Note from BW of Brazil: The Brazilian movie market, like its television industry, is a virtual colony of American productions. TV networks such as Globo, Record and SBT as well as the nation’s cable TV market, are dominated by American films, TV series, sitcoms and even reality shows, all overdubbed in Portuguese. The movie market is arguably worse. While on the small screen, one sees Brazilian-made novelas, variety shows and news, at the movie theater, except for the Portuguese subtitles or vocal overdubs, one would think they were actually in the United States! In 2001, for example, one report revealed that American films occupied 95% of the motion picture market in not only Brazil, but Portugal as well, a figure topped only by the 96% of the market figure that American films represent in the US itself. Although Brazil has a long history of great cinema, in the past several decades, its film industry came to a near complete stop as shown by the previous stat. In the past decade, the genre has been making a comeback with Brazilian films representing 10.6% of the market share in 2012 and nearly doubling in 2o13, coming to 18.8% of all film productions presented on big screens throughout the country.
Although the number of Brazilian film productions have increased over the past several years, when speaking of black presence on the big screen, it’s more of the same in typical Brazilian fashion. As I become weary of the umpteenth Batman, Spiderman, superhero, blow ’em up, shoot ’em up American films, I try to check out Brazilian films whenever they are released. It’s quite obvious to note the overwhelming presence of white actors in American films, but the situation is infinitely worse in Brazil. In the US, one will find black actors such as Denzel Washington or Will Smith star in big budget, blockbuster features. There is also an American market for films starring primarily black cast and filmmakers. In Brazil, an equivalent simply doesn’t exist. Afro-Brazilian actors are mostly restricted to roles as bafoons or comic relief in bit parts that are arguably worse than the stereotypes one sees of blacks on Brazilian television.
As one example, without getting into a long analysis, one of the biggest films of the past few years that comes to mind was the 2012 film De Pernas pro Ar 2. In this film, Afro-Brazilian actor Luiz Miranda plays the role of Mano Love, a comical parody of soccer star Vágner Love. The Mano Love character is a sex addict that provokes laughter in the few scenes in which he is featured with his over-the-top antics. Coincidentally, Miranda can be seen dressed in drag in the current Globo TV novela, Geração Brasil (a trend?). As bad as the situation is for male actors, the situation is arguably worse for black women (is that possible?). Afro-Brazilian women are largely invisible from the big screen, as the article below will show, and when they are featured they are usually portrayed as forgettable characters that briefly appear and aren’t even a part of the plot. Case in point.
The last Brazilian film I saw was Os Homens São de Marte … e É Pra Lá que Eu Vou (Men are from Mars and that’s where I’m going) and in this film I remember seeing one maybe two black faces in the whole film. The only one I remember was a baiana (woman from the state of Bahia) who was accused of stealing the sunglasses of the film’s main character. Is there any wonder why there is a demand for more dignified representations of black women in the media? The invisibility of black women in front of the camera as well as behind the camera is the reason why there needs to be support of the work of such talented independent filmmakers like Viviane Ferreira and Eliciana Nascimento. But don’t take my word for it, check out what the experts are saying….
Research shows that black women are excluded from Brazilian cinema
Despite being the majority of the female population of the country (51.7%), black women appeared in less than two out of ten feature films between the years 2002 and 2012. Besides the “total exclusion” in technical positions, representation in casts is limited to stereotypes associated with poverty and crime
By Isabela Vieira of Agência Brasil
Black women* are not on the big screen or behind the camera. Research from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Uerj) shows that pretas (black women) and pardas (brown women) did not figure into the highest grossing national films. Despite being the majority of the female population of the country (51.7%), black women appeared in less than two out of ten feature film between the years 2002 and 2012. Moreover, preta and parda actresses accounted for only 4.4 % of the principal cast of national films. During this period, none of the more than 218 domestic grossing films had a black woman in direction or screen writing.
Coordinated by the Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos (Iesp or Institute of Social and Political Studies) of Uerj, one of the most renowned centers of political science studies in Latin America, the study A Cara do Cinema Nacional (The Face of National Cinema) suggest that productions for the big screen do not reflect the reality of the country, since 51% of Brazilians declared themselves preta or parda, according to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). The detriment, in the evaluation of the study’s authors, is the influence of certain values upon the audience.
“From the data, the Brazilian population is diverse, but this diversity doesn’t transpose itself to environments of power and with greater visibility,” said one of the authors, the graduate student Marcia Rangel Candido. She adds that, besides the “total exclusion” in technical positions, the representation in the cast is limited to stereotypes associated with poverty and crime. “Mulheres brancas (white women) exercise various types of jobs, are from different social classes and the diversity is greater,” she says.
The doctoral student Verônica Tofte, co-author of the study, says that the low representation of women in the higher positions of cinema – they occupy 14% of directing positions and 26% of screenwriters among the most seen films – and besides the invisibility of black women in casts, they are distortions of society. “The absence of women, especially black women, in these roles generates low representation and reproduces an unrealistic view of Brazil.” According to the survey, none of the directors or the writers of the films researched were black women.
To arrive at figures on racial profiles, the researchers compared images of 939 actors, 412 writers and 226 directors, excluding documentaries and children’s films. “We use a model of identification in which the researcher is the one defining the racial group to which the subject belongs,” stated Marcia. In the classification, for comparison, a range of photos of eight individuals was utilized, from the whitest to the blackest, established in previous scientific works.
The list of the most watched movies in the period is from the Agência Nacional do Cinema (Ancine or National Film Agency), an organization that, in the evaluation of the award winning black filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo, should have an active role in promoting diversity in audiovisual (productions). Evaluating Iesp research, he said the agency needs to act. “Only those who govern, who have power to create public policy, is who can create paradigms for the nation and solve this profound distortion,” he said.
Despite having the function of encouraging and regulating the sector, procured, Ancine informed that “it doesn’t opine on the content of the movies, cast or anything like that.”
Experts evaluate that there is racism in Brazilian audiovisual production
The low participation of mulheres negras (black women)* in national cinema is a consequence of a structural element in Brazilian society: racism. This is the evaluation of filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo, who commented on research from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Uerj) on high grossing Brazilian films between 2002 and 2012. For the director of the Escola de Cinema Darcy Ribeiro (Darcy Ribeiro School of Cinema), Irene Ferraz, schooling and access to resources for audiovisual production could reverse this situation.
The study A Cara do Cinema Nacional found that none of the 218 national feature films analyzed national featured a black woman in direction or in the script. Their presence on screen is also low: preta and parda actresses accounted for only 4.4% of the main cast of these films.
According to Araújo, who has a Ph.D. from the University of São Paulo (USP), allied to racism, that makes black producers invisible on the national scene, the aesthetic standard of current productions is still grounded in ideas from the colonial period, causing distortions in all the arts, including cinema. “White supremacy, the reinforcement of the representation of whites as a ‘natural’ representation of humans is key to all this. The black represents the other, the ugly, the poor, the outcast, the unwanted minority.” Therefore, according to Araújo, he is not on screen.
The opinion of the director is the same as the coauthor of the Uerj research, the doctoral student Verônica Tofte, of the Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos (Iesp). She recalls that the Estatuto da Igualdade Racial (Statute of Racial Equality) tried to provide equal opportunities for audiovisual productions, but the laws are inadequate and vague to change the face of cinema. “Brazil has legislation to address this situation, to give equal opportunities, however, it is circumvented without supervision.” Verônica defends the distribution of audiovisual resources for black filmmakers.
The director of the Escola de Cinema Darcy Ribeiro, Irene Ferraz recognizes that the presence of preta and parda people in positions of greater visibility and prestige in the cinema, as cast, direction and production of screenplays is low. For her, the problem starts in training. “Cinema is a very complex art, it involves an industry, need edicts, resources, if you have an education, you will get there. It turns out that, in our society, blacks are excluded in several areas,” she said, regarding the under-representation. “Cinema reflects what the society is,” she added.
The president of the Sindicato Interestadual dos Trabalhadores na Indústria Cinematográfica e do Audiovisual (Interstate Association of Workers in Film and Audiovisual Industry), Luiz Antonio Gerace, doesn’t see the absence of black women in cinema as a problem. According to him, exclusion can decrease starting from greater access to audiovisual courses. “It is true that women hold more positions of costume assistant and chambermaid than direction and screenplay. But if you went to school, for example, you will have the same chance as others.”
The argument of education, however, is fragile in the evaluation of Araújo. For him, the solution is public policy. “It’s fitting for Ancine to seek ways to solve this profound distortion. And not to keep waiting for a future desired quality education for all to exterminate our structural racism,” he said.
Sought by Agência Brasil, Ancine, which serves to promote and regulate the sector, reported that “it doesn’t opine on the content of films or cast.” The Ministry of Culture revealed that it had invested R$5.1 million in audiovisual production edicts this year. Of this total, R$2.8 million was allocated to young black filmmakers, whose contracting was done in 2012.
*Usually negros (blacks) refer to the sum of the preto and pardo population groups, following classification of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).
Source: Revista Fórum, Black Women of Brazil