In a biography of Voltaire, written by Evelyn Hall, she manages to create a quotation, where she synthesizes the beliefs of the French philosopher in such an extraordinary way, that even Voltaire himself, acknowledges it: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
We are here before a landmark of philosophical thought opposed to censorship. Painful repression against cultural, political and ideological values, that shuts up a human being and strangles his art, making culture its victim. Hence, as Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke wrote,” Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”.
Cinema, books, and other artistic forms of expression serve to materialise a cultural concept, which an individual or some individuals have created with their intellect and with the contextualization of the environment surrounding them. The Brazilian cinematographic “construction”, was based on the foundations of a nation, historically censored and repressed during the dictatorship. Filmmakers exiled because of it, such as Glauber Rocha, became more frequent in the late 1960s due to AI-5, which represented harsher censorship for the film industry and the other arts.
One question remains: The country has transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy, but has censorship really gone away? With increasingly authoritarian and critical measures rooted in conservative ideologies, the current government has managed to cause the biggest setback in the industry, since the 1964’s dictatorship days. The current president, Jair Bolsonaro, has even expressed an intention to extinguishing or privatizing Ancine (National Film Agency), having thus now, gone as far as dismantling it and favouring Edilásio Barra (Pastor and cousin of Congressman Éder Mauro, someone close to the President) to the position of Ancine’s new director.
Barra is the presenter of the YouTube channel, Tv EB, whose slogan is “Right-wing channel to straighten our Brazil“. Its opening video is entitled “Edilásio Barra comments on Bolsonaro’s Government. Let’s straighten up the country!”. Shot in March 2019, the video highlights the changes in Bolsonaro’s government, namely the 9727/2019 decree that outlines that a public servant should have a clean record, while also exalting “meritocracy”. A year after the video praising Bolsonaro, Edilásio is appointed director of Ancine.
According to Bolsonaro, Ancine needs a cultural “filter”, that establishes the principles of the Brazilian “good” citizen, a fanciful ideology to oppress minorities with ultraconservative ideals and an attack on the freedom of expression of Brazilian artists.
In addition to the censorships based on political precepts, ethnic, gender identity, religion and sexual orientation, the government imposed economic cuts of 43%, approximately R$ 313 million (around $59 million), from Ancine’s audiovisual fund, in an attempt to stifle the government’s economic asphyxiation of content that does not meet its ideologies. Two of the numerous examples is the Banco do Brasil advertisement and the film “Marighella“, directed by Wagner Moura.
The commercial, heavily criticized by Bolsonaro, features young people, some black and one transsexual. After the President’s complaints, the commercial was taken off the air and its marketing director fired.
In turn, “Marighella” is a dramatic biopic about Brazilian militant and former communist politician, Carlos Marighella, a national symbol of the country’s struggle against the military dictatorship. The film is well-known actor Wagner Moura’s debut as a director, having Brazilian actor, singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, Seu Jorge as Marighella. Inspired by Mário Magalhães‘s biography “Marighella – The Guerrilla fighter that Lighted the World”, the film and its left-wing political nature, found itself hampered by Ancine (and by its new director Edilásio Barra), having its launch cancelled in Brazil.
What the current Brazilian government is doing is an illegal act that goes against the country’s constitution, that states that there is an obligation to support and encourage Brazilian culture (Article 11, Item II, of Law 8.429/1992 of Administrative Improbity).
To better contextualize this article, we sought the opinion of Brazilian film industry professionals, on their perspective and feelings towards the current scenario. We invited Allan Riggs (Filmmaker), Frederico Meister (Actor) and Kauê Santos (Actor) for a talk on the subject. The three have collaborated on amazing joint projects such as “Energy – a proof of a concept“ and “Operation Shell Shock“.
When asked if they feel artistically and creatively repressed, due to the current political scenario, the answer is unanimous. They are adamant that there is repression. However, they also stress that they are not and will not be frightened, since they believe that the artist’s work is that of a communicator, that must “put the finger on the wound“. Their response clearly demonstrates the courage that Brazilian people have and the need to, despite the constraints and difficulties, express their art. It is thus evident, that there is an artistic force engaged in not hiding and making their work happen and be seen.
A correlation between the Brazilian film industry and the mythical Brazilian folklore figure, the headless mule (mula sem cabeça), can be inferred, by asking a (figurative) headless character, not to lose its head, that is its cool. This analogy can be made regarding the Brazilian audiovisual production: do not despair when faced with a lack of investment, when the current political censorship is stonewalling projects.
Don’t lose your head, headless Mule!