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jean-claude bernardet

Jean-Claude Bernardet: A critic of the beautification of poverty

Entrevista Jean_okokokléo ramosJean-Claude Bernardet won’t let up. He is a harsh critic of today’s Brazilian cinema and scoffs at the never-ending use of poverty as a theme of documentaries. “Poverty never creates political issues because it generates a discourse of consensus, and it also focuses attention on compassion, kindness and the lamentation of unhappiness,” he says. “If this poverty, shown so prolifically in documentaries, were inserted into the system as a whole, things could change in significance and perspective.” When beautified, poverty becomes depoliticized. “It’s a great discovery of the middle class,” he observes.

At the university, Bernardet was no less critical. In the 1980s, during his second stint at the USP School of Communications and Arts (ECA-USP), he noticed that many of the theses placed higher priority on theoretical introduction than on the subject matter of the research. “I put a stop to this practice with my students,” he says. For Bernardet, first he has to attempt to grasp and question the subject matter of the study and determine what the students want from the subject matter; then, and only then, is the theoretical information to be used.

As a movie critic, he carved out his position when he realized that one of criticism’s raisons d’être is dialogue with the creation and production of the film. And this interaction can take place only if the analysis of the work is focused on what is taking place in Brazil. Writing about the works of Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni was useless for Bernardet. “They would never read me and the desired interaction would not occur.”

University of São Paulo (PhD)
23 books (essays, fiction, collections of articles, autobiography and scripts)

Jean-Claude Bernardet, of French origin, was born in 1936 in Charleroi, Belgium, where his father worked as an apprentice in a factory. He came to São Paulo with his family when he was 13, but he remained immersed in his little French world until he was 21. Through the courses he took at the National Industrial Training Service (SENAI), he made contact with the real Brazil. Next, frequenting a São Paulo cineclub and the Cinemateca Brasileira helped him establish himself as an influential participant in Brazilian society and culture.

At the Cinemateca, Bernardet met Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, who at the time was one of the most respected movie critics and a columnist for the O Estado de São Paulo Literary Supplement. The contact proved to be worthwhile, especially for the young movie fan, who began to write for the press and became one of the key participants in the generation of directors that made Cinema Novo. He joined the academic world in 1965 at the University of Brasília (UnB) at a time when there were no professors trained in cinema and practicing professionals had to be hired. In 1967 he began at ECA-USP. But he had to “retire” due to Executive Order No.  5 (AI-5), a decree enacted by the military government in December 1968, and he was not permitted to teach in public universities.

For 11 years he worked at the Goethe Institute teaching courses on film. After the Amnesty Act, passed in 1979, he returned to the university. Although he never completed high school and never graduated, he was awarded an equivalent doctoral degree. In 1991, he submitted a thematic project that was approved in the first program call at FAPESP. It was for researching films about São Paulo in order to produce a medium-length film that was a collage of films about the city. The product of this theme was the film essay entitled São Paulo – sinfonia e cacofonia (São Paulo – Symphony and Cacophony), completed in 1994.

Today, Bernardet has retired from USP, but he is still being invited to collaborate on scripts and perform as an actor, and this line of work has grown steadier in the last few years. He was married to Lucila, who was also a professor of cinema. Together they had a child, Ligia, who lives in the United States. He is a prolific author whose works have included film theory, essays, fiction, autobiography and scripts. Currently he is not writing much, and when he does, it is almost always in his blog ( Due to a serious degeneration of the retina, known as maculopathy, his vision is extremely limited. The interview that Jean-Claude Bernardet granted to Pesquisa FAPESP follows.

In the autobiographical book entitled Aquele rapaz (That Boy), the impression is that you were more suited to be involved in or study literature than cinema. Why one and not the other?
I come from a family of avid readers. They read each and every day. My brother and I started reading when we were five or six. When I turned 18, for my birthday I was given permission to read Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Camus, which had been taboo at home until then. At that time I started working for a publisher, Difel, which stands for Difusão Europeia do Livro. Their main authors were the ones I mentioned. I also worked at the French bookstore, known as Livraria Francesa. And so you are correct in thinking that the literature path was a natural one for me. What happened was that at the bookstore and in the publishing house, I was still trapped in that little world where only French was spoken, and I had to get out. But it was important for me to be careful and not go too far because I relied on my salary to support myself. That’s why I decided to study at SENAI.

And how did you break away?
Since I was working at the publishing house, I began to take graphic arts courses and I completed two courses. Since I never finished high school, the first two diplomas I earned were from SENAI. It was quite an upheaval for me because no one there spoke French and my Portuguese was terrible. And then there was a social shock. I come from a middle class family and we were relatively well versed in politics and culture. My family went to see plays and movies. My father was in the French Resistance during the war. The people at SENAI were unpretentious immigrants from other states in Brazil. I also was in for culture shock. Let me explain: Those courses were primarily drawing courses. My drawings were horrible then and they are no better today. But composition comes naturally to me. For example, we drew the cover of a book or a whole page to advertise refrigerators and there were other exercises. The professor praised my work in general because I have a certain sense of how to balance a block of text with images. Most of the course dealt with design. And yes, the other students knew how to draw, but they had no idea how to compose, where to place the objects or the sayings, how large or small the letters should be, and so on. However, there were lots of details in their drawings. They didn’t understand how I did so well in the course.

And so you began to learn about the real Brazil
In a certain way, my door to Brazil opened through SENAI. I broke away from a world that was French and only French, although I continued to work at the bookstore and in the publishing house. There was a cineclub next door to the bookstore, in Galeria Califórnia, which was a shopping arcade that connected rua Barão de Itapetininga with rua Dom José Gaspar, in downtown São Paulo, with frontage on both streets. One day, a friend and I went to see what was happening there. It was a cineclub that didn’t show films. Each week, they chose a film that was showing in theaters at the time or was about to have its debut. We went to see the movies and held a debate at the cineclub. One person was chosen and spoke about the film for 20 or 30 minutes. No one else spoke during the analytical exposition. Then a round of discussion began. Since I am of French origin, they asked me to take the floor whenever a French film was shown. My Portuguese was horrible, but they accepted me just the same. A few months later, elections were held for the board. I was a candidate on the list and we won. That is how I came into contact with Cinemateca de São Paulo. My interpretation of these facts is that I am still an immigrant. The French didn’t establish a colony here; French workers didn’t come in droves to colonize or work in Brazil, as opposed to the Japanese or Italians, for example. For me, film-related activities were also an opening into Brazilian society. SENAI was an area of conflict because of the social difference. At the cineclub and Cinemateca, we were more or less at the same cultural and social level, so that a dialogue came to be established. My efforts were rewarded. At the Cinemateca I met Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, and that meeting was a life-changing event for me. Paulo, who was two generations older than me, was, shall I say, the first adult who ever took me seriously. He thought I had talent. He created challenges for me and told me how I could make things work out and get ahead.

Was that when you started to write for the Estadão Cultural Supplement?
Paulo went away on a long trip, but before he left he set up a group to write articles in his place. He did this with the editor of the supplement, Décio de Almeida Prado. The group included Rudá de Andrade, Gustavo Dahl (who was in the Dom Vital cineclub and the Cinemateca), Fernando Seplinski and me. When Paulo came back, he began writing the column again and asked me to take turns with him. I began to write more frequently. My articles were very successful.

During that period, the late 1950s and the early 1960s, activity at the Cinemateca was intense. What accounted for this?
There was a select audience that was interested in the cinema. There were no cinema students because there were no courses at the time. But there were young people who were interested — critics and theater employees. We held the French festival, the Russian-Soviet festival and the Italian festival, and they were a major retrospective. There were others, such as the Czech-Polish festival, which was on current events and brought completely unknown filmmakers to Brazil. In 1961, the Cinemateca – with Rudá, Maurício Capovilla and myself – held a Cinema Novo night before the term was coined and before there were any feature films by these new filmmakers. All of us, but Rudá especially, had the impression that a new generation of film directors was emerging — a generation that was completely different from the directors of earlier times. We showed short subjects: Aruanda, by Linduarte Noronha, O poeta do castelo (The Poet from the Castle), about Manuel Bandeira, by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, a film by Paulo César Saraceni and another one by Trigueirinho Neto. Glauber Rocha didn’t come but Saraceni did and there was a huge fight.

The São Paulo filmmakers felt that those films were not edited, that they kicked off with long takes, such as the Bandeira film, where he is seen walking down the street. It was the start of a new pace that became the norm in feature films. It was a new look at people being filmed. The São Paulo filmmakers who watched it were all, well, from the 1950s, from a tradition of other narrative forms, a different conception of editing.

Who were they?
I don’t even remember all of them. But one of them was César Mêmolo Jr., and he was the most aggressive. He said that it wasn’t cinema. There were others, such as Carlos Alberto Souza Barros, who went to Rio later. Our group completely embraced the new method. Estadão devoted an entire page to advertise this festival.

Were you able to understand this new cinema?
Yes, we were aware that something new was happening, that it was where we were headed and we wanted to reinforce it. Neophyte critic that I was, I never pictured – well at first I did, but then I changed my mind – critics as producers of critical and analytical texts. I have always felt that that critics are full-fledged participants in culture. It wasn’t the only time I took part in this type of thing; it was part of an affirmation of a trio, because there was Rudá and Capovilla and me, but for my part as critic, it was work that you could call, let’s say, intrinsic. At first, when I started to write, I wrote within the confines of a certain tradition. In other words, a critic evaluates, analyzes, judges, compares, etc. Soon I realized that the most active critic should not work that way. It was in March 1961 that this turning point became evident to me, when I wrote the review of La Dolce Vita, by Federico Fellini, and the repercussions were far-reaching. After that I was invited to give lectures on the critical method, but I had no idea what it was. And then it dawned on me that the only reader who mattered to me was Fellini, and that he would never see what I wrote. At that time I understood that one of the components of criticism was a dialogue with production and creation. For that, I needed to work with Brazilian films and topics because it was the only opportunity for having a dialogue. Ingmar Bergman, Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni would never read my work and there would be no interaction. For me, once I saw La Dolce Vita, I saw reviews as interaction, as opposed to merely analysis and evaluation.

Did this help you become a professor and explain this conception of criticism in class?
No. There were not many cinema courses in the 1950s and 1960s. I started as a student in them, and then I was asked to teach.

Was a bibliography on cinema available?
There were some reference works. For a professor, it is essential to have direct access to the work, with as few steps in between as possible. When I returned to ECA-USP in 1980, after the Amnesty Act, I went to the library and I saw that a third of the theses were a large introduction to theory. There was Lacan, Barthes, structuralism, etc. The subject matter of the research came after this and the approach was totally contingent on the theoretical premises in the introduction. I put an end to this practice with my students. The theoretical information had to come afterwards. First we had to establish contact with a given subject and determine what we wanted from it, or what the salient points of this subject were: the film, the director, the book – or anything. We needed a full discussion to stir things up and we needed an instrument that could be eclectic and inclusive, depending on the discussion that was held. I said that they worked in a way reminiscent of the Middle Ages. There was a bible which, in this case was Aristotle, and they replaced it with Roland Barthes or Lacan or  some other popular theorist. Organizing thought doesn’t change anything, because thought is more than just content; it is also form.

This happened at USP, after your stint at UnB. What was the experience like in Brasília?
In 1964 Paulo Emilio went to the ICA, the UnB Central Institute of Arts, where he conducted a long and very well-received seminar on Vidas secas (Barren Lives), the book and the film. Pompeu de Souza, who was the future coordinator of what was to become the Communications Institute, had an idea: In 1965 he started a small course of study on the cinema. The institutes at UnB could be set up by organizing three initial courses within a single structure. Journalism was there already, and cinema was added in 1965, followed by television, which began in 1966. At that time, the universities were being modernized with the introduction of courses and disciplines that had been around in Europe for some time. The universities couldn’t hire tenured professors in these fields because the courses didn’t exist. As a result, they brought in people from the profession who had some recognition. And that is how I entered academia. I started in 1964 and left in 1965. I was one of the 223 who submitted our resignations from UnB after the military invasions and meddling.

Besides you, who taught film at UnB?
Paulo Emilio, Nelson Pereira dos Santos and Lucila Bernardet, my wife at the time. We believed that we were building something new. UnB used credits and not disciplines as its basis, and there was flexibility of movement. There were 11 coordinators, quite a few professors and an army of teaching assistants. It was really the assistants who taught the classes. The professors taught one class and the job of the assistants was to divide the class and break it up into groups of 10 or 20. There were many young people who were starting their master’s work and still felt very close to the students. As for me specifically, I never finished high school and I never graduated either. I never had that academic fustiness and my contact with the students was smooth.

Was it this opening that made it possible for you to partially complete a master’s degree even though you never graduated?
Paulo Emilio was in philosophy and Lucila was in the literature field. Nelson studied law but never practiced. I had nothing. Despite that, I started my master’s but could not finish it because I resigned. Nonetheless, the result was the book entitled Brasil em tempo de cinema (Brazil at the Time of the Cinema), written in Brasília and published in 1967.

After UnB you went to ECA. How did that happen?
USP and UnB were in the same situation in terms of the courses. There were no professors with degrees. This situation persisted until about 1971, when the first classes graduated and some of the new graduates immediately began working on their master’s degrees, i.e. working as teaching assistants while in the master’s program. This is what happened, for example, with Ismail Xavier [see the interview in Pesquisa FAPESP Issue No. 94]. He was part of the first group at ECA. He was a brilliant student and so he was asked to teach as soon as he graduated. From that time on, the door slammed shut on anyone without a degree. The police in São Paulo were already searching for me when I started at ECA. Rudá de Andrade was the head of the department, known at that time as Cinema, Television and Theater. He asked me to give a few lectures, wearing a suit and tie. I gave the lectures and he waited for the reaction. The office of the president didn’t get involved, and the police didn’t react. And so a formal contract was signed in the second half of 1967. When the 223 faculty members resigned, UnB found itself practically without faculty. The office of the president had to establish a committee to restructure the ICA, and the committee invited professors to various departments of the institute. For cinema, they invited Capovilla and me. At the time I was a professor at USP and I could not work in other states without the president’s permission. And so Rudá helped me. He rearranged the schedule so that I could teach more courses for a few weeks, and then he gave me permission to go to UnB and I continued at ECA.

A great friend!
Rudá was incredibly helpful, and not just to me. I spent part of my time in São Paulo and part in Brasília. When I was in Brasília in early 1969, I was teaching an intensive course to make up for the time lost during the semester; then AI-5 was passed in December 1968, which affected me. One day I was advised that UnB would have to immediately break off all contact it had with me. This was the result of the list of the 25 USP professors who were stripped of their rights by the regime. Since I didn’t really know what would happen, I went into hiding. When I returned to São Paulo, Rudá asked me to work at ECA. Shortly after that he received an official letter from the director of ECA, saying that he knew that I had been on USP property, which was prohibited. In an admirable letter, he answered yes, that I had been on university property at his request in order to collect my belongings and to write a report of what had been done up to that point. He also said that the department head had no authority to prohibit anyone from accessing the property. The letter was extraordinary: not one word that was not in line with official policy, and he said everything that needed to be said. It was an act of bravery.

What did you do?
I was away from USP for 11 years and returned only after the university implemented the Amnesty Act. Several professors went back, including José Arthur Giannotti, Vilanova Artigas and myself. Others did not, including Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

How did you survive during that time?
They were some of the best years of my life. First, the dictatorship made a mistake by making a list of individuals stripped of their rights. By doing so, it rocketed us into the international spotlight right away. At the time I was a lowly professor with one published book. Suddenly, I was associated with Fernando Henrique, Giannotti, Florestan Fernandes, Mário Schenberg and other famous people. I grew overnight. Yet, even with that, I lost everything in 1964, 1965 and once again in 1969. I was growing rather tired of it. I got through it just fine the first two times, but in 1969 I had a daughter and certain financial commitments.

Were you arrested?
I was interrogated, but not arrested. I was in Chile for the Valparaíso Festival at a time when there were already many Brazilians in exile there. I began to make contacts and an opportunity came up for me to teach at a university near Santiago. I told Lucila about the plan and her answer was surprising: “I’m not going to Chile because the same thing that has happened here is going to happen there.” That was in 1969, when Eduardo Frei was still president and Salvador Allende was on the campaign trail. I don’t know how she had that vision. She was adamant in her opinion about Chile and she was spot on.

And so what was your decision?
I stayed here and I worked at a new private university, São José dos Campos. But it didn’t last long because the repression against the professors was in full swing and we were being closely watched. I thought it would be best to leave. I spent some time working with João Batista de Andrade as co-director of four films that recounted the history of cinema in São Paulo. It was a project of the São Paulo State Film Commission. I had been stripped of my rights and was prohibited from receiving money from the government. I needed someone to lend me his name to be listed in the credits. Then the Goethe Institute discovered me. I don’t speak German, but they liked me and I started to teach classes. There were two very important Goethe Institutes in Brazil: Salvador and São Paulo. The directors of both branches coped with the dictatorship as best they could and their culture policy was an intelligent one. I taught cinema classes and they paid me royally. With the money I made, I was able to travel to Northeast Brazil to help organize cineclubs, talk about methods of debates and take part in film programs without drawing the attention of the police, but I had to limit discussion. I also taught a bit of self-censorship because it was senseless to spark a fabulous debate one week and then have no debate the next week.

How long did you stay at the Goethe Institute?
Until 1978. In São Paulo, the director obtained funding from the Institute for seminars, and I organized them. One day, I received a message from the Institute in Salvador informing me that they had received a notice from the German Embassy to cut off all contact with me. They told me I would be paid everything, but that it was over. Throughout the period I published books. I did the newspaper Opinião and I wrote a bit in Movimento.

When did you do your doctoral work?
It was in the 1980s. Dora Mourão, who headed the department, told me that the number of faculty members at USP was on the decline, and that certain categories had already been hit and that the next category would be the guest professors. I had always been in that category. She told me that I would have to do a PhD and I applied to USP for an equivalent doctoral degree. To get it, I had to supply an interminable list of documents, with all the articles and duties, and everything I had produced to that point, in addition to a lengthy document with a narrative of my intellectual activity. I did all of the above and I wrote a text 100 pages long. I didn’t need an advisor and I didn’t have to take any courses. There were five judges and four of them refused to be part of the testing process for political reasons and because they considered it absolutely unnecessary. The only one who asked me anything was Sábato Magaldi, who found that something of paramount importance was missing: I forgot to include a bibliography. It was on the computer, but when I printed the document, I forgot the bibliography. This was unacceptable, but in the end I was awarded the PhD.

Let’s go back to movies. In Brazil at the Time of the Cinema, in 1967, you linked Cinema Novo to the middle class, with films made by middle class filmmakers that targeted the middle class. Film directors didn’t like that and the book is still controversial even today. Now, almost 50 years later, would you change anything in the book?
As for things I would do differently, well, let’s just not go there, because what’s done is done. Besides all the tumult, the most important review of the book was by Zulmira Ribeiro Tavares, who said that my concept of the middle class had no sociological foundation. I was rather shocked, but I realized that she was right. And then I thought: Up to the mid-1950s, when we began to start thinking about the middle class, we had no bibliography. The bibliography on intellectuality, the artists, did not appear until a bit later. When Arnaldo Jabor wrote Opinião pública (Public Opinion) in 1967, he had no bibliography either and adopted a concept of the middle class by John Stuart Mill that was not in line with the social universe depicted in the film. I believe that this was a defect in my book, but it was also a historic time in sociology. We didn’t have eyes in the back of our head.

The argument didn’t rip your book apart?
It didn’t destroy it, even though the questions were not really fundamental in terms of theory. Still, they were important to the point that when the It’s All True Festival paid tribute to me on my 70th birthday, Eduardo Coutinho said publicly that the film Cabra marcado para morrer (Twenty Years Later) was a response to the questions I asked in the book. He said and I quote: “I made Twenty Years Later for him.” It was published in the latest edition of Brazil at the Time of the Cinema [Companhia das Letras, 2007], and was a transcript of what he said and what he accepted. The book covers a lot of time.

But it cost you a few friends.
A book from 1985 was the one that cost me many friends: Cineasta e imagens do povo (Filmmakers and Images of the People). In the book I talked about the ideological and esthetic conflicts of filmmakers and how images of the people were used. In Brazil, I was attacked vehemently because of these ideological divergences. One of the strongest attacks against me in the press was by Glauber, and he attacked everything. It’s obvious that everyone thought that Glauber and I were fighting. I never had a fight with him, he never had a fight with me, and the two of us always got along very well. It was all just for show. I never replied and just let it go. There was never one caustic word between us. When I met him after the reviews, everything was normal. But I know that no one believed it.

Does the excessively intimate relationship between critics and artists bother you?
The situation is absolutely promiscuous. When I was at the newspaper Opinião in Rio, I avoided going to the same bars and traveling in the same circles as film directors. Gustavo Dahl and I went to Antonio’s, which at the time was ground zero for all of this, to meet Paulo Francis, and I never went back. Those circles are bad for critics, and I have always kept my distance.

In the same account of you by Eduardo Coutinho, he said the best thing that can be said about a review is when it challenges a film. As a critic, do you agree?
The sentence sounds nice. For me, it makes sense to do more than just watch the film; through the film you need to see what the filmmaker’s agenda was. And the agenda is not necessarily verbal, because it can’t be completely verbalized due to a number of factors: audacity, desires, frustrations, etc. I think I can say that I was very intuitive when I saw Twenty Years. Just after the review came out, Coutinho called me because he was impressed. Much later, he told me that before he made Twenty Years, and that while it was being shot, he read Walter Benjamin, who is not mentioned in the film. When he saw that my review ended with a quotation from Benjamin, he couldn’t believe it. Coutinho and I were never friends in the sense that we would go out and have a beer together. I never knew that he read Benjamin. But I noticed that in Twenty Years a theory of history was included. I sensed this history and I talked about it because of my readings, and not because of his readings. Afterwards we realized that we were on the same wave length. Years later we traveled to Canada together and we talked quite a bit about Jogo de cena (Playing), another of his films, from 2007, and about the interview process. We never discussed Twenty Years. For me, it was a great moment of achievement as a critic.

Would you say that Twenty Years Later was a turning point compared to documentaries produced in Brazil before that?
There’s not much depth to the word documentary. You can use it for anything. If you make a film about Almeida Jr. at the State Pinacoteca, if you make Twenty Years or if you interview a homeless person on the street, these three films, which have nothing in common, are given the same generic name: documentary. So yes, Twenty Years is a milestone. I don’t think you can label it “before and after,” because Coutinho had a courageous attitude of confronting the political situation of the time in a special and different way. What he did is what’s missing in today’s Brazilian film industry — a disconnect with any more important problem in Brazilian society. I believe that movies that are entirely sponsored, subsidized and financed pay a political price. In Twenty Years, the questions of the dictatorship, the situation in the Northeast and the alliance with peasants are addressed, but the movie is not a news report. That is why it is important for this question of the theory of history to include a thought process about constant losses and constant saves. Most of the films made in Brazil today are politically meaningless.

In your opinion, what is the reason for the current rather sorry state of Brazilian cinema today?
One of the easy explanations is the matter of subsidies. Certain issues are not addressed. I have had intense relationships with several documentarians. I have seen edited work and translations. One of the documentarians once told me that the environmental disasters that Petrobras has caused are huge. And so I suggested that he make a film about them. He answered that if he did, Brazilian cinema would die. We know that Petrobras is a major sponsor of films. One of the issues at a certain level of documentaries is horizontality. The horizontality of poverty never creates a political problem because it creates a discourse of consensus and also focuses attention on compassion, kindness and the lamentation of unhappiness. Several times I suggested that cinema should evolve in the direction of verticality and that this poverty shown so prolifically by documentaries should be inserted into the system as a whole, and then things could change in significance and perspective. I believe that poverty is being seriously depoliticized. Poverty is a great discovery of the middle class. It is a discourse that does not create problems. And the illusion remains that questions of poverty or homelessness are being addressed and that we are doing something. But we aren’t doing anything.

Another persistent complaint is that the scripts are not good.
The importance of the script is closely connected to the lack of importance of production. Since you can’t produce, you write scripts, you rewrite scripts, you study script-writing and you hold a script-writing contest. Without production and without the whole machine to produce it, including dramatic art, you have nothing. It’s not that dramatic art isn’t important — on the contrary. But if the production component isn’t there, the problem isn’t solved. You have to keep a large set of parameters in mind, such as how to shoot a film, how to work the distribution system before you begin shooting, how to target the movie to reach the right audience, etc. We need to create a production system that includes dramatic art. It won’t get better on its own. You can make the world’s greatest film, but it will take more than that for it to be shown at Cinemark movie theaters.

At this point have you gone back more to the so-called Cinema Marginal?
I would like to be involved in the production and making of political films. The only thing I don’t like about this term is that it is tarnished by a movement from the 1960s—which is Cinema Marginal—with great filmmakers such as Júlio Bressane and Rogério Sganzerla, among others. This is very bad for the young generations. They need to rid themselves of those references. It looks easy, but it’s not: this burden of the 1960s on the shoulders of young filmmakers and students, this never-ending reference to Cinema Novo and Cinema Marginal. O bandido da luz vermelha (The Red Light Bandit) from 1968 is still an admirable film, and the acting by Helena Ignez in A mulher de todos (The Woman of Everyone), made in 1969, is superb. The question is how to deal with tradition if it is oppressive and fails to stimulate creation.

Are there any current movements in Brazilian cinema?
About five years ago I discovered a book entitled Cinema de garagem, um inventário afetivo sobre o jovem cinema brasileiro do século XXI (Garage Cinema, a Devoted Inventory of the Young Cinema of 21st-century Brazil). The authors are Dellani Lima and Marcelo Ikeda, from Fortaleza. I knew that original things were happening in Ceará State, but with this book it became clear that there is quite a bit of production there. Before that I met Kiko Goifman, who directed FilmeFobia (FilmPhobia) in 2008, and my involvement in it was as an actor. I started to talk to those people. This expression, Garage Cinema, is interesting in many ways, one of which is that it does not come from the outside like Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), nor did it come from the press. It came from the people who make movies. Also, motion pictures are now being made in Recife, in Pernambuco State, and these days it is more combative, with films by Marcelo Pedroso, Gabriel Mascaro and Kleber Mendonça, for example.

At this point you are working more as an actor and scriptwriter than a critic. Why is that?
My acting in films has been sporadic. I worked in A cor dos pássaros (The Color of Birds) in 1988, by Herbert Broeld of Austria, because it was shot in the Amazon and I wanted to see the region. At a certain point in time I really changed. When Kiko Goifman asked me to work on the script for FilmPhobia, he came here with a scriptwriter. I thought the idea was interesting, but the story line was awful. You see, I have a great quality: I am able to say very harsh things without making people resent me. I said candidly that the script was bad and they came back in two months. They changed everything and the idea was that I would play one of the characters. I agreed, on the condition that I would work as an actor only, with no involvement in the script. And that was a 180-degree turnaround. I am now in a movie that is currently playing in the theaters: O homem das multidões (The Man of the Crowd) [2012], by Marcelo Gomes and Cao Guimarães. They hired me to play a role. I eventually became involved in a kind of filmmaking: interest in a project, creating intense connections with opportunities to talk to directors about their scripts.

Your vision is worsening. What is your strategy for being able to see when you watch a movie?
I watch Brazilian, French and Latin American movies, in that order, because I don’t speak English and I can no longer read subtitles. But most of the time, since I can’t see the images very well, I really get lost. I invent stories for myself. I often go to the movies with other people because my visual perception is really on the decline. Apparently, the disorder is stabilizing. It’s a degeneration of the retina, one of the many types of so-called maculopathy. The disorder causes an increase in pressure in my eyes and it has to be treated. This can be done easily with eye drops, but it turns out that I have allergic reactions to the eye drops. I had bleeding in my eye and my eyelid, not to mention nosebleeds, etc. That’s what worries me most. It’s not the disorder per se… it’s the side effects of the eye drops that decrease the pressure in the eye and also cause other problems.

FilmPhobia specifically shows your vision problem
They requested it. It’s in FilmPhobia, in Pingo d’água (A Drop of Water) [2014], by Taciano Valério, in Periscópio (Periscope) [2013], also by Goifman. And then I got tired of it. I also wrote about the problem because I have been in very unfortunate situations in which I did not recognize people. I thought it would be good to talk about it. The publicity from the films was positive, but now it’s enough.