Aruanda, 1960

Quilombo and Utopia: The Aesthetic of Labor in Brazilian Documentary

Lecture by Salomé Skvirsky
Friday, February 19, 2010 - 5:00pm

This talk focuses on one of the privileged spaces of the Cinema Novo filmscape: the quilombo or maroon settlement. Though neglected by film scholars, the quilombo has imposed itself thematically on political filmmakers; it became the preferred site for bringing together two preoccupations of these filmmakers—Brazilian national identity and utopian politics. The presentation examines the short documentary that inaugurated this tradition. Aruanda (Noronha, 1960), a classic Cinema Novo antecedent about a rural community of descendents of escaped slaves, locates the utopian element of the quilombo in the unalienated life-activity of its members, rather than in a peculiarly African or Afro-Brazilian culture. This film represents an anti-culturalist approach to the quilombo that was soon superceded by the culturalist appropriation of the quilombo by the Brazilian black movement, by other filmmakers, and later, by the Brazilian state.

Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. In September 2010, she will begin as Assistant Professor of Film at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Her publications include an essay about racial melodrama in Cinema Journal and an article about Anand Patwardhan's 1992 political documentary, Ram Ke Naam, in 24 Frames: The Cinema of India.