Overview of MST audiovisual production

James Ensor, The Good Judges
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By LEONARDO GONÇALVES DA SILVA*

Peasant audiovisual production in Brazil intersects with the history of the struggle for land

1.

It can be said that peasant audiovisual production in Brazil intersects with the history of the struggle for land. Even before the official date of creation of the Landless Rural Workers Movement in 1984, the audiovisual already accompanied the trajectory of popular movements in the countryside, whether through biased images of the traditional mainstream media or through the lenses of filmmakers engaged in the struggle. Among them, stand out: Christmas Crossroads (1980), by Ayrton Centeno and Guaracy Cunha; the rural class (1985), by Berenice Mendes; It is Earth to Rose (1987), by Tetê Morais. These became partners with the peasant movement and made documentaries that recorded important moments in the history of the MST.

The definitive empowerment of the Landless Movement in audiovisual does not happen overnight. It will take time for MST militants to stop being just the “image of the other” in the eyes of filmmakers, in general, from urban and middle class backgrounds, to conquer the right to their own image, becoming active agents at all stages of production: script, photography, image and sound capture, editing, distribution, etc.

The MST's autonomy in audiovisual productions began in the 1980s with the arrival of video – but not only. This process comes into line with a series of factors. Among them, the organization of the working class in the urban and rural spheres and the redemocratization process marked by the Diretas Já, the creation of the Workers' Party, the Central Única dos Trabalhadores and the creation of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra. Therefore, political empowerment coincided with the empowerment of the video image, which, in turn, becomes more accessible. Poor and marginalized social groups, formerly represented by the “other” in cinema, now have an active voice in relation to themselves, something unheard of until then. In this context, the nomenclatures of “video activism” and “popular video” emerged to designate a type of militant cinema founded by the aesthetics of video.

A day in the life of the camp e Camp information, both productions in collaboration between FAU-USP and the MST campers in Paraná, under the coordination of Ricardo de Oliveira, Anselmo Faria, Cila Schulman, Cláudia Caleman, Liliana Lavoratti, Luiz Bergman, Teresa Urban and Yolanda Costa (1986 ), are part of pioneering experiences in this matter. The farmers of Acampamento Marmeleiro themselves operated the cinematographic equipment, such as the video camera, conducted the interviews, prepared and executed the intended script, as well as chose the central theme, which would soon be the title of the film: A day in the life of the camp. The project team was only in charge of ensuring the technical infrastructure for the recordings. In the 1990s, the MST, in partnership with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), would produce The architect of violence (1999), a documentary that denounces the constant violations of human rights under the government of architect Jaime Lerner in relation to MST activities.

Since the turn of the millennium, the Landless Movement has noticed with more emphasis the importance of audiovisual media as a tool in the process of building its political autonomy. Some workshops were organized in partnership with Brazilian cinema and audiovisual institutions and professionals, allowing for the first contacts between professionals and peasants and the consequent training of MST directors to join the Movement.

An important initiative in this sense was carried out by Berenice Mendes, a filmmaker from the rural class (1985), who organized an Audiovisual Language workshop for the Festival of All Arts, one of the special editions of the Festival Internacional de Londrina (FILO), which took place in 2000. In this workshop, the director invited the MST and 30 young Sem- Land from the States of Paraná, São Paulo and Santa Catarina to participate. The video Everyone's Fight (2000), which deals with the struggle for land rights in the Dorcelina Folador Settlement, in Arapongas, Paraná, resulted from the activities of this workshop.

Later, in this same line, seeking autonomy, a video production workshop was held 4th National Congress of the MST, also in 2000. Part of the capture of images was done by MST militants – some with the experience acquired from the workshop at the Festival Internacional de Londrina. The editing and finishing processes, however, were in charge of filmmakers Aline Sasahara and Maísa Mendonça, MST partners.

In the same year, 2000, the MST's Communication sector was created, which operates basically on 5 fronts: press office; content production in networks; YOU; audio-visual; and radio. Its motto “inform, educate and organize” indicates the intention of using the means of communication in the political formation of its associates. In this way, communication works as an instrument for disseminating the struggle, responsible for sharing information about events, about national or local events, as well as helping to instruct the values ​​of the Movement and the rules of coexistence inside or outside the settlements and encampments.

In 2003, the video is produced School is more than school (2003), in partnership with the North American NGO Witness. In addition to the production of documentaries and videos, the North American NGO aimed to encourage the use of the camera as a tool to protect the most vulnerable to prevent abuse by authorities, in addition to producing images to be used in evidence of situations of crime and violence. The partnership between Witness and the MST was short-lived, but resulted in the donation of a video camera that was taken to Pará and used to record various agrarian conflicts, including the well-known Massacre of Eldorado dos Carajás.

From 2003 to 2009, other partnerships emerged in the audiovisual sector. Among them, the Swedish organization SAL (Swedish-Latin American Solidarity), which organized exchanges in MST camps and settlements, where Swedish students carried out audiovisual language workshops with militants linked to the sectors of Communication, Culture, Youth and Education. More video equipment was donated to the Movement with each completion of the workshops, allowing militants to accumulate material and technology to continue with their projects.

A significant step towards audiovisual autonomy was the creation, within the MST, of the Cinema na Terra project, started in 2005, which was characterized by the creation of spaces for the exhibition of films that deal with the struggle for land, the daily life in camps and settlements, as well as the base work processes of the Landless peasants. In this sequence, and meeting the demands and objectives of the Communication sector, the Via Campesina Audiovisual Brigade was created in 2007, in collaboration with the international movement of Via Campesina.

2.

We can, in this sense, state that the creation of the first audiovisual collective of the MST started from a slow process, through many debates, reflections and accumulation of experiences with the audiovisual. It was the result of the audiovisual realization processes generated by social movements in the 1980s and the countless training and reflection workshops. It also stems from the procedure of miniaturization, digitization and, consequently, the lowering of the price of video equipment, which generated greater autonomy for social movements, non-governmental organizations and political activists.

The Audiovisual Brigade is one of the many tools of the MST that helps in the development of autonomy, maintenance, strengthening and expansion of the peasant struggle. To this end, in line with the principles of the MST, it was therefore crucial that BAVC also build its autonomy, appropriating the means of audiovisual production and editing and developing its own aesthetics.

The first cinematic experience signed with the name Brigada Audiovisual da Via Campesina[I] was the making of the documentary Always fight! 5th National Congress of the MST (2007), in which MST activists participated in all stages of production, including editing and distribution. This process consolidates the autonomy sought by the Audiovisual Brigade, considering that the films already mentioned as Architect of Violence (1999) strong root (2000) Everyone's Fight (2000) By the Ways of America (2002) School is more than school (2003), had the effective participation of MST militants in the team, but not in the post-production stage, which consists of assembly and editing.

According to BAVC's report, the lack of experience and the absence of a script brought numerous difficulties, which demanded even greater work in editing and editing (Brigada Audiovisual da Via Campesina, 2009, p. 15). Even so, this experience validates the Brigade's attempt to materialize its own audiovisual aesthetics, adequate to represent the reality and principles of the MST. In this work, the brigade members brought the issues debated and accumulated in the workshops and courses mentioned.

Among them, the protagonism of the collective subject, in which there is an organization of a participative team, involved in the whole process; the rejection of melodrama and narrative resources of conventional cinema; a partial filmic discourse oriented towards what is useful to male and female workers; the exposure of social contradictions veiled or softened by the hegemonic media; the quest to problematize historical time in order to consolidate or stimulate a social transformation.

The next production by the Via Campesina Audiovisual Brigade was Not a minute of silence (2007), a documentary that reports the murder of Valmir Mota de Oliveira, on October 21, 2007, by security guards contacted by Syngenta. Another important Brigade film was No Land in Motion (2009), on the training and activities of children within the Landless Rural Workers Movement.

The Brigade would still produce The Song of Acuã, about the Movement affected by Dams, addressing the social and environmental consequences for the communities affected by the construction of the Acauã Dam, located in the State of Paraíba. The price of light is a steal, a documentary made for the campaign “The Price of Light is a Robbery”, in defense of the reduction of electricity tariffs.

Subsequently, from 2010, BAVC began to participate in video festivals, such as FELCO (Festival Latinoamericano de La ClaseObrera) in Bolivia, the Festival Globale Rio 2011, where it won the Popular Jury prize for Not a minute of silence, at the III MONVIA 2008 (National Exhibition of Environmental Video of Vila Velha – ES). In 2012 BAVC produced a documentary Full table, which even won the PAA na Tela Award, on the production and marketing experience of the Cooperative of Agrarian Reform Settlers and Small Producers of the Itapeva Region (Coapri) through the Food Acquisition Program.

With that, the Brigade already had a good history of production, participation in Festivals and awards. This credibility facilitated the contemplation of the Pontos de Mídia Livre Award, from the Cultura Viva Program, which allocated resources for the MST to organize its own video library.

The last production with the name Brigada Audiovisual da Via Campesina was VI National Congress (2014). Contrary to the previous experience, here the brigade members prepare a script and organize a more efficient pre-production, meeting days before the start of the event, preparing the filming equipment and members of the technical team.

Still at the IV National Congress held in 2014, the Via Campesina Audiovisual Brigade changes its name to Eduardo Coutinho Audiovisual Brigade (BAEC), in tribute to director Eduardo Coutinho – director of Goat Marked For Death, a work of strong reference to the MST, which had been assassinated a week before the beginning of the Congress. The reason for this change stems from a few points: first, the Brigade becomes wholly part of the MST and no longer a partner of Via Campesina.

Second, the name also comes from the Movement's tradition of honoring the martyrs of the peasant struggle, among other individuals who are not necessarily peasants, but have distinguished themselves in the struggle for human rights, such as Acampamento Marielle Vive; Camp Zé Pureza; Che Guevara settlement; among other examples. Eduardo Coutinho, as we have already reflected, became an important source of inspiration for militants linked to audiovisual production, especially with the titles Goat Marked to Die e pawns. Both works were and continue to be exhibited by the Movement, occupying a special space as didactic material and aesthetic reference for future audiovisual initiates. The Brigade's plan to change its name took place in the same year as the filmmaker's tragic death, so nothing could be fairer or more coherent in paying this tribute.

With the emergence of BAEC, there is a complete and organic integration with the Communication Sector, freeing itself from the Coletivo de Cultura. This stems, in part, from the very perception of the social changes caused by the insertion of audiovisual on the internet, with the more pressing demand for immediate and short content to circulate on social networks. Then, issues closer to the Communication Sector are debated and worked on, resulting in the production of specific content at the State and National levels. At the heart of the debate is the intention to also establish a properly audiovisual dialogue with society, through digital platforms.

Currently, one of BAEC's main objectives is to advance in the elaboration of an audiovisual aesthetic, based on experiences that come from within the MST. In this sense, the Brigade seeks to propose alternative paths for the audiovisual, as is the case with videos in vlogs or the elaboration of fictional narratives as in A Ghost prowls the camp, adaptation of a children's story by Maria José Silveira, a member of the Movement, and Mutirão in Novo Sol (2021), adaptation of the play of the same name by Nelson Xavier, Augusto Boal, Hamilton Trevisan, Modesto Carone and Benedito M. Araújo, when they participated in the Popular Culture Movement.

It is through the MST National Meetings and Congresses, as well as at fairs, seminars, courses, etc., that the Brigade finds the opportunity to propose audiovisual practices, because there is a greater possibility of contact with militants in different regions of the country. From the emergence of BAEC, audiovisual productions also began to cover broader themes, involving gender issues such as the short Lgbt Sem Terra: Love makes the revolution, in partnership with the LGBT Collective of the MST. This short film well illustrates the issue of the MST not being just a movement in the struggle for land, but one that acts intensely in various human dimensions.

the video chronicle Not just that, Ms. (2017), also configures the Brigade's attempt to expand the thematic and aesthetic horizons. The initial proposal was to carry out an intersectoral work of collective construction with the Gender Sector, to contribute to the Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women. And this chronicle was produced in partnership with the Literature Front, Palavras Rebeldes, from the Collective of Culture of the MST. Therefore, BAEC works as a partner for the demands of other activity sectors, producing video chronicles, documentaries and small videos that can meet the needs of a given sector.

From this intersectoral partnership, several videos have already been made with different themes, such as the case of Conquest Verse: Youth and Self-organization (2019), on the film club and theater activity developed by Sem-Terra youth in Ceará; the series Agroecology and Education (2018, 2019 and 2020), which narrates, in three episodes, how agroecology is present in the curricula and in the daily life of MST schools in Bahia, in partnership with the Education and Production, Cooperation and Environment sectors; the episode Coffee with the Flavor of Resistance (2019), from the seriesCoffee Production Chain, on the organization and production of coffee beans by the MST in different states, in partnership with the Production, Cooperation and Environment sector. Another example is the documentary Sem Terra em Movimento: playing, smiling, fighting (2019), which accompanies the 2018st National Meeting of Homeless Children (XNUMX), produced in conjunction with the Education, Culture and Communication sectors.

Fairs are very valuable spaces for the MST and this dimension is reflected in the constant presence of their environments in productions carried out by leaders of the Communication Sector and by BAEC. A significant example is Occupy, Resist and Produce – MST fairs (2018), a film made with the Production, Cooperation and Environment Sector that was selected for the Main Screening of the 1st International Agroecological Film Festival – FICAECO 2019.

BAEC went through a hiatus phase during the pandemic, but the challenges of technically and politically training new militants for the audiovisual sector remain. The MST's language and audiovisual aesthetics remain open in a sense, without dogmatic rules. For a long period, documentaries with a journalistic character dominated MST productions, presenting a tone of denunciation and urgency.

Today, with several lands already conquered, in a historical context distinct from the XNUMXth century, it is common to elaborate narratives that also involve daily life and productivity in the settlements (such as related themes, for example, the production of organic products and their commercialization in fairs in the MST) without abandoning the present demands of the struggle for land. There are several themes that have already been explored by BAVC, in which the first differential theme was to address the LGBTQI+ Community of the MST.

There are also currently greater openings for aesthetic experimentation, as in the case of the webseries Essay on Truth, held in partnership with the theater collective Companhia do Latão, which presents a hybrid language, mixing excerpts from interviews and theatrical presentations. Like its predecessor BAVC, BAEC is concerned with reflecting the aesthetics of its productions and ways of reaching a wider audience, outside the scope of the MST, occupying other spaces, whether on TV or at Film Festivals.

It has always been a concern of the Movement, since the Via Campesina Audiovisual Brigade, to reject the conventional formulas of industrial Cinema. The narrative based on bourgeois drama, as is the case of the melodramatic genre, dominant in classical cinema, has always been criticized and denied by the Movement.

In this way, BAEC is aware of the inefficiency of melodrama in revealing social contradictions, the root of the evils that afflict the peasantry, and in leading the spectator, not to a typical catharsis of the happy end, but to an estrangement from himself and the reality that surrounds him, provoking him to rethink this reality and his potential to change it.

In any case, what is still central and guiding is the construction of a filmic discourse allied to the MST's struggle for land, serving as an instructional tool for the daily struggles and dilemmas of landless workers. This continues to be the central concern of the audiovisual front.[ii]

Leonardo Goncalves da Silva He is a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Program in Multimedia at the Institute of Arts/Unicamp..

Notes


[I] The Brigade had this name because it was composed of militants from the MST and other rural social movements, such as the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) and the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), among others. These and other rural social organizations form the La Via Campesina Movement.

[ii] Support Fapesp/Process 2022/03558-1.


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