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4 Widening the Screen Independent and Alternative Film and Video, 1983 to 1988 Just as it is important to bring to light Brazilian women’s feature-length filmmaking, it is equally important to address independent and alternative film and video projects that contributed to new definitions of citizenship during the last years of the dictatorship and the transition toward democracy. While the term independent here refers to modes of production wherein media makers work outside commercial media organizations, the term alternative refers to media practices in which the communicative processes arise from or hold close linkages with the socially, politically, and economically excluded. Contemporary feminist film scholars have urged the study of moving image production beyond feature-length films to include audiovisual works by women that have been produced, distributed, and exhibited outside mainstream channels. Thanks in part to the spread of the Internet and the development of digital technologies, there has been a renewed interest in the proliferation of alternative media in recent years. However, alternative media traces its history several decades back. The 1970s and 1980s were witness to a global, alternative media boom. Various modes of alternative media (radio, presses, video, and the like) functioned generally as modes of political resistance and social activism.1 With the advent and diffusion of video technology in the early 1980s, Brazilian women’s independent and alternative film and video sought to intervene directly in political discourse and, if not at least tangentially affiliated , was directly linked to numerous social movements becoming more prominent, including the women’s movements. Concomitant to the goal to define new political and cultural identities, Brazilian women’s alternative Marsh_Text.indd 120 8/7/12 2:34 PM Widening the Screen · 121 media at the time sought to reclaim and expand citizenship rights by intervening in understandings of brasilidade (Brazilian cultural identity) and shaping debates surrounding issues such as abortion and women’s access to healthcare. With regard to women’s filmmaking in an Anglo–North American context of the 1970s and 1980s, Laura Mulvey asserts that a period of consciousness raising and propaganda, where the focus was on registering women’s life experiences , preceded a second period in which aesthetic principles of the historic avant-garde were a point of reference.2 However, the Brazilian context demands adifferent approach towomen’s filmandvideoproduction, owingto the particularities of Brazilian politics and the development of the Brazilian women’s movements. The periods Mulvey describes are largely reversed (and then overlapping) in Brazilian women’s audiovisual production of the 1970s and 1980s. More avant-garde techniques of representation, such as those found in Ana Carolina’s surrealist-informed films, preceded independent and alternative productions that drew on realist representational strategies in film and then video. And then both modes coexisted. In the 1980s, Brazil was home to one of the strongest and most diverse video movements in all of Latin America.3 Perhaps not surprisingly, to this date, innovative programs aim to democratize access to media making.4 Some filmmakers took to video technology for economic reasons given that 16 mm and 35 mm film stock was very expensive in Brazil throughout the 1980s. As well, in terms of reception , mainstream exhibition venues were (and generally are) not accessible to Brazil’s poor and working classes. Movie theaters have largely relocated to posh shopping centers that strive to keep out “undesirables” with high ticket prices, fences, security guards, and closed-circuit cameras. Alternative media, which are characterized as enacting horizontal, participatory modes of address, was able to reach those who would otherwise be excluded from the community-building ability of alternative media. Scholars of independent and alternative media have long argued for appreciating audiovisual process over product.5 Similarly, feminist film scholar Claire Johnston has advocated for an approach to women’s audiovisual production that develops an “interventionist conception of textual practice seen within specific historical conjunctures.”6 Scholarly attention to women’s film and video has tended to focus on feature-length film. However, it is necessary for scholars to acknowledge a rich history where women have been highly successful in producing moving images and understand more fully how women have made vital contributions to discussions on society and politics. Thus, this chapter proposes “widening the screen” to allow greater appreciation of Marsh_Text.indd 121 8/7/12 2:34 PM 122 . Chapter 4 how Brazilian women’s independent and alternative film and video were part of a larger social practice that sought to reclaim political rights and...


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