Sex and violence in Brazil’s military dictatorship: ‘Damned Brazilian Movies!’
Every Thursday, the Casa França-Brasil in downtown Rio de Janeiro has been presenting the movie series “Malditos Filmes Brasileiros!” (Damned Brazilian Movies!) (website). If you’re in Rio, good news: the screenings are free. (Image: Giant cod and all-too-willing victim in Adriano Stuart’s Bacalhau (Bac’s).)
“Damned Brazilian Movies!” consists of low-budget (or no-budget) Brazilian productions – cop thrillers, erotic comedies known as pornochanchadas*, horror flicks, Feijoada† Westerns (a.k.a. “bang-bang movies”) – made from the 1960s to the 1980s, when Brazil was in the grip of a right-wing military dictatorship. Those truly subversive efforts dealt with sex and/or violence in a manner that outraged and/or titillated the Brazilian moviegoing public and that country’s censors.
“Damned Brazilian Movies!” in August: Killer fish Bacalhau
“Damned Brazilian Movies!” August screenings include the following:
- Raffaele Rossi’s Seduzidas pelo Demônio / Seduced by the Devil (1978), the story of a laidback university student who, after becoming possessed by an evil spirit, turns into a brutal psychopath. “Forget Ed Wood,” the festival’s schedule says about this “trashy pearl” from São Paulo’s Grade Z moviedom.
- Adriano Stuart’s Bacalhau (Bac’s) / Cod (1976), a semi-erotic satire inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. (“Bac’s” is a – meaningless in Portuguese – pun on the American film’s English-language title.) In Bacalhau, an overgrown, insatiable cod scares the wits out of a bunch of tourists at a São Paulo beach resort. In the film’s cast are several well-known Brazilian film and TV performers: Maurício do Valle, Hélio Souto, Marlene França, Helena Ramos, and Dionísio Azevedo.
- Milton Alencar Jr.’s Escalada da Violência / Escalation of Violence (1981), a violent Rambo-esque tale about a man’s determination to avenge the bloody death of his family. By the way, Escalada da Violência was filmed at the Beco da Fome, or Hunger Alley, a sort of poor (Brazilian) man’s version of the American Poverty Row studios of yore.
* The word pornochanchada is pronounced more or less like “poh-noo-shun-SHAH-duh.” Note: The “h” in the syllable “poh” is pronounced like the aspirated “h” in “house,” while the “uh” in the last syllable is barely pronounced.
Note: † The Feijoada Westerns is the (generally no-budget) Brazilian equivalent of the Italian-made Spaghetti Western, but with a Brazilian – not an Old (American) West – setting. In fact, the “official” term for those blood-soaked cowboy movies is Nordestern, as it refers to “Westerns” set in the semi-arid hinterlands of Brazil’s poverty-ridden Northeast.
Bacalhau photo via “Damned Brazilian Movies!.”
Brazilian movie series: Nordesterns
Sept. 2 update: The film series “Malditos Filmes Brasileiros!” (Damned Brazilian Movies!) continues in September at the Casa França-Brasil in downtown Rio de Janeiro. The theme of the month is the Brazilian Nordestern, also known (by me at least) as the Feijoada Western: those are shoot-em-up flicks shot (no pun intended) in the arid and lawless Brazilian Northeast, where men were born to kill or die, and women were born to get raped and do crochet. (Image: Decapited head found in Carlos Coimbra’s 1967 Nordestern Cangaceiros de Lampião [Lampião’s Henchmen].)
Among the scheduled “Damned Brazilian Movies!” screenings are Carlos Coimbra’s epoch-making A Morte Comanda o Cangaço (Death Rules the Lawlessness, 1960), a well-received Nordestern that became a sizable box office hit in Brazil; Wilson Silva’s Nordeste Sangrento (Bloody Northeast, 1963), about religious fanaticism in the “holy city” of Juazeiro; and Tião Valadares and (an uncredited) Rajá de Aragão’s O Cangaceiro do Diabo (The Devil’s Bandit, 1981), a no-budget production that, according to the series’ organizers, “is a serious candidate for the title of worst Nordestern ever made.”
Nothing that would make John Ford turn green with envy, perhaps, but these low-to-no-budget Brazilian movies will probably appeal to those who enjoy their hangings, shoot-outs, and rapes accompanied by a large degree of technical ineptitude.
Cangaceiros de Lampião decapited head image: “Damned Brazilian Movies!” website.
The Hollywood Blacklist and Hollywood Jews: San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2005
The 25th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (website), the largest of its kind in the United States, will be held all over the Bay Area in late July / early August. (Please see more specific dates below. Photo: Henry Hübchen Go for Zucker!.)
Among this year’s SFJFF highlights are the U.S. premiere of Dani Levy’s box office hit and German Academy Award contender Go for Zucker! / Alles auf Zucker!, and a series of films focusing on the work of Jews who were blacklisted during the House Un-American Activities Committee’s reign of terror in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Jews, in particular, were singled out for political persecution by American right-wingers.
Hollywood Blacklist scholar Paul Buhle of Brown University will moderate a panel that will include blacklisted writers Walter Bernstein (Fail-Safe, The Front), Norma Barzman (author of the original story for the psychological thriller The Locket, starring Laraine Day, and which is part of the festival’s program), and Dan Bessie, whose father, screenwriter Alvah Bessie (whose credits include the Errol Flynn vehicles Northern Pursuit and Objective, Burma!), was one of the Hollywood Ten.
In the words of festival Program Director Nancy Fishman, the panel will offer a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to talk to people who lived through that period.”
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival dates
The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, which comprises a total of 49 feature films, documentaries, and shorts from 15 countries, runs between July 21-28 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco; July 31-Aug. 6 at the Roda Theatre in Berkeley; July 31-Aug. 4 at the Mountain View Century Cinema 16 in Mountain View; and Aug. 6-8 at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Henry Hübchen Go for Zucker! photo: Filme Bayerischer Rundfunk Arte.
Karlovy Vary Film Festival winners
2005 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: July 1–9.
Crystal Globe for Best Film:Mój Nikifor / My Nikifor by Krysztof Krauze (Poland)
Special Jury Prize:Elze makom nifla / What a Wonderful Place by Eyal Halfon (Israel)
Best Director: Krysztof Krauze for Mój Nikifor / My Nikifor (Poland)
Best Actress: Krystyna Feldman for Mój Nikifor / My Nikifor (Poland)
Best Actor (tie): Uri Gavriel in Elze makom nifla / What a Wonderful Place (Israel) and Luca Zingaretti for Alla luce del sole / Come into the Light (Italy)
Special Mention: Noriko no Shokutaku / Noriko’s Dinner Table by Sion Sono (Japan)
Best Documentary (longer than 30 minutes): Estamira by Marcos Prado (Brazil)
Best Documentary (shorter than 30 minutes):Boa moy / My Godby Galina Adamovich (Belarus)
Special Mention:Mad Hot Ballroom by Marilyn Agrelo (US)
East of the West Award: Ragin by Kirill Serebrennikov (Russia / Austria)
Special Mention:Wesele / The Wedding by Wojciech Smarzowski (Poland)
FIPRESCI Prize: Kinamand / Chinaman by Henrik Ruben Genz (Denmark / China)
Audience Award: La Vie avec mon père / Life with My Father by Sébastien Rose (Canada)
The Ecumenical Jury Award: Kinamand / Chinaman by Henrik Ruben Genz (Denmark / China)
Don Quijote Prize (IFCC International Federation of Film Societies): Noriko no Shokutaku / Noriko’s Dinner Table by Sion Sono (Japan)
Special Mention: Mój Nikifor / My Nikifor by Krysztof Krauze (Poland)
Young Czech Critics Jury Award (Best Debut Film): Parvane ha bradaghe mikonand / The Butterflies Are Just a Step Behind by Mohammad Ebrahim Moaiery (Iran)
Narrative Film Jury: Michael Radford (UK, president), Frédéric Fonteyne (Belgium), Ali MacGraw (US), Fernando Méndez-Leite Serrano (Spain), Kornél Mundruczó (Hungary), Rubba Nada (Canada), Zuzana Stívinová (Czech Republic)
Documentary Jury: David Fisher (president, Israel), John Appel (The Netherlands), Flavia de la Fuente (Argentina), Jana Hádková (Czech Republic), Ninos Feneck Mikelides (Greece)
East of the West Jury: Andrei Plakhov (president, Russia), Jannike Åhlund (Sweden), Mira Erdevichki (UK), Viera Langerová (Slovakia), Roland Rust (Germany)