Humberto Mauro



A presentation of the documentary cinema developed by the Brazilian filmmaker.



Brazilian documentary, from the beginning of the talkies to the emergence of the cinemanovista generation, is basically (although not exclusively) articulated around the Instituto Nacional do Cinema Educativo (INCE) and the figure of our main director of the end of the silent period, Humberto Mauro . In this essay, we will seek to provide an overview of his documentary work, little known outside Brazil and Latin America. Mauro directed fiction films with great success in the silent period. His extensive work as a documentary filmmaker – covering nearly thirty years of his career, between 1936 and 1964 – is generally found in the shadow of his brief success in fiction cinema. The objective of this text is to present him as a filmmaker dedicated to the production of documentaries.

In the early 1930s Mauro already had a considerable filmography. Between 1926 and 1930, in the city of Cataguases, in the interior of the state of Minas Gerais, he made almost one film a year, some of them with very favorable repercussions in the Rio de Janeiro press: In the Spring of Life (1926); lost treasure (1927); sleeping ember (1928) and Miner's Blood (1930). Having started his career in Minas Gerais, in the interior of Brazil, he has close contact with the main cinema group in Brazil, which gravitated around the magazine Cineart and, later, the Cinédia studio, in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1931, he definitely left the safety of little Cataguases, where he had lived since he was 12, and went to Rio de Janeiro to direct fiction lips without kisses, the first feature by Cinédia, a production company founded by Adhemar Gonzaga. The following year, in 1932, he directs raw denim, with partial sound, considered one of the great classics of Brazilian cinema.

The arrival of sound dismantles Brazilian cinematographic production, which takes about twenty years to reorganize itself. Mauro is going through a profound personal and professional crisis. In 1933 he was fired from Cinédia and became unemployed, having seven children to support. With film production at a standstill in Brazil, it is going through a difficult period. He moves house and has to sell the furniture to raise funds.

At the end of 1934, beginning of 35, the director returned to film with Carmen Santos, who invited him to work at the production company he was creating, Brasil Vita Filmes. Between 1935 and 1936, he directed the feature films favela of my loves e City Woman (both lost). Also from that time are his first documentaries (if we except Symphony of Cataguases, about the city of his childhood and youth, made in 1929), directing a medium and two short films for producer Carmen Santos: The Seven Wonders of Rio (medium, mute), Pedro II (short, sonorous) and General Osorio (short, sonorous). Still in 1934, he directs the average Rio de Janeiro Sample Fair. Also from the period before the INCE we can mention The Voice of Carnival, from 1933, co-directed by Adhemar Gonzaga, a film with several documentary shots, outdoors, showing famous radio singers and portraying the carnival of previous years.

With this picture in the background, we can better understand Humberto Mauro's enthusiastic adherence to INCE. The Instituto Nacional do Cinema Educativo was created in 1936 (although its functioning was formalized only through Law n. 378, of January 13, 1937) based on a proposal by Roquette-Pinto to Gustavo Capanema, then Minister of Education and Health . A prominent intellectual in the Brazilian scene at the time, responsible for the introduction of radio in the country, Roquette already had previous contacts with Mauro.

With the creation of the institute, the invitation to Mauro occurs at the first moment. The encounter between the two has a romanticized version, incorporated, in his style, by journalist Ruy Castro: “A salesman of household appliances went looking for Roquette-Pinto at the National Museum trying to push him some. His name was Humberto Mauro, he was 39 years old. He was an intuitive genius who had to make ends meet in his spare time selling floor polishers and vacuum cleaners. Roquette didn't buy him any, but he bought Mauro himself with the proposal: you're going to work with me, we're going to make educational cinema in Brazil”.[I]

This fanciful version has a basis in reality, due to Mauro's difficult financial situation at the time, which would have actually forced him to do small “partnerships” as a salesman to survive. A more realistic survey continues to point to the National Museum as a link between the two, but locates the approximation of the two figures around the short film. Amoeba, made in 1932 by Cinédia (and probably directed by Mauro) for the National Museum, shown in its premiere together with Ganga Bruta, in a session that included a lecture by the director of the museum at the time, Roquette-Pinto.[ii]

It is also given that the short Taxidermia, pointed out in some filmographies as INCE's first work, was apparently already ready in 1935, produced by Brasil Vox Film. The short film is jointly directed by Humberto Mauro and Paulo Roquette-Pinto, the anthropologist's son. As another point of convergence, we can also highlight Roquette-Pinto's interest, during his tenure at the National Museum, in educational cinema. The museum even had a film library, lending the scientific films it imported to schools and other interested parties.

The dominant ideology in Mauro's production at INCE has evolved over its almost 30 years of existence. We can, however, feel, especially in its first decade of existence (Roquette-Pinto remained as president of the body from 1936 to 1947), the presence of the ideals and worldview of his intellectual mentor. Roquette bridges the gap between the INCE and the Getulist State, in particular with the all-powerful Ministry of Education and Health of Gustavo Capanema, an organism that traveled the Brazilian State with impunity from 1934 to 1945.[iii] As an administrative department of Capanema's ministry, INCE is part of Roquette's political space within that ministry.

It was Roquette-Pinto who had enough weight to block the attempts to incorporate the INCE on the part of Lourival Fontes, then all-powerful director of the Department of Press and Propaganda (DIP), a key organ of the Getulist Estado Novo, directly linked to the office of the president, and responsible for the propaganda of the regime. Despite attempts, DIP has not been able to absorb the space of documentary cinema in Brazil, which maintains its production around INCE.[iv] Unlike its Italian and German counterparts, and somewhat along the lines of English documentarism, INCE had, during the Estado Novo, a very reasonable room for maneuver, disconnected from the narrower needs of political propaganda.[v]

The ideals of Roquette-Pinto, which we breathe in the INCE documentaries, mark the work of Humberto Mauro mainly in the period 1936-47, when the director worked under the direct orders of the anthropologist. Mauro stayed at INCE from the beginning of its activities in 1936 until its transformation, in 1966, into the Department of Cultural Film, of the newly created Instituto Nacional do Cinema (INC). His hiring as a “cinematographic technician” was requested on March 28, 1936, by letter from Roquette-Pinto to Gustavo Capanema (who gave his final approval).[vi] Mauro is, specifically, the author responsible for the production of INCE as a whole, during the long period of existence of the institute.

If, after the end of the war, in 1945, Maurean lyricism finds a larger field to expand, we can feel the cinematographic “hand” of the author since the first documentaries. Mauro builds a homogeneous team at INCE, made up of close collaborators and family members, tailor-made for the exercise of his art. Its main collaborator, in the early years of INCE, is Manoel Ribeiro, who photographs and edits several films. From the beginning of the 40s, his son, José Mauro, also started to photograph and mount, later on directing.

In addition to these, the team had laboratory technician Erich Walder, assistant Matheus Collaço and Beatriz Roquette-Pinto Bojunga, who, in addition to being Ince's secretary, participated in the short films as a costume designer and set designer. Ruy Guedes de Mello and Oscar Motta Vianna da Silva also photograph and, occasionally, sign the direction. The production scheme at Ince, during the Roquette-Pinto administration (until 1947), involved the choice of theme based on external demands, or the ministry itself. From the choice, the documentary was prepared following a scheme of consultations and treatment of themes with personalities and intellectual exponents of the Getulist Estado Novo.

The consultants, often in an informal scheme, were, among others, Affonso de Taunay (Paulista Museum), Agnaldo Alves Filho (Pasteur Institute), Alyrio de Mattos (National Observatory), Tasso da Silveira (Mint), Vital Brasil , Mauricio Gudin, Carlos Chagas Filho, Francisco Venâncio Filho, Heitor Villa-Lobos. The first documentaries directed by Mauro date from the year INCE was founded (1936), extending until 1964 (when he directs The Old Woman to Trust, his last film on Ince)[vii]. During this 28-year period, he directed and coordinated the production of 358 short and medium-length documentaries.[viii]



In the INCE documentaries (mainly during the Estado Novo), we can see the essence of the progressive thinking of the time, with the strong personality of Roquette-Pinto in the background. This progressive side must be thought of within the context of its time and placed in opposition to the evolutionary racial vision (also called social Darwinism) that dominated Brazilian thought in the second half of the XNUMXth century.[ix] In the first third of the twentieth century we are ideologically immersed in this context inherited from the previous century, even as a form of denial. Casa Grande & Senzala, by Gilberto Freyre, a key work from the first decades of the 1933th century (first published in XNUMX), is nothing more than an attempt, also quite progressive, to reassess the framework of dominant racial theories, positively valuing the culture that arises from the “crucible of races”.

In 1929 Roquette-Pinto was president of the First Brazilian Congress of Eugenics, where he defended the progressive thesis that “the Brazilian problem was a question of hygiene, not of race”.[X] Eugenics is the theory of a supposed science that, as an ideology, traveled intensively through the main Western countries at the beginning of the century, proposing strategies for the improvement of races, generally based on policies that preached sterilization, the extermination of the incapable and prohibited interracial marriages. In Brazil, due to the strong space that racial theories occupy in the XNUMXth century, the repercussions of eugenics are intense. The conservative tendency (which defends the “degenerationist theory of miscegenation”) is the majority in Congress, contrary to Roquette's thinking, more influenced by the American culturalist anthropologist Franz Boas.

The fact that interests us here, and which we consider to be remarkable for understanding INCE's production, is locating the main ideologue of its production, at the head of a Eugenics Congress, defending progressive theses for the improvement of the Brazilian race, a few years before of the beginning of the production of the documentaries that we propose to approach. Roquette-Pinto's thought and the dominant ideology that were conveyed by INCE's documentaries during the Estado Novo period (until 1945) have obvious tinges of this origin. They portray, even if not explicitly, this movement away from racial theories adopted by the most influential Brazilian intelligentsia at the time.

In the magazine's editorials Cineart, who exert a strong influence on Humberto Mauro through the “father” figure of Adhemar Gonzaga[xi], we find evident traces of the ideological context that seeks to think and value Brazil while hiding the mestizo traits of its people. Cineart he still manages to keep alive in his editorials the tradition of conservative racial thinking that Roquette-Pinto, more in tune with his time, had already abandoned. The rupture with this horizon, in the 1920s and 1930s, passes through Gilberto Freyre and Euclides da Cunha, going from Rondon to Paulo Prado, from Mário de Andrade to Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, trying to show the dimension of factors other than race. , in the constitution of the spirit of the Brazilian people; or valuing the culture that emerges from this uniquely national element that is a mestizo people.

We will not be able to understand the ideological context within which the production of the first INCE is inserted if we do not have in evidence the exceptional force that, in the beginning of the 1930th century, racial theories had in Brazil that sought to show the innate degeneration of the mestizo. And what did its abandonment in the XNUMXs mean for the new thinking on Brazilianness?

The authoritarian and exalted side of national unanimity, analyzed below, does not contradict this factor, and allows it to prevail within the institutional apparatus of the State (Villa-Lobos and Humberto Mauro marry perfectly, as we can see in the feature-length documentary The Discovery of Brazil – 1937). In the case of Roquette-Pinto, the transition from the eugenics context takes place through a discourse that will value not only the multiracial dimension of the Brazilian people, but also the strategies of a public policy that allows the multiracial “race” to fully realize its potentialities. In this strategy, the role of education and hygienist sanitation (to be obtained through “education”) is preponderant. The issue of “educational cinema”, and particularly the constitution of Ince, is then considered against the background of this mission.

The educational objective of INCE's documentary production has a paternalistic character, intending to teach the people how to deal with their own cultural traditions. The sanitary approach justifies and frames an unquestionable knowledge about what belongs to the other (the people). Popular/indigenous culture and traditions are not analyzed in themselves, but as a reason for the classificatory exercise that stamps the narrator's knowledge (Marajoara art, the ox cart, the manufacture of rapadura, etc.), or a motive to be used in hygienist practice (sanitary tanks, artesian wells, food preservation, etc.).

The positivist belief in the powers of scientific methodology, as opposed to popular beliefs, complements the hygienist motive. The mulatto, cafuza, cabocla race is not only far from being inferior, because it is mestizo, but the evidence of its racial degeneration can only be identified with health issues, resulting from the absence of a hygienist policy (the yellow “Jeca Tatu” of Lobato). Educational cinema is an essential tool for this policy of improvement, if not racially (this eugenicist notion is no longer used), but of the Brazilian “people” in general.

The foundation of INCE takes place in an ideological environment marked by this context. Its own institutional location in a ministry that, in addition to Education, is also responsible for health, gives the exact dimension of these factors. Hygiene and sanitation education, the proud display of positive science's classificatory power/knowledge in action, can be found in documentaries such as Taxidermy Practical Lesson I and II (1936); The Sky of Brazil in the Capital of the Republic (1936); atmospheric air (1936); Preparing the Rabies Vaccine (1936); Electrification of the Central do Brasil Railroad (1937); Struggle against Ophidism (1937); Cornerstone of the Ministry of Education and Health (1937); Vitoria Regia (1937); Yellow Fever – Vaccine Preparation by the Rockefeller Foundation (1938); Tuberculosis prevention by vaccine (1939) Oswaldo Cruz Institute (1939); Study of the Great Endemics (1939); American Visceral Leishmaniasis (1939); American trypanosomiasis (1939); the puree (1939); Myocardium in Culture (1939); Combating Leprosy in Brazil (1945); Lagoa Santa (1940); Yellow Fever Service (1945). The series “Education and Rural Hygiene” (Water collection; Dry sump; Trench silo; Food preparation and conservation), made in 1955, in co-production with the United States, through the United States Agency for International Development as part of the National Rural Education Campaign[xii], has traits that relate it to the production of the 30s and 40s, although its late character gives it particularities.[xiii]

The eugenic-hygienist focus is superimposed on another, due to the official character of this production, developed within a State body functioning in an authoritarian regime (the period of Getúlio Estado Novo – 1937-45 – basically corresponds to the permanence of Roquette-Pinto to the front of the institute). The exalting character of the off-screen locution and its Parnassian adjectives are in tune with the grandiloquent rhetoric of the time, which would later be satirized, in the 1960s, by works close to the tropicalist movement or by marginal cinema.[xiv] This rhetoric, which ignores the rupture and distancing of 22's modernism, permeates all of INCE's output until the advent of the Brasilianas series, in the late 1940s.

Em Cinema as an “Agitador de Almas” – a scene from the Estado Novo[xv], Almeida establishes an interesting relationship between the production of Ince and the positivist philosophy, based on strategies to establish “'models of perfection' capable of guiding the evolution of the Brazilian people”[xvi], and promoting “myths capable of generating altruistic feelings”[xvii]. In Roquette-Pinto's proximity to the positivist ideals, we find the engine for the elaboration of historical figures, perfectly typified, that present us in the institute's historical documentaries. The issue of the national and the typification of the uniqueness of Brazilianness, which runs through the institute's production as a whole, perfectly matches personalist idealism. The grandiloquent tone serves as a cover to this idealistic typing strategy, lending the desired coloring to its effects.

For a time like ours, marked by the hedonistic ideology of the counterculture, as it appears in the 1960s, the altruistic and exalted ideals of the historical figures of Ince appear displaced to the point of comicality. This displacement, in reality, composes one of the central veins of the emergence of the tropicalista sensibility, moment in which the clash between the two ideological contexts (graniloquent altruism, on the one hand, and “fucking crazy” hedonism, on the other), due to its novelty, it opens a crack for representational strategies attracted by the transition from irony to allegory.[xviii]

The exaltation/idealist dimension of the INCE films appears in all its evidence in the historical documentaries of this first period, such as The Inconfidentes, 1936; Fatherland Day, 1936; flag day, 1938; Bandeirantes, 1940; An Apologist – Machado de Assis, 1939; Carlos Gomes, the Guarani, 1942; The Redeemer's Awakening, 1942; Invocation of the Aimorés, 1942; Baron of Rio Branco, 1944; Euclid da Cunha, 1944; Leopoldo Miguez (1946); Martins Pena – Judas on Hallelujah Saturday (1947); Alberto Nepomuceno, 1948; as well as in documentaries made outside the INCE production, but directed by Mauro, such as the docudrama The Discovery of Brazil (1937) and fiction Clay (1940)

The exalted discourse of the Roquette-Pinto period goes against the expectations of the Getulist authoritarian state, reflected in the relationship between the idealized character of historical personalities (princess Isabel, Raposo Tavares, Fernão Dias, Pedro Álvares Cabral, Tiradentes, Carlos Gomes) and the unanimity required by the present regime. The emphasis on unanimous agreement with the perfect complexion of past heroes registers the anomaly of present dissent. Exaltation and grandiloquence play a double role in preventing the critical attitude. The discourse of unity is based on the negation of regionalisms (the burning of state flags, filmed by INCE, is an example) and racial differences (elements placed on the same plane). Surprisingly, the echo of evolutionary racial theories surrounding the emergence of Nazism in Germany does not find repercussions of magnitude here.

Initially, this aspect is intriguing, especially if we take into account the intensity, disproportionate for the time, that evolutionary racial theories had in Brazil in the 1930th century, fulfilling the role of yet another “out of place idea”. Its absence in the XNUMXs, as a preponderant ideological aspect, can perhaps be related to the intensity of its early incidence and the debates that, at that time, surrounded its overcoming. By marrying the authoritarianism of the Estado Novo, the racial question moves towards the exaltation of the mestizo “people” and their culture, as a way of, through the pedagogical/sanitary lens, compose the required unanimity. This lens comes to affirm the authoritarian character that is built into overcoming racial theories, through the enhancement of positive scientific knowledge (in the voice off detailing the progress of Brazilian science), the importance of the new cinematographic technique for the pedagogical exercise (through the construction of knowledge in the “new” education) and the importance of the sanitary lesson for the constitution of a new healthy race. In INCE's documentary production, a power relationship, of a paternalistic nature, is established with this alterity that is the mestizo people and their culture. Although the presence of his image (mainly in the Brasilianas series) is new in the Brazilian cinema scene, the culture of the mestizo people serves as a backdrop for the assertion of knowledge about him that the narrative enunciation embeds.

The overcoming of racial evolutionism (which claimed the superiority of the Aryan pure race), through culturalist theories that positively see the mestizo composition of the Brazilian people, can be detected in the conflicting relationship established between historian Affonso Taunay and Roquette-Pinto, in the process elaboration of the medium-length Bandeirantes, from 1940. Affonso Taunay appears as a consultant for Mauro's documentary, the text and narration are by Roquette-Pinto, who also signs the co-direction[xx]. The old project of both (who seem to maintain good personal relations despite the differences) of making a film about the “Paulista epic” receives a differentiated treatment within Ince, with a higher-than-average production standard. The key document for mapping this relationship is the reception speech given to Affonso Taunay at the Academia Brasileira de Letras, given by Roquette-Pinto[xx], in which the critical relationship maintained by the anthropologist with the São Paulo historian is clear.

Taunay heads the group of authors, still linked to the social evolutionist Darwinism of the XNUMXth century, who preach (and bet on) a progressive whitening of the Brazilian “race” as a way of improving its potential. Roquette-Pinto's criticism of Taunay's work is clear, in the relationship he establishes between the heroic/idealized type of the São Paulo bandeirante and his Aryan conformation. Despite approving the heroic typification of the bandeirante, Roquette will deny that this trait is due to the whitening resulting from the isolation of the São Paulo plateau.

The anthropologist says in his welcome speech to the Academy: “I don't know if you were always well inspired by consecrating, in the first volume of your General History of Flags, a chapter that you called the progressive Aryanisation of the Paulistas because anthropology teaches that Aryan blood is a utopia”[xxx]. Roquette will point out as a differentiating trait of the “epic” of São Paulo in the Tupiniquim civilization not the progressive whitening but the “discipline”, “the greatest strength of the people of São Paulo”, a function of a non-racial heritage, but cultural, determined by the presence of the Jesuits in Piratinga. Emphasizing even more the critical posture of Taunay’s racial ideas, Roquette-Pinto states that “bandeirismo, as a territory spread and preacher of Indians, predates the arrival of the colonizers”[xxiii], arguing that the Tupis themselves made flags to gain territories and capture slaves, and that it would have been the Tupi Indian women who inoculated the “boys from Piratinga” with “the germ of curiosity that found great soil in the dreamy substratum of the Iberian soul”[xxiii].

in the documentary Bandeirantes, we note this concern in emphasizing that the mestizo origin is at the root of the brave bandeirantes. That the altruistic and pioneering nature of the Paulistas has its origin in caboclo blood. In the first sequence of the film, a voice in off A painting describes us as “João Ramalho, main patriarch of the Bandeirantes, with one of his sons the little mameluco, grandson of chief Tibiriça, father of Bartira, Ramalho's wife”. Roquette-Pinto seeks to link the positive aspect of the bandeirantes' entrepreneurial side to the indigenous race, negatively valued by Taunay's “Aryanism”.

The point at issue is to prove that a “race”, supposedly inferior as the indigenous, can offer a significant contribution to the idealist composite in the configuration of the racial crucible of the Bandeirante “type”. The challenge is to show that the idealistic valuation of personality (courage, fearlessness, courage, nobility, pride) can also be applied to Indians, caboclos, cafuzos, mulattos and not just Aryans. In other words: the altruistic bandeirante type can be constructed in a way that allows grandiloquent harmony, and justifies the typification, without it being necessary to deny or devalue its mestizo composition.



After outlining the ideological context in which Humberto Mauro's documentary production at INCE is inserted, let's see if it is possible to identify the authorial dimension of this work, developed within an institution that has its origins in an authoritarian state. In other words, how do we define the “author” Mauro and to what extent this author interacts and flexes the ideological horizon of the time, expressed in its institutional dimension. This interaction becomes instigating not only because of the long period of time in which the film production is developed (30 years), but also because it relates to a filmmaker with personality, who arrives at the state film producer organization with a mature cinematographic career. and successful.

The personal relationship between Humberto Mauro and Roquette-Pinto, and the view of the latter as a second intellectual “father” in the filmmaker’s formation (the first, according to Paulo Emílio, would have been Adhemar Gonzaga[xxv], gives uniqueness to this authorial dimension. In the Roquette / Mauro marriage, we can see Mauro's personality somewhat oppressed by the ideological burden of an authoritarian state and by the physical presence of Roquette, as head, at the institute where he works on a daily basis. The thesis that Mauro's documentary production after Roquette-Pinto's departure from INCE and the end of Estado Novo is tempting is tempting.

In reality, perhaps we can outline a line of continuity that accompanies the evolution of time and the “wheel” of history. Proof of the conformation of Mauro's style to the ideological universe that one breathes in INCE's short films is the realization of a fiction feature film with his direction (Clay, 1940), and produced by Carmen Santos/Brasil Vita Filmes, imbued with the institute's ideals. In reality, this is the universe that interested Mauro at the time and in relation to which he identifies. We can also verify this point of gravity in his radio lectures, held between 1943 and 1944.[xxiv].

Humberto Mauro, however, evolves with his time. In the post-war period, the political and ideological moment is different, and film production in Brazil now bypasses the State apparatus. The institutional presence of documentary cinema (whether in the form of newsreels or as “educational cinema”) is of marginal importance, a position that INCE was far from occupying in the first years of its existence, when it was the scene of fierce political disputes. The theme of cinema itself from the educational axis disappears from the horizon.

With the emergence of television and the affirmation of other means of communication, cinema lost its aura as a privileged vehicle for ideological diffusion among the less educated layers of the population. In the 1950s, we find the now “old Mauro”, accommodated in his editing room, with one foot in his farm in Minas Gerais, and with space to vent his lyrical vein. The institutional educational motive of the institute, where he still works, is just a backdrop. There is also a clear retreat from the grandiloquent tone, despite its occasional presence. The nostalgic chord, the melancholic lyricism, seems to set the tone in the films of the Brasilianas series. The hygienist mission still remains as an ideology, but carried by regret, by the sad tone in the vision of the rural universe of the culture that is extinguished. As in the 1940s, with Clay, we also find here the harmony between the production of Humberto Mauro outside INCE (the fiction feature The Song of Health, 1950) and the institute's best-kept documentaries.

Humberto Mauro, in reality, leaves behind his grandiloquent/altruistic tone and scientificist fascination, to assert himself, under the weight of years and a long career, in a nostalgic lyricism that has on the horizon the customs and traditions of the Minas Gerais of his infancy. We can feel this authorial posture in the series Brasilianas, formed by the short films Popular Songs: Chuá, Chuá and Little House (Brasilianas no. 1, 1945); Popular Songs: Azulão and Pinhal (Brasilianas no. 2, 1948); Aboios and Cantigas (Brasilianas no. 3, 1954); Engenhos and Power Plants (Brasilianas no. 4, 1955); work corners (Brasilianas no. 5, 1955); My eight years (Brasilianas no 6, 1956) and Morning in the Rock (Brasilianas no 7, 1956).

The concern with the traditions and customs of a disappearing rural Brazil is approached in a melancholy tone, where the testimony of the songs occupies a central place. The theme of longing and disillusionment, privileged in Mauro's work as a whole, finds here the means for its full expansion. The representation of popular culture (work songs) awakens a new attention from the director. The rigor of Mauriano's framing has a high point in these shorts, demonstrating why he is considered one of the directors with the strongest style in Latin American cinema. Mauro makes no effort to obtain brilliant framing and images (in the Figuerôa/Ruy Santos/Peixoto genre) but they seem to come together naturally, showing the maturity of a style.

The rigor of the forms emerges as the simplicity of the culture it portrays. We can also notice the same style in the documentary ox cart (1945), elaborated within a tone of regret for the extinction of this rural means of transport. It is significant that Humberto Mauro returns to the theme of the oxcart – and to the metaphor that the noise of its wheels is a poignant song for the abandonment of rural traditions – in his last film (and first in color), ox cart, produced in 1974. There is, between both, an evolution in the theme. In the first one, the classifying, dissecting tone still predominates, with the oxcart being exposed in detail and named in its constituent parts by the narrative. The educational tone is present.

In the second, the issue of death and destruction comes to the fore. The narrative dwells on a series of broken, irrecoverable oxcarts, which appear as corpses, bones, just “a melancholy specter of the bravery of yesteryear”. It is also this nostalgic universe of old Minas that sets the tone in the “Mineira” series, made at the end of his career at Ince: sabara (1956); city ​​of Belo Horizonte (1957); Congonhas do Campo (1957); São João del Rei (1958); Diamantina (1958); city ​​of Mariana (1959); Black Gold (1959)

The bridge between Maurean lyricism and the ideological context of the INCE that we have been tracing can be thought of as an organic totality, divided into two poles: the preservationist/educational pole and the classificatory/culturalist pole. It is at this point that we see the unity, within the historical evolution, of Humberto Mauro's documentary work. On the one hand, the growing strength of nostalgic lyricism and the increasingly intense representation of popular culture, particularly that rural culture that is in the process of disappearing. On the other hand, the inheritance of the eugenic-hygienist complex, defined above from Roquette-Pinto's thought, manifested through a scientistic discourse. The representation of popular culture in Brasilianas emerges at the confluence of this evolution, doubly intensified by the lament of dying songs, and, on the other hand, by the educational/classifying mission, of a culturalist nature, which comes to value what can be shown, as it deserves to be embalmed .

On the Serie “National Rural Education Campaign” – Rural Hygiene – Fossa Seca (1954); The Water Catchment (1954); Domestic Hygiene (1955) Silo Trench (1955); Food Preparation and Preservation (1955); Rural Buildings (1956) and also in Rural Wells (1959), the preservationist/educational pole has the hygienist field of the 1930s on the horizon. It is about recovering (and therefore preserving/classifying) popular customs that can be altered to have a role in the hygienist education project of the population. The classificatory/culturalist field appears as the other side of the coin, proving the first mission of educational cinema, which is to give scientific (and therefore systemic) status to what must be preserved. Popular culture may come to compose this universe (as evidenced by the “scientificity” of its intuitive hygienic practices), and therefore must be preserved. Once these prerequisites are fulfilled, it is ready to compose its educational mission. This measure justifies the narrative itself, the enunciation itself, which aims to represent/preservation of this culture.

The “culturalist” vein (of exaltation of Brazilian folklore and culture) then interacts with the “classificatory” bias, through the presence of a systematizing discourse that is little different from that present in scientific short films. Folklore and tradition receiving the approval of the scientific method can be conveyed within the “educational” label and promote the emancipation of the less developed layers (in a first moment, of the “races”) of the population. The novelty, in the 1950s version of this set of ideas, is the nostalgic background of the disappearing rural universe, which accompanies the representation of social actors. The certainties of the grandiloquent tone now move to a marginal space.

The “classificatory” pole is not always accompanied by culturalist faith, although it is in these moments that we feel Mauro breathe more deeply as an author. Perhaps it is the case that we also define another classification/scientific pole. In “scientific” documentaries, the influence of the positivist belief in the powers of science is clear, powers displayed with pride and proven in their practical functioning (the hygienist aspect is an excellent attestation of efficiency). The structuring of fields of knowledge, such as medicine, biology, physics, chemistry, and also history, appears as part of the majesty of the edifice called “science”.

We can find, in INCE's production, short films of a strictly scientific nature in which this admiration for the open perspectives of scientific knowledge is breathed. There is a certain fascination with the “attraction” of the camera[xxv] and its potentialities, capable of showing an unknown, but existing, universe that is or was in the existential context of the shot. The vision of the microscopic world, the extreme close-up, the vision of time in slow motion, or of movement in reverse, exercised an almost childlike fascination in Ince's early years. One breathes the wonder with the revealing potential of the camera, typical of French theorists who thought about cinema in the 20s, in particular Jean Epstein[xxviii], inherited by the scientific documentary work of Jean Painlevé.

In his radio talks, Mauro explicitly declares himself an admirer of Painlevé and his work, seeking the poetry of French impressionist cinema in the microscopic composition, accelerated, or in slow motion, of matter. The revealing aspect of the camera asserts itself in its potential to transfigure the referent, maintaining ontological identity with the designated universe. Once the new universe is revealed, the scientistic classification pole appears in its most evident dimension. The documentary narrative then serves as an imagetic revelation/proof of themes prepared by scientists from the biological field or the exact sciences.

From this panorama, a wide documentary production emerges that brings within itself, in the almost thirty years of its evolution, the renewed contradictions of its time. It should be noted the temporal extension and continuity of this filmography. It is a unique case of a filmmaker who, with already acquired success and recognition in the field of fiction, decides to move definitively to the documentary. He arrives with a broad knowledge of cinematographic technique and applies it with density in the construction of a style. It is not too much to repeat that we owe Mauro, and the team he coordinated, the specifically cinematographic composition, within the documentary genre, of the themes covered in Ince. It is the links with a state institution that allow one to obtain a continuity and a quantity of rare films in the field of non-fiction cinema. And it is these same links that, in their ideological and stylistic interaction, constitute the complexity of the authorial dimension of this work.

*Fernao Pessoa Ramos, sociologist, is a professor at the Institute of Arts at UNICAMP. Author, among other books, of But after all… what exactly is a documentary? (Senac).

Originally published in: Paulo Paranaguá. Documentary Cinema in Latin America. Madrid, Cathedral, 2003.



[I] Ruy Castro, “The Crowd Man”, in Special Magazine for the 60 years of Radio MEC, P. 16. Quoted by Ana Carolina Maciel, “Figure and Gestures” by Humberto Mauro: a Commented Edition, master's thesis, Campinas, Unicamp Institute of Arts, 2000.

[ii] See Sheila Schvarzman, Humberto Mauro and the Images of Brazil, doctoral thesis, Campinas, Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences at Unicamp, 2000.

[iii] Simon Schwartzman, Times of Capanema, Rio de Janeiro, Peace and Land, 1984.

[iv] This division should not lead us to believe that DIP's production is reduced to advertising in newsreels. The very boundary between documentary and propaganda is something that must be thematized with care. We can find in DIP the presence and performance of Alexandre Wulfes, an important documentary cameraman, and of documentaries directed by Ruy Santos, one of the greatest photographers of Brazilian cinema. Within the Getulista state, another nucleus of documentary production can be located in the Information Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, where Lafayette Cunha and Pedro Lima were filmed. On the subject (and particularly the 30s), see the historical overview of Brazilian documentary outlined in the entries “Documentário Mudo” and “Documentário Sonoro” in Fernão Ramos; Luiz Felipe Miranda, Encyclopedia of Brazilian Cinema, São Paulo, Editora do Senac, 2000.

[v] About the period, and particularly the DIP, see: José Inácio de Melo Souza, The Action and the Imaginary of a Dictatorship: Content, Coercion and Propaganda in the Media During the Estado Novo, master's dissertation, São Paulo, USP School of Communications and Arts, 1990; and José Inácio de Melo Souza, The State against the Media (1889-1945), São Paulo, Annablume, 2003. In Carlos Roberto Souza, Catalog of Films Produced by Ince (Rio de Janeiro, Fundação do Cinema Brasileiro/ Minc, 1990), the fact is highlighted that the creation of Ince was “accompanied by personal contacts and exchange of correspondence between Brazilians and similar foreign organizations, especially the Luce Institute in Mussolinist Italy and the Reichstelle Fur Den Unterrichtsfilm of National Socialist Germany” (p. III, “Introduction”). On this subject see also: Cinema as “Agitador de Almas” – Clay, a Scene from the Estado Novo by Claudio Almeida Aguiar (São Paulo, Annablume/Fapesp, 1999), in which the author locates this exchange more specifically “in December 1936 (when) Roquette-Pinto strengthened these contacts on a trip to France, Italy and Germany, where he had the opportunity to study, in detail, the organization of European cinematographic production” (p. 90). Schvartzman (Humberto Mauro e as Imagens do Brasil, op. cit.) has access specifically to Roquette-Pinto's account of this trip to Capanema (Arquivo Gustavo Capanema GCG 35.00.00/ 02 doc. n. 610) and describes more precisely these contacts. He mentions his enthusiasm for Luciano de Feo's conception of educational cinema, which was the basis of Luce's conception, and the invitation to join the International Institute of Educative Cinema, of which the anthropologist would be vice-president in the future. Still about educational cinema see Cinema Against Cinema – General Bases for an Outline of Organization of Educational Cinema in Brazil, by Joaquim Canuto Mendes de Almeida (Rio de Janeiro, Nacional, 1931) and Cinema and Education by Jonathas Serrano and Venâncio Filho (São Paulo, Melhoramentos, s/d). The first books on cinema in Brazil are published around the relationship between the “new” education and documentary cinema. On the subject, see the good panorama by Maria Eneida Fachini Saliba, in Cinema Against Cinema – the Educational Cinema of Canuto Mendes . (São Paulo, Annablume, 2003).

[vi] See Júlio César Lobo, “Birth, Life and Death of a Pioneer Institution in Distance Education in Brazil: the Ince Phenomenon”, in FAEBA Magazine, no. 3, Salvador, Jan./Dec./1994.

[vii] One of the gems of his filmography, this short film illustrates a famous song from Brazilian folklore, within a style marked by the work developed during the Brasilianas period. Mauro's ironic and nostalgic lyricism (see below) is shown here in every form, as he deals with his own aging in the face of the dialectic of permanence and transformation in time.

[viii] See Carlos Roberto Souza, Film Catalog Produced by Ince, Brazilian Cinema Foundation/ Minc, 1990.

[ix] On the subject see, among others: Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, The Spectacle of Races – Scientists, Institutions and the Racial Question in Brazil – 1870-1930, São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1993; Nancy Stepan, The Hour of Eugenics, Race, Gender and Nation in Latin America, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1991; Thomas Skidmore, Black in white. Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought, Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1976; Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought, Boston, Beacon Press, 1975.

[X] Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, op. cit., p. 96.

[xi] About the Gonzaga/Mauro relationship, see: Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, Humberto Mauro, Cataguases, Cinearte, São Paulo, Perspective, 1974.

[xii] See Carlos Roberto Souza, op. cit. The titles of the mentioned films use the filmography surveyed by Souza in the catalog of films produced by Ince, in which he registers the 354 short films and medium-length films produced by the institute. This information was reorganized and classified into thematic groups by Schvarzman (op.cit.). The first survey of Maurian filmography at Ince, still incomplete, was carried out by Paulo Perdigão in the article “Trajetória de Humberto Mauro” (magazine Film Culture, n.3, Rio de Janeiro, January-February/1967). At the end of the 80s, Cinemateca Brasileira received almost all of Ince's collection. Previously, this collection was deposited at Embrafilme, which inherited it from Inc (where the institute went, as the Cultural Film Department, after its extinction in 1966).

[xiii] In the last chapter of The Spectacle of Races (“The Faculties of Medicine or How to Heal a Sick Country”) Schwarcz follows the movement of racial theories towards hygienism, a movement that is also portrayed by Skidmore (op. cit.). It is important to mention that Roquette-Pinto was replaced at Ince, in 1947, by the doctor Pedro Gouvea Filho, also linked to the hygienist practice.

[xiv] The documentary Memories of Cangaço (1964), by Paulo Gil Soares, occupies, in this sense, a key position. Formally, it is linked to the arrival of the stylistics of cinema-verdade to Brazilian documentaries, in the mid-60s. from Bahia (one of the temples of Brazilian racist thought, which had Nina Rodrigues as an exponent), trying to explain the cangaço from the racial roots and cranial conformation of the northeastern. In the tone of his speech, this professor reproduces the stilted style of grandiloquent speech that we find in the off-screen locution of Ince documentaries. The professor's voice recalls the form of a classic documentary, and therefore Ince's narrative, as opposed to the innovative and colloquial stylistics of Memories of cangaço. The stylistic difference corresponds to an ideological difference, clear in the ironic distancing through which this clash between styles distorts racist statements. The impressive shots of the severed heads of the cangaceiros – still preserved in formaldehyde in the UFBA laboratories in 1964 – provide a counterbalance to the naturalness of the racist explanation of the “cangaço” phenomenon.

[xv] Claudio Aguiar Almeida, op.cit.

[xvi] Idem, ibidem, p. 161.

[xvii] Idem, ibidem, p. 155.

[xviii] See Roberto Schwarz, “Culture and Politics 1964-69”, in The Father of the Family and Other Studies, Rio de Janeiro, Peace and Land, 1978.

[xx] This issue is addressed by Eduardo Morettin (Bandeirantes, master's dissertation, São Paulo, USP School of Communications and Arts, 1994). See also on the subject Sheila Schvarzman, op. cit., pp. 298-306.

[xx] E. Roquette-Pinto, Brasiliano essays, São Paulo, Companhia Editora Nacional, Illustrated Edition, s/d.

[xxx] Idem, ibidem, p. 215.

[xxiii] Idem, ibidem, p. 218.

[xxiii] Idem, ibidem, p. 219.

[xxv] Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, op. cit.

[xxiv] On radio talks, see “Figure and Gestures” by Humberto Mauro: a Commented Edition, op. cit.

[xxv] Tom Gunning, “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde”; in Thomas Elsaesser and Adam Barker (eds.), Early Film, London, British Film Institute, 1989.

[xxviii] Jean Epstein, Spirit of Cinema. Paris, Ed. Jeheber, 1955. See also the books by the same author Le Cinématographe Vu de l'Etna (1926) and Photogénie de L'Imponderable (1935) contained in the Jean Epstein collection, Écrits sur le Cinema (2 vols.), Paris, Seghers, 1975.

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