political film guide



A selection of films on themes such as dictatorship, coups, resistance, agrarian reform, from Brazil and also from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

The 1964 Coup

earth in trance (1967) - right: Glauber Rocha. Analysis of the impasses formed by the clash between the different lines of force then present in Brazilian society, on the way to the 1964 coup. High point of Cinema Novo. One classic. Available on youtube and now.

The Rifles (1964) – director: Ruy Guerra. A group of hungry migrants camp in a backcountry village while troops protect the warehouse full of supplies. A rallying cry to shake passivity. Another highlight of Cinema Novo.

Available on youtube .

Dried lives (1963) – director: Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Filming of the novel by Graciliano Ramos focuses on a family from the backlands fleeing the drought. This director inaugurated Cinema Novo with Rio 40 Degrees, filmed in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in 1955.

Available on youtube and now.

1964 – A Coup Against Brazil (2013) – director: Alípio Freire. The director, a historic activist, made this film so that we do not forget the April 1 coup, the origin of the infamous regime that would last 21 years. Detailed narrative of the events of that time.

Available on youtube .

The Day That Lasted 21 Years (2013) – director: Camilo Tavares. Documentation and record of the international panorama, especially the interference of the United States in the 1964 coup.

Available on youtube and google play.

Jango (1984) – director: Silvio Tendler. The end of the then-recent dictatorship led to this film, which scrutinizes the career and particularly the administration of the deposed president, focusing on the maneuvers that led to his overthrow in the 1964 coup.

Available on youtube

Two others among the many by this indefatigable documentary filmmaker deserve to be highlighted: the most recent Lawyers Against Dictatorship e Military of Democracy, both from 2014. There, the memory of the 1964 coup is rescued, when lawyers in their 20s defended those arbitrarily arrested and whose lives were at risk. Had it not been for the courage of these young lawyers, many more could have been clandestinely murdered. As for the military, the film informs the circumstances of the purge. We witnessed the testimony of some of the 5 expelled from the Armed Forces for being on the left.

Available on Youtube.

Land reform

Goat Marked to Die (1984) - right: Eduardo Coutinho. Filming began in 1964 and its objective was to tell the story of the leader of the Liga Camponesa de Sapé (PB), João Pedro Teixeira, murdered two years earlier. With the 1964 coup, the military surrounded the filming location, preventing its continuation. Twenty years later, Coutinho returned to the region and met the widow Elizabeth Teixeira and many of the peasant leader's companions. The result of this reunion is a unique documentary, in which the widow's trajectory serves as a backdrop to trace the country's trajectory during the hard years of the military regime. For her, life in hiding and the dispersion of her children, raised far away. On the screen, the problems of the landless, with the struggle for agrarian reform, the violence and repression of the local powerful. It is the most awarded Brazilian documentary abroad.

Available on youtube and now.

Jenipapo (1995) - director: Monique Gardenberg. Rare fiction about the agrarian question: in general, the films that focus on it are documentaries. This one has as protagonists a priest and a journalist, who share the struggles of the landless in the Northeast. When investigating allegations of violence, the journalist ends up putting the lives of the priest and activists in the region at risk. selected for the Sundance Film Festival and others.

Available on Youtube.

The Revolt of the Hoes (1996) - Direction, screenplay and production by Emílio Gallo (Brazil). This short film acquired historical importance by recording an epic moment for posterity: the first march of the landless to Brasilia. The film interviews the members and documents their daily lives, with an emphasis on this great collective experience.

Earth to Rose (1987) – director: Tetê Moraes. A landless farmer, Rose, along with 1.500 other families, took part in a historic event: the first major occupation of unproductive land, the Annoni Farm, in Rio Grande do Sul. Through Rose's story, the film discusses agrarian reform, in the period of democratic transition, which saw the emergence of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST). Rose is the mother of the first baby born during the occupation. The film had a sequel, Rose's Dream – 10 Years Later, made by the same director.

Available on youtube and Globosatplay.

Araguaia Guerrilla

The films about the Araguaia guerrilla are late, due to the delay in discovering and revealing what happened there. Clandestine repression lowered a cloak of secrecy over events that had been hidden for a long time.

This is the theme, expressed in the title, of Araguaya – The Conspiracy of Silence (2004) – director: Ronaldo Duque. Dramatized film based on the history of the guerrillas.

Available on Youtube.

Another three are documentaries: Peasants of Araguaia – The Guerrilla Seen from the Inside (2010) – director: Vandré Fernandes; Araguaia, Gift! (2018) – director: Arthur Moura and André Queiroz; It is Araguaia Soldiers (2018) – director: Belisário Franca. available at Youtube.

Labor movement

Two documentaries by Renato Tapajós. The first, Assembly line (1982), now a world-renowned classic, it focuses on the strikes in the ABC region in 1978, 1979 and 1980. The second is Factory Floor (2018), which, in view of the upcoming elections, proceeds to the history of the Brazilian trade union movement since the strikes of those years until then.

Available on Youtube.

student movement

Memory of the Student Movement (2007) - director: Silvio Tendler (2007). Testimonies recorded by agents of history, combined with excerpts from plays, songs and poems produced by students. From the 1930s to the liberation of the National Union of Students (UNE), whose headquarters, burned down on the first day of the 1964 coup, would only be retaken in 2007, half a century later.

Available on Youtube.

Vocational (2011) – director: Toni Venturi. The director, a former student, made this documentary about the Vocational Gym in Brooklin, an advanced experiment in democratic education that ended up arousing the wrath of the dictatorship. This was followed by the dismantling of the institution and the arrest of director Maria Nilde Mascellani. Over time, former students would form an association designed to preserve the memory and principles of the school. USP's Vocational and College of Application were the two model schools in São Paulo.

Available on Youtube.

The Battle of Maria Antonia (2014) – director: Renato Tapajós. Documentary about the occupation of the USP Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters on Rua Maria Antonia by students, in 1968. The director, a former student, shows the hostilities between students at Maria Antonia and Mackenzie, the focus of the infamous Command of Hunting Communists (CCC), across the street. Events grew to a crescendo and resulted in the invasion, bombing and burning of the Maria Antonia, with the approval and support of the Armed Forces.

Armed struggle and repression

We are talking about Brazil: Carlos Marighella (1970) – director: Chris Marker. Short film by one of the greatest documentary filmmakers in the history of cinema. A year earlier, he had already made another short about torture in Brazil, We are talking about Brazil: Tortures (1969), with interviews of recently released political prisoners.

marighella (2012) – director: Isa Grispun Ferraz. Documentary about the life and acts of the maximum leader of the armed struggle. It brings testimonies of his widow Clara Charf, his son and fellow activists in the National Liberation Alliance (ALN). In 2019, Wagner Moura directed a film also titled Marighella, that fictionalizes the leader's trajectory (no release date yet). Pay attention to Mano Brown's music.

Available on youtube .

Lamarca (1994) - Direct: Sérgio Resende. It portrays Army Captain Carlos Lamarca, the highest military officer to defect to join the guerrilla against the dictatorship, in 1969. He was one of the most important leaders in the armed struggle. His group was called Vanguarda Popular Revolucionaria (VPR). He was hunted down by the Army and summarily executed in the backlands of Bahia in 1971.

Available on Youtube.

In search of Yara (2013) – director: Flávio Frederico. Documentary that tells the story of Iara Iavelberg, a young professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at USP, who joined the armed struggle in 1970, went underground and became one of the most wanted public enemies in the country, with her portrait on posters posted in the entire national territory. The film narrates his love story with Captain Lamarca, until the bitter end of both, murdered by repression.

Available in Netflix.

Citizen Boilesen (2009)– director: Chaim Litewski. It documents the life of the top executive of Ultragás, a Danish citizen naturalized Brazilian, who, in addition to generously financing torture, also enjoyed participating in it, and who would end up being executed by the guerrillas.

Available on Youtube.

Em How nice to see you alive (1989), director Lúcia Murat interviews women who were arrested and tortured during the armed struggle, like herself, and managed to survive – when so many fell by the wayside.

Available on Youtube.

Later, Lúcia Murat would make the fiction film Almost Two Brothers (2005), about two childhood friends, one poor black and the other petty bourgeois, both destined for the same jail, one for a common crime and the other for a political crime.

Available in Globoplay.

Toni Venturi contributed to rescue these dark times with Blind goat (2005), fiction film about guerrillas forced to remain underground. He received five awards at the Brasília Festival.

Available on Youtube.

Silvio Da-Rin directed Hercules 56 (2007), a documentary that records the negotiations and release of Brazilian political prisoners in exchange for a kidnapped ambassador. Available on youtube .

Vlado – Thirty Years Later (2005) – director: João Batista de Andrade. Documentary about the assassination under torture of Vladimir Herzog, in 1975, justified as suicide by repression. But D. Paulo Evaristo Arns, saying mass for Vlado in the Cathedral of the See, cast the anathema of the Church on the murderers. The mass, which brought together crowds, was the first major public demonstration against the dictatorship.

Zuzu Angel (2005) – director: Sergio Resende. Fictionalization of the life of stylist Zuzu Angel, who dedicated her life to looking for her missing son Stuart Angel. She began to insert certain signs into her clothes, which were aimed at denouncing her during the fashion shows. She managed to deliver a letter to the President of the American Republic. She ended up murdered in an attack that was never clarified. Chico Buarque wrote a song for her.

Available on Youtube.

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (2006) - Right: Cao Hamburger. Mauro, a 12-year-old boy, is surprised by the novelty of his parents' vacation trip, who leave him in the care of his grandfather. In reality, militant parents were fleeing political persecution. The boy's life in this trance, for him incomprehensible.

Available on youtube, on netflix and now.

Church action

Courage – The Many Lives of Cardinal D. Paulo Evaristo Arns (2017) – director: Ricardo Carvalho. Documentary that does justice to one of the greatest leaders in the fight against the dictatorship, notable for his firmness, courage and fearlessness, both in words and in deeds. He was the founder of the Justice and Peace Commission, created with the aim of denouncing the crimes of the dictatorship. Author of the initiative to create and publish the dossier Brazil: Never Again, which collected extensive documentation on torture. right: Oriel Ferrer; Spain (Catalonia)/Germany co-production. It fictionalizes the life and militancy of D. Pedro Casaldáliga, the Catalan bishop, in Araguaia, where he created and directed the Pastoral da Terra. Religious and poet, he dedicated his life to the protection of peasants and Indians, with a price on his head and escaping attacks. On TVBrasil it is available in 3 episodes: From the Vatican to Araguaia, For a Church of the Amazon, Death threat.

Available in Spanish TV in 2 chapters.

Church of Liberation (1985) – director: Silvio Da-Rin. Focused on Base Ecclesial Communities. It films the day-to-day life in the landless camps and takes testimonies from prominent figures in the defense of the oppressed, such as D. Pedro Casaldáliga and D. Paulo Evaristo Arns. Provides an overview of the role of the Catholic Church in this fight. It begins with Lula giving a speech on May Day 1985, in front of the Cathedral in Praça da Sé, and ends with the landless, in the early days of his career, camped in Paraná.

Available on Youtube.


Democracy in Black and White (2014)- Dir.: Pedro Asbeg. The important participation of Esporte Clube Corinthians in redemocratization and in the Diretas Já campaign. Sócrates and Casagrande at the head, appear on the field openly promoting these two causes. They also fought for the internal democratization of the team and the club.

Available on youtube and Google play.

Tancredo – The Crossing (2010) – director: Silvio Tendler. It documents the prominent participation of this politician in the Diretas Já campaign, going up to his indirect election to the Presidency of the Republic and his death before taking office.

Available on youtube .

Lula's election

intermissions (2004) – director: João Moreira Salles. The director and his team directly recorded Lula's campaign in 2002, and especially his backstage, hence the title. It is a precious document.

Available on Youtube.

pawns (2004) - right: Eduardo Coutinho. The great filmmaker documents the ABC workers who were Lula's companions on his path to the presidency, from the strikes that confronted the dictatorship, through the founding of the PT in 1980 and until the election in 2002.

Lula, the Son of Brazil (2009) – directors: Fabio Barreto and Marcelo Santiago. Based on the lengthy biography written by Denise Paraná, it meticulously chronicles the leader's journey, from his first steps in Garanhuns. Fiction film, with Rui Ricardo Dias in the role of Lula and Glória Pires as his mother, d. Lindu. YOUTUBE

Impeachment by Dilma Rousseff

Two filmmakers personally and thoroughly documented the events behind the scenes at the Congress. The comings and goings, the collusion, the political tension, the main characters, the farce, the ignominious voting. The resulting films are: The process (2018), by Maria Augusta Ramos (available on youtube , google play and now, and is Democracy in Vertigem (2019), by Petra Costa (available at Netflix).

Lula Buarque de Holanda did The wall (2017), a documentary about the metal barrier erected outside Congress, on the Esplanada dos Ministérios, in Brasília, to separate and cushion clashes between supporters and opponents of the impeachment. He takes the opportunity to talk about other emblematic walls, such as the Berlin wall (already knocked down), or the one that segregates Palestinians within the State of Israel, or the most recent one built by Trump between the United States and Mexico.

another dictatorship

There were previous dictatorships in Brazil, and one of them is present in Memories of Prison (1984), directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, based on the classic by Graciliano Ramos. The writer served a political sentence without charge or trial on Ilha Grande, during the Getúlio Vargas regime.

Available on Youtube.

The Old Man – History of Luiz Carlos Prestes (1997) – director: Toni Venturi. It records the life and militancy of the great leader of the Communist Party in our country, spanning decades and governments, prisons and exiles.

Available on youtube and globeplay.

Olga (2004) – director: Jaime Monjardim. It tells a real story, for a long time secret, of a crime against humanity: Getúlio Vargas and Filinto Müller delivered Olga Benário, Jewish, communist and pregnant, to Nazi Germany. Thus sealing the fate of Luís Carlos Prestes' wife, which could only be, as it actually was, extermination in the gas chamber in a concentration camp.

Available on Youtube.

Southern Cone – Argentina

Operation Condor (2007) – director: Roberto Mader. The dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s prevailed not only in Brazil, but throughout the Southern Cone, where the infamous Operation Condor prevailed, in which the secret police of the countries of the region formed an agreement of mutual information and services, being responsible for attacks, torture, assassinations and disappearances. Directed by a Brazilian, the film dismantles the repression machine piece by piece and reveals its monstrosities.

Available on Youtube.

In Argentina, which holds the horrifying record of 30 dead and missing during the dictatorship, some interesting films have already been released, such as The Official Story (1985) – director: Luis Puenzo (Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film). It examines the practice of the dictatorship, so often denounced by the Mothers of Praça de Mayo, of giving up the small children of disappeared people to trusted couples. Available on youtube and Netflix.

The most recently, koblic (2016), directed by Sebastian Borensztein, shows the practice of throwing opponents from planes, which was also common in Brazil, examined here through the eyes of a Navy pilot played by the great actor Ricardo Darín. Available on now.

La Noche de los Lápices (1986) – director: Héctor Olivera. It takes place in 1976, when seven high school students were subjected to kidnapping, torture and murder for protesting against the cancellation of bus ticket discounts. With the advice of a survivor, the film gives the names of the military idealizers and executors of the plan.

Available on Youtube.

A Wall of Silence (1993) – director: Lita Stantic. It narrates the journey of a disappeared person through his wife and daughter, and the difficulty of dealing with the disappearance. Vanessa Redgrave, an actress known for her activism, plays the English filmmaker who goes to Buenos Aires to film this story and starts wanting to interview people in real life to understand better.

Chronicle of an Escape (2006) – director: Adrián Caetano. It deals with the arrest and torture of a well-known soccer player during the Argentine dictatorship and how he escapes jail to save his life.

Available on Youtube.

Southern Cone – Chile

Chile has contributed several films about its tragic history. Between them hurt (2004), directed by Andrés Wood, tells the story of two boys in Allende's time, one from the bourgeoisie and the other from poor areas, united in an educational experience. In highlight, the way they live that time and the subsequent repression.

Available on now.

No (2012) – director: Pablo Larraín. Gael Garcia Bernal plays the protagonist, involved in the “No” campaign in the plebiscite called to guarantee Pinochet's permanence in power, which was ultimately denied by the popular vote.

Available on Google play.

Documentary by Patricio Guzmán, nostalgia for light (2010) films, in the Atacama Desert, the clandestine cemeteries of the dead and missing where, thirty years later, relatives go to unearth bones. It is of an extraordinary plastic beauty.

The Battle of Chile (1979) – director: Patricio Guzmán. It thoroughly documents as a witness to what was the democratic and innovative project of the Allende government. And then records how the right took power in 1973, in the midst of a bloodbath, proceeding to meticulously dismantle the project. Filmed over many years, with production by Chris Marker (a Frenchman who was the greatest political documentarian ever and who filmed all the revolutions of the 20th century), it was completed in 1979. It consists of three films: The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie, The Military Coup e people power, for a total of about six hours. It is a masterpiece and certainly the most important film ever made about dictatorships in Latin America.

Available on Youtube.

Southern Cone – Uruguay

tupamaros (1996, Germany/Spain) - Direct: Heidi Specogna and Rainer Hoffman. The title designates the continent's first urban guerrilla movement, born in Uruguay and active between 1963 and 1995. It interviews remaining militants, including a friendly flower grower and his wife, also a militant. The couple lived on a small farm in Montevideo, subsisting on the sale of flowers on the corners of the city. Kindness, courage and faith, on the same principles that twelve years in prison with torture had not deterred him. He will show, in an unforgettable scene, the “well” where he spent years in solitary confinement. The well is now buried underground in the new and gleaming shopping mall, the largest in Uruguay, built there after the prison was razed to the ground – so that not even a memory would remain… Repression thus preventing the constitution of a “place of memory”, whose importance in popular struggles historians highlight. In 1996, the date of the film, nobody knew who this José Mujica was. Among the most notable feats of the Tupamaros is the kidnapping of Dan Mitrione, an American secret agent who came to teach torture in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina for a long time. Faced with the refusal to negotiate his

release in exchange for arrested militants, he would end up being killed. The character of Dan Mitrione (under another name), played by Yves Montand, appears in the film State of Site (1972), by Costa Gavras, denunciation of dictatorships in the Southern Cone and record of this episode. Attention to the torture class carried out under the flag of Brazil.

Available on Youtube.

A Night of 12 Years (2018) – director: Álvaro Brechner. Fiction film, which narrates the years of imprisonment of the Tupamaro chiefs, with José Mujica at the forefront. A tremendous indictment of repression, but also a hymn to unbreakable integrity. By the way, the film's epigraph is taken from penal colony, by Kafka.

Available in Netflix.

El Pepe, a Supreme Life (2018) - right: Emir Kusturica. Documentary by the award-winning Serbian filmmaker, author of films about the Balkan wars such as Underground, In The Milky Way, Life Is A Miracle, and many others. He gives the floor to José Mujica, who feels free to expose his advanced ideas on democracy, socialism and standards of decent coexistence among human beings. It is to be noted the effect that El Pepe has on the director, which spills over into admiration and respect.

Available in Netflix.

Walnice Nogueira Galvão is professor emeritus at FFLCH at USP.

Originally published in the magazine Theory and debate (https://teoriaedebate.org.br/colunas/guia-do-cinema-politico-na-quarentena/)

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