ghost portraits

Frame from the documentary Retratos Fantasmas
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By ANTONIO HENRIQUES LEMOS LEITE FILHO*

Commentary on Kleber Mendonça Filho's documentary

Watch ghost portraits by Kleber Mendonça Filho is to come across our old ghosts, of the old cinemas and the way of occupying the city centers in which I lived, and how from these memories emerge my ghosts, and certainly, of all those who lived the life of the city centers' cinemas of our cities. Sometimes I think that my first religion was cinema, then came Catholicism, football and later Trotskyism. Once reading Trotsky, at one point he describes that in socialism cinema would play the role of religion, in sociability and enchantment, and we would have a new civil religion, like so many that we profess throughout our lives.

However, cinemas as this meeting space on city streets have been declining since the end of the last century. I grew up next to Cine Roxy (formerly Cine Imperial), which was part of my grandfather's family business, in Anápolis, and there my first experiences with red curtains and projection in the dark room took place. To a much lesser extent I also attended Santana and Santa Maria.

But at Roxy I met and became close to Mazzaropi, I cried (I think for the first time in the cinema) when Lupa died in The Trapalhão in King Solomon's Mines, and I was ecstatic when my father negotiated with the ticket agent for me to come in after the start of the session to see Monkey's Planet (censorship prevented us). The sounds of the cinema invaded and were part of everyday life at my grandmother's house, who lived next door. I remember how sad she was at the sounds of long motorcycle chases in Black Rain from 1990, which reminded her of my recently deceased uncle, who was a motorcyclist.

As remarkable as Roxy's sessions, my father took me to watch the Empire Strikes Back at the Casablanca cinema in Goiânia, and feel the atavistic fear of encountering Darth Vader for the first time. Then Roxy reprized the Star Wars (at the time we just called it that), perhaps Jedaism and strength became a separate religion. When, many years later, I took my son to the cinema for the first time, we saw Phantom Menace, I felt that a cycle of my life had been completed.

When we moved to Porto Velho I started attending other temples. The old and imposing Cine Resky, the kung-fu films at Cine Brasil, and the fate of our afternoon newspapers, which required us to rush out of the playground in time to catch the 16 pm matinees at Lacerda, where I watched Ben-hur, Superman, Gandhi, Mad Max, Betty Blue, and hundreds of films, including the first porn.

Returning to Goiânia in the 1990s, most of the cinemas were still on the streets of the center, and there was still one in Campinas (an old neighborhood), this year the Bougainville theaters would be opened, the second shopping mall with cinemas in the city, and little by little we went seeing downtown cinemas close, turning into churches and other businesses, and our cities with less lively and gray centers. And so the Casablanca, the Astor, the Capri and so many others disappeared.

Mendonça Filho's Film made me vividly remember the long conversations with the designer of Cine Cultura, which still exists (but it is not exactly a street cinema), who once told me that Cinema Paradiso it was the story of his life. There is no way to watch his film and the stories shown there without remembering the Italian film.

And with the end of street cinemas, we continue to destroy the centers of our cities, accepting pressure from capital, which does not accept the idea of ​​preserving heritage, which becomes increasingly arboricidal, which increasingly makes a city hostile to pedestrians and cyclists. That does not have the human as its center.

Those who take the time to watch Mendonça Filho's film will be confronted with their respective ghosts. And as he says in the film, the best documentaries are fiction films and dystopias are the best portrait of becoming. And everything was left to thinking about the future of our beloved cities, and their cinemas (and our much-attacked culture).

The Ritz cinema on 8th Street still survives, along with bars frequented by young people, but for how long?

*Antonio Henriques Lemos Leite Filho is a professor of the law course at the Goiás city campus of the Federal University of Goiás (UFG).

Reference


ghost portraits
Brazil, documentary, 2023, 93 minutes
Direction and script: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Editing: Matheus Farias
Director of photography: Pedro Sotero


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