Geraldo Sarno (1938-2022)

Annika Elisabeth von Hausswolff, The Photographer, 2015


Tribute to the recently deceased filmmaker

A few days ago I received a message from my friend Tunico Amâncio saying that Geraldo Sarno had been hospitalized for a couple of weeks in a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, fighting complications arising from the Covid-19 epidemic. Unfortunately, the battle was lost on February 22, 2022, on a sad Tuesday, just days before his 84th birthday.

I know almost everything Geraldo filmed, but I don't want to talk about it now. I'm just going to record three moments of long conversations with him, always transpiring cinema, filming, scripts, directors, texts, adaptations. The first two took place in Cuba and Panama, in December 1989, and the third in his beloved Bahia, Salvador, not far from Teatro Castro Alves, in 2006 or 2007.

Invited to participate in the Havana International Film Festival, which always takes place in the last month of the year, I presented “a presentation” written with José Inácio de Melo Souza, in reality a summary of a book that we prepared together on the Brazilian chanchadas of the 1930,40s, 50s and XNUMXs. The invitation was indicated by historian Silvia Oroz. They put me in the Hotel Nacional, at a time when it was completely detonated. When you took a shower, the water ran all over the bathroom and invaded the bedroom; the heat was relentless and there was no fan or air conditioning, as nothing worked. Geraldo was a bit withdrawn, but little by little his bad face was sweetening. We talked all the time, a lot at breakfast and when we crossed paths during the day, in the midst of a busy schedule.

He was also there to meet with producers, in search of additional funding, as he had a ready-made script adapted from the short story “A Reunion”, which is in the magnificent all fires the fire, by Julio Cortázar. Collor took over, almost ended the culture in Brazil and Sarno's film ended up not being released.

The second conversation also took place in that December of 1989 in Ciudad de Panamá, precisely in the early hours of the 17th to the 18th of December. I retained the date, as the 17th was a Sunday, the day of voting in the second round of the presidential elections in which Lula was defeated by Collor. Our flight had a stopover in Panama and a Varig plane was supposed to be waiting for us to take us to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The atmosphere was tense, with shots being fired in the Panamanian capital. On December 20, the United States invaded the isthmus and overthrew President Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Well, Varig's Boeing wasn't there: it was waiting in Manaus for the green light to take off, as the airspace was blocked and the US surrounded the country. We waited for about five hours, and Sarno and Ruy Guerra invited me to talk and drink in one of the airport bars. Everything was said, as both owe nothing to the best storytellers: childhoods, gossip, actors and actresses, travel, budgets. We got on the plane plump and happy.

The third prose, long, relaxed and also alcoholic, took place after a long seminar-festival that took place in Salvador, when I participated in a panel that occupied an entire morning, dedicated to Latin American cinema. On the way out, Geraldo came to meet me and, with my late friend Edivaldo Boaventura and Guido Araújo, we went to lunch. I managed to drag the sullen Chilean director Miguel Littín, who soon became smiling at Bahian charms, in particular, the local cuisine. The revelry started before 14 and I remember returning to the hotel when it was already dark.

Then, one or two messages, speed dating in São Paulo and Rio. I remember and miss the great Fidelis Geraldo Sarno (Poções, 06.03.1938; Rio de Janeiro, 22.02.2022), his scripts, articles, books and his offspring, shorts, features, documentaries, series, etc.: Viramundo, Auto da Vitória, The Singing, Vitalino Lampião, The Engenho, Father Cicero, Flour House, The Imaginaries, Sertão Newspaper, Long live Cariri!, Monteiro Lobato, Casa Grande & Senzala, The Yellow Woodpecker, Colonel Delmiro Gouveia, yao, God Is A Fire, Plant in the Stars, I Carry A Sertão Within Me, The Language of Cinema, the earth burns, All this seems like a dream, Balzac's Last Romance, Sertania, Sertão de Dentro...

*Afranio Catani He is a retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and is currently a senior professor at the same institution. Visiting professor at the Faculty of Education of UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus.


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