Roberto Rossellini in the tropics



Comments on the presence and passage of the Italian neorealist filmmaker in Brazil

“While we were dreaming, each morning waking up with a new idea in our heads, a new great argument, the greatest of all, while all this was happening here, neorealism had already happened in the world, and one day Italian cinema suddenly appeared here. , exploding with Rome, open city” (Walter George Durst).

“I remember well the late American newsreels about the war, and Rome, open city (1945) and Germany, year zero (1947), both by Rossellini. I was stunned by these films, I don’t know why, they seemed to be made in Brazil…” (Sylvio Back).


Se Rome, open city (Rome, open city, 1944-45) arrived on our screens in December 1946, Roberto Rossellini came to Brazil twelve years later, when the cinematographic transposition of Geopolitics of hunger, by Josué de Castro. A first visit by the Italian filmmaker had already been announced in October 1954 by Fernando de Barros, who invited him to make a film about the Muckers, with Sergio Amidei as screenwriter and Ingrid Bergman as main interpreter, according to data collected by Alex Calheiros) .

This trip in 1958 was followed, unless I am mistaken, by two more: in 1965, to participate – alongside other great names in film criticism and production (listed by Paulo César Saraceni and Gilberto Alexandre Sobrinho): Lotte H. Eisner , Henri Langlois, Louis Marcorelles, Robert Benayon, Freddy Buache, Lino Micciché, Fritz Lang, Jean Rouch and Marco Bellocchio – from International Film Festival, organized in Rio de Janeiro by Moniz Viana and José Sanz[1], that is, five years after the great festival entitled History of Italian Cinema, produced by the Cinemateca do Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro and the Cinemateca Brasileira de São Paulo, whose São Paulo edition presented, in the opening session at Cine Astor, From scoundrel to hero (General Della Rovere, 1959), by him[2]; and in 1968, as one of UNESCO's representatives in Roundtable on Film and Television Research in Latin America, held in São Paulo, from June 24th to 28th.

This text intends to recall the two most important passages of the Italian filmmaker among us and rehearse a reading of the dialogue that Glauber Rocha maintained with him, based on the reflections developed in Critical review of Brazilian cinema (1963) and in the century of cinema (1983)


Roberto Rossellini's first trip to our country was particularly important in terms of cultural exchange between Italy and Brazil, creating expectations regarding a film based on the work of Josué de Castro.

Considered the father of neorealism, not without dispute, and the father of modern cinema, perhaps with greater unanimity, Roberto Rossellini has always been a controversial figure, as, as a great experimenter, he sought new paths countless times.

Between 1957 and 1958, he had visited India and this trip resulted in the docudrama India, mother earth (India matri bhumi)[3] and the documentary in ten episodes India seen by Rossellini (L'India seen from Rossellini)[4], which began perhaps the most daring turn in the director's career, as he began to dedicate himself to the production of films for television, as he saw this medium as a new way of reaching and educating the public, after the failure of the pedagogical project neorealist.[5]

India, mother earth could be considered an “attempt at geographic encyclopaedic cinema”, according to Adriano Aprà, an attempt that will not be unique, as this same author explained: “The geographic encyclopedia should have continued, right after India, mother earth with hunger geography (geography of fame), an adaptation of the essay Geopolitics of hunger (1951), by Josué de Castro, Brazilian sociologist and ethnologist, which Roberto Rossellini had probably read in the Italian version published by Leonardo da Vinci de Bari, in 1954, with a preface by Carlo Levi[6]; For this project, which he had inherited from Cesare Zavattini and Sergio Amidei, Roberto Rossellini went to Brazil in August 1958, where he met Josué de Castro”.[7]

In fact, at the invitation of Josué de Castro, Samuel Wainer, Assis Chateaubriand and Brazilian producers, the filmmaker disembarked in Rio de Janeiro, from where he would continue on to Pernambuco, Bahia and São Paulo. According to Maria do Socorro Carvalho, in addition to the work of Josué de Castro, Roberto Rossellini brought in his cultural baggage “other references from Brazilian sociology, Euclides da Cunha, Gilberto Freyre, [Alberto] Guerreiro Ramos and Nelson Carneiro” and, on the trip through our lands, “gathered information, studies and images filmed on 16mm as research sources for the preparation of future films”.

The project on mapping hunger on all continents encountered strong resistance, as Paulo César Saraceni recalled: “I saw Rossellini speaking to an audience of deaf people at ABI. The public could not understand that he wanted to sing about Brazilian misery […]. Thinking now about what I felt when Rossellini spoke about the Northeast, I think he was thinking about his film India".

In fact, the local press took a stance against it, as Orlando Margarido reported: “The Globe he asked what the director was coming to do in Brazil if not a communist work to 'show the world that Stefan Zweig's country of the future is actually the country of the present, of misery and hunger'. O Newspapers in Brazil called on the director to be enthusiastic about The Guarani, by Carlos Gomes, instead of being interested in a book 'with little impact'.

And Carlos Lacerda, in turn, launched his attack against “a progressive bourgeoisie that agrees to open the doors of society to communism”, labeling Josué de Castro a charlatan. The association with communism is quite strange, since the Italian director preached humanist and not leftist ideas. As José Umbelino Brasil explains (in a statement to Margarido): “It was not a suitable visit at that time when the country wanted to see itself and be seen as modern […]. Roberto Rossellini was disturbing, even more associated with the work of Josué de Castro, a man of the left, [who will be] removed by the military coup as ambassador and forced into exile”.

Although there are still disagreements regarding the book on which Roberto Rossellini's script would be based – Geopolitics of hunger, as pointed out by Aprà, or hunger geography (1946), as repeated by most Brazilian researchers, confusion perhaps caused by the title of the documentary, geography of fame –, what is important to highlight is that it must have been the encyclopedic nature of Josué de Castro's work that attracted the filmmaker, because in line with ideas about the pedagogical function of cinema, which he had rehearsed in India, mother earth and that he will take forward in television projects, whether realized or not, in which he will follow “the didactic-informative method”, as he himself called it, in a book about Islam.

On the occasion of the launch of Rossellini's Messiah (The Messiah, 1975), as recorded by Roberto Acioli Oliveira, the director explained: “For fourteen years, through cinema and television, I have pursued a single objective: information. And I say precisely information, not didactics, because in my opinion it is not necessary to teach, but to limit oneself to providing raw data so that each person can then elaborate for themselves”.

In this sense, the research by the nutritionist and geographer from Pernambuco lived up to his expectations. In fact, as early as 1937, Josué de Castro, in collaboration with Cecília Meireles, had released a book to teach children the principles of good nutrition: The party of letters. Coincidentally, between 1935 and 1941, Roberto Rossellini had filmed six short films with this pedagogical purpose, among which two were aimed more at a children's audience: The arrogant turkey (Il arrogant tacchino) to Teresa, the mischievous (The vispa Teresa), both from 1940 and having the universe of animals as their theme, which would allow us to establish a parallel between the Italian director and Humberto Mauro.[8]

If there is still disagreement about the work to be filmed, it also exists when it comes to establishing how Roberto Rossellini became aware of Josué de Castro's work. As noted by Margarido, while José Umbelino Brasil “raises the hypothesis that Sergio Amidei [...] recommended a French version to him”,[9] Rossellini's son stated, in 2014, that he was the one, as a young man, who recommended the book to his father, upon returning from a trip to Brazil, where he came to visit relatives: “Who recommended reading it to me, as well as the sertões, was Gilberto Freyre. When I came back, I discovered that there was an Italian translation. My father then thought of carrying out an initiative similar to that in India. As Amidei was a frequent collaborator, they might have talked about it.”

However, in 2007, Renzo Rossellini had written: “Probably, already during the filming It was night in Rome[10], Sergio Amidei, who was the screenwriter for this film, told my father about an essay by the Brazilian anthropologist Josué de Castro, geography of fame [hunger geography]. After finishing the film, Rossellini was overcome by a frenzy similar to that of a lover and left for Brazil, with Amidei, to meet Josué de Castro in Recife and Bahia”.

Research published by Maria Carla Cassarini in the encouraging article “Il mirage di un film contro la fame in the world. Almost an epistolary novel: protagonists of Castro, Zavattini, Rossellini, Passeri and a variety of production cases” (published by the magazine Cabiria – cinema studio, n. 181-182, Dec. 2015-Apr. 2016) and in the volume Miraggio di un film. Carteggio De Castro-Rossellini-Zavattini (Livorno: Edizioni Erasmo, 2017)[11] showed, however, that the idea of ​​a realization inspired by geography of fame (Geopolitics of hunger) was by the sociologist and prolific screenwriter.[12]

As the author wrote in the preface to the work: “The film that Josué de Castro and Cesare Zavattini decide to make, and which arouses the interest of the great director Roberto Rossellini, in turn drawn by the same solidarity impulse, crosses the horizon of cinematographic work to constitute a concrete intervention among the possible measures against hunger in the world. At least, in the authors' intentions. This cine-humanitarian event, as it could be called, is articulated in several moments, and deserves to be followed like an adventure novel, so many are the twists and turns that subvert its plot.”

The project, in which Amidei was also involved, did not come to fruition, but the idea ended up giving rise to the script for The extraordinary story of our food (The extraordinary story of our food, w. 1964), which did not leave the paper, but will be used in Man's fight for his survival (Lotta dell'uomo per la su sopravvivenza), title of two television series filmed from 1967 to 1969,[13] for which, according to Roberto de Castro Neves, the Italian director was inspired not only by hunger geography, but also in The Knight of Hope (1942)

Perhaps unfounded information, perhaps not, as Renzo Rossellini stated that his father had read Jorge Amado's book, translated into Italian under the title The path of hopeIn 1954.[14] And, linking the new television project with the Brazilian experience, he explained: “When he returned to Rome, he talked to me a lot about meeting Josué de Castro, Jorge Amado, Glauber Rocha and other young Brazilian filmmakers. Then he began writing a long script for a TV series titled The food story: I got to work, and we wrote together the history of man from his appearance on the planet until modern times. While he focused on agriculture and food, I dealt with other aspects, such as alchemists, metals, weapons, Galileo, travel, the discovery of America. To be able to integrate my work, my father changed the title of the project from Food story for Lotta dell'uomo per la su sopravvivenza".

The problem of world population (A question of people or, in the Italian version, The global population, 1974), documentary about the consequences of the demographic explosion on the planet, produced by UNESCO, was another fruit of the geographic encyclopedia desired by Roberto Rossellini. The film alternates testimonies from demographic experts, with material from Soviet and NASA archives, with images captured in India in 1957 and others filmed by him and his collaborators in Africa and Brazil, among which there are likely to be sequences shot in Pernambuco and in Bahia in 1958. In the case of these last filmings, according to Aprà, perhaps they were carried out with another archived project in mind, The civilization of the conquerors (La civiltà I gave conquerors, w. 1970).

In an interview with The Weekly from Rio de Janeiro, at the end of August 1958, when asked about future projects and whether the script for his documentary would be based on hunger geography, Roberto Rossellini replied: “I want to make films in which there is a revaluation of man. A resumption of consciousness. In recent times, man has been completely forgotten as a human being. They will say that I have a utopian plan, even ambitious, but I intend to make a huge inquiry in my documentary films about the condition of man in the modern world. While science and technology achieved extraordinary development[,] man was completely abandoned. It is necessary to create an awareness around [the] condition of man in the world, without the limits of borders, it is clear. […] Josué de Castro’s magnificent work will be the first chapter of research into the very serious problem of hunger in the world. The President of Brazil said, in an interview with newspapers today[,] that the most serious problem in Latin America is the problem of economic underdevelopment. So, I think, when government officials point out a fact that needs to be resolved[,] everyone who feels capable of helping to clarify, give contour or evidence to it, should rush into this task to study the different angles. of this reality and help provide solutions. I intend[,] as you can see[,] to carry out a sincere, very humble documentation, a serious and in-depth study of different social problems. My project is to reach the whole world. In Latin America I will start with Brazil, as it is the homeland of the author of hunger geography. Then I will do it in Africa, Europe, Asia, etc.”

Upon arriving in São Paulo, on September 1st, at the invitation of the Municipal Cinema Commission, still at the airport, where he was welcomed by artists, including Anselmo Duarte, Aurora Duarte, Lola Brah and Odete Lara, the director, as reported for the night leaf, “clarified that, despite rumors, he does not intend to make a film adaptation of the book hunger geography, by Josué de Castro. He stated that the work awakened his sensitivity and curiosity and encouraged him to travel to see up close how man lives. He said his goal is to 'see the world' and that this experience could give rise to a series of films.”

A somewhat sibylline statement, but which, in a way, already pointed to the project not being implemented. In fact, Josué de Castro also began to issue denials regarding the making of the film. In the opinion of José Umbelino Brasil (recorded by Margarido), Roberto Rossellini refused to sign a contract at Castro's request: “He left Italy without a producer, without any guarantee of money to acquire Hunger Geography”. A version that does not match the information about the interest of producers in the ambitious undertaking, including Arco-Film by Alfredo Bini.

A statement from Joel Pizzini to the magazine Cult, however, suggests that there was a subsequent attempt, again frustrated, by the government of Jânio Quadros, who refused to support the project: “They claimed that Roberto Rossellini was an outdated filmmaker and could not make a film about the book by Josué de Castro.” A fact corroborated, in the same periodical, by Arnaldo Carrilho, when reporting that, according to the President of the Republic[15], such a film would be “detrimental to the image of Brazil”.

In any case, Josué de Castro's dream came true in part with the making of a short film (6 minutes), based on his 1946 work and which he himself narrated, The drama of droughts, by Rodolfo Nanni.[16] With a small amount of funding from the World Association for the Fight against Hunger, founded in Paris in 1957, of which the intellectual from Pernambuco was director, and with two jeeps from the National Department of Works against Drought, Nanni's team entered the Agreste and Northeastern Sertão, also documenting the painful exodus to the South, caused by the great drought of 1958.

In the words of the director: “We took a 35mm camera and some cans of negative film, ready to record the misery and endemic hunger of an entire population. We covered a large part of the states of Pernambuco, Ceará and Paraíba, on a route of around 4 thousand kilometers”. The few images that remain The drama of droughts score The comeback (2008), in which the director returned to the same regions as fifty years earlier.

Returning to Roberto Rossellini's trip, in Pernambuco, he visited the hinterland of Salgueiro, in the company of Josué de Castro, and, in Recife, where he stayed for two days, he paid a visit to Gilberto Freire, at Apipucos' house, where he tasted liqueur. pitanga.[17] There are signs that the filmmaker thought about bringing it to the screen Big House & Senzala (1933), as well as the novel Sand captains (1937), by Jorge Amado. As for the intention of transposing the sociologist's work, it was reported by Freyre himself, when recalling that meeting: “Some time later I received a telegram from São Paulo, from a mutual friend: Rossellini wanted to act as Big House & Senzala a great Brazilian film. Epic and lyrical, as he told me in Apipucos. Praise of brownness. Of metaraciality. It was Brazil's message to a world divided by hatred: including those animated by pure-race prejudices. […] After all, what Rossellini wanted to accomplish, with this film he designed, based on the bookBig House & Senzala - [it was] a reality, a fact, the revelation, for many, of a Brazil that many ignored existed and, at the same time, the expression of a new concept of brownness, of beyond-race, of expressions of dark or tropical beauty of woman […]. Rossellini's project was grand. As far as I know, it did not find support in Brazil. Gorou. Still green, it dried. Withered. He is having substitutes who avoid proclaiming the priority that he would proclaim.”

For Joel Pizzini, the Italian director, according to François Truffaut, intended to make a film titled Brasilia: “He always tried to film in Brazil, but never managed to do it. In fact, I assume he would like to film the project Brasilia like an amalgam of Jorge Amado, Josué de Castro and Gilberto Freyre”.[18]

Guided by Di Cavalcanti, Roberto Rossellini spent two days in Salvador, where, in an interview,[19] mentioned, among other things, “his planned color documentary about Brazil; Because of him, she hoped to spend a few months in the country, and like her last film, shot in India, it would be part documentary and part fiction”, according to Maria do Socorro Carvalho.

It was also in Salvador that the meeting between the renowned filmmaker and the young reporter from a local newspaper took place. In the movie Di (1976), awarded at the 1977 Cannes Festival, for which the Italian director was president of the jury, Glauber Rocha recorded this moment, confessing that he was fascinated by Roberto Rossellini's working method, the speed with which he filmed, immersing himself in a cultural reality that was not his: “I met Di Cavalcanti in Bahia in 1958. Di Cavalcanti appeared there with Roberto Rossellini […]. Hence, being a reporter for Diário de Notícias from Bahia, I was assigned to interview Roberto Rossellini and there I met Di Cavalcanti who introduced me to Roberto himself, with a 16mm camera going out along Rua Chile da Bahia and quickly filming there, a sarcophagus and other drums from the baroque Portuguese ruins of Bahia with impressive speed. I've never seen anyone film so quickly, in fact I really got the idea there and the camera in the hand, I mean, Rossellini really did with the 16-inch camera what Di Cavalcanti would do with the brush; filming a dead Christ there, buried inside a marble slab inside the Santo Antônio Convento do Carmo, I don't know where, in Bahia in the north, there..., Christian area...[20]


Judging by the newspaper reports, Roberto Rossellini's last stay in Brazil did not have a very positive impact. The meeting sponsored by UNESCO, the Brazilian Institute of Education, Science and Culture (linked to the international body), Itamaraty and the School of Cultural Communications of the University of São Paulo, was held inside the building of the São Paulo college, occupied by students who sought a university reform.

The congress brought together around forty Brazilian and foreign experts, with the aim of “establishing the degree of evolution that exists in Latin America in the body of research in television and cinema”, as reported by the Folha de S. Paul, on June 25, 1968. In addition to Roberto Rossellini, Enrico Fulchignoni (representative of UNESCO), Roberto Santos, Paulo Emílio Sales Gomes, Francisco Luís de Almeida Sales, the French philosopher Edgar Morin, as well as Alfredo Guevara Díaz, Hugo Alfaro participated and Luis Pico Estrada, delegates from Cuba, Uruguay and Argentina, respectively; Glauber Rocha had come just to meet the Italian filmmaker, according to Ismail Xavier, at the time one of the institution's students.[21]

During this period, Roberto Rossellini, in search of new expressive paths, had already established himself as a television director, by presenting works of a didactic and propagative nature such as The iron age (L'étà del ferro, 1964) and the famous Absolutism: the rise of Louis XIV (The prize of pouvoir for Louis XIV / The prey of the power of Luigi XIV.

Among the various communications at the congress, that of Alfredo Guevara Díaz was the one that most interested the audience, as he spoke about “the beginning of cinematographic development in a socialist society with few resources”, which met the demands of the young strikers, concerned about the “Brazilian crisis, evidenced in a dictatorial regime, in the government's fight against students, in the marginalization of our culture, in the monopolizing trusts of the internal cinema and TV market and in the action of terrorist censorship”, as they wrote in a manifesto from the Center for Cinematographic Research and Studies. Facts reported by Folha de S. Paul on June 26 and 25, respectively.

A sympathizer of student movements in France and the United States, the filmmaker was about to revolutionize the university curriculum. Experimental Cinematography Center, who he presided between 1969 and 1974. Appointed extraordinary commissioner of the CSC in 1968, he modified the structure of the courses, promoting “interdisciplinary research on the mass media system”, which aimed “to form a kind of 'global filmmakers' '”, and, like a good self-taught student, he entrusted students with “the self-management of study programs”, in the words of Caterina d'Amico.

Perhaps because he was unaware of our reality, Roberto Rossellini would have been disappointed and impatient with his interlocutors, who, in return, insinuated that he was at the service of imperialism; According to a report by Mário Chamie, who met with him at Casa de Vidro de Lina Bo Bardi and Pietro Maria Bardi, the Italian director said: “The lack of ideas among young Brazilian filmmakers is truly incredible. They are disoriented. They lost track of Brazil and Latin America. They repeat platitudes and are incapable of organizing a fighting program. […] Either you fight or you don’t fight. And to fight, you need to have mastery and update information. They couldn't even find the formula, the clear way, to make a motion that represented a point of view to be heard, heeded and respected. They were lost in an old, tired, repeated ideological language that was ineffective in the face of today's real political and social problems. The final text of the motion they must have forwarded is a relapse into an empty and convenient blah-blah-blah against the easy targets of imperialism, dictatorship, foreign capital, etc. They don't understand each other and they don't understand what's going on in the world, especially with young people. Apparently, there is very little to expect from Brazilian cinema. […] Young people from underdeveloped countries, by revolving around the 'bread and war' center, threaten to distort and distort the direction and impact of the transformation that other youth are bringing to the world. And you do it without a project or a defined program. You need to have the courage to see new situations. […] In the 'round table', above the layout, were the platitudes. And with platitudes, how can young people free and defend the cinema they are capable of making? Therefore, the youth here, with every right and duty to live their problems of underdevelopment, do not disfigure the original revolutionary action of other youth.”


And yet, it was with a view free from old partisan-Marxist platitudes that two participants at the congress had analyzed From scoundrel to hero. In the article "Il Generale della Rovere”, published in Literary Supplement de The State of S. Paul, on August 13, 1960, Paulo Emílio Sales Gomes, although remembering that the work resumed, in more commercial terms, “the chronicle lineage inaugurated in Rome, open city, Paisa and interrupted after Germany year zero”, had highlighted that it expressed “the anxious search for a truth of life, for a moral authenticity”, something that, according to him, characterized Rossellin’s filmography.

By highlighting this meditative extension in the work of Roberto Rossellini, the Brazilian intellectual, avoiding going into the merits of the considerations of Italian and French criticism, which were not always favorable, made a reading that went beyond ideological questions. Glauber Rocha also, in “Rossellini and the mystique of realism – apropos of Il generale della Rovere”, published in Diário de Notícias of Salvador, in 1962 (later incorporated into the 1983 book), contrary to part of the Italian criticism, which considered the heroism of the protagonist a historical falsification, he had expressed his enthusiasm for the film, seeing in the transformation of the scoundrel into a hero a requirement for It is understood that the character's awareness was not of an ideological nature, but was born of suffering and loneliness.

In this film, Roberto Rossellini introduced a series of technical and stylistic resources, the basis of his television language: multifunctional lighting, the intense exploration of scenography, an excessive use of traveling and zoom meeting. This was not the only thing that excited the Bahian filmmaker, there was much more: this “directing the camera by intuition before gagging it by reason”, which made Rossellini a “primitive” like Humberto Mauro, this “filming the real in its flow'” (as he expressed in his books), as if it had always been ready to be captured, focused on with a certain look, stripping it of rhetoric, approaching it directly, without resorting to formal mediations. This is thanks to improvisation, to non-rigid scripts, which were modified during filming, to interpretive simplicity, to cameras that took to the streets and discovered a new landscape, giving each shot the feeling of a “here and now”, in the happy expression by Giorgio Cremonini. As Walter Lima Júnior would say, years later (in a statement published in 2002): “The moment Rossellini takes the camera out of the studio and shows life on the street, he redefines not only a cinematic aesthetic, but also a cinematic ethics” .

Therefore, in Critical review of Brazilian cinema, Glauber listed Roberto Rossellini among the filmmakers who created a cinema verité, for this ability, not to merely record, but to delve into reality in all its complexity and capture it with his camera. Is at the century of cinema, explained what Roberto Rossellini's method was for him: “It subverts the aesthetics of illusion by the aesthetics of matter. Rossellini is the first filmmaker to discover the camera as an 'instrument of investigation and reflection'. His framing style, lighting and editing times created, from Rome, open city (1945), a new method of filmmaking.”

In fact, in Roberto Rossellini, he admired those “camera movements [that] obey reality and not technique”, that camera which “sometimes spins like crazy when a man is lost”, which led him to conclude, in 1983, that “your aesthetics are your ethics”. To illustrate, it would be enough to remember the sequence of “The miracle” (“The miracle”), second episode of The love (Love, 1947-1948), in which Nannina was expelled from the churchyard by another beggar in the village. The camera that, in some shots, followed Anna Magnani's character as she went up and down the stairs, was already the handheld camera that would later characterize Glauber's cinema.

In the Italian director, Glauber Rocha still admired the constant questioning of himself, a search for the ontological truth of man, which led him to state, always in 1983, that “Rossellini is the passage beyond the real, without compromising with the real” or “Rossellini is a mystic before a neorealist”[22], in the sense that he sought an answer to man's existential anguish.

It is in this line of thought that, in his review of Saraceni's first feature film, he will positively highlight the dialogue between the Brazilian director and the Italian: “Paulo Saraceni is an outsider easily identifiable with Jean Vigo, Luis Buñuel and Rossellini. Admiring the anti-formalist freedom of Vigo and Buñuel, he found in Rossellini the anchors of that mystical realism that is reflected in Port of Boxes".

This mysticism pointed out by Glauber and which exploded on the screen with Stromboli (Stromboli, land of God, 1949-1950), but already present in previous films, brings back to the fore the question of an existentialist Rossellini, not only because, in his films, man was the center of his attention, but because his existence acquired meaning when he opened to a supreme being, reaching its maximum realization. Therefore, the Rossellinian camera lingered on frames that, apparently, were dead times, in which nothing happened.[23]. It's as if the director was waiting for those epiphanic moments, for that revelation of the Creator's presence in the universe he created.[24]. Which makes it seem natural that, after this film, Rossellini made Francis, Herald of God (Francesco Giullare di Dio, 1950): this man, a creature among other creatures, was the great teaching taken from the writings of the saint of Assisi.

If, for Roberto Rossellini, the salvation of humanity passed through these existential questions, Glauber Rocha, apparently, seemed to have a different position, as the urgency of the fight led him to seek other solutions, of a more ideological nature.

This conjunction between ideology and existential questions, however, was already present in Glauber since his first films. In an article dedicated to age of the earth, Ismail Xavier highlighted “the return of identification of the national with the field of popular religion”. If Glauber Rocha will point to a parallel between God and the devil in the land of the sun (1964) and The Gospel According to Matthew (The Gospel according to Matthew, 1964)[25], highlighting the “common tribal, barbaric identities”, the reference to Pasolin’s Christ became explicit in the final monologue of the age of the earth in the voice-over by the filmmaker himself and in the theoretical text the century of cinema: “In my last film, the age of the earth (1978-1980), I talk about Pasolini, I say that I wanted to make a film about the Christ of the Third World at the time of Pasolini's death. I thought about it because I wanted to make the true version of a Third World Christ that would have nothing to do with the Pasolinian Christ.”[26]

For Glauber Rocha – as explained by Ismail Xavier, in the preface to a work by the Bahian director – it was “by revolving ancestral traits that the imagination of the revolution was prepared, in particular, this revolution that must emerge in line with the multiplied, multi-ethnic Christ of the periphery and the marginal pockets of the world order, in a movement that condenses the strength of popular myths in the fight against bourgeois reason, technocracy and the Father's law”.

Without ignoring the importance of these statements, a question arises: the age of the earth Could it not also be read as a resumption of Glauber's dialogue with Rossellinian mysticism in its deepest implications? In this way, the Rossellini-Glauber-Pasolini triangulation becomes possible, which gains consistency when paying attention to the fact that, in hawks and birds (Uccellacci e uccellini), the Bolognese director himself recognizes his Rossellinian matrix, in order to overcome it.

Furthermore, another possible rapprochement between Glauber and Rossellini could be made from the television project The birth of the gods (about Ciro da Persia and Alexandre da Macedônia), commissioned from the Brazilian director in August 1973, that is, during the years he lived in Italy. Glauber should have directed the film for RAI, the same broadcaster for which Rossellini produced most of his didactic works. In order to investigate this hypothesis, however, it would have been necessary for the project to have been carried out, but all that was left of it was the 1974 script in Italian, which came to light seven years later, published by ERI (Edizioni RAI-Radiotelevisione Italiana) of Turin , from which its Portuguese version was made, published in 2019.[27]

In any case, it is interesting to note the coincidence between the title of Glauber's film, the age of the earth (whose genesis dates back to the same period as The birth of the gods), and the title of television productions supervised or directed by Rossellini: L'étà del ferro e L'età di Cosimo de' Medici (1972), in which the term age can be translated byity or by era.

More important, however, than the issues exposed above, who knows, there may be an underlying participation by Rossellini, however minimal, in the drawing of the line that, leaving hunger geography, by José de Castro, goes through the thesis “Aesthetics of hunger” (1965), by Glauber Rocha, to arrive at The prophet of hunger (1970), by Maurice Capovilla[28] Minimal, because hunger, which, for Rossellini, was a theme, from Glauber “refers to the aesthetics of a cinema made with a strong lack of resources” – as Ismail Xavier recently stated in an interview with Claudio Leal –, that is , transforms itself, always in the words of Ismail Xavier (reproduced by Paula Siega), “in the very way of saying, in the very texture of the works […] starts to be assumed as a constituent factor of the work, an element that informs its structure and the which extracts the strength of the expression, in a stratagem capable of avoiding simple observation (we are underdeveloped) or the masking promoted by the imitation of the imposed model (which, in reverse, says again we are underdeveloped)”.


For now, there doesn't seem to be much left of Rossellini's meteoric passages through Brazil. His arrival in 1958 and his meeting with Josué de Castro still remain nebulous, full of inconclusive information and surrounded by a certain folklore. If Maria Carla Cassarini's texts clarified the facts in Italy, among us, the reasons that led to the disagreement between the Italian filmmaker and the intellectual from Pernambuco remain unknown.

The results of José Umbelino Brasil's research, “Geography of the film – Rossellini's journey”, based on the exchange of correspondence between the two, have not yet been published.[29], and Paulo Caldas' project to bring the director's time in Recife to the screen was wrecked, as he had announced to Orlando Margarido, when he also revealed one of his sources, Rossellini loved Dona Bombom's pension (2007), by journalist and writer Cícero Belmar: “We want to recover situations like his trip to the mangrove to meet the crab-men, an emblematic chapter of the book”.[30]

The feature film, initially announced as Travel to Brazil and that, at the 2011 Cannes Festival, it had received funding of 50.000 euros to be made in an Italian-Brazilian co-production, by mixing fiction and documentary excerpts, it intended to “illuminate the greater purpose of the visit and the unrealized filming”. According to a message from documentary filmmaker Marcos Enrique Lopes to Maria do Rosário Caetano in 2020, Renzo Rossellini embargoed the script written by Amin Stepple Hiluey.

The meeting between Roberto Rossellini and Brazil, however, must have been remarkable, especially in 1958. It would be enough to recall the embarrassed meeting between Joaquim Pedro de Andrade and his interviewee for a report to be published in The State of S. Paul (“Rossellini states: 'Cinema is less and less a means of promoting culture'”, 19 Aug. 1958);[31] the reverence with which the young reporter from Diário de Notícias interviewed him, being “one of the few well-received voices”, according to Renzo Rossellini; the trepidation with which a group of young Brazilian filmmakers went to the Hotel Leme Palace to request and arrange a chat with the Italian director, as reported by Cacá Diegues; the impact that our reality caused him, again in the words of his son – “I would like to remember his great love for the country, his discovery of a region as needy as the Northeast, the love and mercy for a giant of culture and beauty like Brazil”; his attempt to grasp and learn something from a culture apparently so different from his own.

As Diegues noted: “The most moving record of Roberto Rossellini's visit to Rio de Janeiro is in a photo by Luiz Carlos Barreto, taken on the edge of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, where the Italian filmmaker has fun with black boys from the former Catacumba favela”[32].

Faced with the simple beauty of this image faded by time, words fall silent.

*Mariarosaria Fabris is a retired professor at the Department of Modern Letters at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other texts, of Nelson Pereira dos Santos: a neo-realist look? (edusp).

Revised and updated version of “Rossellini in the tropics”, published in AGUILERA, Yanet et alii (org.) What stories do we want to tell? (São Paulo: Memorial da América Latina Foundation, 2018).


ALEXANDRE, Gilberto Sobrinho. “The Farkas Caravan and the modern Brazilian documentary: introduction to the contexts and concepts of the films”. In: HAMBURGER, Esther et alii. Socine film studies. São Paulo: Annablume/Fapesp/Socine, 2008.

AMICO, Caterina d'. “Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia” (2003). Available del-Cinema%29/>.

APRÀ, Adriano. “Rossellini documentary filmmaker?” In: CAMINATI, Luca. Roberto Rossellini documentary filmmaker: a culture of reality. Rome: Carocci/MiBAC-Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, 2012.

ARAÚJO, Luciana Corrêa. Joaquim Pedro de Andrade: early days. Sao Paulo: Alameda, 2013.

ARAÚJO, Mateus. “Glauber Rocha and the re-birth of the gods”. In: ROCHA, Glauber. The birth of the gods. Translation: Jacyntho Lins Brandão. Belo Horizonte: Fundação Clóvis Salgado, 2019.

BAMONT, Duvaldo. Elective affinities: Glauber Rocha’s dialogue with Pier Paolo Pasolini (1970-1975). Doctoral thesis. São Paulo: ECA/USP, 2002.

BARILE, João Pombo. “Image and sound of Josué de Castro” (19 December 2008). Available 25>.

BRAZIL, José Umbelino de Sousa Pinheiro. Young Glauber's criticisms: Bahia 1956/1963. Doctoral thesis. Salvador: Federal University of Bahia, 2007.

BRAZIL, José Umbelino de Sousa Pinheiro. “Geography of the film – Rossellini’s journey”. In: Digital proceedings of the XVI Socine Meeting, 2012. Availableções/anais>.

BRASIL, José Umbelino de SP “Geography of the film – Rossellini’s journey”. In: AvancaïCinema 2013, Avanca, Edições Cine-Clube de Avanca, 2013. Available at>.

CAETANO, Maria do Rosário. "Golden Globe at Revista de Cinema + Celso Furtado and Embrafilme + Brazilian box office + Chico Diaz” (6 Jan. 2020). Available in


CALHEIROS, Alex. “Rossellini in Brazil”. In: FABRIS, Mariarosaria; CALHEIROS, Alex (org.). Roberto Rossellini: from cinema and television. São Paulo: Istituto Italiano di Cultura/Centro Cultural São Paulo/Sesc São Paulo/CineSesc/Cinusp Paulo Emílio, 2003.

CARVALHO, Maria do Socorro. “Neorealism and New Cinema: Roberto Rossellini, Paulo César Saraceni and Glauber Rocha”. In: FABRIS, Mariarosaria; CALHEIROS, Alex (org.), on. cit.

CARVALHO, Maria do Socorro Silva. The new Bahian wave: cinema in Bahia (1958-1962). Salvador: EDUFBA, 2003.

CASTRO, Ruy. “Cinema thing”. Folha de S. Paul, 9 June. 2024.

CHAMIE, Mario. “Meeting with Rossellini”. In: ________. The virtual language. São Paulo: Edições Quiron/Secretariat of Culture, Science and Technology, 1976.

CREMONINI, Giorgio. “Il neorealismo (2)”. Bolognaincontri, Bologna, year X, n. 13, Jan. 1979.

“De Castro, Rossellini and Zavattini, carteggio per 'Miraggio di un film'” (20 Oct. 2017). Available in>.

DIEGUES, Cacá. Cinema life: before, during and after Cinema Novo. Rio de Janeiro: Objective, 2014.

“The aesthetics of hunger by Glauber Rocha”. Available in .

FABRIS, Mariarosaria. “Seeing and reviewing neorealism: a reflection on the ideas of Jean-Claude Bernardet”. In: CATANI, Afrânio Mendes et alii (org.). Socine Cinema Studies: year IV. São Paulo: Editora Panorama, 2003.

FERREIRA, José Buarque. Roberto Rossellini's cinema of ideas. Masters dissertation. São Paulo: ECA/USP, 2002.

FINAMOUR, Jurema Yari. “The other Rosselini” [sic]. The Weekly, Rio de Janeiro, year III, n. 124, 28 Aug.-4 Sept. 1958.

FREYRE, Gilberto. “Roberto Rossellini and Brazil”. Folha de S. Paul, 18 Jan. 1978.

GALVÃO, Maria Rita. Bourgeoisie and cinema: the Vera Cruz case. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 1981 (statement by Walter George Durst).

GOMES, Paulo Emílio Salles. “Il Generale della Rovere”. In: ________. Film criticism at Literary Supplement. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1981.

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MELADO, Marília. “The earth trembles: on display by Roberto Rossellini”. Cult-Brazilian Culture Magazine, São Paulo, year 10, n. 114, jun. 2007.

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“Round table on cinema and TV started in Cidade Universitária”. Folha de S. Paul, 26 June. 1968.

“'Miraggio di un film. Carteggio De Castro, Rossellini, Zavattini': a Lucca presentation of the book a cura di Maria Carla Cassarini” (April 28, 2018). Available in>.

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ROSSELLINI, Renzo. “La lotta dell'uomo per la sua sopravvivenza (1970)”. In: ROSSELLINI, Roberto. Islam: let's learn to know the Muslim world. Translation: Letícia Martins de Andrade. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2011 [the original text in Italian was published in 2007].

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[1] During the Festival, Rossellini watched and praised The challenge (1965), by Paulo César Saraceni, as the director recalled in his book, when recognizing the debt he owed to the Italian director: “I just wanted to be more subtle, but I think the final script had this political force, at the same time present more verbal images, be very spoken and set to music, where silence for the reflection of reality would be stronger than action. It was a lesson learned from Antonioni’s films, which he learned from Rossellini.” This striking presence of the Italian director was also pointed out by the film's editor, Eduardo Escorel, when he commented: “It is no coincidence that lovers discovered their love by watching Vanina Vanini, because Rossellini was the one who first knew that 'it wasn't enough to talk: it was necessary to say important things'”. Considered by Saraceni to be a definitive film, Vanina Vanini (Vanina Vanini, 1961), together with Long live Italy (Viva Italy, 1960), had represented the filmmaker's contribution to the centenary of his country's unification. Although these two achievements, grouped under the label of “historical neorealism”, presented some interesting stylistic solutions and gained some defenders, for many of Italy's critics they resulted in a rigid vision of those moments so crucial to the formation of the new nation. It is interesting to highlight how, disconnected from sociocultural and/or local historical issues, many Brazilian filmmakers and critics were able to see and value more properly cinematographic findings in Rossellini's works considered less thought-provoking by Italian critics. Jean-Claude Bernardet, however, in dissonance with other voices, considered Vanina Vanini a funeral mass for the director's cinema. The question of the reception of Rossellin's cinematography among us will be revisited in the sub-item “Encounters”.

[2] The Rio edition was inaugurated with the projection of The abyss of a dream (The white sheik, 1952), by Federico Fellini.

[3] Launched between 1959 (in France) and 1960 (in Italy).

[4] Presented by RAI between January and March 1959, its French version I had a good trip (I've made a bon voyage) was shown by ORTF between January and August of that same year.

[5] According to Nikola Matevski, the interest in television arose because Rossellini, seeing “in this still unexplored medium a chance for creative freedom to defenestrate his afflictions with the contemporary world […], launched himself into an ambitious historical pedagogical project”, with a bias utopian, as “he intended to make 25 films a year over four years to describe the entire history of humanity”, with the collaboration of “friends and colleagues to shoot different episodes of this immense encyclopedia”.

[6] The “Catalogo del Servizio Bibliotecario Nazionale” records two occurrences for geography of fame: one is the one cited by Aprà (and the original title appears on the sheet, Geopolitics of hunger, but not the name of the translator); another, published by the same publisher, in the same year, which does not contain the original title, but the names of Donato Rasca appear, as translator, and Giuseppina Savalli, as technical reviewer, but not as a preface. It is likely that this is the translation of hunger geography, as it wouldn't make sense for the same publisher to release the same book twice in one year.

[7] Rodolfo Nanni, who lived in the Italian capital in those years, suggests, in conversation with João P. Barile, that the two already knew each other and reports: “I remember that Rossellini was very impressed with the book Hunger Geography […]. He and Cesare Zavattini […] then proposed to Josué that they make a film based on the book. […] The idea was to make a film that reported hunger not only in Brazil, but across the planet, including southern Italy and part of Spain. I would take the Brazilian part.” It wasn't quite like that.

[8] Approach suggested by filmmaker Beth Formaggini during the 13th Cine Ceará (Fortaleza, May 7-13, 2003), when the short films were shown.

[9] The publication of Géographie de la faim: la faim au Brésil dates from 1949 and Geopolitique de la faim, from 1952. Both were published by Éditions Ouvrières, in Paris.

[10] Renzo Rossellini's chronological confusion is blatant, as It was night in Rome (It was notte a Rome) is from 1960 and the last collaboration between his father and Amidei, before the Brazilian stay, dates from 1954, when the The fear (Anxiety / Fear).

[11] As I have not yet had access to these publications and I am based on data found on the internet, I assume that Passeri is Giovanni Passeri, translator of Brazilian authors into Italian (including Jorge Amado) and author of Il pane dei carcamano: italiani senza Italy: parlano gli emigrati italiani di Rio de Janeiro, di San Paulo e delle farms dell'interno del Brasile: i contadini di Petropolis e della fattoria di Pedrinhas: centinaia di dolorose odissee: miseria e despair, published by Parenti publishing house in Florence, in 1958. This survey on Italian emigration in Brazil was prefaced by Amado and Josué de Castro.

[12] The research was carried out in the Cesare Zavattini Archive (Biblioteca Panizzi de Régio da Emília) and in the material on the subject gathered by Adriano Aprà, one of the greatest researchers of Rossellini's work.

[13] The series were aired between 1970 and 1971, in Italy, and in 1972, in Spain.

[14] The translation was carried out by anthropologist Tullio Seppilli (Rome: Edizioni di Cultura Sociale).

[15] Between 1962 and 1964, Carrilho was head of cinematographic broadcasting at Itamaraty.

[16] Released in 1959, the film won the Saci and the Municipality of São Paulo awards. O daily Carioca, (1st Jul.), attributing its authorship to Rossellini, branded the work communist propaganda (as stated in Marcelo M. Melo and Teresa Cristina W. Neves).

[17] On this visit, the director was escorted by the painter Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (whom he had met in Rio de Janeiro, where he was introduced by Rodolfo Nanni) and the poet Carlos Pena Filho, but not by Josué de Castro, as “there were historical animosity between him and the author of Casa Grande & Senzala”, according to the words of Paulo Cunha, reported by Margarido: “Visits by foreigners, as occurred with Orson Welles in Ceará and Recife, had a provincial and legitimizing aspect [sic] of traditions and personalities, like the hand-kiss to Freyre”.

[18] In the same article from Cult, Joel Pizzini announced the short film Father's death, in which he focused on the impact caused by Rossellini's passage among us and his death. In September of that same year, the film will be presented, as part of “Rossellini TV Utopia”, organized by Steve Berg, respectively on the last and first day of the show at two headquarters of the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil: in Brasília (5 to 16 September 2007) and in Rio de Janeiro (18th to 30th of that same month).

[19] “Rossellini: documentary in color focusing on the world of misery”. State of Bahia, 27 Aug. 1958.

[20] Voiceover by Glauber Rocha, taken from Di. The reference to filmmakers identified with neorealism was recurrent in the criticisms of Brazilian films by the young Glauber, published in Bahian periodicals, between 1956 and 1963, according to José Umbelino de Sousa Pinheiro Brasil's doctoral thesis. Furthermore, when establishing the Yemanjá cinema cooperative in 1956, Glauber Andrade Rocha and other members (Fernando da Rocha Peres, José Júlio de Calasans Neto, José Telles de Magalhães, among others) placed it under the sign of Rossellini: in the pamphlet launch of Yemanjá, a short article by the Italian filmmaker was reproduced, entitled After the war, as reported by Maria do Socorro Silva Carvalho in a book she authored.

[21] Statement to the author in 2003.

[22] The two Glauberian statements, combined with the century of cinema, echo a reflection by Jean-Claude Bernardet present in the entry “Roberto Rossellini” in the catalog Italian cinema. As I highlighted in the text “Seeing and reviewing neorealism”, Bernardet, back in 1960, wrote: “Roberto Rossellini, the so-called father of neorealism, does not present reality: he transfigures it. (… ) The Rossellini I propose is a mystic.”

[23] José Buarque Ferreira wrote an interesting reading about some of these prolonged sequences of Stromboli.

[24] As I have already pointed out in the text cited in note 22, the rapprochement between the Italian director and Existentialism (in its Christian aspect) is plausible insofar as, for Rossellini, “humanity is the center of his attention. And more: for him, the existence of Man is also valued when he communes with God, the creator of the world and the supernatural order, who redeems and elevates the human being to his maximum achievement”.

[25] In a recent chronicle, Ruy Castro, when recalling the impact caused by Cinema Novo – especially by Glauber's second feature film –, evoked its dialogue with the cinema of foreign directors, including other Italian directors, linked to neorealism or later to him: “It was today, but in 1964. When, on the screen, Geraldo Del Rey crawled on his knees and in real time with a real 20-kilo stone on his head, half the cinema sighed: 'Rossellini!'. When Mauricio do Valle, wearing a cape and hat as Antônio das Mortes, fired his rifle and the scene repeated itself at high speed, the other half exclaimed: 'Eisenstein!'. And when Othon Bastos, as Corisco, spoke into the spectator's eyes, whirled around and was machine-gunned shouting 'Stronger are the powers of the people!', the third half was ecstatic: 'Godard!'. I know, there are no three halves. But, in Glauber Rocha's films, there was. In God and the devil in the land of the sun, from that year, even more so. It was an incredible 60 years ago. For Brazilian critics, watching God and the devil for the first time it was an epiphany, a revelation, the vision of a quasar. There had never been anything like it in Brazil, not even the legendary Limit (1930), by Mario Peixoto, which no one had seen, not even the recent one (1963) Dried lives, in which Nelson Pereira dos Santos brought Antonioni to the caatinga. God and the devil it was the maturity of a cinema that had not even had an adolescence”.

[26] The dialogue between Glauber and Pasolini was the subject of Duvaldo Bamonte's doctoral thesis, supervised by Ismail Xavier.

[27] On the genesis of the script, cf. the introduction by Mateus Araújo, who organized the Brazilian edition.

[28] The “identity nexus” between Castro and Rocha was established by Paula Siega (2009: 173): “if Josué de Castro, dedicating hunger geography to writers and sociologists of hunger in Brazil, it indicated the formation of a national cultural tradition around this theme, Glauber with his thesis inserts filmmakers into this tradition, once again linking cinema to literature”. The connection between Glauber and Capovilla was made in an introductory text to “The Aesthetics of Hunger”: “The greatest influence of Glauber’s article on The Prophet of Hunger de Capovilla is summarized there: in both, culture as the ordering of reality through symbols. In the circus, once a place of the clean and the beautiful, now hunger and the existential and physical tearing of those hungry, dirty and violent bodies also arrive – and there is no way not to make the analogy with the most famous phrase in the world. Aesthetics: 'our culture is born from hunger'”. Capovilla's feature film, however, was also born from “a carefully planned image”, according to its director of photography, Jorge Bodanzky, in an excerpt from a statement reproduced by IMS film magazine: “We were looking for photography with high contrast and strangeness, something more fanciful, far from the realism of Glauber’s images. The film is divided into ten 'frames', and each one has its own style of lighting and camera work.”

[29] Post-doctoral research project (2013-2014), whose first considerations were presented at conferences, such as Socine in 2012 and AvancaïCinema 2013.

[30] It is interesting to remember that, having been born in Bairro da Madalena, a noble region of Recife, but close to the mangrove, Josué de Castro, in 1935, had written the short story “The crab cycle” and, expanding this theme, in 1967 , will publish the novel Men and crabs (São Paulo: Brasiliense).

[31] Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, at the time, worked in the Rio branch of The State of S. Paul and was tasked with interviewing Rossellini, who had just disembarked at Galeão, refusing to speak to the press. The young reporter managed to meet him at the Copacabana Palace and began the interview with a question in which he tried to comply with the newspaper's order, interested in ending the union between the director and Ingrid Bergman, as reported by Luciana Corrêa de Araújo: “You felt He always gives his all to each task he performs and puts all his ardor into the work. Once finished, the lassitude and disinterest that are said to accompany intense actions must come over him, until a new work excites him and awakens him again. Is this also his behavior in his emotional life and is this why women admire him so particularly? The initial circumlocution confused the filmmaker who, after starting to talk about his own work, claiming to be unaware of lassitude (“one discovery leads to other discoveries and new enthusiasms”), he realized that the question was misleading and criticized the press in the face of embarrassed reporter. Drawing attention to the fact that the article is not signed, only bearing the indication “Rio, 18 (State – Over the phone)”, Luciana Corrêa de Araújo questioned the veracity of the authorship, despite the testimony of writer Carlos Sussekind.

[32] The photo is probably the one reproduced below, taken from p. 16 of no. 124 of the Rio newspaper The Weekly, 28 Aug.-4 Sep. 1958, located by Annateresa Fabris, to whom I thank.

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