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A reality check

SANJAY KUMAR

CINEMA It is a date with reality for Brazilian film lovers.

`There is a way of watching films... ,' says Lisbela, a young woman who loves going to the movies in the Brazilian film "Lisbela eo Prisonerio" ("Lisbela and the Prisoner") by Guel Arraes. Perhaps this was a telling comment about contemporary Brazilian cinema recently showcased at the Brazilian Film Festival organised at the School of Arts and Aesthetics in Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. The dozen films featured in this fare were a kaleidoscope of gruesome reality, presented in haunting mindscapes of celluloid.

Most of the films represented the most contemporary products of Brazilian cinema. They stood out for their uniqueness in theme and a variety of treatment. However, all of them seem to be closely aligned with the socio-economic and political issues of modern-day Brazil. They ranged from brutally realistic depictions of life on the street to highly allegorical motifs of power and tyranny.

The opening film "Brainstorm" by Luiz Bodansky set the mood for the festival. It brings home the horrifying levels of tyranny inflicted on an individual caught between the life in a mental asylum and the exacting demands of social propriety. The protagonist Neto, the middle class teenager, recounts his tale of victimisation when sent to a de-addiction centre by his father. The oppression inside the institution haunts him even after he escapes from it. The movie ends with a grim remainder that it was a take off from a real life tragedy. Many other movies in this package shared the angst of the new generation of Brazilian films about the surviving forms of economic and political dictatorship. The tyrannical structures of power seem to stifle the individual in his personal, mental and spiritual realms. In his much acclaimed work, "Carandiru", nominated for the best film(Golden Palm) at Cannes 2003, the great master of Brazilian cinema, Hector Babenco, recreated the tragic October 1992 massacre of 111 inmates at the Sao Paulo house of detention (Carandiru jail). The narrator, a benign doctor presents multiple versions of the tragedy through the voices of a cross-section of inmates. The engrossing tale, apart from suggesting the socio-economic causes of crime, also laments the loss of the human spirit in the institution of prison.

Many films

The other filmmakers like Walter Salles ("Central Station of Brazil"), Fernando Meirelles ("City of God") (nominated for the Oscar for best film director, photography and screenplay, 2004) blend the text with narratives from the streets. As with other movies they are rooted in reality. Yet it takes the viewers intermittently into flights of fantasy. Very often these are bitter statements about social inequity and the brutal power of the state.

Apart from making thoughtful statements about commoditisation of life, it also introduces novel cinematic moments when the hero realizes that his beloved reciprocated his voyeurism.

Caca Diegues enthralled the viewers with the well acclaimed "God is Brazilian: A Magical Tale of the Personification of God" when he decides to take a trip down Brazil and his eventful encounters with a young man. In all, the three days of Brazilian carnival left one aghast at the takes on reality but also with lingering moments of blissful viewership. Cinema in Brazil seems to be rooted in a sense of the real.

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