Brazil: The Emergence Of
A New Indie Film Scene

By Eve Pearce

Eve is a freelance writer who has worked in both non-fiction and script writing.

For several years, Brazil has been carving a name for itself as a rapidly emerging nation. As it makes its mark on the world stage with its ripening economy, its international business acumen, its sporting prowess and growing popularity as a travel destination, Brazil becomes subject of widespread intrigue. As a consequence, many Brazilian industries are finding a path to global limelight that they once could only have dreamed of.

Brazil's film industry is no exception. Having been through many highs and lows in the past - owing its instability largely to its dependency on state funding - the country's film sector is receiving international acclamation among the indie world cinema movement. Having once enjoyed considerable credibility and cult status through its Cinema Novo movement in the sixties - Brazil's experimental answer to the French New Wave - Brazil's indie film industry is now firmly back within the cool scene.

Tropa de Elite

Tropa de Elite was a controversial political film made in 2007 by filmmaker, José Padilha. The film caused quite a commotion on its release due to the large number of audience members that cheered scenes of immense police brutality. The low-budget film raised several raw political issues and sociological problems to the attention of the Brazilian public. It also fuelled many otherwise untouched public debates on the legalisation of drugs through its depiction of drug users as crime sponsors.

The film is based on the book, Elite de Tropa, by Luiz Eduado Soares and policemen, André Batista and Rodrigo Pimentel. The film, which went on to achieve major commercial success, became something of a cult phenomenon. It caused major outcry when it appeared to glamorise police violence and for making the Brazilian Special Police Operations Battalion appear like a "killing machine" in its its semi-fictional account.

Waste Land

A film that follows an artist on his travels is sure to be full of poetic narrative and beautifully evocative mise-en-scene. Waste Land does not disappoint. The film follows intriguing artist, Vik Muniz, as he travels from New York to his home land of Brazil. The primary focus of the film is the existence of a huge rubbish dump on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, at which Muniz meets a group of garbage pickers (or catadores, as they are known locally).

The catadores represent a huge group of impoverished people in urban Brazil, who do not have access to conventional employment, but work together to collect valuable pieces of litter thrown away by the city’s middle and rich classes. They then sell on all they find to bring in the income they need to survive. Muniz initially wanted to make an art project out of the workers, by “painting” each of the catadores with the rubbish they collect. However, upon getting to know the individual and strong characters, he developed a huge admiration for them and decided to approach the project as a collaboration with the group of catadores.

Director, Lucy Walker’s, intimate following of Muniz is a touching account of a man won over by the uplifting spirit of a group of people who were dealt the worst possible hand in life. Waste Land is not over-contentious; the filming and editing is both honest and consistent.

The documentary-style narrative pays homage to the fact that this is a film about a true story; how one man saw something in a group of people that no one else saw. Indeed, Muniz and the catadores went on to receive nationwide recognition for their project; the Brazilian government used it to raise awareness of recycling.

Truth Profane

Truth Profane is a digital indie film that is based on an ancient theory called ‘Profane’. The low-budget film, which was rejected by many film festivals because of its violent content, asks the audience the question: How much truth can you take? Set over six years, the film explores the relationships between truth, religion and the context of human existence on this planet. The narrative constantly changes between past, present and future; that line often becoming blurred as if to show the irrelevance of time.

The film, which was the first from director, João Rocha, aims to explore the complexity of the human mind and, as such, darts between scenes of the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary’. Scenes of domestic violence are intercepted with ambiguous distortion, perhaps to reflect the mind’s reaction to such events.

Regional Daily, a local Brazilian paper, said of the film that it “offers insight beyond images". At times, indeed the imagery of the film is somewhat raw and – as if on purpose – the editing does not appear logical. Nor does the mise-en-scene appear particularly aesthetically pleasing in places. However, this film is all about the narrative. 

Marcio Curi - Executive Producer Test of Audience, summed it up: "[Profane is] a very different movie, very personal and exciting. Profane… has a strong and unquestionable personal signature of a new director."

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