Understanding Production, Humour and Political Context through Nice
Coloured Girls (1987) and The Sapphires
How Indigenous Australian history has been portrayed and who has been empowered
to define it is a complex and controversial subject in contemporary Australian
society. This article critically examines these issues through two Indigenous
Australian films: Nice Coloured Girls (1987) and The
Sapphires (2012). These two films contrast in style, theme and
purpose, but each reclaims Indigenous history on its own terms. Nice
Coloured Girls offers a highly fragmented and experimental history
reclaiming Indigenous female agency through the appropriation of the colonial
archive. The Sapphires eschews such experimentation. It instead
celebrates Indigenous socio-political links with African American culture,
‘Black is beautiful’, and the American Civil Rights movements of
the 1960s. Crucially, both these films challenge notions of a singular and
tragic history for Indigenous Australia. Placing the films within their wider
cultural contexts, this article highlights the diversity of Indigenous
Australian cinematic expression and the varied ways in which history can be
reclaimed on film. However, it also shows that the content, form and
accessibility of both works are inextricably linked to the industry concerns and
material circumstances of the day. This is a crucial and overlooked aspect of
film analysis and has implications for a more nuanced appreciation of Indigenous
film as a cultural archive.
Frank Krutnik, Patrick Brian Smith, Adam Herron, Emre Çağlayan, Anirban K. Baishya, Martin R. Hall, Nick Poulakis, Lydia Mae Brammer, Haim Bresheeth, Adelaide McGinity-Peebles, Nick Jones, Özgür Çiçek, Jack Booth, Geraint D'Arcy and Richard Paterson
In the late 1960s, Hollywood had the youth demographic in its sights. In 1969
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid proved that Westerns
could appeal to this market, and sparked a cycle of youth Westerns. The cycle
framework provides a new lens to refocus this group of Westerns. When the films
are situated alongside the other production trends and cycles of the period, as
they were in the contemporary trade discourses, they emerge as part of a
short-lived strategy for financing Western films that targeted the youth market.
An industrial and discursive analysis of the marketing and reception of the
youth Western cycle contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the New
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.
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.
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.
It was in the context of a very clear distinction between Left and Right that the 1960s got under way, and distinctions inflected discussions of culture, including popular culture. This chapter begins by considering the commercially successful cinematic adaptations of the work of two of Brazil's foremost playwrights of the twentieth century. They were Nelson Rodrigues and Dias Gomes. This is followed by a discussion of the popular pretensions of two significant cinema novo films, Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema) and Macunaíma (Macunaíma). The chapter discusses the work of Nelson Rodrigues with erstwhile cinema novo director Arnaldo Jabor's Toda nudez sera castigada (All Nudity Shall Be Punished), a film from the early 1970s that enjoyed a certain amount of commercial success. It ends with the work of Brazil's horror maestro, Ze do Caixao or Coffin Joe, whose early films made an impact at the box-office.
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.
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 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.