Film's 'New Barbarians.'
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After years of dictatorship, freedom is a major preoccupation for Brazilian filmmakers. As one young actress puts it, ''In Brazil we have forgotten how to be free; now we will have to learn again.''Skip to next paragraph
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Long-term repression often creates habits of self-censorship, passivity, and abdication of responsibility, habits sometimes difficult to shake off. For some , however, the years of authoritarianism in the '70s had a strengthening effect, teaching them to develop their inner resources.
Carlos Rippert, Brazil's leading cinematographer, put it this way in a recent interview: ''Freedom is internal; the important thing is to be free in your head. Freedom is inside of you, not outside.''
Not all restraints on freedom in Brazil are inside people's heads, however. Several directors said that since most films are heavily financed by Embrafilme, which is under the directorship of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, self-censorship remains a problem. According to Andrade, there is a lot of competition for Embrafilme financing. ''In a typical year,'' he says, ''out of over 200 (proposed) film projects, Embrafilme financed 28. Embrafilme does not have specific defined criteria, but there is an unspoken consensus of what the limits are. This has stopped up creativity.''
ACTRESS and director Anna-Maria Maghalaes is a dark-haired, almond-eyed beauty whose directness and warmth clash agreeably with the exotic aloofness of her looks. Starting her career as an actress in Cinema Novo films, she went on to TV acting and is now embarking on a directing career.
Sitting in one of Rio's ubiquitous neighborhood coffee bars, slipping in and out of her espadrilles, she speaks of some of moviemaking's problems: ''The Brazilian film industry lives on expensive imported material. Almost all equipment and film negatives have to be brought in from abroad and must be paid for in increasingly scarce foreign exchange. Inflation has caused tremendous rises in production costs. The fall in the cruzeiro's (the Brazilian national currency) value has made imports paid for in dollars wildly expensive.''
Given high production costs and admission prices that remain relatively low, the average Brazilian film must be seen by at least 2 million spectators to make a profit here, compared with only 360,000 spectators in France. Rather than growing, however, the moviegoing market is shrinking. Since 1981 Brazilian film attendance has dropped by roughly 10 percent each year.
Miss Maghalaes, like every other director interviewed, emphasizes the challenge posed to the cinema industry by the dramatic rise of Brazilian TV. Television dominates mass entertainment in Brazil, and a forest of antennas sprouts from the roofs of even Brazil's poorest favellas (slums). Millions of Brazilians watch TV soap operas and films nightly. But Maghalaes and her fellow directors complain that most of these films are foreign.
Even if Brazilian films eventually withstand the challenge of TV, the future of Brazilian cinema is very much bound up in the evolution of Brazilian society. If a democratic regime does come to power, it will face the triple challenge of economic growth, demands for social justice, and maintaining itself in power. If it fails, Brazil could return to strong-arm government of either the right or the left, and the film industry could split between those who toe the government line and a marginal, embittered opposition.
In the meantime, most Brazilian filmmakers will continue to test the limits of the present liberalization and hope for the best. As Hirszman puts it, ''Brazil is in a profound crisis. From this crisis can emerge a film industry dominated by demagogy and the wrong sort of nationalism . . . or a mature, artistic movement could arise, a movement based on Brazilian realities, and based on the principles of participatory democracy, pluralism, and humanism.''