Tonight at 7:00, the Migrating Forms Film Festival is showing Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (Black God, White Devil) (1964) as part of a retrospective of Glauber Rocha’s films.
Jonathan Romney for Uncut:
You might imagine that by now the history of cinema would be a written book, done and dusted. But there seem to be endless directors from the past left to be discovered – or, if they’ve had the misfortune to be forgotten, rediscovered. One such is Glauber Rocha, a pioneer of the Cinema Novo movement that galvanised Brazilian cinema in the 1960s. In Brazil, Glauber Rocha is anything but forgotten: there the Bahia-born director, who died in 1981 aged 43, is still revered and widely-screened, and his 1964 film Black God White Devil has been voted the greatest Brazilian film of all time. Outside Brazil, though, Glauber Rocha’s name has been largely neglected, his films generally associated with the wave of radicalism and sometimes visionary cinematic practice that emerged from Third World cinema in the 60s.
Jeremy Heilman for Movie Martyr:
Rocha’s movie has a story, but it’s perhaps not the prime attraction. The plot is a slim, anti-authoritarian political allegory that mostly functions to allow cowherd Manoel and his wife Rosa, the two main characters, to hit the road and find one situation after another in which they become dehumanized in the face of ideological movements. Near the start of the film, Manoel murders a land baron. This action is partially borne out of self-defense, partially out of sheer rage, but it leads him and his wife on a quest for forgiveness that will take up the rest of the film. Along the way, the two meet San Sebastian, a self-proclaimed saint, who operates outside of the influence of the Catholic church, yet inspires the masses, and Corsico, a delusional revolutionary fighter who rechristens Manoel “Satan” and sets him on a crusade to overthrow the government.
Elliott Stein in The Village Voice:
Cinema Novo was a call to arms. “Our generation is writing the pre-history of Brazilian cinema,” said Glauber Rocha in the early 1960s. He and other members of that remarkable movement saw their mission as nothing less than the decolonization and regeneration of their country’s cinema.
Reacting against a domestic studio system that specialized in escapist fare and the near monopoly of Brazil’s screens by American films, the socially committed Novo directors modeled themselves on the techniques of both the Italian neorealists and the French New Wave.
A. H. Weiler from a 1971 review in The New York Times:
Rocha, it is apparent, is more concerned with his symbolism, injustices and the arid, sombre “sertao” of provincial Bahia in which he filmed, than in compelling characterization. His symbols are broodingly obvious parallels to Biblical events and his outlaws are theatrically savage.
And something of a response, across time, from Glauber Rocha himself, in a 1965 essay, “Aesthetics of Hunger”:
We, makers of those ugly and sad films, those shouted and desperate films where reason does not always speak in the loudest voice, we know that hunger will not be cured by the cabinet’s formulations and that Technicolor patches do not hide, but only worsen, hunger’s tumours. Thus, only a culture of hunger, drenched in its own structures, can take a qualitative leap. And the noblest cultural manifestation of hunger is violence.