The cinema of Rubens Rewald & Tales Ab'Sáber

Robert Rauschenberg, Sounds of the Street, 1992


May the duo Rewald & Ab'Sáber continue their work done without money, against the grain, disrupting high-speed and low-intensity traffic

The encounter between Rubens and Tales – before becoming Rewald & Ab'Sáber –, in the cinema course at ECA-USP in the 1980s, became a film at the beginning of the following neoliberal decade, in the unidentified cinematographic object Waiting for Telê, something between a documentary and an interrogative record of a failed attempt to document its “object”, which dissolves into paths, approaches, media fragments, fleeting reflections of a national greatness wearing cleats, facing the heavy field, both the dirty game of the behind the scenes, how much of the deceptive light of football is spectacularized art.

Telê is a mirage, promising the beauty that emerged from the Brazilian chaos, which seems real, tangible, at the same time that it fades and escapes, under the tight marking of the managerial order and the industrial narrative of this chaos – the efficiency of the Parreira era designing our destiny on the clipboard.

The film, which took fifteen years to be finally edited, draws meditative strength from the precarious record of precariousness, travels against the grain of this world of alleged cold efficiency, which wants to buffer the subject matter of national contradictions.

the cold image is, precisely, the title of Tales Ab'Sáber's master's thesis, made at the same time as filming, exposing the fetishistic limits of the professionalized cinema of his colleagues at ECA. During the fifteen years that separated the filming from the final editing of Waiting for Telê, Thales and Rubens did a lot of things. Before returning to more regular cinema – with great fiction features like Body e supernada – Rubens wrote for dance and theater groups, in a series of collaborations that led him to the dramaturgy of Teatro Oficina, with The Sertões.

Thales embarked on psychoanalysis, and with the publication of his thesis in the area – the restored dream – won the Jabuti award, in 2005. Searches for eccentric paths, for exercises in perceiving the explosive fragments of national vertigo, a land always in a trance, as the Glauberian essayist Tales Ab´Sáber repeatedly recalls.

Maintaining a strong friendship during these years, their paths in dialogue converged to the duo Rewald & Ab'Sáber, joint signature of “zero budget” audiovisual works, as they like to say: a new eccentric position to the axis of productions, projects and captures , cinema from and for the internet – with sporadic visits to projection rooms –, made by assembling these pieces of the national constellation, with which, in various ways, they have been dealing for so long.

Juxtaposition experiments, allegorical essays, sometimes exacerbating repetitions, sometimes interrupting flows, opening contemplative gaps, or even creating disturbing mosaics (perhaps new versions of the searches for Telê), which create approximations and tensions between sides of our daily life so often surreal, between our black hole of violence and generalized pop sweetening, non-communist ghosts that haunt us, between the realization of barbarism, raw or sublimated in spectacle, and the glimpses of a nation in the making.

The first work of this collaboration was a shock, an earthquake alarm, unfortunately only felt in its full magnitude when we were already in the middle of it. Intervention, love doesn't mean much, signed by the duo and Gustavo Aranda, a member of Jornalistas Livres, officially debuted in 2017, at the Festival de Brasília, with Dilma Rousseff removed from power. Even so, the election of Jair Bolsonaro seemed, to almost everyone who followed the political news, a distant possibility and a bad joke. The collage of videos from y from the extreme right, caught up in the heat of the impeachment process, clearly showed something else.

It took horror to reach the dining room, and the Planalto ramp, for people to stop denying the collective hallucination exposed in the film. The same chorus of masses sided with Nazism, also invisible to the elegant Germans of the Weimar Republic until it was too late, the same identification with the father of the horde – the Myth – by those who renounce their own subjectivation, as caught by Freud in Group psychology and analysis of the ego, ten years before Hitler's rise to power.

The contemporary Brazilian version used the democratized mass media (which not long before were hailed as harbingers of freedom), and still did not speak of Jair Bolsonaro, but called for military intervention, in a thirst for violence and the summary elimination of imaginary enemies. , replacing politics with a radically paranoid psychic mobilization, which at all times, in the chorus of virtual heroes fueled by an impotence transmuted into adoration of violent parents, passed into delirium, mixing Chinese invasions and globalist conspiracies.

The historical snapshot, composed of a digital archeology of the sewers of the present, was seen by many as a mere festival of oddities, but unfortunately it soon afterwards revealed itself to be both prophetic and ancient, in its obsessive exposition of historical obsessions, of a history that does not pass, of a land that re-enacts its trance again and again, of, of the dictatorships, of 1964 and before, of slavery, of the first invasion. The screams of the siderats, calling for genocide, came from our beginnings, and were projected into the future, in a structure of repetition that the form of the film mimicked. Those biological robots, prototypes of what would become Bolsonaro's robots, were also our worst ghosts.

The present/past archeology work unfolded in a new project, the recent series of short films Democracy and Love, carried out during the pandemic. The authors inaugurated a true style of dialectical collages. Images and texts collected from the internet's general jam, juxtaposed with music, films and photos of cultural heritage, in a whirlwind that shifts, with each insertion, the meanings of what has just been seen.

A kind of variant of the tropicalist allegorization that, in the classic reading of Roberto Schwarz, added archaic and modern elements, in snapshots of the national absurdity. Here, the absurd remains firm, with archaic violence being present at all times. But the montage performed by Nara Dip, under the direction of Rewald & Ab'Sáber, dialectizes the fragments, making them talk and oscillate, vibrate in their multiple senses. There is indignation, confirmation of the omnipresence of oppression, but not freezing or conformism. There is tension, arousal, promise and pressure to change. Despite everything and so many.

This displacement hit me with a personal surprise, which perhaps only now, writing here, is starting to settle down. Texts from episode one of Democracy and Love they are from two posts of mine published on facebook – a procedure they repeated, with different posts from other users of the networks, throughout the series. When Tales and Rubens asked me to use them, and I agreed, I had no idea what was coming, and what came disconcerted me, distracted me, revealed vanishing points and dead ends that surrounded those little texts of mine. One of them dealt with the attacks on democracy, the assault on the 1988 Constitution, and the other was a declaration of love to my partner, Bia, on her birthday, which she passed away due to Covid – democracy and love, but seen by their opposites.

The film, released in mid-2020, begins with a prologue, packed by Jewelry, by João Bosco and Aldir Blanc. Aldir had died a few days ago, a victim of the pandemic. The homage updated the lyrical irony of the genius, forever associated with the opening of the telenovela. the star, a classic staging of national hacking. This was the backdrop for an association of images from the Brazilian cultural industry and works by Oscar Niemeyer (the National Congress and the Igrejinha da Pampulha), brutal voids torn in the green mass of the Amazon forest and a corpse with the signature of the Esquadrão da Morte , and in the middle of it, a glorious Indian with his bow pointed to the sky and Antonio Candido, clasping his hands, as if to say “all of this together” – jewelry or costume jewelry, in this mixture of relics from Brazil?

The reading of the tentative analysis of the conjuncture begins, and the vibration of the relics increases in speed: factories and devout saints, Juruna, Lula and Brizola, followed by Xuxa, Bolsonaro curled up in the poorly placed mask, facing Shazan, Xerife and the young Gil and Caetano. Is the Opening Constitution, which I praised in the text, really a possible historical synthesis? Is Bolsonarist delirium really, or are we delirious, seeing this synthesis drawn in the air by the hands of Antonio Candido? Would the empty gesture, and stillborn letter be the democratic Law, exposed as a farce, under the weight of our contradictions?

After the shock of the photo of Mariguella massacred, superimposed on the speech about the new horror, the pandemic, the feeling of false background – or rather, of truth repressed under my words – increased in the perspective of my little love letter, which followed. The first sentence, in which I declared the distance from the beloved, was said about the image of the lavajatista duck, from a right-wing demonstration on Avenida Paulista. Hence a series of images of national glories, of great films, filmmakers, Beatriz Nascimento, Rivelino, interrupted by painful cuts, more in the flesh than in the film – the memory of the brutal and relentless struggle for civilization of the Sem Terra of Brazil , or the despondency of Herzog hanged. The ridiculous sweetness of the love letters collapses, embittering the national drama.

And, closing the film, a clip of tons of cultural industry vulgarities, misery and violence, fake news, messianism, mixed with flashes of brilliance and unique dignities of our always truncated formation – Zé Celso, Zico and Sócrates, Mãe Stella de Oxóssi and, again, the 1988 Constituent Assembly. Lunatic Pierrot, by Rômulo Fróes and Nuno Ramos, a reinterpretation of Schoemberg's tonal deconstruction and Albert Giraud's symbolism. The floor without the floor. The moon, which opens the film, reappears, as a final point. The hollow, the void, pure projection of delusions, more lunatic than lunar. The lyrical pierrot, goofy idiot, between love and training.

If I extend myself in the appreciation of this composition/deconstruction, dialectization that multiplies sideways, chasms and violent contradictions, surrounding and infiltrating my meager posts – citizens, lovers and lunatics –, the reason goes beyond the personal implication, which, incidentally, dissolves , collectivizes itself in a tragic tone, in the historical kaleidoscope of the film. It is about learning from the method of Democracy and Love, which continues to unfold, in other versions during the series.

As in the powerful third episode, dedicated to the female condition, based on a post-report by Daiane Novais, about the desperation of a woman who urgently needs to obtain a contraceptive injection, to escape the option without an option, between yet another pregnancy – it would be the seventh, aged 28 – or her husband's aggression, who demands sex from her. Again, against the backdrop of images and text, of solidarity and tragedy, daily life and history, the beauties and brutalities of life, death and the arts of Brazilian women are dialectized.

A série democracy and love it is still ongoing. Who knows what's coming around. What can be expected is that the duo Rewald & Ab'Sáber continues its work done without money, against the grain, disturbing the high-speed and low-intensity traffic – of intelligence and experience – that dominates the internet colonized by the machinery of industry cultural. Dipping your hands in the mud and everyday chaos, revealing, hidden under the thin, frictionless ice of this constant flow, presences of founding violence, as well as promises of civilizing invention. Everything mobile and uncertain, against the immobilist certainties of false movements. With no fixed center, projecting onto the dubious face of the moon as seen from the gutter.

* Leandro Saraiva is a film critic and screenwriter, professor of the Image and Sound course at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).


The films will be shown, starting today, April 16, at the exhibition Cinema in Life – The Films of Rewald & Ab'Sáber, at USP's MariAntonia Center, in São Paulo [Cinema in Life – The Films of Rewald & Ab'Sáber – TUSP].

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