Cannes latest: 'Cinema Novo' wins top doc prize; filmmaker dedicates award to people now fighting Brazil's 'coup d'état'
Jury also honors poetic doc The Cinema Travelers by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya
Hailing it as daring, innovative and politically-engaged, the documentary jury in Cannes awarded its top prize today to Cinema Novo by director Eryk Rocha.
An emotional Rocha accepted the "Golden Eye" [L'Oeil d'or] trophy from jury president Giancarlo Rosi, himself an award-winning filmmaker.
A lot of emotion, a lot of emotion, a lot of emotion.
"Already to have made this movie Cinema Novo brought up a lot of emotion -- it was a great gift in life, the possibility to make this film. To be invited to screen the film in Cannes -- even better," Rocha told Nonfictionfilm.com. "And now with this recognition I'm very emotional also to share this moment of the prize with my team who is here."
"Cinema Novo is a film manifesto about the relevance of the almost-forgotten Brazilian film movement of the 60s, Cinema Novo," the jury said in awarding the prize. "It is a daring and passionate, impressionistic essay [representing] a new genre showing that cinema today could be at once political and sensual, poetical and engaged, formal and narrative, fictional and nonfictional."
Brazil's Cinema Novo movement, influenced by Italian Neorealism, placed an emphasis on social equality. It stood firmly in opposition to the values of the military dictatorship that took over Brazil in 1964. Among the foremost directors in the movement was the late Glauber Rocha, father of Eryk Rocha.
"I dedicate this prize to those people who are at this moment fighting for democracy, fighting for liberty, fighting for poetry, fighting for a new politics," Rocha told NFF. "The film deals with this generation of 'Cinema Novo' that fought for democracy [against] a military coup, a military dictatorship, an interruption of the democratic process. And now it's very tragic that we are reliving in Brazil another moment of this kind -- an interruption in the democratic process."
Rocha declared the current political crisis in Brazil a coup d'état. A right-wing interim government has replaced the suspended President Dilma Rousseff, a progressive political figure, who faces trial in the Brazilian senate for alleged manipulation of budgetary numbers.
"I believe it's a parliamentary, judicial, military coup. I do not feel represented by the current illegitimate government. It's a coup attempt because there is no concrete denunciation of the president," Rocha told NFF. "The people who judged the president are corrupt -- those who took power. I think the situation in Brazil is very serious. It's very serious."
The documentary jury in Cannes gave a special award to another film that deals with the power of film -- The Cinema Travelers by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya. Their documentary follows 'traveling cinemas' in India, which for decades have brought movies to remote sections of the country. The tradition faces a moment of great change as digital technology supplants 35 millimeter prints and projection on film.
"The Cinema Travelers [follows] the trajectory of three protagonists, archetypal protagonists, in India today to tell the story of the end of an era in cinema," the jury said in announcing the award. "Without ever wearing sentimentality the filmmakers focus their... tender and incisive lens in the shifting reality of our contemporary world. Thank you for giving a universal sense of what cinema is."
Abraham and Madheshiya told NFF the award they were not expecting an award given the high-profile documentary filmmakers in competition for this year's L'Oeil d'or [only the second year of the award's existence].
"I'm really surprised because I was all prepared to lose. I mean you know the people we're competing with -- they're great, they're people who have inspired us," Abraham said. "There's Laura Poitras [Risk], there's Jim Jarmusch [Gimme Danger], there's Rithy Panh [L'Exil], all of those people. These are people I have been influenced by for most of my adult life. So to win in a category where these people are competing with you is incredible."
Added Madheshiya, "Just to premiere the film in Cannes was a huge honor and to win an award here it means a lot and it's going to help us in the longevity of the film and it will reach more and more people because you have this badge of honor from [the] Cannes Film Festival. It's a huge honor and it means a lot to us."
They said they plan to take The Cinema Travelers to additional festivals going forward. 'Then hopefully theatrical distribution in a few countries," Abraham said, including the United States, Britain and India.
Gianfranco Rosi, who won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in February for his documentary Fuocoammare, presided over L'Oeil d'or jury in Cannes. He said he and his fellow jurors debated over six or seven hours before settling on awards for Cinema Novo and The Cinema Travelers.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.