LATIN AMERICAN BRIDGES
SO CLOSE, SO FAR
"Contemporary Latin American cinema was born as a transforming will of society, even before a political gesture capable of effectively accomplishing this transformation. It was born as a will that was equal toTiradentes’from“The Conspirators” by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, who explains the rebellion for independence as it follows: 'I began to desire it first, and then to take care of how I could reach it.' It was born with a sentiment equal to that which Nelson Pereira dos Santos expresses through hisGraciliano Ramos in“Memoirs of Prison”, when he says that 'complete freedom, no one enjoys: we start oppressed by the syntax and we end up by the Precinct of Political and Social Order'. It was born as Sanjinés' will, to 'develop parallel to a historical evolution', to influence 'the historical process and to obtain from it its constructive elements'. Like Birri’s, it wanted to 'synchronize with reality' to try to 'understand it, analyze it, evaluate it, criticize it, express it and translate it into a fact, a film'. It was born between poetry and politics, partly by imposition of reality, partly by free choice. "
José Carlos Avellar, The Clandestine Bridge.1995. (back cover text)
"Is there a Latin American cinema? There is nothing as dangerous as the obvious. It is, then, worth asking the question, at this point of a history that will soon be a hundred years old. The Latin American literature, or at least Hispano-American, may exist, insofar as its territory is the language itself, insofar as relations, influences, reactions, confluences, contradictions, transfers, affiliations and other secrets have been formed between these autonomous foci that are Rio de la Plata, Lima, Mexico or the Caribbean, inherited from the old frontiers between the vice-regal. In contrast, cinemas in Latin America, in the plural, rarely communicate with each other, despite or because of their unequal and uncoordinated development. Latin America constitutes a market, natural or artificial, it does not matter, only for the dominant way of cinema. The films do not circulate, joint production supposes a greater voluntarism, since the perspectives of joint distribution are random. The circulation and distribution of the works, the existence of a unified market is hitherto aimed by filmmakers and producers but are not within their reach. Hence perhaps the definitive question is definitely: Will Latin American cinema ever exist? "
Paulo Antônio Paranaguá, O cinema na América Latina: Longe de Deus e perto de Hollywood. L&PM Editores, 1985, p. 90
The idea of bringing the cinema made in Latin America to the center of the discussions at Cine BH was being cherished for a few years, through conversations with the team of our relate-event, the Brazil CineMundico-production meeting, and the realization that , despite visible efforts to extend and strengthen ties between the countries of the region in the audiovisual sector, we still suffer from the immense difficulty of production and, especially, the circulation and screening of the films. There is no effective integration - a problem which, of course, is not restricted to cinema and audiovisual, but to other fields of culture and economy. In preparation for the festival, we come across some texts on the subject, of which we highlight the two passages that open this section: the first one was taken from the book The Clandestine Bridge, by José Carlos Avellar; the second, from O Cinema na América Latina: Longe de Deus e perto de Hollywood, by Paulo Antônio Paranaguá.
In The Clandestine Bridge, José Carlos Avellar reflects on the theories of cinema that emerged in Latin America in the heat of the 1960s, based on the analysis of texts and films by Fernando Birri (Argentina), Glauber Rocha (Brazil), Fernando Solanas(Argentina ), Julio García Espinoza (Cuba), Jorge Sanjinés (Bolivia) and Tomas Gutierrez Alea (Cuba). Amid the diversity of ideas and proposals, a common substrate: the desire to think strategies to decolonize the cinema and the certainty that there is no way to dissociate the realization of the films and their aesthetics of their ways of production.
The title already shows the heart of the problem: why the metaphor of a "bridge"? And why "clandestine"? The Latin American fate is a story lived as tragedy and repeated as a farce. Countries with a common past (colonial exploitation) suffer the consequences of this past as isolated islands. Although sharing the same problems (with specificities and idiosyncrasies for each country, of course), invisible barriers separate, firstly, Lusophone Brazil from continental dimensions of the Spanish-speaking countries; and, secondly, the Spanish-speaking countries among themselves. In this scenario, there is no other way but building bridges, however,clandestine ones because they are undergroundattempts to break these invisible walls.
What is most fascinating in Avellar's book is that it incorporates in its own structure the idea suggested by the title. The text goes through Portuguese and Spanish without warning and without translation and, above all, without compromising the understanding. This is by no means the "portunhol" that despite being surrounded by the best of intentions, is often more a symptom of communication difficulties than an effective bridge between the two languages. By playing a hybrid form that goes against the rules of "good editing," Avellar constructs the book itself as a bridge, or rather as bridges that point to the possibility of a common fabric in which differences are maintained and respected. Between the aesthetics of hunger and the aesthetics of Glauber Rocha's dream, the imperfect cinema of Julio Garcia Espinosa, Fernando Birri's "walking laboratory" and Sanjinés's "integral long shot", we get a glimpse of the aesthetic and political context that marked one of the most vital and energetic periods of the cinema produced in Latin America - not by chance, a period of successive coups d'état and the establishment of military dictatorships.
The text by Paulo Antônio Paranaguá, on the other hand, goes in the opposite direction. The book is the result of a research aimed at starting a comparative history of cinema produced in Latin America: "Reassessing our past and better understanding our presentnecessarily imply a confrontation in which I would like to inscribe this text. The best way to grasp the unknown, to advance in an analysis is to begin to elaborate a discourse around it, discovering flaws, circling the lapses, exploring the gaps, exposing the wounds. The search for a joint point helps in locating inconsistencies. "
If Avellar’s text is utopian and dreamy, Paranaguá’s is pragmatic and realistic. For Avellar, the bridges are mainly in the theoretical seam of a cinema that was more dreamed than practiced, during a specific period, simultaneously in several Latin American countries. The first chapter of The Clandestine Bridge, for example, is constructed from never-filmed scripts by Glauber Rocha, Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Geraldo Sarno, and a text by Júlio Garcia Espinoza.Paranaguá, on the other hand, highlights the gaps, the flaws, the dystopia that insists on knocking on the door.
Therefore, our ideais to discuss Latin American cinema, its culture, its economy, its history, its aesthetics and, above all, its current situation: the possible challenges and bridges between the different countries, both in the economic aspect (distribution and co-production) and political and aesthetic debate. How does Latin American cinema respond to the current reality of the world? What are the possible dialogues and the realities (technical, aesthetic, economic, political) that we can see between such different countries? What are the strategies to approach the creators and agents of the Latin American cinema market, expanding and facilitating the prospects of coproduction and stimulating the circulation of films in the countries of the region?
After all, what Latin American cinema is this that sometimes seems so close and yet so distant? What transformations is it capable of proposing in a 21st century so marked by contradictions and constant technological changes that alter the ways of making and consuming audiovisual? In globalized times, does it still make sense to speak in a continental cinema?
A striking part of the cinema made in Latin America from the 1960s onwards was built around the negation of the industrial forms of production and searches for their own expressiveness that spoke of their underdeveloped condition from the aesthetic aspect. Understanding and assuming oneself as peripheral to the First World countries was something that, to a certain extent, guided the best of Latin cinema over the decades, building a diffuse type of identity that was related more by the edges of its risks taken than the centrality of possible themes or discourse similarities.
This provocative production, made on the margins of an insistent and about to come true Latin American industry, lost much of its strength from the 1990s onwards, when neoliberal policies began to guide all sectors of the economy, influencing also the culture economy. These modes of financing and production have generated films of "universal" and "safe return" dialogue, in the most appropriate jargon for these policies, and broadened the participation of television networks and co-production agreements with other countries. There was, in this process, a curious change in what was understood as "industrial" cinema, now disconnected from "popular" cinema, a characteristic that was remarkable in certain success cycles in several Latin American countries. The greatest consequence of this movement was the production of formatted productions, with international ambitions (focusing on the gold-trinity of the festivals: Berlin, Cannes and, Venice). In many cases, a perverse result was the loss of the singularity of each country and each proposal, as it was most noticeable until the 1980s. Inventive and combative spirit never disappeared in Latin American cinema, but industry began to dictate rules with more ferocity and stifle initiatives of greater aesthetic scope.
To speak in Latin cinema in the singular seems almost always a diminution of powers, of stories and even of economies. As the researcher Octavio Getino writes in the book Cinema no mundo - América Latina: "Considering the existing lagsin the issue of industrial development, productive capacities, local and international markets, policies and legislation of incentive and economic and socio-cultural contexts, the use of the plural expresses more accurately the multiplicity of situations in which cinema is found in Latin America. "
In the same text, Getino points out the numbers of Latin production. Among the 12,500 films produced in the region from 1930 to 2000, we can observe the concentration in three countries, out of a total of 20 analyzed: approximately 5,500 were from Mexico (45%), 3,000 from Brazil (25%) and 2,500 from Argentina 20%). The presence of the three nations at the forefront of Latin production varied over the next 18 years. In 2016, for example, Argentina ranked first, with 208 titles (23.11% of all Ibero-American films that year); Brazil ranked third, with 170 (18.9%).
The hegemony of Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, always very much ahead in technique, production and distribution of films in Latin America, was due to the investment in industrial parks that dates to the 1930s. Not always successful, such initiatives shaped a principle of continued cinematic activities that was more or less stable (despite the political instabilities typical of the continent) in the following decades, supplanting sporadic actions of countries with less productive participation, such as Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, and Chile, among others.
INDUSTRY AND POPULAR CINEMA: PARADOXES OF IDENTITY AND MARKET
It is common, almost natural, to speak of bridges between Latin American cinemas through the films and authors who saw in the revolutionary awareness awakening of underdevelopment and colonial heritage a radical power that was translated in the programs of the modern cinemas of Latin American countries. The strength of this lies, above all, in the decolonization of the imaginary and in the emphatic proposition of an aesthetic without concessions, which would have as its subject matter the history, the daily life, the landscapes, the bodies and the imagination proper to their countries of origin.
This modern, cinematic and literary repertoire remains on our horizon as the gesture that emphasized not only the construction of local identities but also waved and indicated that the overcoming of our historical constraints was precisely in a Third World revolution. This reference, still today, remains on the horizon, although current cinema does not look very much like what was done in previous decades. But it must be said that the problem with this paradigm is to consider that the modern, political, anti-industrial and radical cinema is the only Latin American cinema - Brazilian, Argentine, Mexican, Cuban, and so on. There are many cinemas within these countries productions. There is no homogeneity and modern cinemas also lack the hegemony of aesthetic quality.
In the anti-colonialist struggle of modern cinemas, some examples of popular genres (musicals, melodramas, comedies, horror films and erotic content) were stigmatized as alienated and imitative Hollywood by-products. Understandable, in a way. However, this thesis does not correspond to reality. Although many films reproduced different prejudices and were moralists in the judgment of some social conducts, popular genres were the first trench of construction of a local identity and of an expression of customs and imaginaries, besides constructing styles and realizing formal experiences of cinematographic value.
Apart from the discussion of new cinemas, between the 1930s and 1980s, three Latin American countries promoted national industries: Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. As well as the political, and economic processes that made possible a film economy, the continuity of production and the reach of a larger audience are distinct in each of the three nations. They all had cycles, with more or less continuity, at different times in their history. Although there was no direct dialogue between the industries genres of each one, in some moments the Mexican cinema had penetration in the market of other countries to the south of the continent and its melodramas and comedies forged an image of the latinidad that was fixed in the international imaginary and became popular on the continent.
There are some similarities between the popular cinema in Mexico, Argentine, and Brazil between the years 1930 and 1950. The musical film, for example, in Argentina as well as in Brazil, was stimulated by the radio, the music industry and the theaters of magazines of both countries. Titles such as “El Alma del Bandonéon” (1935), by the Italian-Argentine Mario Soficci, and “The Drunkard” (1946), by Gilda de Abreu, have similarities that are not insignificant. Both are melodramas that narrate the deconstruction of small town born characters thanks to the villainy of the big cities; music and the music industry are both: the fulfillment of a dream and the door to hell. They are films in which one sought to speak to the great (and eclectic) public in countries where the migration from rural to large cities increased simultaneously with the birth of the cultural industry.
Mexican and Brazilian cinema shared similarity via humor. Both the Mexican Cantinflas and the Brazilian (Spanish by birth) Oscarito had come from the circus and the theater of varieties. Mexican "cabaretera" movies of the 1940s and 1950s and the Brazilian chanchadas contributed to their respective constructions of national identities vis-a-vis Hollywood, with visual repertoires and parodies of American successes.
There were also custom dramas, erotic comedy ("cine de ficheras" in Mexico, pornochanchada in Brazil, Armando Bo in Argentina), Mexican horror and science fiction films, and Brazilian and Mexican exploitations. The repertoires of these films have already been widely questioned as prejudiced, conservative, picturesque and folkloric. Although this was present in many of them (living contradictions of their own time and place), to take this generalist judgment as a sentence against this cinema is a political, intellectual and strategic error.
What put an end to these cinemas of a real national occupation of the market was a series of factors, among them the fragility of the system that combines production, distribution and exhibition, theHollywood lobby and the instability of ruptures and changes of political processes. Today, when we speak of the market, we are dealing with a production that, in terms of the system of realization and exhibition, still has obvious fragility. There are, besides the successful box offices, films made for the international auteur cinema market of contemporary cinema. In this field, Argentina has become famous with its Nuevo Cine, and Mexico is more internationally famous for importing directors for Hollywood (Alejandro Iñarritu, Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón) than for its independent and nothing despicableproduction. The situation in Brazil, on the other hand, is not so different from its two continental counterparts, although, here, co-production is still timid compared to Chile and Argentina. The bridges today between these cinemas are images either very vague (what we have in common?) Or pragmatic (in the co-productions).
The invitation of the 12th edition of the CineBHFilm Festival is to rethinka historical process that begins in the 20th century and goes up to this moment. Not to reactivate principles that have their place in the specific circumstances of a historical step, but to examine what are still the social, cultural, and economic constraints to which we are subjugated. If the cinemas of Latin American countries currently have very large differences in their models of domestic financing and development, as well as in the questions and traditions that inspire the creation of filmmakers, there is a common imperative in the "system" that constitutes the cinematography in question: the difficulty of allying the chain of production, distribution and screening, the hegemony of foreign product in the national market, and, not least, models of achievement that seem obsolete in the face of a reality that is no longer the same as in the twentieth century.
Often this new situation does not seem receptive to ideas that escape fromghettos, whether they are fromcommercial cinema and the conventional market, the auteur cinema and the festival markets or, in a situation of total lack and isolation, the productions( artist films, genre films, militant films) that run aground because they do not fit the existing models of production, distribution and screening. How to act and make cinema in a world that, despite being a constrainer, points out several new possibilities? The debate is open.
Francis Vogner dos Reis, Marcelo Miranda e Pedro Butcher