“Only a culture of hunger, undermining its own structures, can surpass itself qualitatively: and the noblest cultural manifestation of hunger is violence. […] An aesthetic of violence, before being primitive, is revolutionary, and this is the starting point for making the colonizer understand the existence of the colonized. […] Latin hunger is not just an alarming symptom: it is the nervous system of society. Here lies the tragic originality of Cinema Novo in the face of world cinema: our originality is our hunger and our greatest misery is that this hunger, although felt, is not understood. […] For the European observer, the artistic creation processes of the world of underdevelopment seem interesting only insofar as they satisfy his nostalgia for primitivism”. Glauber Rocha, “The aesthetics of hunger”, 1965.


Rarely has such an original cinematographic trend shaken the world cinematographic scene in such a brutal and noisy way. Born in the 1950s, under three different influences, Italian Neorealism, the French New Wave and a certain Soviet Cinema, it largely developed until the 1970s, expanding to all of Latin America. Nelson Pereira Dos Santos, Glauber Rocha and Ruy Guerra are the most eminent representatives of this cinematographic current which has developed an original and exclusive treatment of the social ills that affect the most disadvantaged classes of Brazilian society.


“Rio 40°” by Nelson Pereira Dos Santos, which follows the daily life of five children from Rio’s “favelas” who share the most important places in the city in order to sell peanuts, is considered the initiator film. of Cinema Novo. André Bazin had said about it in the Cahiers du Cinéma: “Rio 40° is built in a unanimous way, interweaving several particular and significant stories. It was shot with very small means close to amateurism. […] But as it is and given the working conditions of a Brazilian filmmaker, it’s an endearing film that deserves to be seen”.

Indeed, the films of this school generally deal with the social evils which affected the working class, and more particularly hunger, violence, economic exploitation, religious alienation, as well as the fatalism which characterizes the majority of the underprivileged classes. These films share a certain political optimism and multiply the messages which are sorts of calls for the resolution of the social problems of the working class.

These films seek out the dark corners of Brazilian life, as well as the places where social contradictions appear most dramatically. The themes and subjects covered are generally supported by a visual aesthetic very close to the styles of documentary. They are often filmed by a portable camera and shot in black and white, in simple and austere settings, perfectly highlighting the harsh landscapes and living conditions.


Film critics and historians are almost unanimous in confirming that Glauber Rocha was the greatest defender of Cinéma Novo. This eminent representative of this cinematographic current wanted to make films capable of educating the public in the fields of social equality, as well as the need for art and culture. He summarized the objectives of this cinema in the concept of what he called “the aesthetics of hunger”, a kind of thematic and visual treatment based essentially on the violence of social relations, as well as the social and racial unrest of which disadvantaged social classes suffer. His films, especially “The Black God and the White Devil”, are generally conceived and produced with the intention and purpose of “suggesting that only violence will help those who are harshly oppressed”.

Unfortunately, after the golden age of the 1970s, Cinema Novo ended up collapsing, and as Carlos Diegues himself, one of its most eminent representatives, had said, “We can no longer speak of Cinema Novo ‘in nostalgic or figurative terms because Cinema Novo as a group no longer exists, especially because it has been diluted in Brazilian cinema”.


As an indication, here is a list of chisis films among the most representative of this current of Cinema Novo:

“Rio 40°” (Rio, 40 Graus) (1955) and “Drought” (Vidas Secas) by Nelson Pereira Dos Santos (1964); “O Grande Momento” by Roberto Santos (1958); “Aruanda” by Linduarte Noronha (1959); “Barravento” (1961), “The Black God and the White Devil”, “Earth in trance” (Terra em Transe) (1967) and “Antonio das Mortes” by Glauber Rocha (1969); “The Beach of Desire” (Os cafajestes) (1962), “The Rifles” (Os Fuzis) and “The Gods and the Dead” (Os Deuses e os Mortos) by Ruy Guerra (1970); “Ganga Zumba” (1963) and “The Heirs” (Os Herdeiros) by Carlos Diegues (1969); “A Falecida” (The Dead Woman) (1965) and “The Girl from Ipanema” (Garota de Ipanema) (1967) by Leon Hirszman; “O Desafio” by Paulo Cesar Saraceni (1965); “Macunaima” (1969) and “The Conspirators” (Os Inconfidentes) by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade (1972).


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