The sound of silence

“Shower”, by Nikolai Féchin


Considerations on five films that discuss the relations between white colonizers and Brazilian Indians

Precisely during the period when censorship was strongest (and here we must understand censorship as the entire system of government, and not just the department in charge of cutting and apprehending everything that was contrary to the image of the country imposed by the government), in the 1970, five feature films took the Brazilian Indian as their theme. Four fiction films: How delicious was my French, by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, filmed in 1970, but only released in 1972. Uira by Gustavo Dahl, in 1974. The legend of Ubirajara, by André Luís de Oliveira, in 1975. And Ajuricaba, by Oswaldo Caldeira, in 1977. And a documentary: land of indians, by Zelito Viana, in 1979.

Interest in the theme seems to have arisen from the possibility of using conflicts between Indians and whites (those that occurred shortly after the discovery, those that occurred throughout our history and the violence against Indians that was taking place at that very moment) as a representation of the unjust mechanism of the society in which we live, a mechanism that had then become more than evident. What is intended in these five films is to transpose to the screen, taking the Indian as an example, the relations between those who govern and the governed. It is to discuss the violence of power through stories where a materially stronger group (in the films, the white colonizer) uses multiple forms of violence, sometimes physical violence, sometimes cultural violence to impose on a materially weaker group ( in the movies, the Indian) a certain model of society.

The relations between the white settlers and the Brazilian Indians, in fact, easily adapt to this project. It was not even necessary to invent an idealized figure of an Indian to adjust to the desire to represent, in the misunderstanding between Indians and whites, the political and social context of that moment. Any piece of the history of our Indians functions as a perfect representation of the relationship between the dominators and the dominated as it still takes place today, and especially as it took place in the society in which the spectator of the 1970s was living. To raise the problem, therefore, it was enough to document, through cinematographic fiction, the world of the Indians, just as it existed at the moment when it began to be attacked by the white colonizers.

“I chose a French character (said Nelson at the launch of How delicious was my French) because the French participated directly in the colonization, and are therefore an interesting object for the appreciation of a clash of cultures. I tried to be faithful to history, to remember what happened to the Tupinambá culture over time: it simply disappeared, after occupying practically the entire Brazilian coast”.

Putting the clash of cultures on the screen meant, at the same time, making the spectator feel like an Indian. The documentary simply sought to give a voice (at a time when censorship sought to silence all speeches that did not come from power) to the Indians. The four fiction films that came before him seek to tell their stories in such a way that people in the audience feel part of the filmed situations, recognize in the Indian not exactly his own image but an other/equal, a double representation, the Indian himself and all others who, like the Indians, are repressed in order to live in another dimension, in a near/distant dimension, to criticize more than suffer, the mechanism of oppression to which they are subjected outside the projection room.

“The furniture in the film (Said Gustavo Dahl at the launch of Uira) is to make the urban, white, western spectator feel firsthand, through the process of cinematographic identification, the aggressions that, in the name of who knows exactly what, were made to the Indian. The motive of the film is to convey to the spectator that a person like him is in that situation, and that any one of us could be there”.

A fragment of our history, the violence of the European colonizers against the Indians, the violence of the white farmers against the Indians, is then taken to stage another fragment of our history, the time in which the narration is made visible and not the time of the narrated history. , and another manifestation of violence, that of those who hold power against the most numerous, unarmed and materially weaker portion of society: the common people, the people who claim the right to a form of life different from the model of “civilization” imposed by power. The efficiency of this cinematographic project became even greater because it took shape at the exact moment when the man of the city in general began to be interested in the problem of the Indian, in the survival of the Indian now.

How delicious my French was, Uirá, The legend of Ubirajara and Ajuricaba reached the screens in the midst of denunciations (published somewhat timidly, between the lines of the newspapers) of the massacre of tribes in the Xingu region and of armed clashes against groups of Indians on the Transamazônica route. They hit the screens alongside the official proposal to integrate the Indian into the so-called “modern Brazilian society”, and alongside the protests of Xavante and Caingangue chiefs against the frequent invasions of their reservations by landowners or real estate groups.

Faced with this situation, it became impossible to speak of the Indians as an academic and distant scientist, based on an apparently exempt, anthropological and neutral discourse, interested only in registering the cultural forms of a human group, let's say, here but belonging to a another historical time. The Indians started to be looked at according to their relations with the so-called civilized men, city dwellers, whites, they started to be looked at as an option, as an opposition. The Indians came to be seen as a representation of the oppressed.

The common concern of these four fiction films is also the concern of a set of short and medium-length documentaries made in the same period, especially Auke, The Myth of Fire and the White Man, by Oswaldo Caldeira (1976), Ronkamekra, aka Cinnamon, by Walter Lima Jr. (1973), Noel Nutels, by Marco Altberg (1975), Guarani, by Regina Jehá (1975), and Pankararu from Brejo dos Padres by Vladimir Carvalho (1977). What is done in these films is to portray the Indian as an individual harassed by a materially stronger and intolerant power. And this concern, in a way, continues to be present even in documentaries made later, such as, for example, land of indians, by Zelito Viana (1979).[I] The Indian, even there, is a part of Brazilian culture that cannot express itself, suffocated by power. In the documentary, the Indians continue as a fusion of reality and fiction. They are not different, they are not others. They are what we are. A piece of everything we feel and cannot express, suffocated in this period when censorship hit harder.

The stories that How delicious my French was, Uirá, The legend of Ubirajara and Ajuricaba tell, episodes of the conflict between the white man and the Indian, discuss two issues at the same time. They are a leap into the past to speak of the problem of the Indian of today and a leap to the Indian to speak of the problem of the society in which the spectator (and the narrator) lived at the time.

The common theme, and the concern to use this theme to also represent a reality other than the one depicted there, led the films to adopt similar scene solutions. There are four films with slow narration. The action is interrupted from time to time for the description of the material world and the magical world of the Indians and then we return to the common behavior among us in the 1960s: the director tries to make something equivalent to a staged documentation. These interplays, made with an accentuated concern for veracity, are in fact the main resource to lead the audience to identify with the Indians (more precisely: to identify with the narrator who identifies with the Indian), to live the problem ( her, audience in another dimension, critical, imaginary) instead of understanding it intellectually. At that moment, since all information was censored and the system covered reality with a fantastic and misleading fiction of good order, security and progress, at that moment a simple record of the real, direct information, gained a magical force.

More important than recognizing the similarity of two or three narrative solutions is verifying that the stories of these films are linked together, almost as if they were parts of a single narrative. The second continues the conversation started in the first, the third serves as a bridge to the fourth link in the chain. The documentaries appear almost as a prologue, a consultation of a historical source, a footnote to a text, an epilogue, a television report (before the new chapter of the soap opera) with a more recent episode of the confrontation. An especially interesting interconnection because it happened spontaneously, and not in obedience to a previous project or an express desire of the filmmakers.

For starters, an anthropophagic manifesto.

How delicious my French was takes place in Rio de Janeiro, in the XNUMXth century. French and Portuguese on one side, Tupinambás and Tupiniquins on the other. Europeans eat each other to see who will be left alone to devour the work of the Indians and the riches of the land, pepper and brazilwood. The Indians devour each other while waiting for the moment to eat the European. The narrative was organized around a Frenchman imprisoned by the Tupinambás and condemned to serve as food for the tribe eight months later. During this time the Frenchman lives among the Indians as a guest. He gets a wife as a gift, learns the language and habits of the Tupinambás and starts to behave as if he were one of them; he teaches the Indians cultivation techniques and the use of a cannon taken from the Portuguese and learns from them how to cut their hair and paint their bodies. After eight months, the village gathers for a big feast and eats the Frenchman.

The second link in the chain, Uira, picks up the conversation where it stops in Nelson's film. In the final scene of How delicious my French was, already painted for the ritual, standing before the whole village gathered to eat it, the white man is speechless. He refuses to play his part in the party, that is, to recite the words that command the final blow. The cacique, in front of the Frenchman, waits with the club already ready. The Indian woman that the Frenchman was given as a wife during the waiting period comes to help him: she repeats in a low voice the words that he must say in a loud voice and in a brave tone. She asks him to speak soon, because the tribe wants to eat him and she is looking forward to eating his neck. The white man then angrily shouts (but in French, not Tupi as expected) the final words of the ritual: “my equals will come to avenge my death and destroy my enemies”.

Uira it begins there, with the Indians already almost entirely destroyed by the equals of the Frenchman. There is a time jump. We are no longer in the sixteenth century. The story, based on a real fact (narrated by Darcy Ribeiro in the essay Uirá goes to meet Maíra) takes place in 1939, in Maranhão, and it even happens as if the film came in response, or rather, in direct sequence to the Francês from Nelson.

The central character is a Kaapor chief who leaves his village, on the banks of the Turiaçu and Pindaré rivers, to meet Maíra, the great civilizing hero, who made lands and rivers, who planted forests and made men shoot. pieces of trees in the rivers he made the Kaapor with branches of pau d'arco and with branches of kapok he made the white men, the karaívas. The chief left to meet Maíra because his village had been decimated by a flu epidemic after the first contacts with the white men. With the tribe's knowledge of overcoming evil exhausted, it only remained to go to meet Maíra.

Maíra taught the Kaapor how to live in the forests. She had also taught him what to do to overcome the disease and recover the joy of living. To see Maíra it would be necessary to get rid of the gifts of the karívas. Throw away knives, axes and clothes, break the utensils, burn the old houses, build the village again, act like a kaapor. Maíra was also a kaapor, a strong man. And he did not appear to the karívas. Uirá paints his body red and black, Maíra's colors, adorns his head with an arrangement of yellow feathers, the same adornment as Maíra's. He takes a paneiro with cassava flour, Maíra's food. He wields a bow and arrows, Maíra's weapons. And, like a kaapor, he leaves without knowing it in the direction of the city of São Luiz.

Assaulted by sertanejos on the way, Uirá is arrested in the city of Viana – people react offended by the nakedness of the Indian, his wife, Katai, and their children, Irapik and Aruri, and call the police. From Viana, Uirá is sent to São Luiz jail. Freed after some time by the Indian Protection Service, the chief still tries, without success, to take over a fishing canoe to go out to sea. (Maíra, say the kaapor, lives on the other side of a river or a very large lake, so large that you cannot see the other from one side. ).

The fishermen react, Uirá insists, he is attacked with oar strokes, and even though he is wounded, he throws himself into the sea to try to swim to Maíra's home, but he is pulled out of the water by a boat belonging to the Indian Protection Service. Uirá returns to his village and, close to home, throws himself into the Pindaré river, letting himself be devoured by piranhas. The kaapor, and only the kaapor, after being dead are received by Maíra. And, having overcome all other possibilities, Uirá goes to meet the creator hero through death.

Uira, in a way, resumes the narrative structure of How delicious my French was in reverse. The Indian, in Gustavo Dahl's film, appears in the place occupied by the Frenchman in Nelson Pereira dos Santos' film: imprisoned and treated as a guest until the moment he is eaten. In Nelson's film, in the Tupinambá village, the Frenchman learns to cut his beard and hair, take off his clothes and paint his body as if he were an Indian. In Gustavo's film, in the city of the Karaívas, the Indian is forced to cover his body with clothes and participate in parties and ceremonies, as if he were a white man. Two identical anthropophagy rituals. The almost identical.

Almost, because one of them, the ritual that devours Uirá, is marked by a violence that does not exist in the other. Not so much physical violence, that of the sertanejos, police and fishermen who attack the cacique, but cultural violence, offenses against the Indian's nudity, the intolerance of the townspeople, the siege and drunkenness of Katai, Uirá's wife, taken as a prostitute while waiting in the street, at the prison door, for the chief to be released. In the film, Gustavo explains, the physical violence is greatly toned down in comparison to the facts that actually happened. Toned down to “prevent the spectator from diverting his attention to a kind of physical ordeal, to a purely visual, external brutality. For example: in the film there is a scene where Uirá is dominated by the guards inside a cell. In the real story, the episode took place in the prison yard and Uirá faced twenty people alone until he was dominated”.

In the film, physical violence was attenuated to better reveal the strongest aggression, civilized violence, already integrated into the spectator's daily life, experienced almost without being felt by the spectator in his day-to-day.

In the village of the Tupinambás, the French walk around more or less at ease. He learns a few things from the Indians. The Indians learn a few things from him: how to use the cannon taken from the Portuguese and planting techniques. In the city of the Karaívas, the Indian is controlled all the time as only half a people, and no one imagines that he is capable of teaching or even learning anything. The Indian is a semi-animal: dangerous. It's better to leave him in a cage, the police think. The Indian is half-people: primitive. It is better to protect them, thinks the official of the Indian Protection Service, who concludes with a compliment to the Federal Government and its Service with a long sigh: “What would become of these creatures if there were no one who was not indifferent to their fate” .

In the ballroom of the palace, the governor announces the “measures to host this legitimate political leader of his people who is the chief Uirá in the Grande Hotel São Luiz”. He organizes a car ride through the streets of the city, asks the population to send “a large amount of gifts, so that the chief receives the true expression of our feelings”, and promotes a party to introduce the chief to society. “The President – ​​says the SPI employee (played by the film's director, Gustavo Dahl) in response to the governor – has always been a stalwart defender of the integration of forestry people into civilization”.

Another anthropophagy ritual, but a ritual that strictly speaking does not take place. The tupinambás actually eat French. They eat French as an equal, as a fort. They eat so that their strength spreads throughout the tribe. The Karaívas, at the end of the ritual, do not eat the kaapor. Half-animal, half-people, Uirá is food thrown to piranhas. Nobody sees him as an equal, as a force. He is annihilated like an animal, an inferior.

In the first half of Dahl's film, the viewer sees only the chief, the poor village, the attempts to overcome sadness (isolation, destruction of the hut, hunting, war) and preparation for the journey to meet Maíra. He sees and understands what he sees, thanks in part to the explanations provided by the narration of Katai, the woman from Uirá, and in part to a purely cinematographic issue: the fact that the Indian is played by a white actor, not necessarily with that appearance. more quickly identified with that of an Indian, the fact that a film is composed very markedly as a fiction (although inspired by the report of a real event), the cinematographic fact, in short, places the spectator next to an Indian of cinema.

It is through this fictional character that the spectator sees the Indian (in the real world, in the world of cinema), learns to feel as if he were one of them. And so, when the civilized white man, materially stronger, begins to impose his habits without even asking about the cultural values ​​of the kaapor world, the people in the audience can better feel the civilized (and sometimes not so civilized) violence that it stifles the free expression of cultural forms other than those imposed by power.

“What matters in this story is the moral violence that one culture imposes on the other based on the immediate assumption of superiority, because it is stronger and in the majority”, Gustavo emphasized. “What matters is to see how the white and Brazilian culture did not recognize in Uirá a member of a greater culture”.

The topic of conversation, the situations directly recorded in images and sounds, is only part of the film. Equally important is the way of narrating, the use of these situations not as records or reconstructions of facts that happened, and happened just as they are visible there, but as a scene, as a dramatic representation whose meaning goes beyond what is immediately visible. Equally important is narrating in such a way that the spectator leaves the projection with the feeling that the situations filmed could have happened to him. Or rather, with the feeling that the situations filmed, to a certain extent, in another dimension, are happening to him.

The facts, the things that are inside the image, place the space and time in which the story takes place quite precisely. Maranhão, 1939. Portrait of Getúlio Vargas on the wall. Indian Protection Service. Old fashioned people. Incomprehensible speech Indians. Soldiers in yellow uniform. None of this has to do with the spectator's daily life. But something is in the air, half invisible, between the projector and the screen, between the kaapor and the white people. Something that cannot be translated into words, perhaps only into gestures. A feeling of violence and humiliation, of isolation and fragility, indeed, is part of the spectator's daily life – that is, in particular that spectator to whom the film was aimed in the first instance, the spectator of the 1970s. the spectator perceives not exactly in the facts that make up the story of Uirá, but in the way of transforming these facts into fiction, into cinema images ꟷ and perceives without realizing it, perceives through emotion.

“During the preparation of Uira”, says Gustavo, “I often thought about the Tabu from Murnau. Seeing a native protagonist interpreting the main character leads us to observe him as a foreigner. He becomes a different person, he does not belong to our Nation, to our cultural group. And this kind of reaction didn't interest me. An actor and an actress from the city provoke another type of distance: the film distances itself from the truth. And here I remembered countless examples of American films, where the truth could be obtained through documentary veracity. My intention is to open a window on the problem through emotion, and not through intellectual understanding, because everyone is much less prepared to equate the problem of the Indian in an emotional way. All these things led me to opt for a narrative film, for a more classical treatment rather than an anthropological approach. It was important to compose the film closer to traditional structures, to allow an affective identification between the spectator and the character, instead of an abstract perception of the problem”.

For the spectator who adheres to the director's proposal, who lets himself be carried away by emotion and enters the veracity of fiction, the outcome of the story of Uira takes on a special meaning. Neither a suicide, nor a defeat, nor the inevitable consequence of the civilized ritual of anthropophagy. The cacique kaapor's plunge into the Pindaré river mainly expresses a refusal. An extreme refusal to join the materially stronger group. To convey this feeling, the director forces the spectator to view the scene of Uirá's death from a certain distance. The camera sees from afar. The spectator's eyes remain still and Uirá walks away without saying anything. He walks with slow steps and little by little enters the river until he disappears. Katai, his wife, who was there, does nothing. The camera does nothing.

Uirá leaves, that's all you see. Or almost everything, because in the next image, something somewhat out of the natural space in which the film takes place, an Indian appears standing on a rock, against the blue of the sea and sky (Uirá redivivo? Maíra?) almost an indication that Uirá was finally able to see Maíra. A sharp cut to a magical reality, a sudden change in tone, an emotional cry difficult to translate (and which there, in 1974, was especially significant due to the similarity with the image that concludes Ogun's Amulet by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, performed at the same time, 1974).

Interestingly, the next two films, The legend of Ubirajara e Ajuricaba, end more or less like this Uira: suddenly a cut to another dimension.

In the first two links of the chain, the Indians speak Tupi. In a way, a certain concern for authenticity is thus met. But what really matters is the use of another language as a dramatic solution, as a fact of fiction. The materially stronger group (in the films, the white colonizer) and the materially weaker group (in the films, the Indian) speak different languages, they do not communicate. In the third film of this set, The legend of Ubirajara, the Indians speak a language of the Gê group. In the film that closes this cycle of fiction, Ajuricaba, the Indians refuse to speak. They remain silent the entire time.

Em Uira the long scenes dialogued in tupi do not have subtitles (contrary to what happens in How delicious was my French, which translates all dialogs into subtitles). In Gustavo Dahl's film, the spectator sees, hears, and tries to understand the meaning of the things that the kaapor chief says through his gestures and the composition of the image – once again: he tries to understand not through reason, but through feeling. While the scene takes place on the screen, there is only an affective relationship with the character. Only after the scene is over, in sections set up as if they were intermissions, does a narration appear in Portuguese, comments by the woman from Uirá, which more or less explains what was done and what was said in the images that have just been shown. Most of the time, the dialogues in Tupi work like a musical sound, and the gestures of the Indians like the movements of a ballet. The audience sees a mime game underscored by a kind of singing. Feel the image. Understanding comes after feeling. The legend of Ubirajara starts there, in this staging style opened by Uira.

The starting point was the novel by José de Alencar, Ubirajara, the lord of the spear. To give life to the two tribes imagined by the writer, the Tocantins and the Araguaias, the film uses feather adornments and authentic indigenous utensils. Dialogues are spoken in Karajá. Filming, done in the forests of the central plateau, near Brasília, was preceded by a study of the indigenous cultures of the Gê group, the Karajá and the Xavante. A Kraô Indian, Tep Kahok, widower of a Karajá Indian, guided the actors in the dances, rituals and intonation of the dialogues.

However, these pieces of reality from the indigenous world embedded in José de Alencar's fiction do not give Andre Luís Oliveira's film a documentary tone. It is not about documenting through cinematographic fiction what happened to a certain indigenous culture, the Karajá or the Xavante. From reality, the film retains only what can serve its particular fiction. And this fiction intends that the viewer emotionally identify with the image of the Indian. That is, not with a real Indian, with a Xavante or a Karajá, but with the condition of the Indian, with the idea of ​​a culture that has been persecuted since the arrival of the European colonizers. With the idea of ​​a culture where relationships between people, and between people and nature, were more harmonious.

Em The legend of Ubirajara the tools are real, the lines are real, the forest is real, reality, in short, contributes, in a way, to distance the viewer from reality, from what is concretely visible, to transport him to a reality/another, to an imagined way . Reality, in this film, seems to have been invented to serve photography. In the long opening sequence – an Indian leaves the forest with a canoe and sets out to navigate a large river – there is only the image. Or more exactly: there is only photography. There are no dialogues, no narration, no music (just a few whispered noises, to convey the great silence of the forest). And strictly speaking, there isn't even an action to be seen. Several shots of the canoe on the river are repeated. The gestures of the Indian, propelling the canoe with the oar, are the same.

Inside the image, everything is the same, as if the same plane were repeated once, twice, three times, an infinite number of times. What changes, what is really in motion in the image, is the tone of the photograph, the greater or lesser brightness of the colors, the greater or lesser intensity of light. In a certain plane, sunlight invades the canvas, goes straight to the viewer's eye, covering the canvas in white. In the next shot, the Indian and the canoe appear under a soft light. Soon after, silhouetted against the clear blue of the sky. Ahead, dimly lit, half hidden by the shadows of the trees on the riverbank. And, finally, lost in an infinity of bright spots that invade the screen and move all the time: the reflections of sunlight on the water of the river. The photographed fragment of reality – the actor who plays an Indian, the canoe, the river, the forest – fades into the background. They are fake. Photography is the truth. In many passages of The legend of Ubirajara what really matters is a light effect, and always an effect achieved with natural sunlight.

A ray of light crosses the canopy of trees, multiplies in the humid air near the ground and spreads out in a thousand different colored rays. A point of light invades the maloca of chief Itaquê, on the screen in the foreground, and a luminous circle highlights the Indian's right eye. An indirect, soft light, which renders bright colors and eliminates shadows and accentuated contrasts, covers the forest during the courtship of Ubirajara and Araci.

Photography – light – appears before anything else because it is really the first element of the staging. The first, the main performer on the scene, so to speak. And a performer who exaggerates, who doesn't limit himself to faithfully reconstituting the action in front of the camera. He does a super record, super represents, acts, in fact, just like the other interpreters, actors and actresses, invited by the direction to super represent. The interpreter who, alongside photography, best responds to this request from the director is Roberto Bonfim, who plays Pojucã, a Tocantim warrior.

From the moment he appears right at the end of the first scene, facing Ubirajara, the Araguaia warrior who left his taba to conquer a nom de guerre, the actor, Roberto Bonfim, appears more than his character, Pojucã. The style of interpretation becomes more important than the character interpreted. Bonfim sings the dialogues in a slurred, guttural voice and with obvious physical effort. He contracts every muscle in his body to recite the text. He screams the dialogues. He marks lines with large gestures. An exaggerated interpretation, no doubt, but tailor-made for a photograph with an equally exaggerated and undocumented tone – or vice versa.

What matters is that in this context, pieces of the Indians' real world are reduced to accessories – or at least they lose their original meanings, they become fiction. The legend of Ubirajara extends the portion of fiction present in the two previous films. Makes the staging more apparent. It takes the Indian a little for what he is, a little for what the film, by photographing him in a certain way, can make of him. It takes, in fact, the idea of ​​the forest, of nature not reached by civilized man, and the idea of ​​the Indian, of a free man and persecuted for this very reason, because he is free. And he creates a magical reality from these ideas, representing a harmonious and noble relationship lost by man in the process of civilization. Tocantins and Araguaias form a kind of counter-shot to the tensions of the contemporary world. They relate to each other directly, person to person, without measuring more complex social structures, without even having a horizon of material progress through the manufacture of new tools or a division of labor that makes the group more diversified and richer. . What matters is the person, the individuality.

The defeated warrior goes to the victor's hut and considers himself a prisoner until the day of his glorious death. The victorious warrior offers the vanquished the most beautiful virgin of the taba, to preserve the generous blood of the opponent in the village and increase the nobility and courage of his peers. The guest is received at the taba as if he were being born at that moment; no one asks where he came from and what he does. He is baptized in front of the elders, chooses his new name, becomes part of the group.

Almost the entire film unfolds there, in this reality/other, in this magical world, in this half-paradise inhabited by Tocantins and Araguaians, in this half-time lost in space, in some time before the arrival of civilized white people. Unlike the previous two films, The legend of Ubirajara reserves little space for the colonizer. Strictly speaking, he doesn't even look like it on stage. We only see a hint of his presence in the last image of the film. A brief but strong signal, because it shifts the viewer from reality/other fiction to immediate reality; shifts the viewer from an imprecise time to the present time. Suddenly, Brasilia hits the screen. The forest disappears. Tocantins disappear. The Araguaias disappear. The esplanade of ministries hits the screen. On the street, on the ground, on the curb, abandoned, curled up, motionless, silent, an Indian in civilized clothes: the last memory of what the central plateau was like before the arrival of the white man.

Ajuricaba by Oswaldo Caldeira begins exactly there, with this idea of ​​jumping from fiction to reality and from a more or less imprecise past to a well-defined present. The story itself takes place in the XNUMXth century. The Portuguese, after the founding in Manaus, at war with the Manaús and Mai-just Indians, who resisted under the command of Ajuricaba, a warrior who, legend has it, when attacked turned into a bird, a fish, a tree leaf, a snake , in bat or jaguar, to escape the attack and defeat your enemies.

The narration begins with Ajuricaba imprisoned, chained, taken by Captain Belchior to Manaus. Most of the time the camera is in the forest. With Ajuricaba chained and mute, and with Captain Belchior, who advances towards the boat that will take him back to the city. He is with the memory of Ajuricaba, who in his thoughts returns to the forest before the arrival of the white man: the forest of Manari, the creative hero who made the trees, the river, the sky and the animals, and who made the manaus and the but only to defend the forests from all invaders. It is with the memory of Belchior, who in his thoughts moves from the forest to the city, to review the conversations that preceded the expedition against Ajuricaba. Almost the entire film takes place there, but the opening scene is set in a modern-day setting.

The body of a bandit named Ajuricaba (killed, it seems, “in a fight between two rival gangs, one of them led by foreigners”) is taken in a canoe to an ambulance, and from there to the Legal Medical Institute of Manaus. The action does not complete. In a sudden cut we jump into the forest, and soon we find, in the 18th century, the Ajuricaba Indian, prisoner of Captain Belchior. However, halfway through the story, when the viewer no longer remembers the canoe and the ambulance from the opening images, the action is interrupted by a quick shot of the ambulance advancing through the streets of Manaus. Without any explanation, the forest of the 18th century is cut by a car from today – well, today from the 1970s.

These intrusions of our contemporary image into a story that takes place 200 years ago are fully explained only in the final scene, when the action shifts in a sudden jump to the Amazon from the Manaus Free Trade Zone. There, in this new scenario, history is lived again. The same characters that imprisoned Ajuricaba in the XNUMXth century reappear – except Captain Belchior. The Indian warrior reappears: store name, street name, radio station name, television station name. The Indian warrior reappears: marginal – large dark glasses, shirt open on the chest, cord around the neck, digital watch on the wrist; port – unloading bananas brought by boat to the city; worker – helmet on head and pickaxe in hand working on paving a street. Worker, marginal, reappears in the city invaded by small battery radios, calculating machines, American pants, cassette recorders, digital watches, cameras, and behaves in the city of the XNUMXth century as he behaved in the forest of the XNUMXth century: he doesn't say a word. just word.

Who speaks, who explains himself, who says what he thinks, who acts in the end, are the others. The Governor, the merchant, the nobleman, the priest, and – while the action takes place in the forest – especially Captain Belchior, the armed wing of all of them sent to quell the rebellion of the Indians in the forest. During a break on the way to Manaus, the captain laments the “incomprehensible hostility of the savages against the goodwill of the white men, who arrived in the forest with modern habits, comfort and civilization, with everything necessary to take the Indians out of primitive life, of nakedness, of an uneducated tongue.” He laments the savages' stubbornness in keeping up the fight against an opponent many times stronger and better armed. The captain goes to Ajuricaba, but the Indian does not respond. He remains silent.

In principle, driven by the habit of watching movies, the viewer pays more attention to the person who acts and explains himself. At first glance, the most important characters in a film (this is how dominant cinema taught us) are those who define themselves directly, like Paulo Villaça's Captain Belchior and some of his followers - Emmanuel Cavalcanti's Martin, who serves the captain with all his might. the zeal possible, and Pedro de Nildo Parente, who just wants to win him the position. Ajuricaba, the imprisoned and mute warrior (this is how he appears to the viewer on the screen), the half-sorcerer capable of transforming himself into a snake, a fish or a bird (this is how he appears to the other characters, Belchior's men) is a point of observation. He is a spectator within the film. An equal, almost the spectator himself within the scene.

Something as if the spectator, endowed with a power similar to that of the warrior of the Manaus and the mai, were transformed into an image, into a piece of film. In a piece made only of eyes and ears, to see Captain Belchior up close, the soldier who invades the forest to end what he believes to be the wild life; to dry up the rivers and burn the forest, if necessary, to put an end to rebellion. And once the spectator is transformed into a spectator within the scene, transfigured into Ajuricaba, the really important character is Captain Belchior, half a representation of the military, half a representation of the Brazilian middle class.

In fact, what matters in this film is not a type of vision that tries to decipher each of its symbols in this way, that tries to identify which people, group of people or episodes of Brazilian life are represented in such a scene or character. This is not how the film builds itself on the screen. What is sought is to lead the spectator to identify with the condition of the hero chained up on the screen. To recognize, more than one person or one group in particular, a form of oppression identical to that felt outside the cinema. But, in a way, Belchior brings together certain things common to the military and the Brazilian middle class at the time, the 1970s, and the previous decade, the 1960s.

He shows himself to the spectator in an image very similar to the one used then by the military to show himself to the country: as a trailblazer, as a tamer of the uncultivated and wild forest, as a bearer of good order and civilization, as a force of progress. always belittled and left aside, or manipulated, by an dishonest policy. And he also shows himself with an image somewhat similar to that which a portion of the middle class had of itself: that of the defender of civilization and culture against the permanent threat of savage subversion.

Belchior is a bit like that, and the dialogues in which he recites his suffering as a wounded and misunderstood warrior reinforce this feeling. His disappearance in the final stretch of the film, in the piece of history set at the very end of the 70s, makes this interpretation even more possible and curious. Because Belchior disappears right at the moment when a certain alliance between the middle class, the bourgeoisie and the military is being broken. Right at the moment when the Armed Forces began to divide and act like a political party, like a sum of different factions and no longer (according to the expression that became classic in the second half of the 1960s) like a bloc cohesive and united. He disappears right at the moment when Ajuricaba begins to act with a certain openness, without shackles around his neck or wrists, in a kind of parole, guarded by his old enemies and also by some foreigners who suddenly entered the scene.

Ajuricaba is a point of view. What he sees and what the viewer sees through him is an internal struggle for power. The armed expedition through the forest, the trip back to Manaus with the two prisoners, as it appears in the film, is a kind of scenario for the action that really matters, the dispute between Pedro and Belchior for the favor of the governor and of his daughter. This action is really important, as long as it is observed from the right point of view, as long as the spectator identifies not with the characters who act, but with the character who, prevented from acting freely, sees the action – Ajuricaba.

From the moment he imagines himself in the shoes of an Indian, the spectator begins to live his daily experience in another dimension. He once again suffers the consequences of the struggle for power, from the outside, immobilized, prevented from participating, silenced. In fact, in that period when censorship hit harder (and it is worth repeating: we must understand how censorship is the system of government and not just the division made to cut words, images, sounds and everything else that culturally moves) , in that period the identification of people with characters prevented from speaking was more or less immediate; in fact, at that time when any ideas at odds with official thinking were violently repressed, as something wild and uncultured, people's identification with characters like Ajuricaba, the chained warrior, was natural.

Identification with the sorcerer capable of transforming himself into a tree leaf, into a stone, into a bird, into a fish, into an animal was immediate; with the warrior capable of disappearing into the forest and appearing again as a banana carrier on the Manaus pier, as the name of a street or store name in the Free Trade Zone invaded by what Captain Belchior would happily call “modern habits”. From the forest of the XNUMXth century Ajuricaba suddenly jumps to a little bar in Manaus, to the international airport, to the stores with foreign names that, let's say, arrived in the forest to put an end to “primitive life, nudity and the uncultured language”. And by transforming the chained warrior of the forest into a marginal or a worker of today, this story emphasizes the concern common to previous films: using the Indian as a representation of the man of the city, using the conflict between the white colonizer and the Indian as a representation of the governing/governed, colonizer/colonized, conflict in the system we are living in.

The chained and mute warrior remains on the scene as a witness and a threatening presence for the colonizer due to his obstinate strength and his magical power to transform, to change form, to be reborn. “The strength of the Indians – writes Pedro in his diary – does not fade away. They insist on fighting even after being reduced to almost nothing. They die, they are reborn, they unfold into forces”. In the streets of Manaus today, the ambulance with the body of the bandit. Ajuricaba passes by a block of people dressed as Indians. In the deserted room of the Instituto Médico Legal, the bandit's body comes to life. He reappears as an Indian, with the colors of the warrior of the Manaus and Mai, and says his only line, announcing himself as “the strength of the warrior always”. Speech is fast. The plan lasts a short time. The film ends shortly afterwards. But it is as if, in a brief instant, just before leaving the projection room to return to daylight, the chained and mute spectator recovered speech through the character.

Outside the cinema, to better face enemies, the spectator, like Ajuricaba, can once again transform himself into a tree leaf, into a stone, into a fish, into an animal. You could be chained again. But what the experience of living through Ajuricaba teaches ordinary people, those people who the system has condemned to live on the margins of decision-making centers, is that they, although momentarily chained, are a force that never dies and that is transformed every instant.

Almost as a natural complement to these four films, an appendix or bibliography that at the end of a text lists the documents and the various sources of consultation that inspired it, the documentary appeared in 1979 land of indians, by Zelito Viana. And, very significantly, the documentation placed after these representations where the Indians are prevented from speaking, or speak in a language that is incomprehensible to the spectator, opens up space for the Indian to speak. The exploited (censorship began to act with less violence) is expressed directly.

In the first image, still in the prologue, even before the presentation signs, an Indian looks at the camera and speaks to the viewer. In the next image the same thing happens. Then another Indian appears. And another one more. And yet another. Others and other Indians. And they all do the same as the first one: they look at the camera and speak directly to the viewer. And the camera, in front of all of them, behaves as it did in front of the first one, looking interested in listening to what they have to say. Look with your ears. She stays still, doesn't move, doesn't even blink her eyes while they talk.

The image does not move and in itself it does not inform much. What makes the film is the sound, is what the interviewees say. The first, Marçal, a Guarani Indian, looks straight at the camera and addresses the viewer in particular. That is, the things he says at the moment he is being interviewed are not exactly answers to the questions posed by the interviewer next to him. The interviewer does not appear in the image, the question that motivated the statement (if there was a question at all) does not appear in the soundtrack. The image and sound of the Marçal Indian come loose on the screen, as if he himself, the character who appears within the frame, commanded the film. Marçal acts not like an interviewee in a film, but like someone who makes a film. At the moment of filming, he already speaks to the people who, after the finished film, gather in the projection room:

“I wanted the Brazilian public to feel and see, through this report, this footage, the real situation of a part of the Brazilian Indian. The life of the Brazilian Indian, their current situation. It's not just meeting the Amazonian Indians, our brothers from the Amazon, who still have a larger area, who have the possibility of moving around a very large area, which is very beautiful. It is very beautiful for the Indian to live his natural life. We don't have any of that. Because we, the Indians who live here, are the ones who feel injustice, poverty, persecution, hunger because the area we occupy no longer offers conditions for our survival. To say that the Mato Grosso Indian here in the south will live by hunting and fishing? Are you going to live off the natural resources that you used to offer our ancestors? Who lived happily here in this blessed land that is Brazil, which belonged to the Indians. I say it belonged to the Indians because we don't have anything else. We have nothing left. I want this to come to the knowledge of the President of the Republic, who is unaware of our situation. This the Brazilian, the white out there, in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, these great Brazilian centers, needs to know”.

The plan is over. Marçal speaks, the film observes. Marçal makes the film, addresses himself to the spectator. He is not an interviewee, he conducts the interview, he makes a speech. He jumps over the reality that is there in front of him and already behaves like a movie image. Marçal does not talk to the director, photographer or sound technician, who went there to make the film. Marçal takes over the white man's means of expression to explain himself, to talk to many people at once, to tell the whole world how much the Indian suffers: “We complain about injustice, slander, poverty and the hunger that civilization has brought us”.

land of indians it is a film made as if the Indians had taken over the screen. Making a film, making images and sounds with the movement, color and musicality usually found in a film is not exactly what matters here. What counts is putting the camera and the recorder at the service of the Indians, it is reaching the cinemas as raw information; as a pure, unmanipulated document; as a somewhat wild thing, if taken in comparison with the “civilized” model of cinema, with the most widely consumed film: the one with a smoother narration and rhythm, with pauses and intermissions to measure the past information and prevent the fingers from running over each other.

The information arrives to the spectator grouped in five blocks, a prologue and four more parts, each one marked by a title applied to the image; I was born and raised here is the title of the first; the land owners, the title of the second; The Indian as a business, the title of the third. Our document is the tradition, that of the fourth part. The material that makes up each of these blocks is strictly the same: testimonials filmed in direct sound. The camera places itself in front of the interviewee and waits. The timing and movement of the plan is determined by what the interviewee says and does. The link between one shot and another is also determined by speech, as whenever possible the film avoids cutting the interviewee's speech in half. It seeks to assemble the various testimonies in such a way that they complement each other, in order to achieve, with the sum of the various lines, something similar to a continuous discourse.

In the prologue, for example, Marçal says that “all over Brazil he will raise or has already raised enlightened Indians like me, who will raise his voice in favor of their race”, and cites the example of Xavante Mário Juruna, “who is considered subversive by the Funai elements”, to conclude that the concept of subversion is something strange to the Indian, that it is something that belongs only to the white world. “The Indian does not know this term of subversion. This is not ours”. The shot Marçal talks about is cut there. Then appears the image of Mário Juruna, who says “we have to explain that it is not the Indian's problem. There is no Indian problem. There is a lot of problem with white people”. A new cut in the image appears on the screen, Darcy Ribeiro's face, but the text continues, almost as if there were no cut at all, continuing the idea launched by Marçal and expanded by Juruna:

“There is not exactly an indigenous issue, there is a non-indigenous issue, I mean, we non-indigenous people are the problem. We, because we landed here with a small cell in 1500, but with an immense potential for growth, are the ones that generated this problem that expanded and unfolded over the centuries by going to hunt the Indians wherever they were”.

What drives the film is the text. What moves is the text. The image is true, it is not always immobile, it is not always the same thing. The composition of the frame varies a little from shot to shot: sometimes we only see the face of the person who is speaking, sometimes the interviewee appears full-length on the screen; sometimes the landscape behind the speaking Indian is out of focus, other times well defined; sometimes everything is still, only the voice of the interviewee moves, sometimes the camera walks in the middle of a group of people looking for someone to talk to, or looking for a detail pointed out by the person who is speaking.

There are even some moments when the image runs more or less loosely, to illustrate what a narrator says, who from time to time precedes a set of interviews with general information. There are also a few moments in which the image expresses something stronger than the sound: the shots of the sick Indians filmed by Noel Nutels are perhaps the most striking example. But in reality, varying the lines of composition, or including images unaccompanied by text, do not change the overall picture. land of indians it is audiovisual to the letter: first listen, then see. The image depends on the sound even at the moments when, let's say, it takes the word to punctuate the things that the director tries to say directly (by the narration) or indirectly (by the selection and montage of the interviews).

Word pulls word. There is talk almost all the time in the film, which are composed as if trying to reduce the spectator to an listener, which is aimed especially at people interested in expanding their sensitivity by stretching their ears to the voices of this group of people who have no time to listen. pronounce. There is a lot of talk and the viewer, about halfway through the projection, if really interested in listening to the Indians, feels as if the image is deviating (with its appeals of colors, movements and shapes that intrude behind the interviewee). attention to what matters most – the text.

The first excerpt of the narration, for example, at the end of the prologue, after the testimonies of Marçal, Juruna, Darcy Ribeiro and the caingangue Ângelo Kretan, accumulates important information: “Five million Indians lived in the region where Brazil came to be formed, and they spoke more than a thousand different languages. Today 200 Indians live on a few reservations. They retain their style, their languages ​​and mythologies, things that are at the root of the human adventure, prior to the existence of masters and slaves, bosses and employees, rich and poor (...). The expansion of national society takes place over an immense territory. Only in an infirm part of that territory can friction with the Indians occur (...). The reduction of indigenous populations due to disease, slavery, disillusionment and demoralization that follow the encounter with the civilized is so great that where there were 25 Indians, after a century there is only one”.

What images advance there, while the narrator gives this general picture? Or rather, what do the images do there, while the text places the viewer in the middle of the problem that the film will develop in the next three parts? We see sick, isolated Indians, in contact with civilized people, reduced to half civilized. The shots run as a support for the text, marrying at times in perfect harmony with what the narrator says, marrying at other times even with the rhythm of the narrator's speech (who reads in a paused tone, without dramatizing the speech). . And then, the instant he sees and hears what's on the screen, it's possible that the viewer is more affected by the eyes than by the ears and misses a word or two. It is possible that no film image can convey the idea of ​​the text. None but the image of himself, the letters on the paper:

“The number of Indians is therefore very small, and whatever happens to them, whatever they do, cannot affect our destiny nor can it affect our progress. But it affects national honor. It affects our ability to act as human beings, to live up to these people, from whose flesh we are born”.

It is a risk to allow the viewer to go through this idea without realizing exactly what is being said there, because the entire film is organized around this feeling. The image glued to the sound like this is a risk (almost as if to cover the time necessary for the reading), a risk that cinema has taken not only here, in land of indians. A risk that documentary cinema has frequently taken, after the association of a portable recorder to the film camera, after the sound resources of the film ceased to be used in documentaries only in the background of the image (which in the first documentary films concentrated almost all the documentation).

A risk, no doubt, but one that land of indians it seems to run intentionally, to give a voice to those who usually don't have a chance. To listen to a culture that is expressed from generation to generation through words. Zelito Viana does more or less as suggested by Mário Juruna in his speech during the meeting of chiefs at Posto Taunay, in Aquidauana, Mato Grosso, shown in the film: “When we learn the Portuguese language, a white man’s custom, nobody passes in white too. Because the face still looks like an Indian. The white face remains the white face. Because the language can change, to be able to understand, to be able to discuss, to be able to defend our right. Because nobody looks like a white person, or a foreigner, or a Portuguese person, or a white person. He still looks like an Indian”.

Zelito more or less follows what Juruna observes. He takes the language of cinema, speaks as a civilized person, to discuss, to understand, to defend the rights of the Indian (and his own right to feel and act like a human being), but his film still looks like an Indian. The body of the film is the sound. Images are bodily adornments.

From this scheme of plans determined by the statements of the interviewees land of indians it moves away only in three brief moments. The cinema, then more showy body painting, more elaborate adornment, more careful object for a festive ritual, infiltrates and takes over the screen, it also says something. The first of these moments is that fragment taken from a television news. On the screen, the viewer can see the fraction of a second that precedes the images that he usually receives on his television. The reporter adjusts (beautifies the body with ornaments and paintings common to the “civilized”, suits, ties, microphones, beards and mustaches) before going on air. The other two moments are more extensive and significant.

Suddenly, the only survivor of the Ofaié-Xavante group, Dona Maria Rosa, who lives with no one else who understands her language, happily converses with her own voice recorded on the film crew's tape recorder, asking (and answering her own questions) where there is the father, the mother, the brothers, lamenting the solitude, and saying they are tired.

Suddenly, a Suiá Indian, Weran, narrates the attack on a white farm. And as he speaks he gestures. He wields the club, represents the attack. At the same time, he plays the role of the Indians who were beside him and the role of the frightened white people, afraid of dying.

Then, in these two testimonies pasted in the final stretch of the film, practically after the interviews have ended, the camera feels freer. He walks around Dona Maria Rosa (and at a certain point, as if freeing himself even after a long period of supervised freedom, he forgets what he was filming, the solitary Indian woman, and strays towards the wide-open canopy of a nearby tree). She walks around Weran, curious, wanting to see the Suia Indian's face up close, attentive to the smallest of her gestures. It is as if, after a long conversation, finally moved by an emotional impulse, the camera was inclined to act almost like people, to live in nature, to defend its nature, just as Weran does.

In the final scene of Uira the spectator jumps from a real setting to a magical landscape, Maíra's home. In the final scene of The legend of Ubirajara the opposite happens, the spectator jumps from a fictional scenario to a real landscape, the esplanade of the ministries in Brasília, an Indian on the side of the sidewalk. In Ajuricaba the end of Uira, the dead bandit becomes an Indian warrior, the Indian warrior becomes a worker. At the end of land of indians, although the action always remains the same for a magical landscape, with the Indian Weran narrating, through a cinema that makes with his own body, his willingness to fight, the Indian's willingness to fight in defense of his right to feel like a human being.

Certain images proved especially effective in expressing a form of resistance and struggle in this period when censorship was very strong, and for this reason, more or less unconsciously, these solutions appeared in one film and another and yet another. In 1972, the civilized Frenchman eaten in an anthropophagic ritual announced that his equals would come to avenge his death and destroy his enemies. In the following films (the equals really came) the Indians reaffirm their willingness to continue fighting.

These stories that took the Indian as a subject show more clearly an attitude present in a good part of the cinematographic production of that time. They show the real objectives that guided even the filming of stories that have nothing to do with the examples analyzed here, they help to understand the impulses that made our cinema of the 1970s in general: a little of this feeling of living in chains and gagged ; a bit of the feeling that the common man is a force in constant transformation; a bit of the feeling that you have to eat the aggressor twice – eat his technique first and then devour him in a big collective anthropophagic feast.

At a time when the government constituted itself as something apart, like another country within a country, and which, oriented only by the instinct of survival, watched and censured, the popular hero learned to speak an incomprehensible language through power or to express himself through silence. . Direct communication between people became possible only in a magical sphere, in a reality/other different from that imposed by power. And so, from time to time, the film camera lingered on rebellious characters who are mostly silent on the scene (like Lacraia in Summer rains, by Carlos Diegues); or on the face of characters who complained in anguish: “let me talk” (like Felicidade de sea ​​of ​​roses, by Ana Carolina); or about rebels marked for death from the very first scene, precisely because they talked too much (like Quéro from heavy bar, by Reginaldo Farias, or the title character of Lúcio Flávio, the passenger of agony, by Hector Babenco).

Or else about the characters who can speak, about this portion of the population that has access to power, to reveal through them the life conditions of the characters pushed to the background of the scene – how Colonel Delmiro Gouveia, by Geraldo Sarno, which portrays common people, working people as one of the characters says, while telling the story of a businessman. In the final scene, Zé Pó, the migrant pushed by the drought and the lack of work in the fields to Fábrica da Pedra, a man from the countryside who has adapted to work in the factory, looks at the viewer and thinks aloud.

The Delmiro factory had just been destroyed and thrown into the waters of the São Francisco, and the worker thinks that everything was done without consulting the working people. They had the factory built, they had the factory destroyed. And he also thinks that if one day the factories belong to the working people, who work like machines and think too, no one will be able to order things to be done or undone like that anymore. His face is on the screen, his voice is on the screen, but he doesn't speak. The spectator hears Zé Pó's thoughts. Nearby, vigilant, is power, represented by the English industrialist who bought the factory to destroy it. The spectator hears Zé Pó's thoughts, which cannot yet be transformed into words or action.

To a certain extent, all these films – those that speak of the Indian and those that speak of mute characters persecuted to death or prevented from acting – are concerned with translating for the spectator the sound of what was censored, silenced. To show silence as a strange language, which power neither understands nor can censor, silence as a form of reaction. And at the same time, all these films seek to translate the society in which the spectator is living as a tribe involved in a wide ritual of anthropophagy. As Uira, like the Indian massacred by the white colonizer, the spectator is being eaten by power. Like the Tupinambás, like the Indians who eat the French, the spectator prepares to devour power. He receives power at home, like a guest, learns how to handle a cannon from him and lets him learn the habits of the forest.

“In fact, in our society men devour each other”, said Joaquim Pedro de Andrade shortly after performing Macunaima, in 1969, opening up, in a way, the feeling that would take over the 70s. “All consumption is reducible, in the last analysis, to cannibalism. The relationships between people, the social, political and economic relationships, are still quite anthropophagic. Who can eat the other, through an intermediary product or directly, as in sexual relations. Anthropophagy is institutionalized and disguised. The new heroes, in search of the collective conscience, set out to devour those who devour us, but they are still weak. More numerously, meanwhile, Brazil devours Brazilians”.

There, in this period when censorship acted more strongly, when the government armed itself against the people it governed, when power was constituted as an independent mechanism, with its own requirements, and set up a security system against all of us, which we were the uncultured thing, then, in this period, nothing represented the social picture better than the almost reciprocally anthropophagic relations between Indians and colonizers – just as the question began to be drawn in How delicious my French was: white colonizers eating each other to see who ate more of the Indians' wealth, Tupinambá Indians eating a white colonizer.

“For me the Francês it is an important starting point” – said Nelson Pereira dos Santos shortly after performing tent of miracles, in 1977. “It was an attempt to find in anthropology a point of support to understand the reality of Brazil in a more generous, more open way. The important thing was to get out of there without a prepared scheme – without an equation into which we could fit a rich, controversial reality – in order to arrive at a precise result. When schemes are applied and they don't work, we feel bad for Brazil and the people, without realizing that the error is in the equation, and not in reality. I think it comes from Francês this thing of carrying out a decolonization process that comes from within, much more in the field of emotion than in the field of distanced research”.

The idea of ​​the anthropophagic ritual (which is institutionalized and disguised, as Joaquim Pedro recalls) and the idea of ​​the common man as a force of nature, who does not die and is always transformed, is the basis of two other films by Nélson: Ogun's Amulet, 1974, e tent of miracles, two years later. In the first, the popular hero, Gabriel, the boy with his body closed and protected by the amulet, is reborn after being murdered by the bandit. In the second, the popular hero, Pedro Archanjo, is also reborn after death. Or rather, he is still alive even after he died sometime in the 40s, when he was leading the fight against fascism. I live in the body (better: in the head) of ordinary people. I especially live in those ordinary people in the last scene of the film who parade dressed as Indians to celebrate the independence of Bahia.

*Jose Carlos Avellar (1936-2016) was a film critic, journalist and public administrator. Author, among other books, of The movie torn apart (Alhambra).

Originally published in the magazine cinemas, No. 28, March 2001.



[I] Zelito Viana soon returned to the Indian as the central character of a fiction. Avaete, seed of revenge (1985), who, as told in Portrait of the artist when boiling inside, testimony to cinemas issue 23, May/June 2000, was born from the book Indians and Civilization by Darcy Oliveira. “The story had stuck in my head. A terrible story, the reality is worse than in the movie. The guy massacred the Indians not to take their land, but to scare them away – do you understand? – just to scare off the Indians. Look at the level of madness that the landlordism fight in Brazil reaches: the Indians got close to his land and he decimated a village to scare it away, so the others wouldn't get there. The Indians weren't even in this land yet!”. Shortly before, Sylvio Back returned to the Indian as the central theme of his documentary Guarani Republic (1982), about the “religious, social, economic, political and architectural project without equivalence in the history of conqueror-indian relations” created by Jesuits with Guarani Indians – a film driven by the feeling that “three hundred and fifty years later, still maintained the indigenous in the condition of inferior it is possible to identify a nostalgia for those times”. More recently Back would return to the theme in Indian from Brazil (1995), “collages of dozens of national and foreign films – fiction, newsreels and documentaries – to reveal how cinema sees the Brazilian Indian since it was filmed for the first time in 1912” according to the presentation text of the film. The special spelling of the title, yndio written like this, with the y by Sylvio Back, seems to be a clear indication of a tone similar to the 70s (putting oneself, in a certain way, within the universe of the Indian, taking the universe of the Indian to speak of his own universe of a white man victim of a mechanism similar to that which oppresses the Indian): that is, speaking in a personal and poetic tone. Back organizes his collage using a series of eight poems in the manner of a narration text. One of them, The other, is also a translation / update of the sentiment of the 70s: “Montaigne: Indians are happy. / Sertanista: Indian wants neocid. / Custer: A good Indian is a dead Indian. / Squatter: a dead Indian is a good port. / Shepherd: an Indian is a satrap. / Army: Indians are stateless. / Raoni: Indian wants carbine. / Kayapó: Indian wants a concubine. / NGO: Indian wants nation. / Garimpo: Indians want alluvium. / Church: Indian wants host. / Indian: white is a double”.

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  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Union registrationSUBWAY 11/06/2024 By LAWRENCE ESTIVALET DE MELLO & RENATA QUEIROZ DUTRA: The Ministry of Labor has decided to grant union registration to Proifes. However, union registration is not the same as union representation
  • Confessions of a Catholic LadyMarilia Pacheco Fiorillo 11/06/2024 By MARILIA PACHECO FIORILLO: Congenital reactionism is not only the preserve of evangelicals
  • Regionalist literature in the 21st centuryCulture the corridor 06/06/2024 By DANIEL BRAZIL: Commentary on Benilson Toniolo's novel
  • A myopic logicRED MAN WALKING _ 12/06/2024 By LUIS FELIPE MIGUEL: The government does not have the political will to make education a priority, while it courts the military or highway police, who do not move a millimeter away from the Bolsonarism that they continue to support