Sunday, July 24, 2011

Copa America 2011: Brazil

Entry #8 of the Copa America 2011 Book & Film Festival.

Book: Zero by Ignácio de Loyola Brandão

Ignácio de Loyola Brandão’s incredible Zero controls its pace in a remarkable manner thereby taking its readers on an unforgettable ride through a Brazilian state under a military regime. The book starts off slowly with abstract stories, including newspaper clippings, but gradually a narrative emerges and the book accordingly picks up pace to reflect various moments of high tension. Jose and his wife Rosa are the main characters whose lives take a variety of turns because of their need of money to build a better future. However, that money is always elusive and quest for it turns Jose into a wanted man. Zero depicts details of police torture, the “death squads” and life under a repressive regime, so it is not a surprize that Brandão’s book was rejected for publication in Brazil. The book was first published in Italy (1974) after a translation was done by the Italian novelist Antonio Tabucchi. The images of violence & torture that Brandão’s book creates can now be associated with films such City of God and Elite Squad but Brandão started writing his book in 1964 and completed it in 1973 decades before those films. As it stands, I have never come across any article discussing Brandão’s book and only chanced upon it at the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, something which highlights the importance of excellent bookstores.

Overall, Zero has been the real literary discovery of this Copa America spotlight because of its incredible writing technique which controls pace and tension.

Film: Black God White Devil (1964, Glauber Rocha)

Rocha’s raw and savage Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol does not loosen its grip from the first frame until the last. In fact, the final images of the film depict rapid movement and as a result, even after the film has ended it takes a while for the images to settle in one’s memory. A corrupt lawless world is shown, where landlords, religious figures and outlaws jostle for power and control of over the souls of innocent workers. As a result, innocent men and women are forced to choose one corrupt figure to align with and that choice governs how long they will be able to avoid death. In the film, the married couple of Manuel and Rosa are forced on the run after Manuel kills a rancher who was taking advantage of Manuel. The couple believe they have found salvation under a powerful religious figure but they are forced into a much more violent life because of that meeting. The usage of black and white for the film prevents any distractions from observing the plight of central characters and is something which heightens the violent struggles, aided by the musical score as well.

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