Belair's Heights

Brazil's New Wave Rediscovered

They never officially existed on paper. But between February and May of 1970, a group of Brazillian Cinema Novo (New Cinema) directors formed Belair, an experimental collective that shot six radical films on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Founding members Julio Bressane and Rogério Sganzerla met at the Brasilia film festival in 1969—Sganzerla was there with his art-pop film The Red Light Bandit, while Bressane had just wrapped his debut, a satire called Killed the Family and Went to the Movies. Both were veiled critiques of the government at that time—a military dictatorship that in 1968 decreed all art, film and music should suffer preliminary censorship. The two directors soon recruited Sganzerla’s wife, actress Helena Ignez––seen here strutting on Copacabana beach—and launched into a manic work process, making their ultra-low-budget films on the fly to outrun the censors. The results were raw yet sophisticated: “Poor in production, rich in ideas,” as Ignez remembers. Banned for the provocative content of their films, all three were forced to flee or face imprisonment. They escaped first to London, then Paris, taking only the negative of the last Belair production, Cuidado, Madame, with them. The new documentary Belair restores the movement to its rightful place in film history, digging up some extraordinary footage, much of it unseen for 40 years. Directed by Bruno Safadi and Noa Bressane (Julio Bressane’s daughter), the images here capture a few truly exhilarating months of creativity.

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