WHAT it is…

A film movement that flourished in the Latin American countries, especially Brazil, during the 1950s and the 1960s. Cinema Novo identified itself as being located on the fringes of the industry and stood in strong opposition to the dominant commercial film scene, which, it thought, was colonised by the production techniques and ideology of developed countries.

WHO its pioneers were...

The prominent names associated with Cinema Novo include Glauber Rocha (who also provided much of its theoretical framework), Nelson Pereira dos Santos and Leon Hirszman. The movement had its roots in the national literature and mythology as well as the cinematic practices of Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave.

How it is characterised…

Objectives

One of the prime objectives of the Cinema Novo movement was to grapple with crucial problems plaguing Brazil, in particular, and Latin American, in general, in a way that did not present them like exotic phenomena ready for Western condescension. Hunger, specifically, became the central issue for many of these filmmakers, who contrasted the problem with the “digestive cinema” that dominated the Brazilian market at the time.

Style

The Cinema Novo films borrowed from Italian Neorealism the idea of location shooting and the use of non-professionals as actors and from the nascent Nouvelle Vague the unconventional methods of filming and editing. These films also drew from experimental theatre and often attempted to provide the audience an emotional distance from the narrative so that they can reflect on its ideas instead of uncritically accepting its assumptions and propositions.

WHY it is important...

It is of significance that Cinema Novo was a movement based neither on the idea of individual authorship of films, as was Nouvelle Vague, nor on the foundational truths of the Left, as was the case with Socialist Realism. It was, primarily, nationalistic and anti-neo-colonialist in temperament and provided a model for many other groups and individual filmmakers who shared similar world views.

WHERE to find it...

Glauber Rocha's Black God, White Devil (1964) takes place in the drought-hit northern plains of Brazil, where a farmer on the run is misled by one false prophet after another. Blending mythology, social criticism, avant-garde theatre, folk lore and popular cinema techniques, Rocha creates a textured, challenging and angry film that attempts to strike right at the heart of the problems that beset the nation.

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