THE CENSORSHIP OF YESTERDAY, THE FREEDOM OF TODAY
We get to our 35th São Paulo International Film Festival paying an old and intimate debt. For many critics, Elia Kazan is considered the greatest filmmaker that has ever stepped and filmed in Hollywood. With the creation of the renowned Actor’s Studio, this American born in Turkey to Greek parents was responsible for a great revolution in the art of acting in cinema. Without Kazan, we wouldn’t have Marlon Brando or James Dean. We would also be lacking a rigorous range of looks on important issues of American society, such as corruption at the Unions (On the Waterfront, 1954), corruption at the media (A Face in the Crowd, 1957) and sexual repression (Splendor in the Grass, 1961).
For many years, Kazan’s masterpieces were left aside due to his involvement with McCarthyism, the witch hunt for communist artists in Hollywood. We had never presented any of his films until now, and it’s a pleasure to celebrate his artistic rehabilitation with a great retrospective of his work: nine films that cover the most fertile period of his career, between 1945 and 1962. With characters that jump out of the screen with their dilemmas and pain – a vital blow in a system that was already starting to age – he influenced an entire generation of Hollywood directors in the 70’s. John Cassavetes, Sidney Lumet, Francis Ford Coppola – and his most loyal disciple, Martin Scorsese, author of the greatest tribute ever in cinema: A Letter to Elia (2010), that we re-present as part of this retrospective.
Scorsese, as well, has his methods of work and his influences detailed in a precious book of interviews, Conversations with Scorsese, by Richard Schickel, an exponent of American critics. The book is the eleventh to be published due to our partnership with publishing house Cosac Naify, always willing to fill the gap of lacking basic bibliography about cinema in Portuguese language. This year, we will also have the privilege to watch Scorsese’s masterpiece, Taxi Driver (1976), in a digitally restored copy screened at the Berlin Film Festival.
From the other edge of the world, 35th Mostra presents the works of another great master, an heir of the Armenian diaspora: Georgian Sergei Paradjanov, dead in 1990. The director captivated São Paulo’s audience for the first time in 1987, when 11th Mostra presented The Legend of the Suram Fortress (1986). Inspired by a legend of his home country, the film is built on a strong magical realism basis and won the Critics Award of that edition. Devout catholic and openly homosexual, an iconoclast accused of trafficking religious images, Paradjanov was endowed with an artistic freedom that earned him years of imprisonment by the oppressive Soviet regime. Fleeing from the limiting principles of socialist realism, the only style of shooting allowed by the regime, his delusional fantasies about the harsh reality bothered many people. Beyond the chance to see once more masterpieces such as The Color of Pomegranates (1968) and Ashik-Kerib (1988), the 35th Mostra, in partnership with Museu da Imagem e do Som (MIS), will exhibit 60 inspired drawings and collages that he started to develop in the periods of imprisonment. Paradjanov used to call those collages “compressed films”. They were his scream of freedom amidst authoritarianism.
To add to this scenery of brave filmmaker who fought for freedom of speech during the dark days of the Soviet regime, the 35th Mostra will present all of the features of Paradjanov’s spiritual brother, the Russian Aleksei German. In 40 years of career, German has completed only five films, all of them with an overwhelming critical spirit, which travelled the world in major festivals. His latest feature Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998), was presented in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Alive and still filming at the age of 73, German fights to complete his sixth film, a scientific fiction, in 2012.
2011 is also the year to celebrate the birth centenary of one of the best and most prolific composers in film history, the Italian Nino Rota. Fellini’s films wouldn’t have the same soul without his music – a music that cinema has taught us to associate with our best childhood and adolescence memories. His soundtracks for Amacord, Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita and 8½, among many others, remain in the affective memory of cinephiles. But Rota’s genius works are not restricted to Fellini’s films. Among his 150 compositions for cinema, he also created for Moniccelli, Visconti, Elio Petri, Zefirelli, René Clair and Coppola. In order to remind us of Nino Rota’s strength, the 35th São Paulo International Film Festival will present Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Visconti’s The Leopard, both restored by the always collaborative Cineteca di Bologna.
It’s also time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, the greatest film ever made about different degrees of violence. The film gets to São Paulo’s audience in a beautifully restored print that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. To understand the impact that the feature caused at that time – its exhibition was forbidden in England until 2000, after Kubrick’s death –, the French director Antoine de Gaudemar rebuilt its history in a must-see documentary, Once Upon a Time… A Clockwork Orange, also at the program of this year’s festival.
Paradjanov, German, Kubrick… Thanks to the struggle of artists, activists and producers, the repression of the past evolved into times of freedom and artistic diversity. It’s a similar path to what we have been through in these 35 years of Mostra. It has been 27 years, for example, since a warrant interrupted the 8th Mostra just after a screening of Wim Wenders’ The State of Things at Cine Metrópole. Thankfully, the state of things have changed today. And São Paulo International Film Festival is proud to be a part of this transformation – and to keep contributing to cultural enrichment in Brazil. Great creations endure beyond their creator’s lifetime, and the festival is today a solidified heritage of São Paulo.
Responsible for our poster and all of this year’s visual identity, Brazilian cartoonist Maurício de Sousa honors us with a humble retake on his first character, Piteco, first drawn in 1964 – an image that evocates the myth of Plato’s cave and our ancestral need for images that touch us and can represent us.
As we have been doing in every edition of the festival, we aim again to expand our horizons in attempt to take the films of our selection beyond the city’s borders. A great partnership with SESC has enabled us to present ten films in nine cities in the country side of the state of São Paulo.
Once again, we would like to thank Imprensa Oficial, responsible for the publishing of this film catalog as well as the third book of the cycle The Films of My Life. In this year’s edition, the book brings priceless testimonies collected last year, including the life – and film – stories by filmmakers and lovers of the 7th art such as Wim Wenders, Fernando Meirelles and João Moreira Salles. Mostra would also like to thank FAAP, official host of the Master Classes and workshops lectured by our special guests in São Paulo.
At long last, our special thanks go to all of our partners that contributed with the making of this 35th São Paulo International Film Festival: Petrobras, our sponsor for ten years; Stella Artois, Secretaria de Cultura – Prefeitura de São Paulo; Itaú and Oi, among so many others. Without them, none of our dreams would be possible.
Leon Cakoff e Renata de Almeida