Brazil’s cinematic history is rich with great films expressing a social conscience that is never far away.
Brazil’s Cinema is the most varied, surprising, and inventive in South America.
In celebration of Brazil’s Bicentennial year, 1822 – 2022
This week’s Brazilian Minute: Brazil’s Cinema
Script from Audio:
Welcome to Brazilian Minute, brought to you by the Consulate-General of Brazil in Chicago and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry’s Cultural Department.
Here’s the story about how Brazil’s National Cinema has become one of the most respected and creative worldwide.
Brazil’s first movie theater opened in 1897, paving the way for Brazil’s Golden Age of Film followed by the birth of Brazil’s Short Film tradition.
One of the most productive periods for Brazilian Cinema began in the Sixties with Cinema Novo, which often focused on social reform. Its influence remains strong still today.
Brazil’s film industry has never been brighter, due in part to a surge of productions for Amazon, HBO, and Netflix.
It’s easy to enjoy the rich heritage of Brazilian Cinema. Brazilian Film Festivals from Chicago to Miami, Los Angeles, and New York are important cultural events. Plan to attend or stream Brazil’s best movies at home!
Read and listen to new weekly episodes of The Brazilian Minute. It’s brought to you by the Consulate General of Brazil, in Chicago and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry’s Cultural Department.
More on: Brazil’s Cinema
Overview: Lights, Cameras, Action!
It’s true. Brazil owes its cinematic beginnings to a pair of 1890s tech geeks: Pascoal and Afonso Segreto. Young Brazilian Italian immigrants with an eye for emerging trends.
They find one in the Brazilian winter of 1896. A new invention from France, on display in Rio de Janeiro, called the Cinématographe. A wooden box on a tri-pole stand that films and projects short motion pictures.
Afonso Segreto traveled to Paris to purchase one. Then, he returned to Rio de Janeiro to start filming. In July 1897, Brother Pascoal Segreto opened up Brazil’s first movie house in Rio.
These events are the beginning of Brazilian Cinema’s short film tradition. One that remains a vibrant and creative movie format today.
Brazil’s Golden Age of Film
The 20th Century arrived and with it came an explosion of interest in the silver screen for Brazil’s first generation of movie-goers. Soon, motion pictures from Hollywood were making their way south to inspire emerging filmmakers.
It didn’t take long. In 1908, Brazil fell in love with its first box office hit. Estranguladores tells the story of a criminal enterprise gone wrong and audiences flocked to see it. A short film of only 35 minutes, it also ignited Brazil’s first movie genre. Crime Dramas often reenacted stories taken from the headlines just weeks or days before.
By 1912, Brazilian films dominated movie theaters across Brazil’s urban centers, averaging 100 films annually. Two decades later, even most of Brazil’s smaller cities had their own movie theaters. and by the 1930s Brazil had become Hollywood’s third-largest foreign market, worldwide.
That’s when Carmen Miranda became Brazil’s first international movie star.
A pivotal moment for Brazil’s Cinema
In 1930, Carmen Miranda was already Brazil’s highest-paid singer. Brazilian movie studios rushed to include her in a series of films revolving around samba and carnival. Four years later, Cinearte magazine called her “the most popular figure in Brazilian cinema.”
Carmen Miranda’s arrival in New York in May 1939 marked a turning point for Brazil’s film industry.
The story goes that Miranda was invited to come to New York to appear in a Broadway show, The Streets of Paris. However, the producer would not agree to pay for her music group, Bando da Lua to perform with her on stage. An impasse had been reached.
Brazil’s President Getulio Vargas saw the cultural value of Carmen Miranda’s opportunity, and he made a pivotal decision. The Brazilian government would for the expenses needed to bring Miranda’s band to New York.
Vargas bestowed Miranda with the tile of ‘Goodwill Ambassador’, raising her profile to celebrity status for the New York World’s Fair. Seven months later, Carmen Miranda’s ‘Bahian look’ took the American fashion scene by storm.
But there’s more. Brazil’s Carmen Miranda was chosen as one of the ten most outstanding women in 1939. Miranda starred in her first Hollywood feature film, Down Argentine Way the very next year.
President Vargas could not have predicted Carmen Miranda’s success as a movie star in the USA.
However, Vargas’s decision is one of the earliest documented acts of government support for Brazil’s film industry. This relationship remains vital to its growth and development.
By the 60s, Brazil’s cinema had grown through adolescence and flirted with commercialism. Independent Brazilian filmmakers wanted a stronger voice and they looked to Italy for inspiration.
Cinema Novo became Brazil’s interpretation of Italian neorealism. These producers and directors used the ideas of starkness and contrast to portray the realities of the human condition.
Brazil’s Cinema Today
Brazil’s cinematic history is rich with great films. Here’s a list to help you get started.
The 60s with Bye Bye, Brazil. The 70s with Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. The 80s’ Pixote, A Lei do Mais Fraco (Pixote) to the 90s’ Central do Brasil (Central Station).
Millennium movies of merit include Cidade de Deus (City of God), Tropa de Elite 1 & 2 (Elite Squad 1 & 2), and 2022’s Marte Um (Mars One) with its world premiere at January’s Sundance Film Festival.
Today, Brazil’s cinema is the most varied, surprising, and inventive in South America.
Brazilian films carry a distinct identity and a personal way of expressing their stories. Music is at the heart of Brazilian Cinema, together with a social conscience that is never far from the surface. You’ll see this even in the simplest comedies.
Europe, China, and Hollywood exert a strong presence internationally. However, Brazilian Cinema draws on the best of these influences to create images of the nation’s own rich and complex culture.
Brazilian Film Festivals in the United States
Here is a list of America’s Brazilian Film Festivals. Search for International Film Festivals for additional venues for Brazilian films.
- Brazilian Film Festival of Miami
- Brazilian Film Festival of New York
New York, NY
- Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival
Los Angeles, CA
- Mostra Brazilian Film Festival
Chicago, IL – Midwest – Sao Paulo
- Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival
- Travessias Brazilian Film Festival
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