by Robert Stam
Cut, no. 21, Nov. 1979, p. 20
DEPARTMENT OF FEDERAL POLICE,
Title of Film:________________________________________
YES or NO
1. IS IT POSITIVE AS A MESSAGE OF:
2. IN TERMS OF MORALITY AND GOOD MANNERS:
3. DOES IT CONTAIN SCENES OF EXTREME VIOLENCE OR FEROCITY?
4. IN TERMS OF ITS IDEOLOGICAL CONTENT:
a. Does it include Marxist propaganda:
b. Does it emphasize serious social problems?
c. Does it deal with racial problems:
d. Does it attempt to demoralize or disfigure the activity of the police or the Armed Forces?
e. Does it attack the Church or the Christian foundations of society?
f. Is it propaganda for socialist countries?
While censorship has recently been lifted from the Brazilian press, it continues unabated with regards to television, theater, popular music and cinema. It is consistent only in its arbitrariness and unpredictability. Zelito Vianas MORTE E VIDA SEVERINA (THE DEATH AND LIFE OF SEVERINA, 1978), for example, was cleared for release in Brazil but prohibited for exportation due to the less than positive image it transmits of the country. The opposite can just as easily occur, with a film cleared for exhibition abroad and banned in Brazil. Censors debated the national release of Rui Guerra's and Nelson Xavier's A QUEDA (THE FALL, 1978) while it was being awarded the Silver Bear at the 1978 Berlin Film Festival. Glauber Rocha's CABEZAS CORTADAS (SEVERED HEADS, 1970) has recently been cleared for exhibition, but Luis Rosemberg's CRONICA DE UN INDUSTRIAL (CHRONICLE OF AN INDUSTRIALIST, 1978), chosen for the 1978 Cannes Festival, was banned. While Glauber Rocha's description of the censor's guidelines — sex can, politics can't — is partially true, the military government's moralistic and archaic attitude toward sexual relations is a distinct disadvantage to Brazilian films in the foreign market since they are permitted to transmit only an antiquated view of sexual mores.
Censorship is much more lenient with foreign films than with national products. Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE has finally been released in Brazil, but censors refuse to approve the recent Brazilian CONTOS EROTICOS (EROTIC TALES, 1977), composed of four episodes by leading filmmakers (Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Eduardo Escorel, Roberto Palmari and Roberto Santos). The most problematic episode for the censors, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade's VEREDA TROPICAL (TROPICAL PATHS), is about a college professor who falls in love with a watermelon. A satire of the sexual reification of pornography as well as of Brazilian sexual mores, the film contains no nudity, vulgar language or politics, yet creates a mind frame in which everything related to fruits and vegetables becomes subversively erotic. Another example of the arbitrariness of Brazilian censors is that a nude shot of Walmor Chagas was cut from Carlos Diegues' XICA DA SILVA (1976), while such scenes are almost obligatory in the insipid "erotic" comedies that flood national screens.
The document printed below is an English translation of the censorship form that must be filled out for each film released in Brazil. Accompanying the form is a booklet titled Political Cinema, designed to introduce censors to the "subversive techniques" of Jean-Luc Godard and other leaders of "international leftist cinema." According to the booklet, Joseph Losey is the "world leftist leader" of North American cinema, Sidney Pollack is an "intransigent anti-American," Robert Altman sees North American society as a circus (which is perhaps not far from the truth), John G. Avildsen (who directed ROCKY) is an enemy of North American authorities who actively attacks democracy, and Arthur Penn is an imitator and follower of Godard who satirizes and attempts to destroy religious faith — as well as the more thoroughly subversive filmmakers targeted in the booklet like Bertolucci, Chabrol, Resnais, Bellochio, Antonioni and Ken Russell. In Brazil, Glauber Rocha and Ruy Guerra are singled out as being particularly dangerous. With this kind of preparation, made alert to every nuance of formal and thematic subversion, the Brazilian censors are well-trained to carry out their patriotic duty.