Carlos Zilio, PRATO, 1971, industrial ink on porcelain, ø 21cm


Commentary on the film by Affonso Uchoa and João Dumans

Arabia, the film, makes use of fiction to bring colors back to reality, allowing the spectator to be sensitized to banality by apprehending what is peculiar to it. Cristiano, the main character of the film, is a common worker. Right at the beginning of the film, however, leaving the factory, he is the victim of an accident. He presents himself through simple reports of his daily life as he transcribes in a kind of diary, suggested by the theater group of a factory where he had worked.

The contact with Cristiano arises, therefore, from his memories, retold by himself and subject to the deviations and colorings that he grants them. “It's hard to pick a defining moment to tell. Because, at the end of it all, what's left is the memory of what we went through ”, he announces right away at the beginning of his story. With that, the very structure of fictional production, by founding its bases in Cristiano's narration, gives the linearity of fiction the complex power of reality, allowing the common worker to freely present it to spectators – even if fictionally.

Cristiano is a worker who, like many others, lives off his work. He does not define himself by the profession that is dear to him, but by the work that is offered to him. He transits from orange plantations to fabric factories, until he arrives at the metallurgical industry. And if milestones of his life still permeate the former, in industry, as Marx would say, he becomes a true appendage to the machine. Not because it wasn't before, but because that's where the power of the image allows us to truly see and feel it. His movements submit to the determination that is external to him and are directed to the purpose that is totally alien to him. It is against an asphalt background that the subtlety of a flower is most easily revealed, but the latter is still subtle and the former is hostile when contrasted with others.

Work, which once gave man the ability to create, fades under our eyes. However, it is not just the machine and its stridently inhuman sound that shocks us, but the usefulness of that work, the quality of time spent for that life that we know no longer exists. We are, with him, subjected to this aggression.

The sounds of industrial machinery, the work that is repeated under the dictates of the machine, the expenditure of time and strength for the purpose that is proposed without its author. The product of that labor is not presented throughout the film, only the work. It is not up to the worker, after all, to question what his strength is for. Perhaps it is not even up to the capitalist. It is the market that turns, and with it capital, and with it production, and with it, finally, the worker. It spins like one of his gears. Needs are not important, profit is. Work transformed into merchandise freely appropriated and directed to the profit of others. These are the reality and fiction that present themselves.

In the passage of the narration, one of the characters tells a joke that well portrays the reality presented: “An Arab billionaire discovers that Brazilian bricklayers are very cheap. He then decides to hire five to lead the construction of his castle. When the team was on the plane, on the way to the country of the powerful boss, there is turbulence that forces the aircraft to make an emergency landing in the desert. When leaving the nave, one of the masons says to his colleagues: 'sand here, sand there, sand there… How much sand! Imagine when the cement arrives!”.

It is life in Arabia that the film sets out to narrate. Driven by profit, the usefulness of work is not questioned. As said, involved in production, the worker is not defined by the profession that is dear to him, by his desires or needs, but by the work that is offered to him. His only need is subsistence, and work is a means to acquire it in a society where everything is a commodity, including himself.

The entire film develops from Cristiano's narrative. The theater's participation in the film, although briefly mentioned, should not be forgotten. It is impossible to attend and not immediately be referred to the works of Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire. More than a mere creative process, the exercise proposed by Theater and Pedagogy of the Oppressed provides the tools that allow the author himself to understand his insertion in society and, with that, the conditions to change it. With this, they give back to art the political power that it is sometimes denied.

The prevalence of technique in the structuring of capitalist society hides, beneath the rubble, the political reasons that give it support, and makes the worker erect only the technical reason that removes his doubts because it is so incomprehensible. Unknowingly, he submits to exploitation whose basis is nothing more than politics. Unlike the rigid technical structures that project themselves in front of the worker, the artistic exercise is elastic and allows the reconstitution of reality as it is constituted, in a perpetual dialectical movement between work and author.

After all, as the factory theater gave rise to the writing that narrates the film itself, it allowed Cristiano if not the clearest perception of his reality, as he recreated it, at least the ability to share it with others, allowing us to better understanding of our reality, as we absorbed what was presented to us. It is through the artistic reproduction of reality, plucking its most intimate determinations from the banality of everyday life, that both perceptions are presented. At the end of the film, the intense sensation like that of a nightmare from which one wakes up is felt in us as well as in the character. The traces that have revealed themselves can no longer be erased.

“I felt my ear closing and I was a little deaf for a few seconds. At that moment, a very strange thing happened: the noise from the factory disappeared and I heard my own heartbeat. And, for the first time, I stopped to see the factory and felt sad to be there” (Cristiano).

*Filippe Mota, civil servant, holds a degree in Law.

**Isadora Xavier She is a professor of public education and a doctor in science of literature from UFRJ.



Brazil, 2018, 97 minutes

Direction: Affonso Uchoa, John Dumans

Cast: Aristides de Sousa, Murilo Caliari, Renata Cabral


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