Cinemateca – Bolsonarism in two minutes


Cinemateca – Bolsonarism in two minutes


Bolsonarism made use of various populist formulas in the hatred of culture and the destruction of politics, merging with Steve Banon’s prescription, but above all, it took advantage of our precarious citizenship to impose itself so quickly

It is increasingly clear that the day is not far off when Bolsonarism will cease to be an active political force to be described as an aberrant phenomenon, which one day affected Brazilian society, with specific methods and characteristics. When this is possible, the irrationality that, in the absence of a historical retreat, today we call “crude” or “precarious”, will be described from its traces left in speeches, videos, films, memes, posts, in short, fragments of a relatively coherent set, even if full of contradictions. Certainly part of this set will be the threatening tweets of General Villas-Boas, the grammatical errors of the unacceptable Weintraub, the obscure tacky proselytism of Minister Damares, the voluntary contributions of the celebrities who supported him, as well as, naturally, Jair's own speeches and performances. Bolsonaro who, through posts, audios and videos, took Brazilian political rhetoric to a level never seen in the country's history. As an initial contribution, I would like to try here just to describe a specific moment, in which Culture appears at the center of Bolsonarist discourse.

I refer to one video in particular. It is about the dialogue between the president of the republic and his special secretary for culture, Regina Duarte, an actress who brings to the Bolsonaro government her considerable symbolic capital, acquired thanks to the characters of great popular appeal that she embodied on television. However, transformed into a cultural bureaucrat, the actress embodies the ideals of her leader who, at the infamous meeting on April 22, had charged his subordinates: “Whoever does not accept my flags, family… God… Brazil… armament… freedom of expression …free market… Whoever does not accept this is in the wrong government!”

As a reward for having embodied the government project on national television and without any embarrassment – ​​in fact, as her predecessor had already done by plagiarizing Goebbels, the actress celebrates in the recent video the reward for services rendered with transparency: a position at the Cinemateca Brasileira. Beside the president, with excessive gestures, the bureaucrat endeavors to disguise her demotion – from secretary to supposed employee of the Cinematheque – and celebrates the new position which, if confirmed, will certainly have the function of sinecure due to the expertise required by the job.

However, in addition to the search for self-affirmation, the video highlights some aspects that can help characterize Bolsonarism itself. Let's see. In front of the Palácio da Alvorada, the secretary and her leader are in contrast due to their physical stature, like a comic duo who, united by their relaxed expression, show the total absence of signs of mental activity and are preparing to make an official statement. Everything is complicity between them. The president's calmness is at odds with his characteristic posture, which usually displays physicality, intense fanaticism and a hard frown. In place of the typical exaltation, he appears satisfied and with a certain sarcasm. Even speech without any musicality no longer seems to lash out at words, as it often does. In this video, Bolsonaro, the agent provocateur who also disguises himself as a victim of provocations, the convulsive fanatic, seems tamed, even if temporarily, as confirmed by his hands tied together, as if to contain his impotent rage. Summarizing the scene: in the background the palace whose modern architecture suggests the floating of the building, the superior stature of the leader, the revanchist joy of the follower, who communicates to society its new function, denying the affirmations of a press that it does not trust, but that yet he feels the need to refuse.

The picturesque dialogue was publicized by the Federal Government's Secretariat of Communication on the last May XNUMXth. After receiving severe criticism from the artistic class in a previous interview, in which she minimized the deaths that occurred in the main totalitarian states of the XNUMXth century, especially in the Brazilian civil-military dictatorship, the then secretary of culture now announces her new role. In a supposedly informal tone, forging a spontaneous truth, “hello, everyone!”, as is often the case in current communications from this government, the aim is to present Regina Duarte's evident demotion as an achievement and solution, both personal and governmental. What she will do and what is the current state of the institution that will receive her is not mentioned, of course. One of the artifices of Bolsonarist rhetoric, but not only of it, is to inflate something irrelevant with meaning so as not to deal with what actually matters.

Thanks to new technologies, it is guaranteed that a ruler addresses each and every one in an apparently unpretentious way, as if talking to a group of friends. Since the emergence of cinema, audiovisual media have tried to open their market to new users, miniaturize devices, simplify technical procedures to embrace the amateur figure, but this is only now achieved by new media. If Nazi-fascism used cinema to add grandiloquent aspects to its political rhetoric, Bolsonarism's use of new media no longer aims to take over the public sphere and aestheticize politics, quite the contrary, it intends to destroy both, or at least least reduce them to the maximum in order to communicate directly with each individual, without mediation, but not like a superior traditional leader of the 1930s. , which does not require mediation. In this sense, it is not original either, it just copies and perfects the populisms that preceded it, further intensifying the downgrading of language. For this very reason, it is not about “rough” or “precarious”, but about updating politics to the new phase of necropolitical capitalism. Once again Brazil stands as an advanced laboratory of modern social experimentation. An explanation emerges here for this type of impoverishment of communication, which is not poor just because it obeys a single language standard, but especially because, through a self-imposed limitation, it allows itself to expose only one aspect, namely, the manipulation of language. spontaneity.

In Bolsonarism, society is reduced to Regina Duarte’s “Hello everyone”. This tête-à-tête between rulers and society dispenses with mediators, in this case the media, who should be mistrusted, as the leader's generosity and recognition are above the venality of newspapers. Bolsonarism wants to reinvent the great feat of the bourgeoisie: the public sphere, as it was configured in England from the XNUMXth century onwards.

The leader, the one who – according to sociologist Yves Cohen(1) – emerges in the XNUMXth century and spreads in politics, factories and offices due to the void left by the aristocracy, it no longer remains isolated, now it descends from the heights to match the most common of mortals and speak in their ear without mincing words. In the case of Bolsonarism, this downgrading means at the same time the anointing of the impoverishment of language as a rhetorical form of politics, which completely empties its function of common interest and becomes its opposite, in anti-politics itself, as Henri Acselrad recently recalled.(2)

In the video in which the president and then the special secretary for culture inform about the new post, the public interest is not even addressed. The only aim is to recover the political capital of someone criticized for his defense of obscurantism. The institution of memory in question, the Cinemateca Brasileira, which is going through a devastating crisis, is not even considered in its complexity and importance, nor should it be administered or managed, it must be “made”. In Regina Duarte's own words, she leaves the secretariat's front line to “do Cinemateca”. What does the expression “do the Cinematheque” mean? The adulteration of words is one of the characteristics of the fascist power to slip new meanings, distorting them until their complete impoverishment. When this actress, recognized for being incapable of retaining the text and just “memorizing”, uses the verb “to do”, she is emptying the constructive action that the verb implies and wanting to give herself a decisive role in the so-called “doing”. . Self-affirmation makes more sense than the public will to build. “Fazer Cinemateca” seeks personal heroism, individual reward for the work done. And for her, the work done was many, after all, she embodied the government's ideals well, surpassing her predecessor in praising the new moment.

Going to the Cinematheque is not motivated by reasons of competence, on the contrary, it is justified by the demand made by the bureaucrat's family. The reasons for the demotion, which in the mouth of the former actress mean “gift”, mix a technical post with the need to be close to the family. In the video, she celebrates going to the Cinematheque and still being close to her family. The appeal to sentimentality is always suspect. If the strange mixture of technique and the familiar were not enough, it is obvious that, in the face of a pandemic – in which social isolation is the most reasonable practice – someone is clamoring for family warmth without realizing that this sacrifice belongs to everyone, how to place himself above the society he governs. In fact, the metaphor of placing oneself above is present throughout the video, from the chosen place, a palace that seems to float, the superior position of the president in front of his subordinate, who needs to climb a step to ensnare the highest authority, to the phrase that closes the video: “God above all”. In this video, duly edited despite trying to pass as a mere improvised recording, politics is mixed with religion to reinforce a type of fanaticism typical of Nazism. How not to remember the National Socialist slogan? Du bist nichts und Ich bin alles [You are nothing and I am everything!]

The disappearance of Bolsonarism will not happen with the fall of Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonarism made use of various populist formulas in the hatred of culture and the destruction of politics, merging with Steve Banon's recipe, but above all it took advantage of our precarious citizenship to impose itself so quickly. For its eradication, it will be necessary to analyze its strategies and the ways in which it became embedded in language, also through audiovisual means. In this sense, the Cinemateca Brasileira, rebuilt, will also be able to store the Bolsonarist audiovisual so that it can be analyzed and never returned.(3)

*Adilson Mendes He is a historian from Unesp.


(1) Cf. COHEN, Yves. “Why Call the Twentieth Century the “Century of Chiefs”?”In: Sociology & Anthropology, v.05.03:963-981, December, 2015. pp.963-981.

(2) Cf. ACSELRAD. Henri. “The Language of Anti-Politics” In:

(3) The Cinemateca Brasileira keeps in its collection newsreels that contain audiovisual political rhetoric that predates Bolsonaro (Vargas, Adhemar de Barros, Jânio Quadros). The best work on newsreels is Rodrigo Archangelo. A bandeirante on screen: the adhemarist discourse in newsreels. São Paulo: Alameda/Fapesp, 2015. And  Images of the Nation – politics and prosperity in newsreels News of the Week e Atlantis News (1956-1961). PhD final thesis. São Paulo: FFLCH, 2015.

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