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April 5 – April 6, 2019

Recollections and Revolutions. Two Films by João Moreira Salles

The dynamic and diverse body of work of João Moreira Salles (b. 1966) as a documentary filmmaker defies easy categorization, but his earlier trajectory touches on many of the most salient modes and traditions in the genre. Salles began writing scripts for television in the 1980s. In 1987 he directed the feature length China, o Império do Centro (China, the Empire of the Center) and was a screenplay writer for Krajcberg, o poeta dos vestígios (Krajcberg, the Poet of Vestiges), directed by his brother, Walter Salles. The latter project foreshadows a later sequence of intricate and sensitive portraits of individuals at work. Also in 1987, Walter and João Moreira Salles founded Videofilmes. This production company, based in Rio de Janeiro, has played a key role in reviving Brazilian film. Unusual for a Brazilian filmmaker at the time, Salles continued his exploration of travel and international themes in Blues (1990). After a hiatus from filmmaking, in 1998 he co-directed with Arthur Fontes the series Futebol; the sport is one of his lifelong passions. The following year, with Kátia Lund, he co-directed Notícias de uma Guerra Particular (News from a Private War), on the conflicts and victims of the war between police and drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro. Salles continued to work as director for television projects. His career took a turn toward a more evocative form of filmmaking with the documentary Nelson Freire (2003). That film’s restrained style reflects the introspection of the great pianist that serves as its subject. A more direct cinema approach also informs Entreatos (2004), on a very different subject: the consummate political animal Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Salles and his crew follow the charismatic candidate on the run-up to his first election as Brazil’s president.

Salles also acted as a producer in several of the landmark films by the great documentarian Eduardo Coutinho. Coutinho died in February of 2014, while in the midst of filming a documentary with Brazilian students about their experiences and aspirations. With Jordana Berg, another longtime collaborator of Coutinho’s, João Moreira Salles completed the film, released in 2015 as Últimas Conversas (Last Conversations).

During his visit to the Harvard Film Archive, João Moreira Salles will present and discuss two of his finest films, each an insightful and introspective remembrance of things past that explores documentary cinema as an inherently personal mode of filmmaking, inherently shaped by its maker with an intimacy and immediacy all too often occulted. Santiago and In the Intense Now offer profoundly cinematic history lessons that show film to be both a window—looking out with perspicacity over the world, and over the past—and a mirror that reflects its maker and the spectator, revealing the limits of their vision. – Bruno Carvalho, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard

Film descriptions by Haden Guest.

Special thanks: Paola Ibarra Deschamps—David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard; Mariano Siskind—Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard.

 


$12 Special Event Tickets
João Moreira Salles in Person

Friday April 5 at 7pm

Santiago

Directed by João Moreira Salles
Brazil 2007, digital video, b/w, 80 min. Portuguese with English subtitles

In this touching (double) portrait film Salles turns the camera equally upon himself as filmmaker as upon his purported subject, the extraverted and extravagant Santiago who was for many years the beloved Salles family butler before retiring to the miniscule apartment where the film takes place. Looking back, thirteen years later, over the hours of footage shot of Santiago reciting, recounting, reliving the glory days, Salles questions why he was never able to complete the film he had set out to make, probing gently, yet with rare candor, the assumptions and attitudes underlying his project and camera position. It is rare to find a film or filmmaker able to identify their own limits with the kind of honest introspection that leads Salles to recuperate his footage into a new Santiago, recovered and now shaded by a melancholy aura, an admission of failure, of a lost past and opportunity, but also glowing with an earnest beauty and humility.

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$12 Special Event Tickets
João Moreira Salles in Person

Saturday April 6 at 7pm

In the Intense Now
(No Intenso Agora)

Directed by João Moreira Salles
Brazil 2018, DCP, b/w & color, 127 min. Portuguese with English subtitles

Salles’ remarkable essay film looks back, wistfully but also probingly, at the convulsive forces “in the air” during the 1960s which were able, seemingly, to ignite revolutions of different force and magnitude around the globe. Combining a wide range of newsreel, television and home movie footage, In the Intense Now assembles a composite vision of cataclysmic events in Paris, Prague, China and Brazil while locating melancholy parallels in the fleeting ebullience and ultimate failure shared by the different youth-led movements and brutal rebuttals that they inspired. Salles discovers in archival footage a means to capture the elusive feeling, the emotion, of a fleeting moment, felt perhaps most deeply in his use of Super-8 footage shot by his mother in Beijing in 1966, “naïve” images that predictively reveal the larger counter-revolution in motion and dispel the romanticized visual clichés automatically used to evoke May ’68 as a cultural and historical milestone. DCP courtesy Icarus Films.

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