CINEMA OF URGENCY
There are certain occasions when cinema makes itself urgent, for several different reasons. Like in Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City” (1945), born from the need to go out into the streets with a camera to register Rome like that, destroyed by war, in ruins. A film that, when finished, became a part of the reconstructions of a physically and morally devastated Italy. Patricio Guzmán obsessively documented the state of political convulsion in Chile, during the overthrown of the government in 1973, which resulted in the three part epic “The Battle of Chile”. Abbas Kiarostami went back to the place where he filmed “Where is the Friend’s Home?” (1987), which was hit by a major earthquake, to try to find the actors from his first film, which resulted in a new one “Life and Nothing More…” (1992). The urgency is the impulse of Glauber Rocha’s “a camera in one hand and an idea in the head”, which is the reason for the
existence of a film like “Entranced Earth” (1967), which celebrates its 50 year anniversary remaining as current as ever.
Today, the world and Brazil, in particular, seem to go through one of this moments of enlistment, of urgency. There is the feeling of bankruptcy in different countries, with varying intensity, of a flawed system of representation, insufficient to manage contemporary transformations. Crisis in representation, crisis in politics. But how to make a new kind of cinema,
as the events happen, at a moment when cameras and images are everywhere? In the age of the media raised to the power of a thousand, or the “Media-State” as Ivana Bentes defined once, is a cinema of urgency still possible? How?
Obviously the need to think about the world isn’t limited to the cinema of urgency, stuck to the immediacy of history. The understanding of a time can take on different forms — like, for example, Pierre León’s romanesque cinema, our honored guest of this year. Cinema tries to escape the traps and trends of fashion, and it’s only anachronistic on the surface, a
high-price is paid for this choice, being condemned to a cruel invisibility in festivals or commercial circuits. But the authors guided by the serene urgency of resisting the torrential flow of the overused images, also produce an immensely powerful form of resistance, and they will always be on the radar of Cine BH curators.
The festival’s programme of this year will be open for this urgency. An urgency that becomes, once more, necessary, taking cameras to the streets to register/participate in the events, and the urgency to swim upstream against the dominating narrative flow. But the turbulence that Brazil is going through, awakens a great need to know what the Brazilian
filmmakers think and what they are doing. Not by chance, one of the most important sections of this year’s programme will be a conversation with directors who are in the process of producing films made on last year’s incidents: Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment in May of 2016, the crisis of Temer’s presidency, which happened exactly one year later, in May of 2017.
Films that, each in its own way, promise to produce a counter-narrative to the avalanche of the media covering of this profound political crisis.
In one of his catch-phrases, Jean-Luc Godard predicted: “Television produces oblivion at 30 frames per second.” We are used to TV’s fleetingness, especially in times with new economic, political and social crises appearing each week. Tele-journalism, video news, great media coverage, all this is a part of our audio-visual menu, constantly updated with the
next tragedy, conflict or scandal. We have barely taken a hit, when the next one is already coming, in a consistent wave, where the biggest consequence is the crushing of memory.
Cinema, on the other hand, has, as one of its principles, the need for time. Not only the time to make it (since it is a time-consuming art, for it is more technical and the most financially expansive of the arts), but also the time between the capture by the camera and the articulation of one image with the others, the time that lasts from hitting the “ON” button and the “OFF” in the camera, the time experienced by the spectator while in contact with those images, in the duration their projection. Despite the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, despite the model of 24 (hours)/7 (days a week) — defined by Jonathan Crary as “a time of indifference, against which the fragility of human life is increasingly inadequate” — the cinema goes
against this relentless flow of the suppression of time.
The media is the device used to produce forgetfulness. The “happening”, also mentioned by Godard, depends of the constant movement of something always happening (“There is no silence on TV” Eduardo Coutinho once said). Cinema, in its turn, creates (several) memories. It needs to have interests that go beyond the immediacy and distress of the urgent. Even if it
decides to report, it wants to resist the calamity of the daily news.
In the cinema, the urgency is of a different order. No matter how urgent the essence or the content of a film is, it demands, once again, time. This time will be greatly responsible for the contemplation — aesthetic and ideological — of what the eyes and ears of the spectators will soak up. A camera that captures the collapse of an entire government records images that, when used together with others from the same incident or from different historical moments, can offer a much more elaborate and articulated procedure than the evening newscast.
The image of a war zone, or the destruction caused by an earthquake, can be seen briefly during an evening newscast, or they can be triggers of unpredictable aesthetic and affective outcomes as a result of editing. The visual documentation of a political process or the genocide of a race will always be of the utmost urgency, and the cinema has the capacity to deal
with this urgency by using one of its greatest weapons. If handled to give meaning to the complexities of each process, it has its impact immortalized by the filter of the cinema, by the memory of the present and in the now that consolidates to make the future.
That the capitalist system tends not to corroborate with this kind of movement, which studies History instead of summarizing it daily, preferring to invest in the frivolity of TV shows, is not news. Again we go back to Godard, when he says: “For there is a rule and an exception. Culture is the rule. And art is the exception. Everybody speaks the rule: cigarette,
computer, t-shirt, television, war. Nobody speaks the exception. It isn’t spoken, it is written: Flaubert, Dostoyévsky. It is composed: Gershwin, Mozart. It is painted: Cézanne, Vermeer. It is filmed: Antonioni, Vigo. Or it is lived, when it is the art of living: Srebenica, Mostar, Sarajevo. The rule is to want the death of the exception.”