By Nathan M. Walters, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Almost ten years after the film “Cidade de Deus” (City of God) commanded the attention of the world, the Brazilian film industry continues its steady ascent. Vicente Amorim, the Carioca director whose new film “Corações Sujos” (Dirty Hearts) will screen this week at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), talked with The Rio Times about filmmaking, Cinema Novo, and the Japanese community in São Paulo.
Brazilian cinema has a long tradition of fits and starts. Cinema Novo, borne out of the opposition to campy chanchada genre, was one of the first internationally respected movements in independent Brazilian cinema, covering the mid-Sixties to early-Seventies.
Cinema Novo gave way to a period of pornochanchadas (campy sexual comedies) which dominated the industry between the Seventies and Eighties (though several of the country’s most notable films were produced during the period, including “Bye Bye Brazil” and “They Don’t Wear Black Tie”).
In the Nineties, Brazilian filmmakers started to come back to a focus on poignant stories dealing with the complexities of life in Brazil. Walters Salles’ 1998 film “Central Station” recaptured international interest in Brazilian cinema, leading the way for groundbreaking films like “City of God” and “Tropa de Elite” (Elite Squad).
Amorim was among the directors in the era focusing on the story of the people in Brazil. ”I was always influenced by directors from the Cinema Novo movement, particularly Leon Hirszman. Both the style and ideology of the movement play a big part in how I approach film making,” says Amorim.
The director has had considerable success in blending influence with personal vision, creating films that explore universal concepts of identity and belonging. ”As the child of a diplomat, spending many years outside Brazil, the issue of identity is recurrent in my films, whether the story is based in Brazil or elsewhere.”
Of the four feature-lengths directed by Amorim – including “Good”, a World War II film based in Germany and starring Virgo Mortenson, and “The Middle of the World”, the tale of the long journey of a Brazilian family from Paraíba, in the country’s Northeast, to Rio de Janeiro – and now the most recent film, “Dirty Hearts”, squarely addresses the issues of identity and acceptance that confronted the Japanese community living in the interior of São Paulo state following the Second World War.
“The fact that Brazil is home to the second largest Japanese community outside of Japan is still not very well known outside of Brazil. The civil war that occurred within that community remains a mystery to most, even for Brazilians,” states Amorim.
“Many people don’t realize that around eighty percent of the Japanese community living in Brazil after the war didn’t accept that Japan, a country that had not lost a war ‘since the beginning of time’ as they like to say, had been defeated. In the mid-Forties this community was denied access to the radio and press. The violence, deceit, and oppression that occurred during that time is incredible”
The film, based on Fernando Morais novel of the same name and inspired by true events, tells the story of the violence in the community perpetrated by the part of the population that refused to accept Japan’s defeat against those who did (referred to as Dirty Hearts).
“A death squad, Shindo Renmei, lead an extreme campaign against the “Dirty Hearts” that resulted in around 30,000 arrests, 400 killings, and tens of thousands of injuries. It is a story that needs to be told.”
“Dirty Hearts” has already had success on the international festival circuit; the film will officially open in Brazil next month, August 24th. For the moment Amorim is trying to maintain a relaxed mindset for the showing at MoMA. ”Is a great honor to be selected for a screening at MoMA. I am not too nervous…yet.”
For more information on the film see www.coracoessujos.com.br.