This book provides a chronological study of popular cinema in Brazil since the introduction of sound at the beginning of the 1930s. It begins the study with a brief discussion of how people understand the term 'popular cinema', particularly within a Latin American context. The focus is on films that have intentionally engaged with 'low-brow' cultural products, whose origins lie in pre-industrial traditions, and which have been enjoyed by wide sectors of the population, chiefly at the lower end of the social hierarchy. Perhaps the most important contribution of the chanchada of the 1950s was to render visible a social class within Brazil's socio-cultural landscape, and to champion the underdog, who succeeds in triumphing, through malandragem, over more powerful opponents. Brazilian popular cinema, at least until the 1980s, can be seen as a direct descendant of other shared cultural experiences. Popular film in Brazil is littered with examples of carnivalesque inversions of societal norms and established hierarchies. The 1930s witnessed the rise of the radio, the record industry and the talking cinema. The first half of the 1940s witnessed a continuation of Getúlio Vargas's quest for economic expansion based on the creation of a dignified workforce, rewarded for its efforts by improvements in the welfare system. The book also looks at three very popular cinematic sub-genres which provided a continuation of the chanchada tradition in Brazilian filmmaking: the films of Amacio Mazzaropi; those of the comedic quartet known as the Trapalhoes; and the so-called pornochanchada series of films.

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Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

In terms of the number of Brazilian films made and their respective boxoffice success, the 1970s was one of the most important decades in the history of Brazilian cinema. This chapter considers some of the reasons for this success, including the creation of a state film distribution agency, a sizeable increase in the national film quota, the proliferation of 'quota quickies' and a loosening of censorship restrictions. The first part of the chapter looks at three very popular cinematic sub-genres which provided a continuation of the chanchada tradition in Brazilian filmmaking: the films of Amacio Mazzaropi; those of the comedic quartet known as the Trapalhoes; and the so-called pornochanchada series of films. The second part concentrates on three of the biggest box-office successes of all time in Brazilian cinema: Carlos Diegues's Xica da Silva; Bruno Barreto's Dona Flor e seus dois maridos and Neville D'Almeida's A dama do lotação.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001
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Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

At the beginning of the 1980s, many of the elements that both benefited and influenced Brazilian cinema in the second half of the 1970s continued to be present, such as favourable quotas and greater freedom for filmmakers afforded by abertura or the process of political opening up. This chapter considers a number of commercially successful films, ranging from Diegues's Bye bye Brasil and Ruy Guerra's Ópera do malandro. These are considered as examples of the new approach of veteran cinema novo filmmakers to depicting popular culture and making popular cinema, to examples of the ever-popular cinema rodrigueano in the 1980s, and the so-called 'abertura naturalism' films. The chapter mentions the impact of the consolidation of the hard-core porn genre on Brazilian culture and society. In 1988, only two films reached that level, revealing the extent to which the legacy of the chanchada lived on at the Brazilian box-office.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001
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Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

In the early 1990s, the demise of the Brazilian film industry seemed certain. It is worth remembering that while by the late 1990s, a healthy thirty-five to forty films were made each year in Brazil, few of these gained more than a limited art-house release. Commercial viability has encouraged many filmmakers to turn to the popular cinematic styles and tropes of the past. Others have relied on the continued success of national television programmes and contemporary popular music, for example, to create films starring popular performers from both domains. The success of the retomada is also partially due to a number of talented individuals who have been involved in various projects over the last few years, lending the renaissance, despite its variety of themes and styles, its own look and language. Brazilian cinema in the 1990s, and continuing into the first few years of the twenty-first century has been eclectic.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001
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Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

Popular film in Brazil has historically been characterised by a city-countryside dialectic, to give just one example. This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the previous chapters of this book. The study presented has established the multiple roots of commercially successful cinema in Brazilian popular culture, such as the teatro de revista, the circus and carnival. The chanchada, from its inception in the 1930s, harked back to a pre-industrial era, rejecting modernity and urbanisation in favour of the nostalgic assertion of traditional values of friendship, camaraderie, neighbourliness and a community lifestyle typical of rural regions or the poor suburbs of the big cities of the South. In popular film, the precarious and fragmented nature of everyday life for the poor is mirrored in the constant interplay between fantasy and reality, carnival interludes and the daily grind.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001
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Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

This introduction presents the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book provides a chronological study of popular cinema in Brazil since the introduction of sound at the beginning of the 1930s. It begins the study with a brief discussion of how people understand the term 'popular cinema,' particularly within a Latin American context, drawing on the work of some of the most influential cultural theorists who have written about the region. The focus is on films that have intentionally engaged with 'low-brow' cultural products, whose origins lie in pre-industrial traditions, and which have been enjoyed by wide sectors of the population, chiefly at the lower end of the social hierarchy. The book's approach is one of anthropological tracing, focusing on the way film uses cultural practices that exist prior to or outside the mass media.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001
Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

Brazilian popular cinema, at least until the 1980s, can be seen as a direct descendant of other shared cultural experiences. This chapter maps the key sites of mediation between popular cinema and wider cultural traditions in Brazil. Popular cinema in Brazil has often engaged with elements of the nation's most famous and pervasive festival, carnival. During the silent era, carnival was the focus of much interest among Brazilian filmmakers, and it has been estimated that between 1906 and the arrival of the talkies in the early 1930s around fifty shorts were produced using footage from the annual celebrations in Rio. Popular film in Brazil is littered with examples of carnivalesque inversions of societal norms and established hierarchies. The various influences on popular film that have been examined here serve to establish the shared cultural repertoire of film audiences in Brazil.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001
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Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

In 1930, the political landscape of Brazil experienced a seismic shift. The 1930s witnessed the rise of the radio, the record industry and the talking cinema. Popular culture as a whole became the focus of the attentions of Vargas's propaganda-mongers, and a delicate balancing act of co-option and censorship was employed to enlist the support of popular musicians and artists in the construction of a nation-conscious mythology. The arrival of the talkies in Brazil prompted a wave of musical films that relied on the talent and popularity of established stars of the teatro de revista, popular music and especially the radio, and combined carnival songs with comic dialogues that everyone could understand. These Brazilian musicals sought to tap into the public's fascination with Hollywood glamour and movie stars, and it has been argued that Brazilians made sense of these unsophisticated home-grown replicas via their prior knowledge of the US originals.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001
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Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

The first half of the 1940s witnessed a continuation of Getúlio Vargas's quest for economic expansion based on the creation of a dignified workforce, rewarded for its efforts by improvements in the welfare system. The Rio-based Cinédia studio was heavily involved in the production of newsreels, and by September 1944 it had completed 426 issues of its Cinédia Jornal, in addition to accepting a government commission for the production of the first 127 issues of the government's Cine Jornal Brasileiro. The Rio-based film production company Atlântida Cinematográfica aimed to represent real life on screen, and introduce an element of social commentary into its films. The popular appeal of films as diverse as the sentimental O ébrio and the irreverent comedy Laranja da China had easily identifiable popular songs performed by artists who were equally well known from their established careers in the radio and music hall.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001
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Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw

The 1950s were ushered in with the official opening of the Maracanà football stadium in Rio, where the Brazilian squad was to lose the final of the World Cup to Uruguay in 1950. Following Getúlio Vargas's suicide while in office in August 1954, the election of President Juscelino Kubitschek restored Brazil's faith in its future. Migration from rural to urban areas peaked in the 1950s, particularly from Brazil's arid North East, which experienced severe droughts in 1951, 1953 and 1958. Perhaps the most important contribution of the chanchada of the 1950s was to render visible a social class within Brazil's socio-cultural landscape, and to champion the underdog, who succeeds in triumphing, through malandragem, over more powerful opponents, not least officials of the state, high society and even the representatives of foreign nations. The decline in the popularity of the chanchada went hand in hand with the expansion of television.

in Popular cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001