friends from Bahia

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By Afrânio Catani*

A script written at age 18 and never filmed by Glauber Rocha

There is a widespread belief that Bahian friends are for life. Could it be. I think so. At least in my case this is confirmed. I think constantly, and with a sinking heart, how much I miss my Bahian friend Edivaldo Machado Boaventura (1933-2018), who was everything and more in his state, he who was born in Feira de Santana. Luckily, and thanks to the Orixás, my other friend from Bahia, Paulo Dory Neves is very firm, strong, handsome and shaken.

Edivaldo was a professor at the Federal University of Bahia, Secretary of State for Education on two occasions, president of the Academia de Letras da Bahia, general director of the newspaper In the afternoon and, in the mid-1980s, he designed and created the State University of Bahia. He spoke English and French in an elegant way, was endowed with an enviable humanistic culture, kept records of what interested him in diaries and managed to circulate with ease among the various political factions that interacted in the unit of the federation in which he lived.

However, for me, what mattered was the dear friend with whom I talked a lot, had fun and who, among many treasures, presented me with something wonderful: a copy of the 1987 edition of the unpublished script by Glauber Rocha, lord of Navegantes (1957), the first that the then boy wrote, at the age of 18. As everything that came from Edivaldo was special, this copy was no exception either: it was autographed by Lúcia Rocha, the filmmaker's mother. The title page reads: “to Edivaldo – Lúcia Rocha, Salvador, 9/8/87”, then corrected to the correct date, 9/9/1987.

But then, Edivaldo wrote: “to Afrânio Mendes Catani, with Edivaldo’s friendship – Bahia, 1o./8/93”, adding in parentheses: “Lúcia Rocha is Mrs. Glauber's mother”. In addition, meticulous as he was, he still kept two clippings pasted on the inner covers of the issue, detailing the launch ceremony, including an autograph night with Lúcia, at the Academia de Letras in Bahia.

The script

Lord of the Navigators (screenplay) - 1957 – Salvador: Edições Macunaíma, 1987, 28 p., features a presentation by Fernando da Rocha Peres and, on the cover, a monotype by Calasans Neto. In fact, the ceremony was attended, in addition to Lúcia, by former colleagues from the Ginásio da Bahia (Central), such as Fernando Rocha, Florisvaldo Matos, Calasans Neto and João Carlos Teixeira Gomes.

It is worth transcribing the “Colophon”, which is on page 27: “In the 30 (thirty) years of GERAÇÃO MAPA and on the 20th of July 1987, the edition of a version of the cinematographic script began Lord of the Navigators, in partnership with Rocha Peres, for Edições Macunaíma, in a print run of 1.000 (one thousand) copies, with the authorization of the filmmaker's heirs, in Graphic Arts and Limited Industry, under the graphic supervision of Antônio Lobo and with the cultural sponsorship of the Foundation Economist Miguel Calmon. The present edition also marks, commemoratively, the date of the premature death of friend Glauber Rocha on 22.08.81”.

Certainly, many scholars of Glauber's work have already dedicated themselves to unraveling this script of exactly 15 pages. There is a variant of the same, but it was decided to publish this version, richer, since it has handwritten corrections or additions to the text. In his presentation, Fernando Rocha Peres explains that “only the script cover will be published – designed by Glauber Rocha – and a simple note of authorship, in the filmmaker’s handwriting, on the back of the cover: “Senhor dos Navegantes”/argument and script/Glauber Rocha e Rocha Peres” (p. 6).

But let's explore some more illuminating aspects of Rocha Peres' presentation. Glauber's schoolmate says – in the edition there is a photo of both of them, from 1957, in uniform, walking along Rua da Misericórdia, in Salvador – that the then aspiring filmmaker thought that year of making a short film, “with a script set in at the baiana party of 1o. de Janeiro, also known as the maritime procession of the first day of the year, in Salvador, in which an image of Christ crucified (“Senhor dos Navegantes”) travels in a galley, through the sea of ​​Bahia de Todos os Santos, on the route that goes from Conceição da Praia to Porto da Barra and then to Boa Viagem beach, with the temple of Our Lady of the same name, where the crowd awaits, in the square and on the sand, the arrival of Christ, accompanied by hundreds of boats of all kinds, flagged and noisy, and full of locals (blacks, mestizos and whites) and today of amazed tourists”” (p. 5).

Party with a strong pagan and carnival atmosphere, “in which the sacred and the profane are confused in the songs, incense, palm oil, alcohol, dance, Christian and Afro-Brazilian worship, sensualism” (p. 5).

Some paragraphs are occupied with considerations about the two variants of the script, with some deletions and additions, in addition to the statement that this writing by the young Glauber “plays with schematic characters, having to the port, the emblematic sloops, the Atlantic light of Bahia, the sea air, the party, the streets of old Salvador, Pelourinho, the churches and the fair” (p. 5).

As is known, Glauber ended up not filming Lord of the Navigators, and in the following year, 1958, he began the patio.

At the end of the 1950s, Bahia, and Salvador in particular, experienced an intense cultural upheaval, with emphasis on poetry, theater, literature and the fledgling cinema, with Walter da Silveira at the head of some cinematographic experiences. Most of the young students began to publish their first works in the magazine of culture Mapa.

Glauber, with the aim of making his film ventures viable, founded a company in 1956, the “Sociedade Cooperativa de Cultura Cinematográfica Yemanjá, Responsibilities Limitada”, registered with the Board of Trade of the State of Bahia on September 21, 1956. the reproduction of the Certificate of this registration, informing that Yemanjá has as its social objective “to spread culture, in general, and cinematography, in particular, always observing the cultural standards of the Seventh Art”, having as associates José Teles de Magalhães (President); Glauber Andrade Rocha (Director-Treasurer); Fernando da Rocha Peres (Director-Secretary). Board of Directors: Frederico José de Souza Castro, Jayme Oliveira Cardoso, Albérico José Lima da Motta. Supervisory Board: Jayme Oliveira Cardoso, Luiz Dantas da Silva and Tarcísio Sampaio de Araújo. Substitutes: Newton Augusto Silva da Rocha, José Augusto Azulay and José Júlio Calasans Neto.

Rocha Peres adds that the excitement was such that a group of young people took to the streets pasting leaflets on the walls and posts with the words “do you believe in cinema in Bahia? We believe! Cooperate with Yemanjá Filmes” (the leaflet is reproduced on page 23).

The general plan of the group led by Glauber Rocha was ambitious: “to make cinema in our land, with the project of a feature film entitled “Bahia de Todos os Santos”. Albérico Motta recalls that this title, round and Bahian, would allow, in a second moment, the making of four episodes – as in Italian cinema [at the time] – of Bahian life and culture, in which the Lord of the Navigators. The experience or provincial utopia did not work out and Glauber Rocha left to make his films in other cities and countries” (p. 6).

The 1987 version of the script was facsimile “from a typed text on newsprint paper, legal size, of poor quality, with red machine tape, with some corrections, amendments, additions and handwritten drawings by Glauber Rocha” (p. 6 ).

Edivaldo called me at the end of 2017 saying that the volumes of film reviews by Walter da Silveira, a great Bahian, who even influenced Caetano Veloso, had been set aside for me, which he had managed and written a dedication. When he came to São Paulo he would bring me. Unfortunately it was not possible, as he left before. I remembered Jorge Luis Borges (“The Unending Gift"):

A painter promised us a painting
Now, in New England, I know he died. I felt like
           other times, the sadness of understanding that
           we are like a dream. I thought of the man and the
           lost frame.
(Only the gods can promise, because they are immortal.)
I thought of a prefixed place that the screen will not occupy
Later I thought: if it were there, it would be, over time, a
           thing else, one thing, one of the vanities or habits
           of the House; it is now limitless, unceasing, capable of any
           shape and any color and bound to no one. It exists somehow.
           It will live and grow like a song and be with me until the end.
           Thank you Jorge Larco.
(Men too can promise, because in the promise there is something immortal.)

What to do? I decided to open up an imaginary space on the shelf in my office, perhaps just over half a hand, and think that Walter, Glauber's teacher, must be there by Edivaldo's hands.

*Afranio Catani is a retired professor at USP and visiting professor at UFF.

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