called Washington Consensus. In Brazil, the Rouanet Law of 1991 and the Audiovisual Law of 1993 gradually reestablished a national funding framework after the State production company Embrafilme, in charge of administering public subsidies for film production since 1969, had been closed down under President Collor in 1990. In Argentina, the Film Law of 1994, which, for the first time, established a comprehensive fee scheme for film and TV screenings as well as video rentals, revenue of which was channeled back into production subsidies, had a similar impact of reviving a national production that had reached a historic low point in numbers of annual feature releases (Aguilar, 2006: 195206; Andermann, 2011: 110). But apart from a more favorable context of production at home, Nagib argues, the Latin American revivals of the 1990s also resulted from a global situation which welcomed multicultural expressions, especially when they combined auteurist impulses with local color and certain doses

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JENS ANDERMANN AND LVARO FERNNDEZ BRAVO

of conventional genres (Nagib, 2007: xviiixix), effectively providing global audiences with auto-ethnographic insights into the way globalization impacts on, and is resisted from, distant locations. Yet, while they thrive on a globaland vernaculardemand for local difference made accessible through the filmic image, thus also turning the latter into a tool ideally suited to the construction of social knowledge, film scholar Joanna Page has argued that the films of the Latin American new wave also make a habit of frustrating the epistophilic desires usually associated with documentary spectatorship (Page, 2009: 36). Rather than simply transform the screen into a transparent window through which to access the rawness of things in the street (Oubia, 2000: 34), as many critics initially welcomed the films made by young directors in the mid and late nineties, Page suggests that the real achievement of New Argentine (and, one might add, Brazilian) cinema lay in questioning cinemas capacity for delivering such social diagnostics, at least in the totalizing sense in which the modern Latin American cinema of the sixties, with directors such as Glauber Rocha or Fernando Solanas, had sought to portray the social and political plight of the nation. Instead, by self-reflexively drawing attention to the apparently transparent modes of representation, Page concludes, contemporary films from Latin America often sugges[t] that the real subject of these films is not society so much as the gaze itself (Page, 2009: 36). It is not hard to recognize, in this dispute between critics who place emphasis on the social experience that is registered, in its very materiality, by the filmic image, and those who focus more on the means by which such representations are obtained, a tension running through the theory of film in general and that of cinematic realism in particular. Fredric Jameson, in a seminal essay, points to the contradictory claims that cinematic realism invariably comes up against: on the one hand, being entrusted with the representation of truth, it must keep the interference of the apparatus to a minimum, so as to downplayor even downright concealthe mediated and manufactured nature of the image; on the other hand, as a critique of illusion, it is supposed to unmask and break down the false, or staged, images of the real by turning attention to the very devices (technical and rhetorical) of its fabrication. For Jameson, consequently, no viable conception of realism is possible unless both demands or claims are honored simultaneously, prolonging and preserving rather than resolvingthis constitutive tension and incommensurability (Jameson, 1992: 158). Unlike its historical predecessor and

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INTRODUCTION

successorthe modernist avant-garde and postmodernismrealism in film cannot escape this tension because it cannot let go of the possibility of knowledge, the potential for accessing historical experience by means of the image, which modernism had subordinated to the autonomy of the artwork and postmodernism gives up in favor of the narcissism of citation and pastiche. Remarkably, the two examples Jameson refers to in his essay originally published in 1992 to signal a possible overcoming of postmodernism by what he calls a neo-documentary turn, come from a Latin American context. One is testimonial literature (in particular, the accounts of Central American revolutionary struggle, which, during the same period, were the subject of polemic in the North American academy); the other, Brazilian director Eduardo Coutinhos film Cabra Marcado Para Morrer (Twenty Years Later, 1984), in which Coutinho revisits the locations and surviving collaborators of an earlier documentary project on peasant resistance aborted by the military coup of 1964. In Coutinhos film, Jameson sees the emergence of a new concept of the real as both encountered and produced by the film which registers it, anticipating the documentarys subjective or performative turn (Bruzzi, 2006 [2000]; Renov, 2004). Yet, the real thus also figures as the traumatic remainder of events which cannot be accounted for except by restaging, and forcing out, their traces and effects. In neo-documentary as opposed to classical-realist films, Jameson argues, Materialismor the material signifieris . . . not a function of some historical truth, which might be set in opposition to the fictive; nor even an event whose representation we passively contemplate; but lies rather in the way in which the production process becomes an event in its own right and comes to include our own reception of it (Jameson, 1992: 190). Jamesons discussion of Coutinho is important here because it prefigures several of this books main concernsjust as the film it analyzes anticipates many of the issues and tendencies coming to fruition in Brazilian and Argentine cinema some 20 years onward. In both of these, a trend that can be observed in cinemas worldwidein the work of, say, filmmakers such as Jia Zhang-Ke, Pedro Costa, Abbas Kiarostami, or Avi Mograbiof blurring the boundary between fiction and documentary, between the real and the staged, experience and performance, has been taken up in ways that are at once conversant with this global trend and radically singular and contingent on the characters and situations triggering each individual work. The films of, among others, Lisandro Alonso, Andrs

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JENS ANDERMANN AND LVARO FERNNDEZ BRAVO

Di Tella, Joo Moreira Salles, Andrea Tonacci, as well as the most recent films by Coutinho himself, in their reflexive engagement with theater and actorship, are thus of central importance to the contributors of this book not so much for the way in which they are representative of the current state of Brazilian or Argentine film, but rather for the way in which they allow us to formulate certain theoretical inquiries about cinema itself at the advent of the digital image, which, while not exclusive to the Latin American context, nevertheless attain a peculiarity proper to these peripheral cinematographies, which it is worth exploring in its own right. How, for instance, can we rethink the concept of the index that, from Kracauer and Bazin onward, has been of such cardinal importance for theories of cinematic realism grounded in the materiality of the photographic tracenot least, of course, for Latin American cinematic modernity in the sixties and seventies, with its deliberate attempts to turn the scarcity of means and technical resources into a programmatic option for direct witnessing of, and joining in, the struggle of the poor? Films such as Alonsos La libertad (Freedom, 2001), where the lumberjack Misael Saavedra plays a character called Misael Saavedra who works as a lumberjack, or Andrea Tonaccis Serras da Desordem (The Hills of Disorder, 2004), where the Indian Carapiru is alternately the interviewee of a documentary inquest into his life (invariably frustrated by Carapirus lack of knowledge of Portuguese) and the character of a restaged, narrative performance of his own past, both revisit this previous moment of Argentine and Brazilian cinematic modernity and point to the radical ambiguity of a real constantly lingering on the verge of experience and performance, materiality and mise-en-scne. At the same time, as Domin Choi, Ivana Bentes, and Tom Cohen argue in their contributions to this book with respect to the blockbuster movies of Juan Jos Campanella, Fernando Meirelles, and Jos Padilha, categories and aesthetic protocols once associated with filmic realism (such as depth-of-field, internal montage, the use of nonprofessional actors, and so forth) no longer automatically guarantee access to an unstaged real or testify to filmmakers adherence to an anti-industrial and independent ethos. But, this book argues, the question about the reality effects in contemporary cinema needs to be asked not just in abstract terms but by relating the aesthetic solutions (and challenges) encountered in individual films and auteurs back to the wider context of film production and circulation from which they have emerged. One of the aims of the following chapters, then, is to challenge simplistic notions of

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INTRODUCTION

a unified new Latin American cinema and instead call attention to the different conditions of enunciation, which complicate (and productively so) the notion of world cinema. The challenge here refers to the need to read formal and thematic similarities between recent films from Argentina and Brazil against the horizon of vastly dissimilar conditions of production and distribution, and thus to place them in dialogue with, on the one hand, the global concerns of contemporary film culture and critique with which they engage and, on the other, to write them back into genealogies and constellations that are specific to Argentina and Brazil. The comparison between these two cinematographies is auspicious precisely in view of their different inscriptions in global and national markets, which circumscribe their conditions of enunciation. In Brazil, we witness the recovery of an internal market since the mid-nineties, dominated to a large extent by audiovisual conglomerates such as TV Globo, capable of funding productions with relatively large budgets and aimed at global as well as vernacular marketsincluding, among others, Walter Salless Central do Brasil (Central Station, 1998), Meirelless Cidade de Deus (City of God, 2002), and Padilhas Tropa de Elite I and II (Elite Squad, 2007 and 2010)as well as more medium-sized genre features aimed primarily at the national box office.1 In Argentina, meanwhile, the collapse in the late nineties of an economic model based on pegging the national currency to the US dollar imposedwith few exceptions such as Campanellas El hijo de la novia (Son of the Bride, 2001) or Fabin Bielinskys Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens, 2000)the need to privilege an arthouse cinema, with a view to recover its more modest budgets through festival and niche audiences both at home and abroad.2 While the impact of these wider economic contexts on the formal aesthetics of individual films should not be overstated, they nevertheless also overshadow critical debates in both countries. Only the capacity of Meirelless and Padilhas films for interpellating large audiences, for example, accounts for the heated public debates in Brazil on these films alleged stereotyping of poverty and violence, and on the ethics and politics of audiovisual representation more generally, which has largely been absent from the Argentine context. Here, on the contrary, discussions have increasingly focused on the presumed incapacity of New Argentine Cinema of surmounting its own structural limitations and reaching out to audiences beyond the international festival circuit. The essays collected here aim to give English-speaking readers a comparative overview of these critical debates, at the same time as they attempt to delink the evaluation of particular films

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JENS ANDERMANN AND LVARO FERNNDEZ BRAVO

and auteurs from the immediate context of their vernacular reception and instead map them into wider debates on the cinematic real around the turn of the millennium. In the opening chapter, Jos Carlos Avellar discusses a range of recent Brazilian filmsboth fictions and documentariesin order to problematize the relation between the cameras gaze and the actor/subject it beholds, a relation in which he traces a mode of cinematic reflection on (and critique of) the ways in which subjectivity and citizenship are constituted or withdrawn in a deeply rifted society. David Oubi a, in the following balance of New Argentine Cinema, highlights the risks involved in the latters neo-realist protocols, with their potential to relapse into romanticized or exoticist token representations of otherness that end up reifying, rather than critiquing, social inequalities. The following essays tackle questions of archival footage and restaging in contemporary documentary practice. Andra Franas chapter compares Joo Baptista de Andrades 1978 documentary on a rural bandit killed by the police, Wilsinho Galilia, which was censored by the dictatorship, with Tonaccis Serras da Desordem, in order to compare how both films reconstruct an image of violence that is missing from the audiovisual archive. Referring to Georges Didi-Hubermans reflections on the visual memory of the Holocaust, Frana argues that the restaged footage in both films, rather than reoccupying this void with a fully achieved scenic presence, points to its very impossibility and thus urges us to reflect on the way the archive itself reproduces violence through its acts of exclusion. Edgardo Dieleke, in comparing Tonaccis film with Lisandro Alonsos La libertad (Freedom, 2001) and Los muertos (The Dead, 2004), focuses our attention on the circumscribed natural habitats of their protagonists. These environments, Dieleke argues, have already become stagelike even before the camera encounters them, because their demarcation on behalf of an advancing civilization puts them under appeal as mere anachronisms, as remnants or curiosities. Yet Alonsos and Tonaccis films, Dieleke suggests, also counteract civilizations capture of otherness by emphasizing theatricality as a site of ambiguity and opacity that forecloses rather than reveals the secret of the other. A different kind of interplay between film and theatre is the subject of Joanna Pages chapter, which analyzes recent work by Federico Len, Mart n Rejtman, and Eduardo Coutinho. These, instead of performatizing the documentary make performance itself the subject of documentary. Page shows how Coutinhos and Len/Rejtmans films, rather than relapsing into a postmodern fascination with simulation and

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INTRODUCTION

self-referentiality, reflect on the radical wager an actors performance places on real-life experience. Csar Guimares, in the following chapter, argues for the need to reconceptualize the distinction between documentary and fiction. Comparing Orlando Senas and Jorge Bodanzkys classic Iracema, uma transa amaznica (Iracema, 1976) with Coutinhos recent films, he suggests that verisimilitude, as a regime of truth once reserved to fiction, has today occupied the place the documentary had traditionally allocated to evidence. Ivana Bentes, meanwhile, contrasts the theatrical and carnivalizing strategies of shantytown dwellers self-representations in Brazilian rap videos and street theatre with affect and action-centered blockbusters such as Meirelless City of God and Padilhas Elite Squad dyptich. The way in which these films exploit social discourses of fear and release their affective baggage into the pleasurable discharges of violent action cinema, she argues, is symptomatic of the way late capitalist society specularizesthat is, exacerbates and fetishizesthe violence it sets in motion through social exclusion. A different argument is formulated by Tom Cohen in his analysis of Padilhas previous film, the documentary nibus 174 (Bus 174 , 2002). Drawing on Hitchcocks reflections on cinematic realism, Cohen reads the viewing cabin of the title-giving bus involved in a bloody hostage drama, transmitted in real time on national TV, as a figuration of the postcinematic experience itself. He asks what cinemaand documentary in particularcan do when it encounters an other that has already been cinematized, to the point of turning invisible through its very excess of visibility. Jens Andermanns and Robert Stams contributions also interrogate the specificity of cinema vis--vis other audiovisual media in staging and exposing the political and social present. Working around key events in recent Argentine and Brazilian history such as the popular uprising of December 2001at the height of Argentinas financial defaultand the police massacre at So Paulos high-security prison of Carandir in 1992, both chapters attempt to determine the particularities of the filmic image in comparison with not just TV news footage but also with new counter-informational forms such as music videos, activist and amateur footage live-streamed through the internet. Domin Choi also compares low-budget arthouse films such as Alonsos Liverpool (2008) or Juan Villegas / Alejandro Lingentis Ocio (Leisure, 2010) and blockbusters such as Juan Jos Campanellas Oscar-winning El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes, 2010), but only in order to suggest a recent change in the very notion of cinematic realism. Rather than to continue associating the real with

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JENS ANDERMANN AND LVARO FERNNDEZ BRAVO

Notes 1. See, for an overview of feature releases and their production models, Oricchio, 2003; Frana, 2005. 2. See, on the development of production models in Argentine cinema before and after the economic default of 2001, Aprea 2008: 1325; Page, 2009: 917. Bibliography Aguilar, Gonzalo. Otros mundos. Ensayo sobre el nuevo cine argentino. Buenos Aires: Santiago Arcos, 2006. [English edition: Other Worlds. New Argentine Film. New York: Palgrave, 2008.] Andermann, Jens. New Argentine Cinema. London: I. B. Tauris, 2011. Aprea, Gustavo. Cine y polticas en Argentina. Continuidades y discontinuidades en 25 aos de democracia. Buenos Aires / Los Polvorines: Biblioteca Nacional / Universidad Nacional General Sarmiento, 2008. Bruzzi, Stella. New Documentary. New York: Routledge, 2006 [orig. 2000]. Frana, Jussara. Precisamos ter um cinema nacional? A retomada do cinema brasileiro. So Paulo: PUC-SP, 2005.

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duration and deep focus, he suggests, the advent of digital technology demands a reappraisal of the work of cinema in constructing the transparency of perception that allows for reality effects to emerge. The final chapters by lvaro Fernndez Bravo and Gonzalo Aguilar engage with questions of biography, subjectivity, and personhood. Fernndez Bravo compares Joo Moreira Salless Santiago (2007) with Andrs Di Tellas La televisin y yo (TV and Me, 2002) and Sandra Koguts Um Passaporte Hngaro (A Hungarian Passport, 2002). Fernndez Bravo reads these cinematic auto-fictions as a crossroad between the mediality and archives of modernity (cinema, photography, video), reenactment as a form of reclaiming the past as heritage, and the self-inscriptions of the documentarist as an embattled and fragile, indeed a vicarious subject. In the films of Alonso and Moreira Salles, Aguilar also traces a new relation between documentary storytelling and its remainders, which constantly interrupt the narrative flow of the filmic text. The most pressing question both in Alonsos fictional and in Salless documentary cinema, Aguilar suggests, is therefore the one of personhood itselfnot the first, second, or third person in particular but the very inscription of the living into forms of address and representation capable of reaching out to the spectator.

INTRODUCTION

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Jameson, Fredric. Signatures of the Visible. London: Routledge, 1992. Nagib, Lcia. Brazil on Screen. Cinema Novo, New Cinema, Utopia. London: I. B. Tauris, 2007. Oricchio, Luiz Zanin. Cinema de Novo: um balano crtico da retomada. So Paulo: Estao Liberdade, 2003. Oubia, David. Argentinas Gritty Resurgence. UNESCO Courier 53, no. 10 (2000): 3437. Page, Joanna. Crisis and Capitalism in Contemporary Argentine Cinema. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009. Renov, Michael. The Subject of Documentary. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

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CH A P T ER

C a mera l u cida
Jos Carlos Avellar*
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Every inch, she is the stern mother who rebukes her son for misbehaving (They call you to go stealing and you just go?) instead of dedicating himself to his work (You could be washing cars or selling sweets on the train). She tells her daughters off (You are too young to be a mother. But you just have kids anyway! Well, take care of them, then!) and does not accept the argument that they robbed out of necessity (There is no excuse. You dont have a job? Get one!). She gets angry because she is afraid of losing her son (Do you want them to kill you? When the shooting starts, youre the one wholl get the bullet). She reminds her son of the sacrifices that have been made for him (Your father had a hard time bringing you up and not for you to be a thief). She loses her patience with the son who committed a stupidity (A guy you dont even know comes up to you and asks you to get hold of a gun and you do?). The son lowers his head (Yes, mother). The daughter lowers her voice (We only snatched it and ran away). The sons and daughters talk with choked voices, suspension dots and lots of silences; their sentences start and falter (Anyway . . . I bumped into him at that place. . . . So he called me over to do this thing. . . . So I was like. . . . But then he said: Beat it . . . so, I left). Juzo [Behave] (Maria Augusta Ramos, 2008): in the court room of Rio de Janeiros Second Juvenile Court, called upon to deliver justice in a context where the parents have not been granted the least chance to educate their children, a female judge appears like

10.1057/9781137304834preview - New Argentine and Brazilian Cinema, Edited by Jens Andermann and lvaro Fernndez Bravo

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Figure 1.1 Juzo [Behave] (Brazil, 2007), directed by Maria Augusta Ramos, 2008.

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the composite image of the various mothers who accompany their offspring at these trials. Part of her is the mother who weeps because her daughter does not want to come home (so many things depend on me alone; I have to be mother as well as father, offer love and affection as well as correct them). Another part, the mother who explains with her head slightly inclined that she is unable to leave the favela where she lives and so take her son away from bad influences. Another part, the mother who defends the extreme act of her son who killed his father with a knife (He hit him with his belt every day. He managed to break the clasp. My son even fainted. Twice he fainted). And another part, one of those mothers who come to the Pedro Severino Institute for juvenile delinquents to embrace their sons in a sad silence that is barely interrupted by the muffled sound of the hall where the families are reunited on visiting days. The female judge is in part all of this, but at the same time she is much more than this: she is a desperate attempt to maintain a minimum of lucidity. Beyond the not-all-too-distant image of the juvenile delinquents mothers, the juza that is to say, the real judge but also, above all, the judge as a character in the filmis herself not unlike a camera. In those scenes where the sons have no future whatsoever, in those situations where the mother does not have the means to avoid her son being victimized by the violence and chaos around him, she assumes a role between that of a mother and a step-mother: she is the voice

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of authority that sternly rebukes the girl who became a mother while still being a girl herself and she is the voice of authority that almost falls silent when faced with the minor who killed his father with a knife, thus turning into an aggressor as well as a victim. Being camera, lens, and zoom, the judge tries to stay focused, get the light right, and pays attention to how the scene is framed. The image has two cameras, one appearing on stage in the figure of the judge and one filming the scene; both teach us to listen to what is being said in the court room and also to what is not being said. They teach us how to see society as an entity composed of parts that do not speak to one another. The court room produces a temporary fusion: in fact, the judge and the young offender, both of whom appear in the same frame, inhabit different spaces. One image appears within the other. One image is captured by the other. As if the two were one. But in reality they belong to universes as distant from each other as the favela is removed from the city: a world away yet fused; the favela is inside the city at the same time as it is outside the city. What we are confronted with is the fact that the favelas of the city speak one language and the city of favelas quite another. The judge asks the young offender if it was worth abandoning school and family: Was it worth going to prison? He does not understand the question. He would like to say No, but, feeling pressured (I got nervous) since the judge talks a lot and very fast, he no longer knows what he ought to say and instead of No he answers Yes; he says what he did not want to say, namely that it was worth going to prison. With the images of the cells at the Padre Severino Institute, of the streets and houses of the favela and, especially, of the court rooms of the Juvenile Court, Juzo shows a composite image of an entire social mechanism that produces the young offender. During the hearings, more than just the actual hearing is shown. The judicial process also reveals (by making us see what it sees) the social inequality that leads to stealing or selling drugs in order to buy a pair of trainers that cost more than the minimum wage. Silent and attentive, from behind the accused, facing the judge and the public prosecutor and next to the defense lawyer the camera does not lose sight of that which becomes apparent during the hearing: the impossibility of dialogue. The language appears to be the same, but the words refer to different realities and experiences. The public prosecutor, the defendant, the defense lawyer, the judge, the examining magistrate, the relatives of the accused: no one

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is sure if they heard what they have just heard. What to do? What action should be taken? What to do with the delinquent who escaped from a juvenile detention centre after his freedom had been declared? What to do with the girl-mother who stole a camera from a tourist in Leblon in order to feed her daughter? What to do with the girl who prefers going to jail to returning home? What to do? Look them straight in the eye is what the film suggests. Start with seeing eye to eye; face the question. As it enters the court room, cinema teaches us to listen to what is said between the lines and to see this slice of documented reality as a real scene and, at the same time, as a film scene. As a scene that uses what is present to refer to what is absent. As a scene that is aware that in film every shot implies a reverse shot, that every frame also talks about what is outside of the frame. The act of filming in the court room tells usas film usually does, perhaps even more sothat it is important to see things in motion. All of a sudden, the camera takes the viewpoint of the judge and the viewer is directly confronted with the young offender who is being interrogatedthe one who stole a bicycle, the one who snatched a camera from a tourist, the one who took part in an armed robbery, the one who refuses to return home, the one who climbed a wall to go to school, the one who killed his father because he hit him and his mother. They all talk straight to the camera. The face of the young offender who answers the judges questions is, so to speak, only half of the image that is presented to the viewer. To see the face of the young offender who is being interrogated is to see, at the same time, the face of the judge, at that moment off camera. In seeing this image, or any cinematographic image for that matter, the viewer is simultaneously aware of what is on screen and of the point of view from which the shot is taken. It is as if the half-a-person that is the viewer in the course of the film jumps out of him or herself in order to look back at the scene from another point of view. In the cinema, while the film lasts and just as in a dream, we are an amalgamation: half of us watches the scene from a little distance, while the other half adopts the screen characters the point of view. Since the identification of young offenders is against the law, Juzo offers an image that is the result of a procedure that appears to be straightforward: the offenders are replaced by young nonoffenders who repeat in front of the camera what the defendants said during interrogation by the judge. What seems straightforward is, in fact, anything but straightforward, since the aim here is not to show the court the way it is shown in most fictional films, with a gaze that

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moves from shot to reverse shot and back to the shot. Before the camera, the youngsters are interpretersbut not quite actors. They live in conditions very similar to those of the real offenders who are filmed with their backs to the camera. They recite texts and recreate the interrogation, not because they have been trained to do so, nor because they have a natural ability for acting, but because they have direct life experience. This is worth reiterating: the acting is not the result of a method, of a convincing effort by the actor. To prepare themselves, these youngsters watched footage from the hearings. They memorized the words they had to say in the dock of the accused; they repeated the responses for the camera filming the scene from the judges seat. The camera, at that moment perhaps more intensely than at any other moment, records. It does not record the interpretation, but the person who interprets. It records the interpreter. Juzo does not actually show the character played by the nonoffending youth, but the youth who plays himself. These quasi actors are not part of the scene; they are part of another scene that is superimposed on the one in which they play; they play the persons they really are. Although they are visible and on camera, it is as if they were off camera, as if they were merely a shadow of what is highlighted by the dramatic point of view. Without losing sight of the light, however, we perceive the shadow. That which in fiction would be the mise-en-scne collapsethat the actor for one reason or another is more apparent than the character he is supposed to playhere, by contrast, makes the scene more expressive. The viewer is invited to establish another relation with the image: the judges, public prosecutors, defense lawyers, examining magistrates, relatives, and personnel of the Second Juvenile Court and the Pedro Severino Institute are perceived as elements taken from reality and used, so to speak, to stage a quasi-fictitious scene. As is usual in film, the meaning of the image exceeds the mere recognition of its formal constituents. The footage, the part of the actual scene that was shot, is the raw material for the construction of a representation, a cinematographic composition. Reality turned into image becomes fiction; and vice versa, fiction becomes reality. The youngsters who repeat the responses the defendants give during the actual trial are elements of fiction deployed in order to go beyond the representation so as to return to the reality that lies at the root of the scene. This fiction, without ceasing to be what it really isa staged sceneis more than just that: it mutates into a live recording; it documents the reality of the quasi actors who are called upon to reconstruct an experience that took place in reality and that, directly or indirectly,

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Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to npg - PalgraveConnect - 2013-08-03