cinema novo

est. 1950s – early 1970s

Cinema Novo, meaning “New Cinema” in Portuguese, was a revolutionary film movement that emerged in Brazil during the 1950s. It aimed to brake free from the confines of traditional film, both aesthetically and thematically, and played a pivotal role in shaping Brazilian cinema and cultural identity.

origins of cinema novo

Cinema Novo originated from rebellion against the dominant narrative style of Brazilian cinema at the time, which was largely characterized by escapist, commercial films disconnected from the country’s socio-political issues. The film movement was heavily influenced by Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave, specifically works of filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. The leaders of Cinema Novo sought to create a new cinematic language that would authentically represent the lives of ordinary Brazilians.

 

The movement emerged in the context of significant political and social upheaval in Brazil. The early 1960s were marked by increasing urbanization, series of military coups and civil unrest, leading to an atmosphere of dissent and artistic resistance. Cinema Novo was a response to these turbulent times, aiming to voice the marginalized, impoverished and oppressed.

The Guns (1964) by Ruy Guerra
The Guns (1964) by Ruy Guerra
Rio, 100 Degrees F. (1955) by Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Rio, 100 Degrees F. (1955) by Nelson Pereira dos Santos

Characteristics of Cinema Novo

Cinema Novo was known for its emphasis on realism. Filmmakers abandoned studio settings and expensive production values in favor of location shooting, usually in low class areas of Brazil. They utilized documentary-like techniques and innovative cinematography, often employing handheld cameras, raw visual style, and frequently cast non-professional actors, making the stories more authentic and relatable. These actors often came from the communities being portrayed in the films, further reinforcing the movement’s commitment to giving a voice to the underprivileged.

 

Many Cinema Novo films experimented with narrative structures, embracing nonlinear storytelling, fragmented narratives and symbolic imagery. This allowed for a deeper exploration of the human condition and the socio-political struggles faced by the characters.

 

Often, filmmakers embraced the richness of Brazilian heritage by incorporating local music, folklore and traditions into their works. In doing so, they fostered a profound sense of pride and identity among the Brazilian people, promoting their cultural legacy on the global stage.

Black God, White Devil (1964) by Glauber Rocha
Black God, White Devil (1964) by Glauber Rocha

Prominent Filmmakers and Works

As a central figure in the Cinema Novo movement, Glauber Rocha’s cinematic vision was characterized by its bold narratives and innovative storytelling techniques. His works, including “Black God, White Devil” (1964) and “Antonio das Mortes” (1969), offered thought-provoking social and political commentary. Rocha’s cinema was a call to action, urging Brazil to confront its sociopolitical challenges. His fusion of documentary-style realism with poetic and surreal elements created a distinctive cinematic language that left an immense impact on the movement and gave him the title of the Godfather of Cinema Novo.

 

Nelson Pereira dos Santos, a pioneering figure in the Cinema Novo movement, made a significant impact on Brazilian cinema with his 1955 semi-documentary film “Rio, 100 Degrees”, known for its unvarnished portrayal of the harsh conditions, and the resilience of the young characters it follows. This was one of his early works, and played a crucial role in defining his cinematic style and commitment to social realism.

Sao Paulo, Incorporated (1965) by Luiz Sergio Person
Sao Paulo, Incorporated (1965) by Luiz Sergio Person

Legacy and Influence of Cinema Novo

Cinema Novo was a transformative force in Brazilian cinema, challenging conventions and providing a voice for the marginalized. Through the works of key figures like Glauber Rocha, Nelson Pereira dos Santos, and Ruy Guerra, it not only addressed social and political issues but also celebrated Brazil’s cultural heritage. It paved the way for a new generation of Brazilian filmmakers and inspired similar movements across Latin America. 

 

The legacy of Cinema Novo endures as a testament to the power of cinema to ignite the change, foster national identity and illuminate the human condition. It remains a vital chapter in the history of global cinema, and a testament to the enduring influence of Brazilian art and culture.

Please refer to the Listed Films for the recommended works associated with the film movement.