[Full text is available in the catalogue Cruzamentos: Contemporary Art in Brazil. The catalogue was published on the occasion of an exhibition of the same name, presented at the Wexner Center for the Arts from February 1-April 20, 2014 and curated by Jennifer Lange, Bill Horrigan, and Paulo Venancio Filho. A film series, Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary, ran from January to April 2014 as a companion to the exhibition and then went on to tour the US throughout 2014. This essay for that catalogue provided an introduction to the history of Brazilian documentary, while also presenting an overview of this particular series and placing these films in the context of contemporary global documentaries.]

An Idea in the Hand and a Camera in the Head

“Why is it that Brazilian non-fiction films are, in general, so vastly superior to Brazilian narratives?” –Robert Koehler

Amid the countless conversations about Brazilian cinema that I’ve had while developing the Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary series, variations of film critic Robert Koehler’s phrase (1) were uttered so many times that it became a stale truism and began to lose any real meaning. Nevertheless, the accuracy of the statement was confirmed by my own viewings and research. When given the opportunity to develop and present a series devoted to Brazilian film, it didn’t take long for me to decide that, in terms of contemporary production, a focus on documentaries would provide the most meaningful and boundless possibilities. But when faced with such agree-upon conventional wisdom, it’s always worth digging deeper to figure out how these assumptions were formed...

(1) Robert Koehler, “Berlin Viewing 3,” Filmjouney.org, February 19, 2011 (http://filmjourney.org/2011/02/19/belin-viewing-3/).

© The Ohio State University/Wexner Center for the Arts. Reproduced by permission.

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