Afro-Brazilians in Film Alesia M. WilliamsUNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication Public Relations Sequence
Research Question How are Afro-Brazilians represented in Brazilian cinema, post slavery-present , and what trends exist within these representations? (Are these representations similar to the way African Americans were represented in American cinema?)
Research ProposalThe US and Brazil are both a part of the Black Diaspora.Interestingly, many false representations of African Americanswere projected in US cinema. These images were oftenpublicized to justify slavery, to dehumanize African Americans,and to promote racist theories such as Social Darwinism.African Americas were commonly depicted as coons, bucks,mulattos, pickaninnies, Uncle Toms, and Mammies in books,cartoons, plays, and films. Considering, the similaritiesbetween the marginalization of blacks in both the US andBrazil, I desire to research how Afro-Brazilians arerepresented in Brazilian cinema.
Evolution of Brazilian Cinema &Afro-Brazilian representation
Post Slavery-Pre 1960s “Afro- Brazilians did not feature prominently in the symbolically “white” cinema of the first few decades of the century. The beginning of Brazilian cinema coincided with the height of European imperialism, and since the world cinema was dominated by the colonial powers, the tendency was to project a vision of Brazil as merely a tropical appendage of European civilization in which non-Europeans had very little role” [Stam ,17]. Gilberto Freye’s theory of “racial democracy,” although now seen as an exemplum of the ideology of whitening, contributed to a progressive step in emphasizing the positive contribution of blacks to Brazil’s cultural mix. Thus, Black presence in films increased.[Stam, 18].Example of Film: Tambem Somos Irmaos [We Too Are Brothers] (1949)– first Brazilian film to confront the problem of contemporary racial discrimination. Featured the actor Grande Otelo. Although described a contrast to Hollywood’s depiction of the servant-master pattern, I believe he is similar to the US display of a coon.
Cinema Novo There was shift from issues of labor exploitation, social movements, political history and allegories of national identity to representation of private life and family dramas [Xavier ,329]Examples of FilmsBahia de Todos os Santos- depiction of racial and social oppression inBahia. Features Tonio as the “tragic mulatto” – divided between blackmother and white father, between condomble and nightclub, betweentraditional community and urban individualism. He was not a believer inracial democracy. -“They say that everything is easy, that color doesn’t matter, but it’sjust empty words.”Ganga Zumba (1963)- memorializes the seventeenth-century fugitiveslave republic called PalamaresBlack Orpheus (1960)- adaptation of Italian story. Problematic displayblacks as content with way live in favelas.
1970s Films of the 1970s are noted for the range of variety of black roles. It also marked the emergence of the first social significant black directors. Described as a time where black characters were treated simply as ordinary people.Examples of Films“Compasso de Espera (1973)- exposes the myriad forms of racism, fromgestures of condescension of acts of discrimination and even physicalviolence. Jorge de Oliveira, a black poet ,cites Millor Fernades’s ironicdictum that “there is no racism in Brazil because black people know theirplace.” Filmmaker mocks the compendium of racist clichés that the problemisn’t racial, but social. Jorge’s character is similar to Sidney Poitier. However,film was criticized for focusing on a highly unrepresentative character- livingin a luxurious apartment, constantly sipping whiskey at cocktail parties, herepresented a minority of black Brazilians [Stam, 24].Rainha Diaba(1975)- described as the film that most outrageouslyconfounds all stereotypes. Ironically, the black character is a drag queen.“When some hoodlums revolt against his rule, it is because they refused tobe bossed by a drag queen, not because he is black.” [Stam, 25].
Current Many current films, illuminate the interrelationship of poverty and crime in rise to a growing army of dispossessed, among them many black and mixed-race citizens. A large amount of these films represent contemporary urban violence in favelas.“Literature, cinema, and popular music, especially hip-hop, have been usedas vehicles to reproduce Brazilian social realities and anxieties. Theresidents of poor communities, however, have been voicing an acutecriticism of the new cinematic representations, which seek to promote socialdenunciation, but instead help to construct stereotyped perceptions of Afro-Brazilians” [Oliveira, 43].Example of Film:Cidade de Deus [City of God] (2002)- fifth biggest box-office hit ever innational cinema. The movie spawned debate in the Brazilian media aboutthe representation of the favelas and their inhabitants.
Argument Afro-Brazilian depiction in Brazilian films has evolved. Although there are stark similarities between African American representation in US films, they represent the social problems that are prevalent there. They do not have a binary system as we do. Nevertheless, their representation is detrimental to the way they are treated. “Literature, cinema, and popular music has been used as vehicles to reproduce Brazilian social realities and anxieties.” The problem exist when these representations are not accurate. Thus, they can perpetuate further stereotypes which are images used to continue to marginalize Afro-Brazilians.