As the world’s fifth most populous nation and by far the largest Portuguese-speaking country, Brazil possesses a massive media market. Despite factors boosting demand for homegrown audiovisual content, the fortunes of the country’s film industry—prized as a means of expressing national identity and as a testament to technological modernity—have fluctuated over time. Historically, the sector has struggled in the face of competition from imported cinema, especially Hollywood product, which has dominated Brazilian screens since the mid-1910s. Nevertheless, Brazilian cinema has attracted mass audiences at home and won critical acclaim abroad, though not always with the same films. The humorous chanchadas (musical comedies) that characterized the industry from the 1930s through the 1950s were tailor-made for domestic audiences, but gained little traction internationally. By contrast, the politically charged and stylistically inventive films of the Cinema Novo movement attracted the attention of European and US critics, but held limited appeal for most Brazilian spectators. After Cinema Novo, few works of Brazilian cinema circulated in international markets until a series of gritty crime-themed films like City of God (2002) and Elite Squad (2007) reached global screens at the turn of the 21st century, bolstered by state incentives for private investment in film production. While this fare was also popular domestically, present-day Brazilian audiences often prefer romantic comedies, biopics, and religiously-themed films. These trends in Brazilian cinema have responded dynamically to the tastes and expectations of both national and international audiences. Onscreen representations create enduring images of the nation that circulate at home and abroad, while everyday practices of moviegoing forge an evolving realm of shared experience.
Kenneth David Jackson
Vanguard movements in the arts and literature from mid-20th century Brazil are termed neo-vanguard to distinguish them from the historical vanguard movements of the century’s early decades, even though the neo-vanguards share common features with them. These include an open spirit of internationalism, experimentation with form and language, and the use of fragmentation, simultaneity, minimalism, and graphic display. When they first appeared in the 1950s and 1960s, the neo-vanguards were differentiated by a rationalist, materialist, and functional approach to language, letters and art, visible in geometrical abstraction and based on research. The São Paulo poets Haroldo de Campos, Augusto de Campos, and Décio Pignatari formed the most prominent and influential literary group, known as “Poesia concreta” [Concrete Poetry]. Poesia concreta continues to shape and influence vanguard art, literature, and design in São Paulo. Their 1958 manifesto, “Plano-piloto para poesia concreta” [Pilot-Plan for Concrete Poetry], reshaped national poetics while adding an international aesthetic dimension. In Rio de Janeiro, the “Grupo Frente” led by artists Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, and Lygia Pape supported the 1959 Neoconcrete movement and manifesto, defending the position that concrete poetry and art should be less mechanical and more expressive of human realities. Bossa nova introduced a syncopated, polished style that gained international fame through João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim, and it turned attention toward Brazilian arts. In the 1950s and 1960s, individual authors worked within their own neo-vanguard styles outside of any movement, the most important being João Guimarães Rosa, whose reworkings of language and orality produced the major novel of the century, Grande sertão: veredas (1956), and Clarice Lispector, creator of dense existential consciousness in prose, mainly involving women in crisis. The 1964 military coup changed the disposition of vanguard art into one of resistance, reflected in Cinema Novo, Tropicália, theater, music, popular periodicals, mass culture, and marginal literature. Popular vanguard movements effectively ended, went underground, or adopted more unconventional formats in the 1970s because of political tension. The end of an effusive period of creativity in the 1950s and 1960s was marked by the publication of the collected works of the concrete poets, their inclusion in international anthologies, and a national atmosphere of increased political repression and violence.