- Brazilian Women’s Filmmaking: From Dictatorship to Democracy by Leslie L. Marsh
Leslie L. Marsh opens the introduction to Brazilian Women’s Filmmaking: From Dictatorship to Democracy by recalling the inauguration of Brazil’s first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, who took office January 1, 2011. This opening is relevant in the context of her discussion of Brazilian women’s work with film in Brazil and the obstacles and difficulties women have faced in their struggles to be part of the artistic and political scene in Brazil in the last five decades. As Marsh writes, President Rousseff has supported women in all areas of public life, bringing “attention to women’s contributions to the arts” (2) and giving “a nod to the increasing number of women in the Brazilian film industry, setting aside a special event to meet with Brazilian actresses and women directors” (2). But women’s work in all arts predates these happier political times in Brazil; indeed, some of them began their careers during the repressive years of the 1964–1985 dictatorship.
This is not to say that women made politically overt films in those years. As anyone who lived through the military dictatorship knows, censorship at that time was both extremely harsh and extremely dumb. That is, censors hardly ever read between the lines. This explains why films by Ana Carolina, Tereza Trautman, Suzana Amaral, Norma Bengell, and Tizuka Yamazaki [End Page 203] were able to use recourses such as the psychoanalytical approach and melodrama to “offer feminist interventions in the reconstruction of Brazilian politics and cultural identity” (9). Today, there are many women working in cinema thanks to their efforts and endurance, as well as to their clever ways of conveying meaning.
The book is divided into an introduction, five chapters, and a short conclusion. It also has a small filmography. The introduction gives us a helpful panoramic view of the situation of women’s cinema since the late 1960s. In chapter 1 Marsh uses both written materials and oral interviews to investigate how women (and men) negotiated with Embrafilme and its predecessors, Grupo Executivo da Indústria Cinematográfica (Executive Group for the Film Industry [GEICINE]), Comissão de Auxílio à Indústria Cinematográfica (Commission for Aid to the Film Industry [CAIC]), and Instituto Nacional de Cinema (National Film Institute [INC]), all state agencies that organized, sometimes financed, and always kept an eye on cinema production in the country. Marsh then chronicles the formative phase of several filmmakers, including Susana Amaral, Helena Solberg, Tereza Trautman, Lúcia Murar, Sandra Werneck, Julia Lesage, Ana Carolina, and Tizuka Yamasaki. She also mentions pioneers such as Carmen Santos, Gilda de Abreu, and Cleo de Verberena. The chapter emphasizes the complexity and difficulties of making cinema in a country with an imperfect system for supporting artistic endeavors; it is no surprise that some of these artists left the country in the 1970s.
Chapter 2 is a study of Ana Carolina’s career, which started with the documentary Lavrador (1968), and continued with other documentaries until her first feature-length fiction film Mar de rosas (1977). Ana Carolina is the first Brazilian woman filmmaker to have a continuous career, something that has placed her at the crossroads of many different political and artistic movements. As an artist who learned the aesthetics of Cinema Novo, she nevertheless has changed and adapted throughout the years. Unfortunately, in spite of its great value, her work has been neglected in studies of Brazilian cinema up until now.
Chapter 3 discusses director Tizuka Yamasaki’s work. Yamasaki’s best-known films were made in the 1980s, when there was a national push for a redefinition of what being a citizen meant, especially during the period called “Abertura” (Opening). In Gaijin: Os caminhos da liberdade (1980), Parahyba, mulher macho (1983), and Patriamada (1984), Yamasaki’s strong female characters provide examples of different ways of understanding what being a Brazilian means.
In chapter 4, Marsh focuses on a subject that has not attracted as...